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Last Saturday (10th June) saw the final event of the 2017 Lapraik Poetry Festival. The Young People’s Speaking Competition saw the culmination of an extended range of events in recognition of the celebration of a decade of Festivals since its inception in 2008. The Young People of Muirkirk Primary School showed a great deal of talent in their delivery of a variety of poems learned ‘off by heart’ and presented with confidence and the right level of dramatic interpretation. As has become tradition, the Muirkirk readers were joined by representatives from other local schools who competed in an ‘open’ section. This year the schools represented were Mauchline, Catrine, Greenmill and Barshare. Earlier in the week the primary school students had enjoyed Scots Language workshops organised by ‘Ayrshire’s Bard’, Rab Wilson. The workshops covered many topics from Scots words and phrases to story-telling in Scots. At the other end of the Festival period, a full-house enjoyed international-standard entertainment at Crambo-Jingle and Sang in the Coach House Inn. A special surprise for the audience was the presence of the historic ’Gregg Violin’ (owned by Robert Burns’ teacher) which was played by local musician Alistair McCulloch ably supported by Sean Gray from Coylton. In addition to these talented musicians, Clair Hastings (former Young Traditional Musician of the Year) from Dumfries enthralled the audience with her beautiful voice and ukulele playing. Scots Language poetry added to the wide repertoire enjoyed by all who attended and this was provided by Andrew McNeil, Chris Rollie and Rab Wilson. The World John Lapraik Speaking Competition on the first Saturday of the Festival, hosted by angus Middleton, was also very-well attended and saw George Park of New Cumnock gain the 2017 title after strong competition from runners-up John Hutcheson and Willie Dick and the other competitors, Eric Dempster and Hugh McHarg. Andy Brown entertained the audience with an excellent rendition of Tam o’Shanter while the judges deliberated their decision. While George Park went forward to the Lapraik Masters competition in the afternoon, John Hutcheson very ably delivered the John Lapraik Memorial Reading at the Parish Kirkyard while Gordon Wilson played an appropriate lament on the pipes. The Lapraik Master’s competition in the afternoon was a new event to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Lapraik festival. After stiff competition from all the previous winners from 10 years of the John Lapraik Speaking Competition, Susan Chown of Alloa was victorious and was presented with the Ayrshire Association of Burns Clubs Trophy by Burns Federation World President, Bobby Kane. Runners-up were Wull Horne from Girvan (and Cockenzie) and Neil Macgillivray of Glasgow. Entertainment during the judges’ deliberations was provided by Hugh McHarg with his own unique delivery of Robert Burns’ ‘Death And Dying Words Of Poor Mailie’ and Jimmy Law’s excellent rendition of Robin Cairns’ ‘Lochgelly’! The final event of the first weekend was a partner event, (with the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway) ‘Brither Bards’, where Rab Wilson and Professor Alan Riach described the relationship between Robert Burns and John Lapraik, and their contemporaries, to a very appreciative audience.