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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 18, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz

The 12-foot statue of Robert Burns on Prospect and Knapp was cast from the original in Kilmarnock, Scotland.

In Milwaukee Buzz

The bas-reliefs on the pedestal were designed by Milwaukee artist Julius E. Heimerl.

In Milwaukee Buzz

This inscription records for posterity, the gift James Anderson Bryden gave to Milwaukee in 1909.

Burns statue salutes "Auld Lang Syne" creator


Have you wondered, while driving on Prospect Avenue, about that dapper man immortalized in bronze, gazing toward Downtown from his perch above the foot of Knapp Street?

Of course, he's legendary Scots poet Robert Burns and, as far as we can tell, he never visited Milwaukee (which didn't exist in his lifetime).

So why on Earth is there a statue of the man who wrote "Auld Lang Syne" on Milwaukee's East Side?

The Burns statue was donated to the city in 1909 by James Anderson Bryden, a Milwaukeean of Scottish descent.

Bryden was a prosperous grain merchant who was involved in many civic organizations in Milwaukee, including The Old Settlers' Club, the St. Andrews Society and the Chamber of Commerce.

When Bryden heard that Chicago had a casting of a Burns monument in Kilmarnock, Scotland, sculpted by Edinburgh artist William Grant Stevenson, in its Garfield Park, he wanted Milwaukee to have one, too.

Legend has it that Bryden initially planned to bequeath the money to have the statue erected, but changed his mind, deciding he'd prefer to see it the monument rise in his lifetime.

A copy of the 12-foot statue of Burns clutching a notebook was made in Scotland and sent to Milwaukee, where it was placed atop an 11-foot pedestal. On the base are bas-reliefs designed by Milwaukee's Julius E. Heimerl and executed by Stevenson and quotes from Burns poems.

Burns' three-dimensional likeness was unveiled at a ceremony on June 26, 1909 at which it was officially accepted by then-mayor David Rose in front of a crowd of almost 2,000.

Gen. Arthur MacArthur – father of Douglas – gave an address, Milwaukee journalist and author John Goadby Gregory – who was then editor in chief of the Evening Wiscosnin – read his poem, "Robert Burns," and The Caledonian Pipe Band played, too.

The Burns statue is still a focal point for local poets and Scotsmen, who lay a wreath at its base each year to celebrate the birth of the great wordsmith, who entered this world on Jan. 25, 1759 (and left it July 21, 1796).

So that you're prepared on New Year's Eve, here are the lyrics to auld Rabbie Burns' holiday favorite:

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

(CHORUS)

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.

(CHORUS)

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.

(CHORUS)

And there's a hand, my trusty fere !
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

(CHORUS)

Talkbacks

brewcitypaul | Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:25 a.m. (report)

I've wondered for years the story behind the Robert Burns statue which is blocks from me. Thank you for telling the story.

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