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Mr. M'Naught, Kilmaurs; and other members of the Kilmarnock Burns Club, with whom were Mr. W. Young, R.S.W., Glasgow; Mr. James Stewart, C.E., president of Auckland Burns Club; and Hon. William M'Cullough, M.L.A., specially representing New Zealand. The school children were stationed immediately behind, and on a platform on the right were the choir and instrumental band.
At the conclusion of the Masonic ceremony, Mr. ALFRED AUSTIN delivered the inaugural address—
Mr. Provost, Mrs. Spiers, and townsmen of Irvine, when you invited me to participate in this ceremony, and to unveil the statue of Robert Burns, which you owe to the timely munificence of one of your fellowcitizens, your choice was determined, I can entertain no doubt, far more by the wish to pay respect to the ancient and distinguished office I have the honour to fill than from any estimate, however generous, of my personal claims on your regard. The wise ancients were fond of saying, "Call no man happy till he dies. I should like to supplement that sagacious aphorism by adding, "Call no man famous till he has been dead a hundred years." has shown that the judgment passed on public men by their contemporaries, though sometimes it may turn out to be sound, is not to be relied on until ratified by the dispassionate arbitrament of time. Burns has now undergone that ordeal. He has been dead one hundred years, and, it may safely be affirmed that he stands on a pinnacle of fame from which he will never be displaced. Now, in England, we all have the greatest admiration for Robert Burns. We read him, we study him, many of us know many of his poems by heart; but we know well that the feelings we entertain for Robert Burns are weak and pale compared with those felt for him in Scotland, more especially in this county of Ayr which had the honour of being his birthplace. With you it is a religion, with you it is a perfect passion; and, I confess, it was that that made me hesitate for a time whether I should come here in your midst to talk upon a subject about which you know so much more, and feel so much more deeply, than I can. I know that what recommends Robert Burns to your love is that he has expressed the sentiments, the passions that you all feel, and that in language that you can all understand. Other poets have been the favourite of cliques and classes ; Burns is a universal favourite-he is the favourite of the whole world. And why is this? I believe it to have been because he had the good fortune to be born in a lowly station in life, therefore more near to our mother earth, and better apprehending the enduring passions of the human heart. We sometimes hear of the privileges of birth. Well, for my part, I know of no birth so privileged as that which places a man face to face with the facts of life, which leaves him the freedom of an unconventional mind such as Burns had, and which, moreover, prompts him to express his inward and outward experience in language uncontaminated and untrammelled by literary tradition. It is the greatest fault
of English poetry that it is too literary. When Burns was literary he was weak; what he says loses all its power. When he speaks in his mother tongue he is to the manner born, carries everything before him, bears us along unresistingly, delighted, on the stream of his own unsophisticated song. Moreover, his sentiments are as unsophisticated as the language in which they are expressed. Whether it was the fascinating face of nature, the charms, the pangs, or the solace of love; whether it was good fellowship or the duty of patriotism, the moral loftiness of lowly labour,
the indefeasible dignity of man-these are the themes upon which Burns loves to dwell; and, since they are the themes that appeal to every uncorrupted heart, they are the themes on which we love to muse while he
descants upon them. And now you have in this statue, on which I am sure you will look with pleasure, the embodiment of these sentiments. Men of Irvine, guard it as a sacred treasure, hand it down to your children as a priceless and untaxed inheritance. (Loud cheers.)
Mrs. George Spiers was then led forward by the sculptor, and, amid prolonged cheering, unveiled the statue. The conception embodied in the bronze is bold and unconventional. The Poet is represented as if pausing in a journey. His right foot is resting on a stone, and his right hand grasps the end of his plaid, which hangs behind him in graceful folds. His hair is tied behind in the fashion of the last century. The tail coat, long vest, knee-breeches, and thick stockings are copies of the dress actually worn by the class to which Burns belonged a hundred years ago. The statue looks to the south, facing the town, and can be seen from a long distance. Provost BRECKENRIDGE, in accepting the statue, said that, in the words of the Poet Laureate, the Corporation of Irvine would regard it as a sacred treasure to be handed down to their children as a priceless inheritHe spoke not only for the Corporation of the present, but for the Corporations of the future; and those who would fill the places of the present civic rulers would look with pride upon the statue, and would regard with feelings of gratitude the great generosity of Mr. Spiers, who had shown his great admiration and veneration for the Poet Burns, as well as his great affection for his native town, by presenting the statue which had been unveiled. (Applause.)
The choir then sang "Scots Wha Hae" to the accompaniment of the band; and the children gave a charming rendering of "Ye Banks and Braes," which brought the unveiling ceremony to a close.
The freedom of the burgh was thereafter presented to Mr. John Spiers, the donor of the statue.
"Auld Lang Syne" was then sung by the choir, the band accompanying, and the vast concourse joining with one voice. The various bodies again fell into processional order, and the proceedings at the statue terminated. The procession returned to the burgh, and there dispersed.
At four o'clock a banquet took place in the Drill Hall, and was attended by a large company. The chair was occupied by Provost Breckenridge, who had on his right Mr. George Spiers, Sir John Neilson Cuthbertson, Major H. R. Wallace, Mr. Pittendreigh M'Gillivray, Sheriff Cowan, Rev. Henry Rankin, Captain M'Hardy, and Mr. John Smart, artist; and on his left Mr. Alfred Austin, Lord Blythswood, Colonel Browne, Colonel Grant, Mr. Patrick Warner, Mr. Robert Goudie, and Captain Kingsmill. The croupiers were Bailie Miller and Messrs. John Paterson and James J. J. Macnaughton. The company
also included-Rev. W. Lee Kerr, Deacon-Convener Maclachlan, ex-Provost Wright, Provost MacKay, Bailie Longmuir, ex-Provost Sturrock, Provost Young, Bailie Jack, Dean of Guild Jaffrey, ex-Provost Watt, Provost Smith, Mr. James Somervell, Mr. Robert Alexander, artist; Rev. John Syme, Provost Willock, and ex-Provost Armour.
After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been honoured,
Mr. ALFRED AUSTIN, who was received with cheers, proposed "The Immortal Memory of Burns."
Mr. Provost, my Lord, ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you it requires a good deal of courage in an undiluted Englishman like myself, no matter how eminent or how popular may be the office that he happens to fill, and
no matter how warm his reception may be-and the reception that you have given me will be always engraven on my heart—I say it requires an extraordinary amount of courage for an Englishman to come here before you and discourse upon Robert Burns. But, sir, it is your wish, it is the wish, I believe, of all of you that I should endeavour to do so, and, therefore, I obey that summons. All I will ask of you is that you will allow me to speak my thoughts and my sentiments on the subject with perfect candour. Now, I think it will at once be conceded that it is right and proper that Robert Burns should live before his countrymen in enduring marble, in imperishable bronze; and this monument we saw this morning will, I am sure, be imperishable. If that be right, then undoubtedly there can be no place more fitting and more becoming for a statue to be erected to his memory than in the town where in early life he experienced dire misfortune, but whence a few years later there proceeded a practical offer of assistance, happily rendered superfluous by the sudden dawning of his fame as a poet. But though no special apology is needed for the erection of a statue to Burns in the burgh of Irvine, will you bear with me if I say that it does sometimes strike Englishmen as strange, indeed almost unaccountable, that on coming to this orderly, disciplined, and God-fearing land, they should encounter so many monuments and memorials of its greatly gifted, but withal somewhat wayward and unchastened song-writer. For this I am perfectly sure there is an adequate reason, or I should not be here to-day. While you all love, cherish, and even venerate the name of Robert Burns, you do so because, no matter what may have been his practice and no matter what may have been sometimes his preaching, nevertheless in some one passage or other of his wonderful writings you come across the glorification of the very virtues, you find him extolling the very ideas of life and conduct which are at the root of the Scottish character. For if we who are born south of the Tweed have formed any just conception of the Scottish character, it is based upon the strong foundation of adamantine will, and Scottish ideals of life and conduct, including self-reverence, selfcontrol, self-denial, and, above all, the sanctifying grace of domestic piety. Nevertheless, I say that whatever may be urged against Burns himself, probably with much exaggeration, you do find these things named, and glorified in his verse. You take up his volume, and you find that he dwells there upon the importance of life and of conduct. It is very often said by some people that Burns was merely a great song-writer. Now there could not be a more inadequate conception of his genius. Great songwriter undoubtedly he was, a song-writer of the very first rank, but he was, moreover, a shrewd philosopher and profound moralist. Gentlemen, you are a nation of moralists, and Burns is always moralising. You are very much addicted to philosophising, and the poetry of Burns is saturated with philosophy. Again, you consider that conduct and character are the most important things in life. Burns, again and again, in his poetry returns to the subject, and dwells upon the importance of right conduct, and upon the lamentable consequences that pursue those that deviate from it. Possibly some may suggest that the philosophy and the morality inculcated by Burns are insisted on every Sabbath Day in kirk, church, and chapel, and no doubt, to a large extent, that is true.