Welcome back to the Fens, Robert Burns!
Boston’s statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns and his faithful canine companion, Luath, was returned to its original location in the Back Bay Fens after more than four decades in the Financial District’s Winthrop Square.
Robert Burns in the Back Bay Fens
Henry Hudson Kitson’s statue of Scotland’s National Bard was first unveiled by a group of Burns-lovers led by then-Governor Calvin Coolidge on January 1, 1920. The sculpture was commissioned and sited in a friendly rivalry with Daniel Chester French’s memorial to Irish Poet John Boyle O’Reilly. One night in 1975, the sculpture of Burns was abruptly moved to Winthrop Square with little public discussion. Community members protested, urging the city to return the statue, but Burns continued his stay in a square downtown named after John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Confusing, right?
Fast Forward to Fall of 2019
After a prolonged community effort, the 99-year old statue of Burns finally returned home to its original place in the Fens — in time for its 100th birthday in January.
The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA was delighted to team up with Millennium Partners, Boston Parks and Recreation Department, City of Boston Office of Arts and Culture, Fenway Civic Association, Fenway Alliance, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and Samuels & Associates to celebrate the re-installation of the statue. The rededication ceremony, held on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, was filled with songs, recitations, and piping in the spirit of the statue’s original dedication ceremony, held nearly one century ago.
Event attendees were welcomed by Piper Campbell Webster. NTSUSA friend, Scottish singer Maureen McMullan, performed two Burns poems accompanied by American Roots Music Program students Avery Merritt and Sam Leslie from Berklee College of Music. Robert Creighton (past president, NH Scot) and Scottish author Jeremy W. Bell recited Burns poetry, including A Man’s a Man, Scots wha Hae, and A Red, Red Rose. The ceremony came to an end with Mr. Bell inviting event attendees to stand, join hands, and sing as one, a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
We were thrilled to be a part of the rededication ceremony that honored the man, who from the humblest beginnings came to embody the passionate, artistic, egalitarian, entrepreneurial, and fiercely independent Scottish character.