Robert Burns Statue

Robert Burns Statue, London, Public Art

Public Art : Robert Burns Statue

Sculptor : © Sir John Robert Steell (1804–1891)

Date Unveiled : The Robert Burns Statue was unveiled in 1884. This was the third cast. The original was erected in Central Park, New York in 1880.

Location : The Robert Burns statue can be found in the Thames Embankment Gardens in London.

Description : The bronze statue depicts Burns sitting on a tree stump with quill in hand. Burns looks deep in thought, looking skywards with the poem he wrote about "one" of his loves, Mary “Highland” Campbell, inscribed on a scroll at his feet. Mary died from typhus in 1786, having caught it from her brother.

History of the Robert Burns Statue: Following Sir John Robert Steell's completion of the Sir Walter Scott statue in New York's Central Park in 1872 a committee was soon formed to erect a monument in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns (as a companion piece to Sir Walter Scott). The committee, who were rather impressed with Steell's previous commission, again assigned him the task.

The statue was donated to New York's Central Park on the 3rd of October, 1880 by Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York and the Scottish-American community.

This would be the first statue dedicated to the poet to erected outside Scotland. Steell's inspiration for the sculpture came from a portrait of Burns painted by Alexander Nasmyth in 1787. The statue was so admired casts were commissioned for Dundee, London and Dunedin (New Zealand).

The Dundee statue was erected two weeks after the unveiling in New york, the London statue in 1884 and the Dunedin statue in 1887. Dunedin was founded by Burns' nephew, Rev Dr Thomas Burns.

Who was Robert Burns? : Robert Burns (25th January, 1759 – 21st July, 1796) will probably be best remember for his poem Auld Lang Syne, which we sing to bring in each new year.

Burns was born Robert Burness ,in a wee village in Scotland called Alloway. The eldest of seven children he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, in fact Burns grew up in abject poverty.  However being poor and the son of a peasant farmer did not deny a young Burns of an education. His father taught the children the basic reading, writing and arithmetic before hiring a local teacher to tutor the attentive and smart young pupil.

Though Burns grew up to be a successful poet and lyricist, he poured his money back into farming, despite his continued failures. A proud Scots, he spent a good deal of time adapting and revising old Scottish folks songs, which otherwise would have disappeared over time (Auld Lang Syne was one of them).

It was his use of a light Scots dialect which endeared him to his fellow countrymen and beyond. Unfortunately for Burns, poverty would follow him throughout his life, as too would his often scandalous love life. Following his death at the age of 37 from bacterial endocarditis (rheumatic fever) he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. Burns died in poverty and a memorial edition of his poems was published to raise money for his wife and children.

The poet was also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply "The Bard".

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