If there is one Scot who has achieved immortal, global fame, capturing the hearts of current Caledonia dwellers, descendants and admirers alike, it’s Robert Burns, of course. The Bard has had such an influence on the international community that every New Years Eve (or Hogmanay), people all over the world bring in a fresh year with a Burns song.
As a native Scot, when I first moved to Vancouver, BC, over a year ago, I was both delighted and surprised to find Robert Burns himself, immortalized in bronze and granite, observing the prestigious Coal Harbor area of the city from the solitude of Vancouver’s beloved Stanley Park. The plaque fixed under the impressive statue explained that a former British Prime Minister had unveiled the monument in 1928, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Burn’s death.
This explanation didn’t quite satisfy my curiosity as to why the people of Vancouver, in 1928, revered the Great Bard so much that they decided to offer him a place in their own history.
As it turns out, like many Scottish endeavors, Burns found his place in Stanley Park against opposition and unlikely odds. In early February 1924, a small group of forty or so Scottish British Columbians, with a particular interest in the works of Burns, formed the Vancouver Burns Fellowship. One of the first and seemingly ambitious goals set by the group was to erect a statue of Burns in the city of Vancouver. With the support of the Vancouver Scottish Choir and the Scottish Orchestra, the Fellowship initiated a Robert Burns Statue fund. Through art sales, music festivals, tea and coffee groups, private donations and other small-scale events, the Fellowship and Friends had raised enough money to purchase and erect the $5,000 monument after only three years.
The final statue was selected from various suggestions of original designs and replica models. The Fellowship decided on a recasting of the famous statue located in Burns’s hometown of Ayr, which was made in London, and shipped to Vancouver via the Panama Canal. On February 25th, 1928, thousands of Vancouver citizens awaited the unveiling of the statue in Stanley Park. It was on a bright and clear day that former British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, ceremoniously unveiled the statue in all it’s glory while onlookers sang, cheered and celebrated. MacDonald and 300 guests then gathered at the Hotel Georgia to celebrate Burns, Scottish heritage and that very special day in Vancouver’s history.
This year, on January 25th , people all over the world will honor Robert Burns and celebrate his contribution not only to Scottish history and literature, but also his part in keeping the spirit of Scotland alive, red-cheeked and in good cheer in every corner of the globe.
“For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.”
Caroline King is an aspiring freelance travel writer, born in Scotland and currently residing in Vancouver, Canada. Caroline has a passion for travel, with a background in geography, education, conservation and environmental issues. She is currently working on building her travel writing portfolio, and runs a well-received travel blog – Here, There and Mostly Canada.