Toast to the Tarbolton Bachelors Club


Gentlemen, it is with great honour, that I am here tonight to bring you a toast to the Tarbolten Bachelor’s Club,


For you that may not know, Tarbolten is a small village in South Ayrshire, close to Ayr, Kilmarnock and Mauchline. Burns family lived and worked at a farm nearby.


On November 11th, 1780, at just 20 years of age, Burns along with his 19 year old brother Gilbert and 6 other local bachelors founded the Tarbolten Bachelors Club.  The first meeting was held in a top floor room of a local alehouse, which is still standing today. That room was also used for local Masonic meetings.


The Club was an all male fraternity and might have been the earliest Scottish rural debating society. There were in all, 10 original Rules and Regulations of that Club, including:

  • the club shall not exceed 16 members, all bachelors, belonging to the parish of Tarbolten
  • no member shall mention the club’s affairs to any person other than a club member
  • every member of the Society must have a frank, honest, open heart; above any thing dirty or mean; and must be the a professed lover of one or more of the female sex.

Swearing was forbidden, social drink was encouraged and haughtiness was prohibited.


From the rules I quote “In short, the proper person for this Society is, a cheerfull, honest-hearted lad; who, if he has a friend that is true, and a mistress that is kind, and as much wealth as genteely to make both ends meet, is just as happy as this world can make him.”


At these meetings topics for debate were chosen the month before, and included topics such as “suitable marriage partners”, and “Whether, is the savage man or the peasant, of a civilized society, in the most happy situation”.


Burns would be pleased to know that the Halifax Burns Club is loosely established under the same rules and conditions.  In fact we do debate, we do drink and we are mostly cheerful however, we do not always communicate well.


Gentlemen, charge your glasses, please be upstanding, and toast with me…………………


“To the Tarbolten Bachelors Club “






This speech was written and delivered by Dave Graham.