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Robert Burns Monument

Perhaps the oldest literary landmark in British Columbia is the uncredited bronze and stone statue unveiled in Beacon Hill Park in November of 1900 in honour of Robbie Burns. Scotsmen of Victoria had initiated a fundraising campaign for a $2,000 memorial statue and fountain in 1897. The result depicts the author of Auld Lang Syne reciting his poem ‘Highland Mary’ to a Scottish lass. On each side of the statue there is a line from the poem.  Among Burn’s other best-known poems and songs are Scots Wha Hae, often considered the unofficial national anthem of Scotland as well as A Man’s A Man for A’ That, To a Louse and To a Mouse. Burns was born on January 25, 1759 and died on July 21, 1796.

On November 10, 1900, the Burns Monument was unveiled. The subscribers of the “monument erected to the memory of Robert Burns” presented a Resolution dated November 9, 1900, transferring the monument to the City. The Resolution stipulated that the City must “forever maintain and keep the same as a Monument and Fountain for the benefit of inhabitants of Victoria.” Mayor Hayward acknowledged the gift and read out the conditions. He said, however, that “municipal law forbade anticipating the future or placing burdens on those coming after us.” He assured the group that “authorities would always be pleased to preserve this loving tribute...” (Colonist, November 11, 1900)

The City did not “forever maintain and keep” the “Monument and Fountain” as the Resolution stipulated. In fact, current residents of Victoria might be surprised to learn the monument was originally also a fountain: water flowed out of small spouts set in the mouths of the lion heads on the east and west side of the monument. In 1959, Park Administrator Herb Warren advised the Park Committee that it was “impractical to modernize the two sprays in the Burns Monument without tearing it to pieces...He also advised that the present Fountain Heads did not comply with Health Regulations.” (CRS 107, Oct. 30, 1959) The fountain spouts are still visible today in the lions mouths. Members of Victoria’s six Scottish societies continue to meet at the Burns Memorial site on or near January 26.


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