The Burns Statue

(A Fragment)

This Statue, I must confess, is magnificent to see,
And I hope will long be appreciated by the people of Dundee;
It has been beautifully made by Sir John Steell,
And I hope the pangs of hunger he will never feel.

This statue is most elegant in its design,
And I hope will defy all weathers for a very long time;
And I hope strangers from afar with admiration will stare
On this beautiful statue of thee, Immortal Bard of Ayr.

Fellow-citizens, this Statue seems most beautiful to the eye,
Which would cause Kings and Queens for such a one to sigh,
And make them feel envious while passing by
In fear of not getting such a beautiful Statue after they die.

See where he sits on the stump of that tree
His eyes tuned to heaven his Mary to see,
A scroll at his feet, a pen in his hand
Writing to his Mary in the Better Land

The Lochee Union Weaver Lodge had twenty representatives in their regalia, who carried the Lodge flag and the Lodge loom in working order. The Weavers were accompanied by one of their craft, no less a personage than McGonagall, the bard of the silvery Tay and the dusty loom, who appeared in tbe garb of Old Gaul, but without any dangerous weapon. He proudly strutted along the whole route as if conscious that the divine afflatus rested at times upon him as well as it did upon Burns.

Dundee Courier, 18th October 1880


A huge crowd turned out on  the 16th October 1880 to witness the inauguration of Dundee’s latest civic amenity – a statue of Robert Burns.

The statue was a duplicate of one by Sir John Steell that had been unveiled in New York’s Central Park just two weeks earlier. Further copies would subsequently be installed in London and in Dunedin, New Zealand. The sculptor was paid 1000 guineas (half what New York paid for the original) and the sum was raised by public subscription. Burns was a popular choice for public sculpture, both as an expression of Scottish patriotism and because he expressed the feelings of the common man. Indeed, Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus are the only non-religious figures to have more statues around the world than Burns.

As Dundee’s self-appointed poet in residence, McGonagall expected to play a part in the festivities for his fellow bard. He was to be cruelly disappointed, as he later wrote:

 I will ever remember the day I walked in the Burns’ procession in Highland costume with the manuscript of the Burns Statue poem in my hand, which I willingly would have read had I been permitted, but no! when I made the attempt for the third time, to get onto the platform, I was told by police to go away, just the same as if I had been a dog.

Instead, he had to be content to march alongside some representatives of his former craft – the weavers of Lochee. The above four stanzas are all that survive of the “gem” spurned by the city fathers of Dundee.

Further Reading

Wikipedia Article

Related Gems

Comments (1) »

  1. Tom McCaffrey
    In the year 2012, on the 24th day of October at 9:55 pm

    When in Ireland go to Dundalk to see
    there behind the railings in front of St. Nicholas Green Church there be
    A monument to the sister of the Bard Of Ayr
    who died there

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