Robbie Burns gets early birthday present
(as published int he Daily Gleaner, January 25/11)
A donation from J.K. Irving and his wife Jean toward the cost of replacing the base for a statue of Robert Burns was received by city council Monday night. Mayor Brad Woodside handed over two personal cheques totalling $81,000, which the New Brunswick industrialist and his wife donated in order to see the historic, full-figured statue of Robert Burns back on The Green along the St. John riverfront.
The mayor gave the cheques to finance committee chairman Mike O'Brien, who presented a motion of acceptance. "I would move that council request you, on behalf of the council, the residents of Fredericton and all New Brunswickers of Scottish descent, to formally thank Mr. and Mrs. Irving for this generous donation and to formally invite them to the unveiling of the restored Robbie Burns statue when it is ready this summer," O'Brien said.
The city has paid to have a company clean and polish the bronze cladding of the sculpture of the Scottish poet, one of two statues designed by W.G. Stevenson of Scotland, but it has been languishing in a recreation division storage yard since 2008.
The statue was unveiled to provincewide acclaim in 1906. The city removed the statue for cleaning and to repair its base, which has weathered many a flood over the course of its 100-plus year history. When city council balked at paying the full repair bill and suggested that New Brunswick Scots be conscripted into a public fundraising drive, it roused the ire of the cultural community. The statue was given to the city as a gift in the 1980s and Scottish groups took the position that the city accepted responsibility for its maintenance.
Woodside on Monday night proclaimed Robert Burns Day, which is marked today, Burns' birthday. The mayor said the Scottish associations want to have the statue unveiled during the New Brunswick Highland Games. "We're trying to do whatever we can, that as in 1906, when it happens it's going to be done with a bang," the mayor said. "We'll make it a big thing."