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Ayrshire Shortbread

The death of Robert Burns in 1796 was followed over the next century by statues and buildings, both at home and abroad, in his honour. Monday past (16 March 2009) saw the reopening of one such historic building in Kilmarnock – five years after being devastated by fire. The Burns Monument Centre in Kay Park, Kilmarnock, collapsed after vandals set it on fire in 2004. It had been closed to the public since 1988. A restoration project, costing some £4 million, saw rebuilding work on the A-listed structure start in 2007. The new centre has an archive store, a family and local history research room, conference and function facilities and also is the new venue for the Kilmarnock Registration Services. Visit www.burnsmonumentcentre.com for full details of the new building.

Kilmarnock was, of course, very important in the story of Robert Burns. In 1786 local printer John Wilson printed the first-ever poetry book by the Ayrshire Bard – the 612 copies of the Kilmarnock Edition. This set Burns on course for national fame if not eventual fortune. Kilmarnock was among the towns to honour his memory. At an anniversary meeting to pay tribute to the poet on 27 January 1877 in the George Inn Hall, Kilmarnock, attended by up to 250 people, it was unanimously agreed that a statue should be erected of Robert Burns in an appropriate spot in the town. A committee was set up to raise funds for a statue but the plans were eventually widened to include an ornamental building as £2,488 was raised in only 18 months. Plans for the building drawn up by Kilmarnock architect, Robert Ingram, were accepted for the building design. The Burns Monument Centre building was in the Scottish Baronial style, with two storeys and a tower and the overall height was 80 feet. It was constructed around an iconic statue of our National Bard commissioned from Edinburgh sculptor W Grant Stevenson. The statue was unveiled on 9 August 1879 by Colonel Alexander of Ballochmyle in front of a vast number of spectators.

Following the fire in 2004, an appeal was launched to raise funds for reconstruction and planning permission given by the then Scottish Executive. Building work began in March 2007 and the completed facility, complete with cleaned up statue, reopened on Monday, appropriately in the Year of Homecoming and 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth. Kilmarnock has once again given us a suitable tribute to Ayrshire’s greatest son in this important year.

An Ayrshire recipe is just the ticket for this week – Ayrshire Shortbread is splendid with a cup of coffee or indeed a dram to toast those who carried out the rebuilding and the Bard him-self, Robert Burns.

Ayrshire Shortbread

Ingredients: 8 oz (225g) plain flour; 4 oz (100g) butter; 1 egg yolk; 4 oz (100g) rice flour; 4 oz (100g) castor sugar; 2 tablespoons cream

Method: Sift the flour and rice flour into a basin and lightly rub in the butter. Add the sugar and mix the ingredients to a stiff paste with the beaten egg yolk and cream. Roll out thinly, prick with a fork, and cut into rounds with a small cutter. Bake the cakes on a baking sheet lined with buttered paper at 325 deg F for about 15 minutes until pale golden. Cool and then enjoy!
 

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