The history of Robert Burns statues around the world

SCOTLAND'S most famous literary son is much more than words on a page. From Aberdeen to Winnipeg, statues and monuments of the bard can be found across the world.
Replica Burns cottage, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: Frank ShawReplica Burns cottage, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: Frank Shaw
Replica Burns cottage, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: Frank Shaw

With well over 60 statues dedicated to the Scots poet, Robert Burns is third in line after Christopher Columbus and Queen Victoria in the number of statues dedicated to a non-religious figure worldwide.

There are at least twenty statues of Burns throughout Scotland, with three alone in Dumfries where he died aged 37 in 1796.

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Arguably, one of the most ornate tributes to Burns can be found in his hometown.

Burns Statue, Canberra, Australia. Image: Peter EllisBurns Statue, Canberra, Australia. Image: Peter Ellis
Burns Statue, Canberra, Australia. Image: Peter Ellis

Alloway in Ayrshire is the site of a Grecian-influenced monument, designed by Sir Thomas Hamilton and featuring nine 70ft high colonnades to correspond with the number of muses found in Greek mythology.

The monument and accompanying gardens are part of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, and the inside of the monument features a bust of the man himself.

The nation’s capital also honours the Tam ‘o Shanter author with a monument on Calton Hill. However, the John Flaxman-designed statue of Burns that used to reside there has been in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery since 1889, where he is posed in mid-recital of “To a Mountain Daisy”.

South of the border, Burns can be found seated in London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens, while a bust of him is also seen in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. Crossing the Channel to Paris reveals another statue to Robert Burns in the Sorbonne, providing a solid-stone link to Scotland’s ‘Auld Alliance’.

Burns Statue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Image: David BergerBurns Statue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Image: David Berger
Burns Statue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Image: David Berger
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Northern Ireland has one statue of the man erected in Belfast, but the largest number of Burns statues anywhere in the world outside of Scotland can be found even further west in the United States of America.

New York’s Central Park statue is situated on the Mall/Literary Walk opposite fellow countryman Sir Walter Scott. He’s seated on a tree stump with the poem Mary on a scroll at his feet.

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Proving that Wisconsin isn’t just famous for Netflix show Making a Murderer is the presence of a grand Burns statue in Milwaukee. Donated to the city in 1909 by James Anderson Bryden, a resident of Scottish descent, the 12 foot-high statue is a casting of the Kilmarnock design made by Edinburgh artist William Grant Stevenson.

Statue in Toronto, Canada. Image: Q8682Statue in Toronto, Canada. Image: Q8682
Statue in Toronto, Canada. Image: Q8682

An identical copy can also be found in Chicago, Michigan, and every year the town’s Scottish-descended community lay a wreath at the monument to celebrate the poet’s work.

While busts and statues can be found all the way from Vermont in the north to Texas in the south, there’s a particularly unique tribute erected in Atlanta, Georgia. The Burns Club of Atlanta completed a life-size replica of Burns Cottage in 1910, using measurements taken from the original cottage on land donated by one of the Coca-Cola Company’s founders. To this day, the club still meets in the recently-remodelled cottage, which faithfully replicates the original “but, ben and byre” layout of Burns’s childhood home.

Both Australia and Canada have seven Burns monuments, with Australian capital Canberra’s Burns sculpture the second-oldest monument in the city. It’s the last Burns monument to be erected in Australia, after having been unveiled in January 1935. The Scot is posed deep in thought ahead of a pink granite wall, with the panels and statue cast in Italy in the early 1930s.

Camperdown, Australia, is thought to have the oldest existing statue of the poet anywhere in the world, with the John Greenshields-carved sculpture shipped to Australia in 1859 after originally being displayed at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London.

Burns in New York's Central Park. Image: Ad MeskensBurns in New York's Central Park. Image: Ad Meskens
Burns in New York's Central Park. Image: Ad Meskens

Southern hemisphere relative New Zealand has no less than four Burns monuments or statues. One such statue in Dunedin was erected in 1877 and designed by Sir John Steell; the Aberdonian who designed Edinburgh’s statue of Sir Walter Scott. One of the city’s founding fathers, Thomas Burns, was also a nephew of the late poet.

As well as the memory of Burns being commemorated Down Under, the poet is a popular public figure in parks and green spaces across Canada too.

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The St Andrews Society of Toronto will host 2016 Burns Night celebration at the statue in the city’s Allan Gardens, with bagpiping, haggis and singing all set to feature under the bard’s watchful gaze. The west coast of Canada also commemorates the Scot, with a statue of him at the Coal Harbor entrance to Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

French-speakers in Montreal’s Dorchester Square can see Burns standing with arms folded and looking westward. His presence in the park serves as a reminder of the industrial and financial might of the city’s Scottish ancestors during the Victorian era, along with the long-lasting effects of his literary creations.