Friday, January 28, 2011

The Capital of Estonia has a bust of Robert Burns and Now of Sir Sean Connery

Estonia is a small, independent country lying along the Soviet border. During World War II it was occupied by both the Germans and the Russians and suffered greatly. Today, it enjoys a high economic level and religious freedom. Estonia is located on the Gulf of Finland, 50 miles south of Helsinki and west of Saint Petersburg.

Estonia also has a Scottish club in the capital city of Tallinn, population of about 450,000. The Scottish Club was established in the 1990's as a whiskey sampling society. They have begun a program of honoring “Scots who have made a difference.”

The first bust of a Scot who had made a difference was that of Robert Burns. This year they honored Sir Sean Connery. The bust was created by Estonian sculptor Tiiu Kirsipuu and cost some $14,000 dollars. It was financed by private donations and “depicts a bearded Connery at a mature age.” The bust was unveiled by Peter Carter the British Ambassador.

Connery lives in the Bahamas and says “he will not live in Scotland again until it gains independence from the United Kingdom.” He is now 80 years old.

Peter Carter said: “Sir Sean Connery is, without a doubt an icon. He is variously known as James Bond or the sexiest man of the century. He’s a great British actor, a great Scot actor and a great symbol for Scotland.”

Scots are everywhere even in Tallinn, Estoria.  I am sure they had a Burns Dinner, so I wonder what his poetry sounds like after translation in Finnish which is the major language in Estonia.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicago Celebrates Robert Burns, January 25, 1859

(This week, around the world, people are celebrating the birth of Robert Burns, January 25, 1859. The Illinois St. Andrews society will hold their event on Saturday night at the Union League Club of Chicago. At the same time, I will be speaking to a group of men at the Skyline Club on Michigan Ave. There have already been numerous events in the Chicago area.)

On December 10, 1858, a committee of the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society announced a general meeting to “adapt a plan for the appropriate celebration ...of the Centennial Anniversary of the birthday of Robert Burns.” The meeting was to be held at the Mechanics Institute Hall “on Friday evening next, the 10th instant, at 7 ½ o’clock.” The names listed were: William James, B. F. Strother, Sylvester Lind, Andrew A. Willey, John Alston, John McGlashan, A.C. Ducat, John McArthur. Andrew Harvey was shown as president and John Stewart, secretary.

One year later, on January 25, 1859, their plans were put into motion. It was a brutal day with a snowstorm that delayed the parade by more than three hours. Yet, the paper reported that “tens of thousands”waited along the streets and no one moved “neither man nor horse.” Following the parade there was a one hundred gun salute.

The Chicago Press said: “Sir Walter Scott was the poet of the upper classes and sang of Scotland to the English - and the English have praised him. Burns was the poet of the people and people have loved him - he was the interpreter of Scotchmen to themselves and to the world and they have worshiped him!”

In the evening a concert was held at Metropolitan Hall. When the doors opened at 6 pm. Every seat was taken and every available space was filled. More than one thousand people were turned away because there was no more room. In response to the numbers the concert was repeated the next evening.

The speaker for the evening was Ex-Governor McComas of Virginia who was then residing in Chicago He closed his speech with the following words: “Scotchmen! You may well be proud to-night. Millions of hearts this hour do homage to your plough-boy poet. Be prouder still, Scotchmen! Rab Burns deserves their homage! The history of your race, even from the far off cloudy glories of the past, stands clustered thick with blushing honors. Your country’s brows are wreathed with many, fair immortal flowers - but far the rarest flower in all that wreath of glory bloomed this night a hundred years ago.”

There was great applause.

Following the concert a ball and banquet was held at the Tremont House. It was attended by a thousand persons.

Quite a celebration for a frontier town, with unpaved streets,  in 1859!

(Metropolitan Hall was at the Corner of Randolph and LaSalle, built in 1854 and destroyed by the Great Fire in 1871.  Have been unable to obtain the seating capacity.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Senator James Webb Producing a TV Series About the Scots-Irish and How they Shaped America.

I have just read in a Scottish newspaper that Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is producing a two-part series on how the Scots-Irish shaped America.  The date, in Scotland at least, is to be February 1, 2011.  If anyone sees more information about a TV showing in the Chicago area, I would appreciate the information.

Jim Webb wrote a book that many of us have read called Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.  I have read the book twice.  It is a fascinating story of his family and their participation in the Civil War.  He gives an interesting and perhaps valid reason why so many Scots fought and died for the Confederate cause, since most of them never owned slaves.  They were mostly poor mountain people.

Several years ago, Jim Webb spoke at a meeting in Chicago and I had a rather extended conversation with him.  Not sure he made many friends in Chicago, especially with his comments about the Confederate flag.  He believes that southern people have a right to fly the flag since it was a "battle" flag and not a "political" flag.  At the time there was a court battle about flying the flag over a state capital.  I don't remember the state at the moment.  No one applauded his comments.

Senator Webb narrowly won his seat from George Allen who announced today that he will run against Webb in 2012.  Webb was supposed to be a "Blue Dog Democrat" but I am not sure his voting record will support that.  It will be an interesting election.

If you don't know Senator Webb's life story there is much information on the Internet.  He is an outstanding individual.

Michigian Governor Sets April as Scottish Heritage Month, 2009

Whereas, The Scottish, Scots-Irish are Americans of Scottish origin whose ancestors first colonized Northern Ireland in the late 1600s; and,

Whereas, The Scottish, Scots-Irish have made, and continue to make, significant economic, social and political contributions to our society; and,

Whereas, Scottish, Scots-Irish citizens have greatly advanced our understanding and appreciation of law, religion, agriculture, art, music, education, technology, architecture, cuisine, theatre, and exploration through their knowledge, skills and talents; and,

Whereas, Michigan is fortunate to have a large number of citizens of Scottish, Scots-Irish descent, including those who have been a part of our state for generations and those who are new to the Great Lakes State; and,

Whereas, The state of Michigan is proud of its cultural diversity and welcomes the opportunity to honor our Scottish, Scots-Irish citizens for their commitment to leadership, dedication to knowledge, and for their rich and fascinating heritage;

Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby proclaim April 2009, as Scottish, Scots-Irish Heritage Month in Michigan. I encourage all citizens to recognize the many accomplishments and contributions that the Scottish, Scots-Irish have made to our state and nation.

Does anyone know if the proclamation was made for 2010 and 2011?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sir Walter Scott's Coachman Dies in Jacksonville, IL. - 1889

I have continued scanning newspapers for local information published about Sir Walter Scott.  I thought it was interesting that his coachman died in Illinois.  The date of the article is August 21, 1889 and is in the Chicago Daily Tribune.

"An old servant of the Wizard of the North Expires at Jacksonville, ILL"

His name was Alexander Cunningham and he died at his home in Jacksonville.  He was 82.  Born in Scotland and was the "coachman of Sir Walter Scott for some months."  He remembered the "dogs the poet loved so well."  He also remembered other peculiarities of the poet, but these are not mentioned.  At the time of Sir Walter's failure (financial, I think)  all the servants were discharged.  At that time, Mr. Cunningham moved to America and settled in Ohio. 

He later moved to Illinois and settled in Jacksonville.  He leaves a family of three sons and two daughters.

Wouldn't it be interesting if descendants still lived in Illinois?  Place of burial is not given.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Does Anyone Read the Writings of Sir Walter Scott Anymore?

In Central Park, New York City, New York, there is a statue to Robert Burns and to Sir Walter Scott.  Both were crafted by Sir. John Steel.  I wonder if anyone still reads the works of Sir Walter Scott?  They are probably not taught in our high schools any more.  It seems that I can remember reading some of his stories, but it has been a long time ago and the world has changed.

Scott was important for his time and was a lot like Robert Burns whom he saw once in Edinburgh.  He had a great deal of pride in the history of Scotland and was aware of its importance in his time.  He also  helped rediscover Scotland's past and he actually discovered Scotland's Crown Jewels when he found them behind a chamber in Edinburgh Castle in 1818.  They were hidden behind a brick wall and had been lost for 100 years.

The statue of Scott in Central Park was in celebration of his centennial birth.  The Sculptor was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and he also did the monument to Scott on Princess street in Edinburgh.  Many of us have enjoyed that great monument on our visits to Scotland.  I understand some people don't like the iron structure above the statue, but I do. 

William Cullen Bryant spoke at the unveiling in Central Park, November 2, 1872.  He said:  "and now as the statue of Scott is set up in the beautiful park, which a few years since, possessed no human associations, historical or poetic, connected with its shades, its lawns, its rocks and waters, these grounds become peopled with new memories."

In 1993, the pedestal and sculpture were restored.  It was funded by the Saint Andrew's Society of New York.

 I have a story that the original plans for the Edinburgh Monument were lost in the Great Fire in Chicago, 1871.  Interesting story.

Monday, January 10, 2011

January, 2011 meeting of The History Club & Statues to Robert Burns

Saturday, January 8, 2011, was a meeting of the Scottish American History Club, an activity connected to the Illinois St. Andrew's Society.  It was a cold and snowy day, so our attendance was smaller than usual.  We were also dealing with a new computer.  The old computer had faithfully served for more than six years, but suddenly died.  We had one day to purchase, load and become acquainted with our new Gateway.  Thanks to June Steele of Lake Forest for supplying the funds to purchase the new computer.

It was not the smoothest presentation.  Some of the slides mysteriously were out of order and I kept straying for the subject!  Will try and do better the next time.

We did cover the six oldest statues of Robert Burns in the United States.We believe there are 13 statues in total.  The oldest is located in New York City (Central Park), followed by Albany (Washington Park), New York and Barre Vermont.  Then came the one in Denver (City Park), Colorado, Chicago (Garfield Park), Illinois and San Francisco, California (Golden Gate Park). They cover a period from 1880 to 1908.

The statue in Albany, New York, is the only one paid for by a lady.  Miss Mary McPherson was a housekeeper who saved her money and left an estate of $30,000 for a momument to her favorite poet.  The other statues involve many donors.

In San Francisco, the model was sent to the De Rome Foundry for casting and was destroyed by the great earthquake and fire in 1906.  A replacement was not completed until 1908.  John McGilvray was involved in the statues in both Denver and San Francisco.  The local Caledonian Clubs were very active in seeing that this honor was given to Robert Burns.

W. Grant Stevenson of Edinburgh was the Sculptor for statues in Chicago, Denver and Milwaukee.  They are replicas of the one in Denver. 

It is widely reported on the Internet that each Carnegie Library was to have a bust of Robert Burns displayed.  Some of the libraries I have visisted do have the bust, but some do not.  I have also not been able to document that requirement.  If someone can help that would be appreciated.  there are 3,460 Carnegie Libraries in the world.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1913 Postcard of the Scottish Old People's Home

I recently purchased a post card on e-bay for $11.50.  It is a picture of the "Scottish Old People's Home - Riverside, Illinois, GW."  Not sure what the initials mean. It has a one cent stamp and was postmarked in Riverside on Dec. 29, 2 PM, 1913.  There is a second postmark in Chicago, Dec. 30, 4:30 AM, 1913.

It is obviously a note from a resident of the Scottish Home to a Mrs. M.P. Crane, 2102 Harrison St, Evanston, Ill.  The note says:  "Was so glad to see your handwriting. I have been laid up for 2 months with a broken hand - right one too,  Mrs. H. D. has been here for a while - gone west now - Hope some day to see you - Had a hard Summer & Fall.  Lots of sickness among old folks.  We must meet down town some day. - em (?) code (?)"

The last word is difficult to read.  It may not be "code" but something else.
"Mrs. H. D. has been here for a while - gone west now."  "Gone West" was once an expression for someone who had died. 

It is a very nice picture of the Scottish Home as it originally looked before it burned and was rebuilt in 1918.

I will have the postcard on  display for the History Club meeting this coming Saturday, January 8, 2011.