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Edinburgh’s Scottish-American Memorial


John McLean emigrated to America from Scotland as a young man and settled in Chicago. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as private in the 65th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Sergeant-Major, but his health was broken. Returning to Scotland, he married and soon had a family of three children. The times were difficult, his health was poor, and the family was never properly supported. When he died he was buried in a pauper’s grave.

In 1890, his widow approached Wallace Bruce, U. S. Consul in Edinburgh, for help in getting his pension. Bruce, a sensitive man best known for his poetry, was appalled to learn that John McLean was buried in a potter’s field.

Returning to the United States, he began to raise money for a proposed memorial. Donations came from such men as Waldorf Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. The Illinois Saint Andrew Society made its contribution through Robert Clark, Jr., President.

The monument was dedicated on August 21, 1893. It was a rainy, windy day. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders marched from the Castle to Waterloo Place at the east end of Princes Street. This Guard of Honor numbered 250 persons. It was to be an impressive ceremony in spite of the inclement weather.

The monument was draped in the Union Jack, the Scottish Standard and the Stars and Stripes. Around the platform was an edging of heather. The highest officials from Edinburgh were present including the Lord Provost. Many American veterans from both sides of the war were in attendance.

Mr. Lincoln stands life-size on a large pedestal with a freed black slave kneeling at his feet. Carved in Aberdeen granite are the words of Lincoln, “To preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of freedom.”

The remains of John McEwen and five other veterans are buried beneath the monument; their names and regiments are also recorded in the Aberdeen granite. Just to the left of Lincoln stands the circular tower designed by Robert Adam and is the burial place of David Hume, the great historian and philosopher. Others buried in this small cemetery include: John Haig, William Blackwood, and Robert and Thomas Stevenson, grandfather and father of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Calton burying ground is located 500 yards east of the General Post Office at the junction of Waterloo Place and North Bridge, very near to the railroad depot. Few people know about the Memorial and sometimes the gate is locked, but it is well worth the visit when you are in Edinburgh.