Howdy folks! Do you know that Robert Burns Day is just a few sleeps away? With January 25th fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to learn a little more about this Scottish poet. After all, he was the subject of Vancouver’s first statue in 1928.
Born near Ayr, Scotland in 1759, Burns lived a short and immensely productive life. In addition to publishing multiple collections of poems, he bought (and sold) a farm, and sought to preserve other iconic Scottish poems and songs. He died in 1796, at age 37.
You might be wondering, why would a poet who died over a hundred years earlier warrant such an honour? Well, as it turns out the end of the 20th Century saw his popularity explode. This is partly due to a renewed interest in nature and romanticism during the late Victorian era, but fan clubs had existed since the early 1820s, so there are some contributing factors.
Canada was no exception to this rise, with Robert Burns fan clubs popping up all over the country. And, naturally, a good way to show the world this poet was to put up statues in nice places. Luckily, there was already a great one that had been erected in Ayr back in 1892. And for the right price, you could get a copy.
Enter Vancouver’s Robert Burns Fellowship, which started in 1924 with the first goal of raising enough money for a statue. The thing was still enormously expensive at the time, costing some $5,000 (around $76k today).
Tack on an additional $2,000 for a marble base, and we’re surprised that they got the funds in just four short years. We have a sneaking suspicion that there was also a little bit of a keeping up with the Jones’ vibe, since Toronto, Halifax and Victoria already had their own (although only Halifax had the acclaimed version).
Whatever the reasons, the statue was erected in August of 1928, with the opening ceremony attracting some 10 to 12,000 people. On the statue are reliefs depicting three of Burns’ poems- To a mountain daisy (1786), The cotter’s Friday night (1785), and Tam O’Shanter (1790).
And, now you know a little bit more about the first statue erected in Vancouver! For more info on it, check out a great article in the Vancouver Archives.