Our latest story from the Advertiser's archives takes us back 10 years to a feature on Helensburgh musician Kirsten Easdale.

Here's how we reported on Kirsten's special effort to keep the spirit of Robert Burns alive on October 29, 2009...

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A HELENSBURGH musician tried out a very special instrument this week - an historic whistle immortalised by Burns.

Kirsten Easdale, who has recently been one of the prime movers in the setting up of HTML, the traditional music club which meets on Sundays in the Rhu Inn, was invited to sing at the event marking the 220th Anniversary of Robert Burns having written ‘The Whistle’ at Friars Carse in Dumfries.

This poem refers to a black ebony whistle which was brought to Scotland by a huge Danish gentleman during the reign of James the Sixth of Scotland and put up as a prize in a “last man standing” drinking competition.

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The Dane had an unbeaten record through the courts of Copenhagen, Stockholm, Moscow, Warsaw and several of the smaller courts in Germany, but had not encountered Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton, who after three days and nights of hard drinking, left the Scandinavian under the table.

Sir Robert’s son, lost a later contest to Walter Riddel of Glenriddell and in 1789, Robert Riddell, who owned the estate next to Burns’ Ellisland Farm, and with whom Burns had become friendly, agreed to a contest for the whistle by Sir Robert Laurie and Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch.

All three contestants were descended from the original winner, Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton.

After consuming eight bottles of claret, Alexander Fergusson won the contest and claimed the whistle – and was immortalised in the poem of the same name.

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The whistle itself is now held at Caprington Castle in East Ayrshire.

Kirsten said: “As the singer of ‘The Whistle’ on the Linn Records collection the Complete Songs of Robert Burns, I was privileged to be at Friars Carse, for a special event, as part of The Homecoming celebrations for the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, held by Thornhill and District Burns Club.

“They were running the Robert Burns Whistle Recital Competition, and I was invited along to sing a few songs, accompanied by my fellow member of ‘Bring In The Spirit’, Lionel McClelland.

“This was actually held at Friars Carse and was a very important Homecoming event for Burnsians all over the world and it was an honour to be invited to sing at it.”

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