There are over 60 known memorials to Robert Burns in Scotland, Australia, Canada, England, Estonia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States.
Edinburgh, Mid Lothian, Scotland, was the first town to acknowledge Robert Burns. ( 2 ). A statue sculpted by John Flaxman, from York, England, was unveiled in 1831. Too much money was raised, so they decided to also erect a Burns Monument and house the statue inside it, on Regal Road. In 1846 there was found to be a gas leakage under the monument so the statue was moved to inside the University of Edinburgh Library. It was decided to move it again in 1861, to the Royal Scottish Academy. Finally in 1889, it was moved to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street, Edinburgh where it still stands to this day.
Once Burns’ first edition of poems were a great success a second edition was expected. Robert borrowed a pony and made a two day trip from Ayr to Edinburgh, arriving on 28th November 1786. Edinburgh at that time was much the same as it is today, carefree, squalid, venerable and literary, only now of course it is a much larger city. They welcomed the poet . Doors were flung open to him as newspapers shouted out his success. Robert did not let it go to his head. He was to recall, a poet today, a poor farmer tomorrow. The second edition was printed and designated to the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt. There were 1,500 subcribers who ordered a publication – and 2,800 copies of his works were sold. Robert lived in Edinburgh for many months.
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, was the next city to put up a statue to Robert Burns. ( 3 ). It was sculpted by a Glaswegian, George Edwin Ewing. It stands in the middle of George Square, Glasgow and its unveiling, on 25th January 1877, the 118th anniversary of the Bard’s birth, was witnessed by over 100,000 people. Glasgow is where he met his good friend Richard Brown, who if not for his persistence to publish his poems, the world may still be waiting to hear from Robert Burns. Robert was to have declared , ‘one of the happiest nights of his life he spent with Richard Brown’.
While at Glasgow, Robert stayed at the Black Bull. This was also where the coach stopped to pick up and drop off passengers from Edinburgh. Clarinda was born in Glasgow, so the town had special meaning for him.
Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, raised their statue to Robert Burns in 1879. ( 4 ). It was sculpted by William Grant Stevenson, a local Scot. It was erected in Key Park but was moved to the Burns Monument Centre in 2009. It was from the press of John Wilson in Kilmarnock that Burns’ first poems were printed. They were stitched in a blue-grey cover. The volume cost three shillings. A perfect copy today would fetch over 2,000.00 pounds ($ 3,600.00) 612 copies were published and they were sold out in just over a month. The edition was dedicated to Gavin Hamilton, a friend.
Dundee, Angus, erected their statue on 16th October 1880. ( 5 ). It was sculpted by Sir John Steel, from Aberdeen and sculptor to the Queen. It stands in Albert Square, Dundee. Robert liked Dundee. He had family in Angus. During his Highland Tour in 1787 he visited relatives in Montrose and on the road south, stopped at Dundee. This tour took him twenty two days and he covered over 600 miles. Although his actual stay in Dundee was brief, when his statue was unveiled nearly 100 years later some 40,000 people came out to watch – a third of the population. This statue bore one of Robbie Burns’ poems,
‘ Thou lingring star with lessning ray Thou lov’st to greet the early morn Again thou usherst in the day My Mary from my soul was torn’
Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway, chose a woman sculptor, Amelia Paton Hall, a Scot from Dumfermline. ( 6 ). It was unveiled on 6th April 1882 and stands in Church Place, Dumfries. It was while at Dumfries walking along the side of the river Nith that Burns composed his famous ‘ Auld Lang Syne ‘. Robert spent his last few years at Dumfries from 1791 – 1796. The Robert Burns Centre, situated in the old eighteenth century watermill, on the banks of the river Nith, tells the story of Robert’s life while in the old market town.
His final resting place is the Burns Mausoleum at the eastern end of St. Michael’s Graveyard. Burns was given a military funeral. Money was started to be raised in December 1813 for a more desired tomb than just a headstone, and finally by spring 1815 the mausoleum could be started. Volunteers fired a volley over his grave in 1815. The mausoleum was finished in September 1817 at a cost of one thousand five hundred pounds ($2,700.00). On 19th September 1817, at midnight, Robert’s casket was raised from the other side of the graveyard, with those of his two sons, Francis aged 12 years and Maxwell 2 years and they were all reburied together inside the mausoleum. Jean Armour, his wife and his grown son Robert followed in the later years.
Robert’s home town of Ayr, Ayrshire, did not unveil their statue of Burns until 1891. ( 7 ). A Scot from Edinburgh, George Anderson Lawson was the sculptor. It stands in Burns Statue Square, Ayr. Ayr, is the ‘Capital of Burns Country’ . It lies on the mouth of the river Ayr and contains many famous structures. The William Wallace Tower is here, erected in the nineteenth century, declaring his first blow for freedom. The castle at Turnberry, was where Robert the Bruce began his struggles, which ended with the Battle of Bannockburn.
The Tam O’Shanter Inn is now a museum and there is also the Auld Kirk with its Kirkyard and Martyrs Monument. The Kirk Port and The Brig which was subject to Burns’ poem, “The Brigs of Ayr”. Robert’s birthplace is a museum, ” The first ever Burns festival was held in Ayr in August 1844. It was estimated the numbers of attendance were between 50,000 and 80,000. The Birthplace of a Genius”. Robert once wrote, ‘ Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonnie lasses ‘.
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, shortly followed with having their statue unveiled on 15th September 1892. ( 1 ). Henry Bain Smith, himself from Aberdeen was the sculptor and the statue stands in Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen. Henry Bain Smith suffering from a liver complaint had his fantastic talent extinguished when he died at age 36. The statue was Burns with a daisy in his hand which related to the poem, ‘ To a Mountain Daisy’ . This poem was written at the plough in April 1786. Burns personally identified with the daisy’s fate and despairingly reflected on his own circumstances at the time. When Robbie arrived at Aberdeen on his Highland Tour on Sunday 9th September 1787 he thought Aberdeen, ‘ A lazy town.’
Several years went by before Paisley, Renfrewshire, erected their statue on 26th September 1896. ( 8 ). The sculptor was Frederick William Pomeroy who hailed from London, England. This statue stands in Fountain Gardens, Paisley. Paisley Museum recently found a manuscript penned by Robert Burns himself. It has been confirmed as the world’s only surviving copy of a rare piece of the poets work. The piece, ‘ Sir, Your this moment I unseal,’ dates from 1786 and is believed to have been in the museum’s collections for at least two centuries. It is certainly one which any major library in the world would love to own.
Robert Burns thought very kindly of Paisley because, ‘ The Bookseller ‘, lived there. He sold ninety two copies of his 1787 Edinburgh Edition when Burns first visited the town during 1787 & 1788. Paisley’s own bard Robert Tannahill started up one of the world’s first Burns’ Clubs. It met for the first time in January 1805 at the Starr Inn to celebrate Robert Burns 46th anniversary of his birth.
David Watson Stevenson, from Edinburgh, was commissioned to sculptor Robert Burns’ statue that was to stand in Bernard Street, Leith, Midlothian. ( 9 ). Leith unveiled their statue on 15th October 1898. Burns took many walks around Leith. It was here in 1787 that he encountered a Mrs. Agnes Lehose at a friend’s house. A meeting was planned but the day before Burns fell and injured his leg while riding and so their relationship was carried out in verse only. They wrote many letters to one another, Burns called himself, ‘ Sylander ‘ and Agnes was ‘ Clarinda ‘.
They met for the last time in 1791 when she returned to India to reconcile with her husband. For his parting gift to her Burns wrote. ‘ Ae Fond Kiss ‘.
Just before the First World War began a Robert Burns statue appeared in Stirling. ( 10 ). It’s sculptor was Albert Henstock Hodge from the Isle of Islay. It was unveiled on 23rd September 1914, and stands in the Albert Halls District, Dunbarton Street, Stirling. Burns first visited Stirling on his way to Inverness during his Highland Tour. He arrived on 26th August 1787. After a visit to the run down castle he remarked, ‘ From Stirling Castle I have seen by the setting sun, the glorious prospect of the windings of the Forth through the rich carse of Stirling and skirting the equally rich carse of Falkirk ‘.
On a window pane he wrote, ‘ From here, Stewart Kings had once ruled Scotland, now they have lost power and the roof, ‘. He was forced to return to the Inn and break the glass to avoid prosecution.
Arbroath, Angus, had its first statue ever erected in the town, when it finally collected enough money together, to put up a statue of Robert Burns. ( 11 ). It took a long time to have one erected outside the Abroath Library. It was unveiled on the eve on Robert Burns’ 200th anniversary of his birth, 24th January 1959. Its sculptor was Scott Sutherland who hailed from the far north of Scotland, Wick in Caithness. The money that had started to be collected in 1895 had all been raised by the Abroath Burns Club. During Robert Burns’ Highland Tour he landed at Arbroath and went on to Dundee by carriage. It was the first time that Robert had ever been at sea.
There are even more statues of Robert Burns than any other figure in world literature. Indeed if we discount figures of religion then only Christopher Columbus has more statues than Robert Burns worldwide.
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