Otterburn XXIX

At the twenty eighth meeting of the Otterburn Society,  held in 2009,  it was decided that it would be appropriate for the Society to possess a Colour  to fly high above the ramparts of the Tower Hotel to indicate the presence of the members in Otterburn during their annual conference.

The Director of Fine arts and Heraldic Officer to the Society, Karl Beattie agreed to design the Colour and Chairman Wanduwl Fwack agreed to procure it.

There had been a number of potential designs discussed throughout the months leading up to Otterburn XXIX.  The preliminary design, inspired by the Director of Music and procurement of Champagne, ambucycles and pencils,  Mr Scarborough,  had included many of the icons that members associate with Otterburn.  The preliminary design can be seen here.

Mr Beattie reminded members of the words of heraldic advice he had received from the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, when he says that "the best and most effective designs should be kept simple, clear and distinctive (as well as representative..)".

After much deliberation, the Heraldic Officer proposed the following:

  • Description:  Upon a field, Azure: sinister half - an onion, Gules, crowned in Or, supported by sabres crossed, Argent blade with sable pommel; dexter half - Otter, Gules, rampant, devouring writhing salmon, Or - over waves, contrasting Azure.


^ A graphical representation of the Colour of The Otterburn Society.

HO explains...“The blue field represents truth and honour; the crossed swords, the willingness to fight for that honour (in Argent, representing nobility) - and they also appear on OS maps over Otterburn, denoting the battle of Otterburn (1388) - and supporting the crowned onion, which I think speaks for itself through the Society's motto! Then of course we have the otter, for Otterburn - in red representing bravery and artistry (goes without saying), 'devouring' a golden salmon (representing plenty) - that's 'salmon', by the way, not Salmanazar!”



At Otterburn XXVIII the disgraced inventor of the Otterburn Syringe,  Jeremy Featherstone,  was delighted to be elected Treasurer of the society,  assuming responsibility for all arrangements relating to the twenty ninth annual conference.   Despite the humiliation of the syringe debacle and his numerous failings in the role of Secretary to the society relating to the lack of publication of an Otterburn Journal,  three years in a row,  members were confident that Treasurer Featherstone would be the best man for the job !

Members were delighted therefore to receive notification at least four week before the end of November,  that accommodation at the Tower had been reserved and that all arrangements were all in place for another successful conference !


The climate in Northumberland in the weeks leading up to the conference had been particularly harsh,  in fact the entire area of Northumberland had been covered in snow for weeks.   In light of this Treasurer Featherstone took the precaution of making the journey to Newcastle a day earlier than usual.

Members enjoyed Champagne & canapés as usual at the residence of the DCPA before venturing out into the city.

On the Friday evening Treasurer Featherstone assured the members that Otterburn would take place "no matter what the weather" and retired to be early no doubt expecting that the snow would stop.

It was a particularly arduous evening for the other members of the Society on that night in the city,  members not returning to Jesmond until well into the morning.  The snow had continued to fall.

Treasurer Featherstone awoke to find that the snow hadn’t cleared as he had no doubt hoped but further seamed shocked to learn that the road to Otterburn had now become impassable !

It soon became obvious that contingent arrangements were not in place.  The treasurer admitted to not even phoning the heliport !

The chaos that followed was alarming !

At one stage the Treasurer had apparently considered accepting the Chairman’s invitation to hold the conference at his home in Wylam. Just how members had been expected to climb the very steep hill on the approach to the Chairman’s residence in the snow,  without crampons,  was another matter no doubt to be addressed when it was too late !   Willis had apparently been only too eager to host a party of 10 for dinner with only 6 hours notice !

On hearing this suggestion Mr Beck announced that he had managed to get to the Northumberland village of Otterburn on the last weekend in November every year for the last twenty eight years and wasn’t going to stop now !.  He announced that he would be attending Otterburn twenty nine this year and NOT Wylam one !

Mr Beck set off with Mr Firth and Mr Jordan to attempt the journey to Otterburn by car with little more than additional emergency liquid supplies and some aspirin.

As it turned out the emergency services had been aware of the Otterburn Conference and had been out early with ploughs to clear the road especially for the members.


Although the road was only just passable,  Mr Jordan,  Mr Firth and Mr Beck arrived at the Percy Arms by 1pm to be welcomed by the usual roaring log fire where they enjoyed their first cool scotch of the day together.

^ Mr Jordan and Mr Beck at the Percy Arms

^The Director of Fine Arts with Mr Beck

Director of arts and Heraldic Officer to the society,  Karl Beattie was the only member of the Society to have made suitable arrangements to get to Otterburn that weekend,  having taken the precaution of acquiring a Mitsubishi Warrior especially for this purpose. 

This was slightly academic as Mr Beattie had been at his home in Otterburn on the Friday night however he did very kindly make the journey back into Newcastle in the Warrior to transport some of the members and their luggage back to Otterburn.

^Disgraced inventor of the Otterburn syringe

The last of the members did not arrive at the Percy until 2:30 pm !.  To his credit,  Mr Featherstone was the back marker. 

Unfortunately, in the panic,  the treasurer had forgotten to order soup & sandwiches from the Percy so it was left to Heraldic Officer Beattie to negotiate lunch.  It is fortunate that the Heraldic officer is well connected in Otterburn and a traditional lunch was eventually served.

^Members enjoying a late lunch of soup & sandwiches


When Mr Fwack arrived,  much to the pleasant surprise of the other members,  he presented the Heraldic Officer with a full size Otterburn Colour !  Mr Fwack had also bought a pole from his office from which the Colour could be paraded.

^  Mr Fwack presents the Heraldic officer with the Colour.

^  The Heraldic officer and Treasurer display the Colour to the members at the Percy Arms Hotel.

After lunch,  the Colour of the Society was trouped from the Percy Arms to the natural home of the Colour,  The Otterburn Tower Hotel.

The Colour was carried aloft by the Heraldic Officer.














^  The Colour being trouped to the Tower !


 ^  The Presidential motorcade - Note the wing mounted colour !

^ The heraldic Officer with The Colour,  being followed by the Director of Music.











^  The Director of Music with the Heraldic Officer.

Despite the treacherous conditions caused by the heavy snow fall,  Mr Beattie and Mr Scarborough managed to scale the ramparts and hoist the colour. 

This was no mean feat and took some considerable time !


  ^  The Colour of The Otterburn Society,  flying high over the ramparts of the Otterburn Tower.


With the Colour flying high over the ramparts of The Tower,  Chairman Flack brought the twenty ninth annual conference of the Otterburn Society to order.

  • Presentations.

^  God save the Flag,  by Karl Beattie

Heraldic Officer Beattie was the first to make his presentation. 

Mr Beattie explained the Colour and presented a poem that he had composed called "God save the Flag" that had been inspired by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his famous poem,  of the same name.

The Heraldic officer also was pleased to show some "special female adornments" that he had designed.

These he informed us he was having fabricated by a local craftsman who he recommended should be appointed official forge masters to The Society,  Stephen Lunn.









^  The first toggie being blown in the shadow of the Colour.

The rest of the presentations were excellent and thoroughly enjoyed !

  • La Sabrage

It is a long held tradition that Champagne is opened and maintained at the optimum temperature and gas saturation levels for enjoyment by the members.  Treasure Featherstone was particularly eager to master at least this methodology for opening champagne.

^ The treasurer uses the ceremonial shears in the Sabrage

^  The treasurer considering alternative ways to enjoy Champagne.

  • Annual General Meeting

The twenty ninth annual general meeting of the Otterburn Society was chaired by the Chairman of The Otterburn Society, Mr Randall Flack.

The Chairman congratulated the heraldic Officer Mr Beattie on his design for the Society Colour.  The Chairman informed The Heraldic Officer that he was to be given the honour of taking custody of the colour throughout the year and its safe return to Otterburn in the years to come.

The Heraldic Officer was obviously moved by this honour and gave his solemn oath that he would protect the honour of the Colour.

Mr Firth also congratulated the Heraldic Officer on his design and went on to thank the Chairman for very generously paying for the manufacture of the Colour.  The Chairman,  was initially hesitant to accept this vote of appreciation however it was quickly obvious that he had little option.


^  Chairman of the Otterburn Society,  Mr Wanduw Fwack, opens the twenty ninth AGM.

^ Chairman Flack administers a forfeit.

Matters soon turned to the almost disastrous state of affairs that had existed earlier in the day.

It was Mr Firth's view that the chaos that had existed in the mind of the Treasure was totally unacceptable and that the fact that the conference very nearly hadn't taken place in Otterburn at all this year had seriously jeopardized the long held traditions of the Society.

Mr Featherstone attempted to defend his position and denied that there had been chaos earlier in the day,  preferring to describe the situation as "an ongoing review of the continually changing circumstances".

The chairman decided that the Treasurer was to pay a forfeit.  One shirt lapel.

The chairman administered this forfeit personally.


Having received his forfeit,  The Treasurer congratulated Mr Firth on his contribution to the Society website and went on to ask why there had been such a delay in updating the website since our last meeting.

Mr Firth had little defence and a forfeit was decided.  One end of a bow tie.

The Treasurer was pleased to administer this forfeit personally.

^  Treasurer Featherstone about to impose a forfeit..











^  Chairman Flack receiving a forfeit..


Mr Scarborough pointed out that the Treasurer could not be expected to take responsibility for the situation and that the Chairman had to accept his share of the responsibility.

The Chairman received the same forfeit as the Treasurer.  One shirt lapel.


^  Heraldic Officer,  Karl Beattie receives the Wolfgang prize for literary excellence.





The forfeits having being made the Chairman requested nomination for the winner of the Wolfgang prize.

Mr Firth was pleased to nominate the Heraldic officer Mr Beattie.  This was seconded by Mr Jordan and passed unanimously.

The Wolfgang prize was presented to The Heraldic Officer by Chairman Flack.

It was agreed that it would not be appropriate for the Chairman or the Treasurer to resign in light of the earlier chaos.

Mr Featherstone and Mr Flack agreed to remain in post of Treasurer and Chairman respectively for a further year.

Mr Jordan was elected Secretary of the society.


Mr Firth reminded the members that the Director of Music Mr Scarborough had offered to have some new suits made by his tailor in Malawi.  Although members appreciated this offer it had been decided to encourage his tailor to attend some sort of apprentice course or training. 

Mr Firth presented Mr Scarborough with some tape measures and tailoring chalk so that he could pass these to Mr Limbe when he was next in Malawi.



^  The Director of music receives some tailoring materials

  • Fireworks



The firework display this year was another great success,  despite the snow !


^Members of the Otterburn Society,  November 2010



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