Falkirk songster Dougie is ‘stunned’ by surprise Burns gig in Java

Dougie and friends in classic form.
Dougie and friends in classic form.

Carronshore entertainer Dougie Smith is still pinching himself to make sure it really is true - and that he didn’t just dream he’d been asked to perform a Burns Supper on an island paradise.

The local man has spent the last 25 years pursuing his fanatical obsession with Scottish folk culture, and the poetry of Robert Burns, and has long since joined the elite league of experts who are regularly asked to perform at top notch Burns-themed events.

Dougie Smith - off to Java in January.

Dougie Smith - off to Java in January.

But this time the gig was more than just “a surprise”.

He has been asked by the Java St Andrew’s Society to fly to Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, stay there for a week in a luxury hotel - and entertain dozens of guests at a “full Monty” Burns bash.

All with full expenses paid and a very decent fee.

It is more than a little different from his usual stock in trade - for example in the run-up to Christmas he will be strumming his guitar at a series of free performances in aid of foodbank resources.

Now, by sharp contrast, he is putting wheels in motion to jet off to an exotic capital on the other side of the world which - he frankly confesses - he had hardly heard of until now.

At the same time the 51-year-old, who works at Ineos for his day job, is by no means surprised by the enthusiasm for Burns in far-off lands.

“Everyone knows about the worldwide fame of Robert Burns, and particularly in countries where there is a strong Scottish presence,” said Dougie.

That’s even the case in Java, where - just as in Hong Kong, New Zealand or North America- there is no shortage of Scots or people of Scots descent who delight in the tartan-decked revelry of traditional Scottish culture.

The event Dougie will be attending is the Java society’s annual Burns Night in January, which will be a deluxe black tie affair with a comprehensive programme - and the odd glass of whisky.

The group has gone to special lengths to ensure that authentic Scots performers are flown in for the night, along with haggis and all the trimmings.

Dougie, who will be master of ceremonies for the prestigious evening, gained the surprise booking from Jakarta-based Scot Karen Clydesdale, and early next year will be heading to Indonesia’s fabulous capital with Arab Emirates - with just one stop at Dubai.

“My only wish is that my mum and dad were here to see all my good luck”, he said.

He says he has fond memories of Carronshore in years past when his dad, the late Alex Smith, owned the Victoria Inn.

There was a Higginsneuk Burns Club at one time, but membership fell away, and it has taken a lifetime for Dougie - who had never been to a Burns Night as a youngster - to get to grips with what it is all about.

While still a teenager he learned half of the epic Tam o’Shanter in a weekend, and went on to immerse himself in Scottish poetry and folk music as the years went on.

Now he is a regular “turn” at events ranging from funerals to weddings, and has considered making his act - “One Man and his Doug” a full time career.

Meanwhile his 28-year-old son Richard is following in his dad’s footsteps with an act called The Ghost of Robert Burns, which he rates highly.

“Far from enthusiasm for Burns and Scottish music and culture falling away it is growing at a terrific rate,” says Doug.

“It’s very encouraging to see the new generation really getting involved, in a way that could sometimes have been difficult in the past”.