Renowned Actor, Writer and Artist, John Cairney Returns to Maybole
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John was narrator as well as author Here we have the man who played Robert Burns all over the world handing on to a new generation There were five different pupils playing the young Burns. Click on the images above to view full size.

Saturday, October 31, 2009 was a once in a lifetime experience for pupils of all four Maybole schools. They took part in a world premiere of “The Boyhood of Burns” written by John Cairney, the man who played Robert Burns for many years all over the world.

The actor, raconteur, writer and Burns scholar was excited about the project and a few days later wrote: “The Maybole experience is still reverberating inside me, the memory of those young faces allied to those old themes is something that I shall long remember. “From my position as narrator at the side of the stage, I felt less of a performer and more of a conductor leading a team of young people towards a new insight into the Burns story, in which they were the new messengers carrying his words and sounds into another era. “It was wonderful to see what we've come to regard as the province of the grey-haired and venerable suddenly coming to life in the sparkling eyes and sweet voices of the young. “That was its main impact, seeing the young Burns revealed by the youth of Maybole.

This could quite easily be termed 'The Maybole Effect' and let's hope that the spirit and vitality discovered over this very special weekend will go on to illuminate other aspects of the new Scotland and its story.”

Photos above show John Cairney with James Gibson who was Cultural Co-ordinator for the project plus pupils and staff of the individual schools.

Photo shows left to right: James Gibson of Centre Stage who is the Cultural Coordinator for the project Isabel Johnstone, depute head of Carrick Academy John Cairney Laura McGarva of St Cuthbert’s Primary Mary Scott, head teacher of Gardenrose Primary Diane Owens of Cairn Primary finalising details of the scripts for “The Boyhood of Burns” Funding for these special events was provided by South Ayrshire Council and Homecoming Scotland. A committee of members of Maybole Community Council, Maybole Community Association, Maybole Historical Society and Maybole St Crispin Burns Club have been overseeing the whole project and working closely with the schools and John Cairney.

Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard, was born a poor man’s son in Ayrshire and his early years were, on his own admission, hard and bitter. But they were compensated by a warm and secure family circle, headed by a scholarly father and a lively mother.  Burns’ boyhood scarred him for life and gave him his open hatred of class privilege and the deep sympathy for the common man so clearly evident in his best work. It also gave him his understanding and love of Nature in all its forms, great and small, which made him the later poet of the countryside.


As a child, he spoke and behaved much as any other boy, who was born within a remote farming community in Lowland Scotland in the winter of 1759. Yet he was different. His parents knew it, his teacher knew it, and he knew it. Now a unique project for Maybole will explore all of this. Especially commissioned by Maybole, a series of scenes and songs will be acted out by school children from Maybole, who live on the same land Burns did all those centuries ago. They tell the story of the boyhood, which sowed the seeds for the man who was to become Scotland’s National Bard.


This special event, “The Boyhood of Burns”, will take place in Maybole Town Hall on Hallowe’en, October 31 at 2pm. Actor, raconteur, writer and Burns scholar, John Cairney will be the narrator linking the scenes with illustration of Burns’ verses and songs. The scenes themselves will be acted out by 30 pupils from all four schools in the town. This is undoubtedly an event not to miss (in effect a world premier!) and tickets, £3, are available from June Dunlop, Florist, in the High Street, 01655 882210.


On the previous night, Friday October 30, the actor will present his one man show “A Burns Experience” which he has taken around the world. (See article below) John Cairney says, “Burns spoke for the free man of his own time and for the common man in all time. This is, in fact, his real immortality and what causes him to be remembered and loved more than most poets so many years after his death.


“He was a man’s man and also the twinkling romantic, who appealed to all women. He loved warmly and easily and wrote as the heaven sent genius he was. His exquisite love songs, incisive satirical verses and masterful epic poems testify to his brilliant artistry. There can be no better pleasure than sipping at the heady nectar that is his poesy and tasting the sweet fruits of his manly charity towards all men and women.”


John Cairney uses all his extensive knowledge to paint a unique portrait of the complex Scot that was Robert Burns. As an actor, he brings his work alive in a performance, which covers all the emotions, from joy to despair following the trail of Robert Burns from ploughboy to national bard.


He draws on his experience playing Burns throughout the world to entertain the audience with anecdotes from these shows. He also uses material from his own books to comment on the historical Burns in his own society and on his impact today.  Cairney’s style is intimate and relaxed, making the audience feel part of the show. The mood and atmosphere can change in a moment from unreserved laughter to heartbreak and back again. All this combines to give an audience a varied and rich Burns experience.


Tickets, £5, for this show, which starts at 7.30pm, are also available from June Dunlop’s.

Maybole is in for a unique weekend at the end of October when world famous actor, author and director John Cairney brings all of his experience to the town. On Friday October 30 at 7.30pm he will be presenting "A Burns Experience" in Maybole Town Hall and the following day at 2pm he will be appearing in a brand new show with pupils from all Maybole schools. (See article above) This show is entitled "The Boyhood of Burns" and John has written nine playlets tracing the young life of Burns and the young pupils will be rehearsing between now and then. He will also be the production consultant and narrator and this show will also be in the Town Hall. Tickets will be £5 for the Friday evening and £3 for he Saturday afternoon Available from June Dunlop 37 High Street Maybole Tel. 01655 882210.


Thanks to funding from EventScotland and South Ayrshire Council this will be a truly unique event. Locally, members of Maybole Community Council, Maybole Community Association, Maybole Historical Society and Maybole St Crispin Burns Club as well as staff at the four Maybole schools are working together to put on the events. In addition, a bust of Robert Burns has been commissioned and will be unveiled that weekend.


John Cairney is well known to audiences in Scotland and internationally through his one-man shows about Burns. To many people, he is synonymous with the Bard and is considered as one of the leading interpreters of the works of Robert Burns. In more than fifty years as an artist, he has worked as an actor, recitalist, lecturer, director and theatre consultant. He is also a published author and an exhibited painter. Trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he was a notable Hamlet at the Citizens' Theatre and a successful Macbeth at the Edinburgh Festival. He was also 'This Man Craig' on television and has appeared in many films like 'Jason and the Argonauts' and 'Cleopatra'.

For seventeen years John Cairney was based in Auckland, New Zealand, where he gained his PhD. He is much in demand as a lecturer, writer and consultant on Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Robert Burns. Dr Cairney has written books on each of these famous Scots, as well as other books on football, theatre and his native Glasgow, where he now lives permanently with his New Zealand wife, actress and scriptwriter, Alannah O'Sullivan.

John Cairney was in Maybole July 25 to open an exhibition of his work at the Cockburn Gallery in the High Street. The renowned actor, writer and artist was there from 12 noon and was soon explaining his paintings and telling stories of his life to local residents. He spent some time explaining his religious paintings to Fr Stephen McGrattan who said he would use some of John’s comments in his weekend homily. John signed some of his books and thoroughly enjoyed meeting local people and discussing the possibility of putting on his one man show and writing short playlets for local schoolchildren for a production in the Town Hall in October.

 John with a sculpture of him by Benno Schotz.

John Cairney with Gordon Cockburn Maybole Town Hall 1970 with Davidsons

John Cairney, renowned actor, writer and artist, returns to Maybole later this month to open a special exhibition of his work at the Cockburn Gallery in the High Street. The exhibition opens on Saturday, July 25 from 12 noon till 6pm and his work will be on sale as well as him signing books and giving a talk. From “The Man Who Played Robert Burns”, to quote the title of his autobiography, this will be worth attending for. John is pictured with his old friend Gordon Cockburn looking at one of John’s paintings 'Deus Aeternus'.


He says of the work, “At the left, the bag lady enters even if it's only to get a rest. Before her, hurries the young mother trailing the fractious child, whom she wishes to enrol at the very fashionable Catholic primary school. In the next arch, the worldly friar hurries on some business connected with refugees. Standing at the pillar a photographer takes his pictures. Opposite him on the other side, a tiny visiting nun takes in the vastness of the interior. Behind her, a widow is on her way to say the rosary for her son who is still not married. The old parish priest can be seen saying his office, and trying not to see the Chairman of the Parish Committee who is coming towards him. All these are figures from what amounts to the hidden congregation of today. They are the people who are on the fringe of the church. And most of them are elderly. When they die they are immediately replaced by other oldies who have been creeping up the chronological ladder The Catholic Church is decidedly grey but then the young are getting older every day.


Choirboys become priests or actors, altar boys sell insurance or take up crime, but every Catholic in the end seem to come back to the church eventually if only as an insurance policy.  Meantime, the magnificence survives, there's still light in the atrium, beauty in the stone, glory in the art-work, and the candles still burn - all the outward signs of an inward need to worship. If you have faith, then God is here, even if nobody else is. Today will fly by, but God is forever.”


John appeared in Maybole Town Hall in the 1970s with his one man show on Robert Burns and our photo shows him at the time signing his autograph for two young local children, Fiona and Ian Davidson. The other photo is John with a sculpture of him by Benno Schotz. You can learn more about John Cairney at . See also the news story of John's visit in April.

April 2009. Photo shows John Cairney, left, with his triptych of the Last Supper. His old friend, Maybole’s Gordon Cockburn, is holding John’s favourite of all his paintings which depicts the table used by Jesus for the Last Supper being cleared of crumbs. This three-panelled piece of art has to be seen to be appreciated and John will be back in Maybole later in the year to talk those interested through his paintings. His voice is something worth hearing in itself! more