The death of Robert
Burns in 1796 was followed over the next century by statues and buildings,
both at home and abroad, in his honour. Monday past (16 March 2009) saw the
reopening of one such historic building in Kilmarnock – five years after
being devastated by fire. The Burns Monument Centre in Kay Park, Kilmarnock,
collapsed after vandals set it on fire in 2004. It had been closed to the
public since 1988. A restoration project, costing some £4 million, saw
rebuilding work on the A-listed structure start in 2007. The new centre has
an archive store, a family and local history research room, conference and
function facilities and also is the new venue for the Kilmarnock
Registration Services. Visit
www.burnsmonumentcentre.com for full details of the new building.
Kilmarnock was, of
course, very important in the story of Robert Burns. In 1786 local printer
John Wilson printed the first-ever poetry book by the Ayrshire Bard – the
612 copies of the Kilmarnock Edition. This set Burns on course for national
fame if not eventual fortune. Kilmarnock was among the towns to honour his
memory. At an anniversary meeting to pay tribute to the poet on 27 January
1877 in the George Inn Hall, Kilmarnock, attended by up to 250 people, it
was unanimously agreed that a statue should be erected of Robert Burns in an
appropriate spot in the town. A committee was set up to raise funds for a
statue but the plans were eventually widened to include an ornamental
building as £2,488 was raised in only 18 months. Plans for the building
drawn up by Kilmarnock architect, Robert Ingram, were accepted for the
building design. The Burns Monument Centre building was in the Scottish
Baronial style, with two storeys and a tower and the overall height was 80
feet. It was constructed around an iconic statue of our National Bard
commissioned from Edinburgh sculptor W Grant Stevenson. The statue was
unveiled on 9 August 1879 by Colonel Alexander of Ballochmyle in front of a
vast number of spectators.
Following the fire in
2004, an appeal was launched to raise funds for reconstruction and planning
permission given by the then Scottish Executive. Building work began in
March 2007 and the completed facility, complete with cleaned up statue,
reopened on Monday, appropriately in the Year of Homecoming and 250th
anniversary of Burns’ birth. Kilmarnock has once again given us a suitable
tribute to Ayrshire’s greatest son in this important year.
An Ayrshire recipe is
just the ticket for this week – Ayrshire Shortbread is splendid with a cup
of coffee or indeed a dram to toast those who carried out the rebuilding and
the Bard him-self, Robert Burns.
Ingredients: 8 oz (225g)
plain flour; 4 oz (100g) butter; 1 egg yolk; 4 oz (100g) rice flour; 4 oz
(100g) castor sugar; 2 tablespoons cream
Method: Sift the flour
and rice flour into a basin and lightly rub in the butter. Add the sugar and
mix the ingredients to a stiff paste with the beaten egg yolk and cream.
Roll out thinly, prick with a fork, and cut into rounds with a small cutter.
Bake the cakes on a baking sheet lined with buttered paper at 325 deg F for
about 15 minutes until pale golden. Cool and then enjoy!