New Brunswick

Robert Burns statue out of sight on poet's birthday

Robert Burns would've celebrated his 259th birthday this week — but the Burns Night in Fredericton this year will be without its guest of honour.

Jan. 25 is a day to celebrate Burns, but his Fredericton statue is in storage at parks and tree department

A renovated statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns was unveiled on the Fredericton Green in 2011.

Robert Burns would've celebrated his 259th birthday on Thursday — but this year Fredericton will be without its guest of honour. 

Since construction started on the Beaverbrook Art Gallery expansion about two years ago, the Robert Burns Memorial Statue, which sat a few metres east of the downtown institution, has been missing in action.

"It's much better to have it put in a secure place than to have it out somewhere just to be there," said Maxine Campbell, president of the Fredericton Society of St. Andrew.

Burns Nights are held around the world every year as people celebrate the Scottish poet born Jan. 25, 1759. A Burns dinner is usually accompanied by bagpipes, images of the poet and recitals of his poetry, including his Address to a Haggis, the main dish at the event.

The Fredericton Society of St. Andrew will hold its Burns dinner this weekend.

"We'll just have to do with our own statue that we have on Saturday night," she said. "It's just a little one."

Campbell said the society recognized the statue had to be removed and feels it's in good hands.

Suspense worse than disappointment

The renowned statue is being looked after in storage at the city's parks and trees department.

City officials have said the statue will be back in place somewhere on the Green very soon, close to its former home near the art gallery. They wouldn't say exactly when this would be happen, only that it will be this year. 

"I know the city is taking good care of it and they have good plans," Campbell said. "They've put a lot of thought into how they could rejuvenate the downtown without losing any of the traditions."   

We want him to be placed prominently and have the due attention.-Maxine Campbell, Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew president

David Seabrook, manager of Fredericton Tourism, said the statue is an important piece of city history and should return to the public in a "respectful way."

"It's an iconic statue and one that Frederictonians and New Brunswickers appreciate, and it's important that he's re-established," he said. 

The Robert Burns Memorial Statue was unveiled Oct. 18, 1906, which was Thanksgiving Day. 

The statue is made of bronze and stands 10 feet six inches tall on a granite pedestal. 

The statue was taken down for repairs in 2008, and its future became uncertain when the city announced it could not afford the $80,000 in flood-proofing that the work needed.

With a donation from business owner J.K. Irving and his wife, Jean, the statue was rejuvenated and revealed in 2011.

Members of the Scottish community can handle being without the statue for now, Campbell said, if it means it will have a long life.

"We want him to be placed prominently and have the due attention."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton