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Ramble Round Kilmarnock
THE KILMARNOCK BURNS, MONUMENT AND KAY PARK
Part 3


THE MASONIC CEREMONY.

The provincial Grand Lodge having passed up the centre to the platform set aside for them, the Provincial Grand Master then proceeded to the front, supported on the right by the officiating Substitute Provincial Grand Master, and on the left by the Provincial Grand Chaplain. All having taken their places, the Masonic ceremony, commenced by the band playing the "Masons’" Anthem. The Grand Chaplain having offered up prayer, the band played the "Old Hundred," while the Provincial Grand Master proceeded to his position at the west corner of the pedestal, with the acting Substitute Provincial Grand Master on his right, and the Artist on his left--the Provincial Grand Warders taking their position at the west corner of the pedestal, attended by the Operatives at the west corner of the pedestal, attended by the Operatives carrying the implements. The Provincial Grand Master then said--"Right Worshipful Substitute Provincial Grand Master, you will cause the various implments to be applied to the pedestal, and prove that it has been completed according to the rules of architecture;" whereupon the Substitute Provincial Grand Master ordered the Wardens to their duty; and the Wardens having applied the proper working tools to the pedestal declared their satisfaction of the work to the Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master. Provincial Grand Master-- "Right Worhsipful Provincial Junior Grand Warden, that is the proper jewel of your office?"--"The plumb line." "Have you applied the plumb to the several edges of the stone?"--"I have, Right Worshipful Grand Master." "Right Worshipful Provincial Senior Grand Warden, what is the proper jewel of your office?" --"The level." "Have you applied the level to the top of the pedestal?"--"I have, Right Worshipful Grand Master, what is the proper jewel of your office?"--"The square." "Have you applied the square to those parts of the pedestal that are square?"--"I have, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Mastser." The Provincial Grand Master then said--"Having my Right Worshipful Brethren, full confidence in your skill in our royal art, it remains with me now to finish this work," whereupon he gave the pedestal three knocks, saying--"May the Almighty Architect of the Universe shower down His blessing upon this undertaking, and on the happy completion of this our work, and may it stand firm and sure in all future time, until the surrounding structures have crumbled to dust. So may it be" The band then played "Rule Britannia," while the Provincial Grand Office-bearers returned to the platform. On the music ceasing,

The Provincial Grand Master, MR. COCHRAN PATRICK, said--Colonel Alexander, Provost Sturrock, Ladies, Brethren, and Gentlemen,--It is now my duty to inform you that this monumental structure, the foundation of which was so auspiciously laid some time ago, has now been successfully completed according to the rules of the Royal and Ancient Craft of Masonry, without loss of life or limb to the craftsmen. And on behalf of the brethren here present, allow me to congratulate the inhabitants of this great and flourishing community on their acquistition to-day of a work of art which is in itself of the highest merit, and which will perpetuate for ages the mortal features of one of whom Ayrshire and Kilmarnock are justly proud. In conclusion, may I express the hope that generous gifts, such as the noble Park to-day made over to the public, will not be unique in the history of your town: that many who owe their origin and their opulence to the trade of Kilmarnock, will remember and imitate the example of the generous donor of the Kay Park: that when the citizens enjoy the fresh breezes and life-giving country air in these shady walks, and look up to this statue of Robert Burns, they will remember with pride and joy the great and ennobling sentiments which he has clothed in immortal verse, and forget and sorrow over those scenes and words which sadly show how frail and fallible we all are. (Applause.)

COLONEL ALEXANDER thereupon unveiled the statue amidst great applause, the band playing the National Anthem and the Volunteers presenting arms.

COLONEL ALEXANDER then spoke as follows:--It is, I think, scarcely necessary to enquire what were the reason which induced you to assign me an office the duties of which I discharge with so much pleasure and satisfaction, and to confer upon me the honour, as great as it is unmerited, of unveiling the statue of a man so pre-eminent among his cotemporaries that in his own particular sphere it is no exaggeration to say,

"None but himself can be his parallel."

I think I can find--at any rate I am glad to find--a reason for your favour in the circumstances that I dwell in a spot hallowed by the genius and consecrated to the muse of Robert Burns, amid scenes acquiring a daily increasing historic interest because inseparably connected in our imagination with some of the most interesting episodes of his brilliant poetic career. (Applause.) Beginning at Mauchline, who does not remember that where he found her who was to be his "rainbow to the storms of life;" while if we pass to Mossgiel

"Where’er we tread ‘tis haunted holy ground."

There, as has been beautifully said by an Englishman enthusiastic in his praise, the poet "cultivated at the same time his fields and the glorious soil of his intellect," there he sowed corn "with the handsomest cant of the hand Allan Cuninghame’s father ever saw in a furrowed field," and there, as he himself tells us, "he made a song while he was stooking." While every step of the road between Mossgiel and Kilmarnock irresistibly reminds us of the daily walk which brought to this town the proofs of those glorious poems to burst upon a dazzled and astonished world. (Applause.)

"Poetic fields encompass us around,
And still we seem to tread on classic ground."

Yes--Kilmarnock may reflect with pardonable pride that to the prescience and discernment of her citizens is due the

circumstance that Burns "awoke one morning to find himself famous," and acquired for himself not a fleeting and ephemeral popularity, but an enduring and everlasting name. Gentlemen,--I congratulate you--I congratulate in your name the artist who has faithfully reproduced and perpetuated in marble the lineaments of the poet in the act of addressing "the wee modest crimson tipped flower," the unassuming "commonplace of Nature." Although the genius of Burns needs no statue, although

"He in our wonder and astonishment
Has built himself a long-lived monument,"

it is surely right that Kilmarnock--Auld Killie as he affectionately termed her--should raise this tribute of veneration in perpetual remembrance of the interesting connection thus early established between the poet and herself. (Applause.) Burns is "not of an age but for all time;" his poetry

"Is a joy for ever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness."

It speaks to us to-day as sweetly and persuasively as it spoke to our forefathers nearly a century ago, as it will speak to our descendants a hundred years hence. Gentlemen-what is the secret of this magical spell and fascination with Burns exercises over the minds of his countrymen? It was Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, I think, who said "he once knew a very wise man who believed that, if a man was permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation," and certainly the songs of Burns possess a weight and authority in Scotland second only to that of the Bible itself. It may be profitable and interesting to ask to-day what are the foundations on which this influence and authority are base. Not the beauty of his verse, transcendently beautiful as it unquestionably is; not the intense ardour of his patriotism prompting his prophetic-soul to desire to "sing a song for Scotland’s sake." It is something above and beyond all this; it is the majesty with which he invests man, the latest and best, the halo of glory which he throws around "the honest man," the noblest work of the Divine Creator. (Applause.)

"An honest man’s the noblest work of God"

he exclaims with all the fervour of his enthusiastic nature, and thus, exorcising the spirit of self-depreciation and infusing a feeling of self-respect and self-esteem, he encourages his brother man with "heaven-erected face" to contemplate and, at an infinite distance, to imitate the perfections of the Being in whose image and after whose likeness he is made. But, gentlemen, in reading the noble poem in which Burns gives expression to this idea, I have sometimes thought, and I am sure you will excuse me for giving utterance to my thought, that its words are now and then wrested from their true meaning, and a construction put upon them which, in my humble judgement, Burns never intended them to bear. Because Burns deprecated the incense offered to rank he did not mean to imply any special merit in the absence of it. Because he showed that a man was still a man "without the guinea stamp," he did not thereby declare that he might not equally be a man with it, or, if you like, in spite of it. Burns was too ambitious, too aspring, too noble to give utterance to sentiments flattering it may be to a class but utterly repressive of all energy and exertion in the individuals composing that class. If it be right to avoid undue luadation of the upper, it is equally important to guard against unwholesome and extravagant adulation of the lower classes of society. Although it is true that

"Prodigious actions may as well be done
By weaver’s issue as by prince’s son,"

it is also true that prodigious efforts are quite necessary for their performance on the part of the weaver as of the prince. Depend upon it, no class has any monopoly of virtue.

"The nobleman is he whose noble mind
Is fill’d with inborn worth."

"Applause.) Burns addresses not this or that class but the units composing every class of society, and in "words that burn" exhorts them to

"Gather gear by every wile
That’s justified by honour"--

not to serve any mean or ignoble purpose, not to gratify a desire for ostentatious display,

"But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent."

(Applause.) These words ought to sink deep into our hearts, ought to inspire us with the belief that there is not one among us who cannot contribute, in however humble a degree, to make the age and epoch in which he lives in every respect better and wiser than the last. We must not fold our hands and say "We are not better than our fathers." We are, or at least ought to be, a great deal better than they, unless we have failed to profit by their precept and example. Neither should we rest content with being better than ourselves. There must be progression. Stagnation implies retrogression and decay. On us of this generation in a great measure depends whether our children see the farther progress or the decline, it may even be, which God avert, the fall of our country. If we grasp the true meaning and spirit of the poetry of Burns; if we feel that it speaks not to Scotchmen collectively but to Scotchmen individually, stimulating and inciting them to the performance of high and noble actions; if in this sense we teach it diligently to our children, then I have no fear for the future of our land. Then, indeed, they may say of Scotland, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. (Applause.) Now, gentlemen, one word as to the character of Robert Burns, which, as you are aware, if often vigorously, sometimes even savagely, assailed. Burns, it is said, did not practice what he preached. He freely admits the charge, and by his candour disarms censure an reproof. He even set himself up as a beacon of warning to the advice which he gives to a young friend--

"And may you better reck the rede
Than ever did the adviser."

Again it is objected that he fell immeasurably below the high standard and ideal which he had erected for himself.

Unquestionably he did, but what is that but to say that he was human, with all the faults and failings of a man--

"Video meliora proboque
Deteriora sequor."

"When I would do good evil is present with me" has been the despairing, and yet not altogether despairing, cry of every Christian, from the great apostle until now. Burns, it is said, was irreligious and immoral. If his advice to

"Still the preaching cant forbear
And even the rigid feature,"

is evidence of irreligion, the he was certainly irreligious, but you must not, I contend, take isolated passages and found upon them charges of irreligion and immorality; you must read his works as a whole and see if they justify wholesale disparagement and dispraise. I for one refuse to believe in the irreligion of a man who feels and avows that

"A correspondence fixed with heaven
Is sure a nobler anchor."

(Applause.) Then as to the charge of immorality, Burns sinned and confessed his sin--

"Mislead by fancy’s meteor ray,
By passion driven;
But yet the light that led astray
Was light from heaven!"

The vivid sensibility which gave Burns a power and a capacity for poetry, exposed him to temptations from which ordinary and common place mortals are comparatively free--

"What’s done we party may compute,
We know not what’s resisted."

If we must place many sins to the debit side of our Poet’s account, we must also credit him with many redeeming virtues. He was endowed with true Christian charity, the charity which hopeth all good things, which thinketh no evil things, and which finds expression in the lines--

"Then gently scan they brother man,
Still gentler sister woman"--

lines which ought to be in the mouth, and not only in the mouth but in the heart of every man, still more of every woman in the land. (Applause.) Above all, Burns was the very soul of honour--

"Where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that be aye your brother,"

a border he was never tempted to overstep or transgress. Then, although Burns wrote of life that it was

"A galling load
Along a rough, a weary road,"

and deplored that

"Man’s inhumanity to man,
Makes countless thousands mourn,"

he was endowed with the delicacy of perception which enabled him to see that in the economy of Divine providence is provided a glorious compensation, that afflictions are but "mercies in disguise," calling forth and setting out in bright relief the nobler and better qualitative of human nature--

"Affliction’s sons are brothers in distress,
A brother to relieve how exquisite the bliss!"

(Applause.) Gentlemen, how true it is that

"Men’s evil manners live in brass, their virtues
We write in water."

but if it be equally true, and I believe it is true, that "the best men are moulded out of faults," we may humbly hope that "the accusing spirit which flew up to Heaven’s Chancery with the poet’s sin, blushed as he gave it in, and the recording Angel as he wrote it down dropped a tear on the word and blotted it out for ever." (Applause.) Provost and Magistrates of Kilmarnock, we now commit to your keeping the statue of Robert Burns in the confident belief that, faithful to the trust reposed in you , you and your successors will jealousy guard, may I say reverently and affectionately cherish this memorial of a man "who

Take him for all in all
We ne’er shall look upon his like again."

(Loud applause.)

The next part of the programme was the reading go the prize poem--the committee having offered a silver medal for the best poetical tribute, not exceeding fifty lines, to the memory of the poet. Some sixty-five competing poems were sent in, and the adjudicators--our townsman, the Rev. Wm. Wyllie, Helenburgh, and Dr. Hedderwick of the Citizen-- awarded the first place to one by Alex. Anderson, Kirkconnel, know to poetic fame as the "Surfaceman," but as his poem considerably exceeded the prescribed limit of length (though this, it appears, occurred through ignorance on his part of the conditions), the committee felt bound to give the prize to the author of the poem ranked as second, namely, Alex. G. Murdoch--a gentleman well known as a rising poet and writer of Scotch fiction. In the circumstances, the committee (at the suggestion of Mr Wyllie) wisely arranged to present another medal to Mr. Anderson in recognition of the high merit of his poem.

MR ROSE read Mr Mordouch’s poem, as follows:--

THE BURNS’ STATUE, KILMARNOCK.

"Go, read the names that know not death--
Few noble ones than Burns are there:
And none have won a greater wreath
Than that which binds his hair."
-- Halleck.

I handle life’s kaleidoscope, and lo, as round it turns,
I see, beneath an arc of hope, the young boy-pet, BURNS.
Dream-vision’s, all the long rich day he toils, with pulse of pride,
Among the sun-gilt ricks of hay--his "Nelly" by his side.
The world to him seems wondrous fair: sunrise and sunset fill
With music all the love-touch’d air, intoned in bird and rill.
Times moves space: the ardent boy confronts life’s deepening fight,
And "Handsom Nell" a first-love joy--melts into memory’s flight.

I took again, and shining noon still finds him chained to toil,
His soul throned with the lark son-pos’d above the daisied soil:
Mossgiel! upon they green sward now, the song-king grandly stands,
God’s sunshine on his face and brown, the plough-horns in his hands.
Mouse! that dost run with ‘"bickerin" gait, stay, stay they trembling flight,
The bard who wept the "Daisy’s" fate, laments thy hapless plight;
And, perchance, when the goamin’ lies on glen and hillside green,
Thy mishap may re-wet his eyes, told o’er to "Bonnie Jean."

Kilmarnock! Oft thy streets and lanes echo’d the poet’s tread,
He brought to thee his matchless strains, asking for fame--not bread:
And see, the proud bard, dream-apt, stands for one sweet hour apart,
His book of song within his hands, and in his book--his heart.
O, happy town, that gave the bard a gift hope-eloquent,
His dearest wish, the first reward--his book in "guild black prent,"
And proudly throbb’d his heart, by far, when that same book he prest,
Than if a coronet and star had deck’d him--brow and breast.

The scene revolves again, and lo, Edina fair appears;
And men around him come and go, and Rank a proud front rears;
And Wealth and Fashion, gaily deck’t, look on with lofty eye;
While Learning, with a vague respect, bows as the bard goes by.
Mark him, ye great! The plough and clod befit him, ill, I trow--
The living autograph of God flash’d from his eye and brow.

The drama hurries on: the bard retires to Ellisland--
At plough and harist-rig toiling hard, with hope-ner’d heart and hand;
Where, in the shadows, on still night--his soul with sorrow riven--
He wept fair love’s untimely blight, in "Mary"--lost in heaven.

The veil up-lifts again, and now, sublimest scene of all!
His lion-heart still strong, his brow erect, although the gall
And bitterness of trampl’d hopes sadden his weary soul,
As he--a stricken song-god--gropes toward the final goal;
Dumfries! no longer doth he tread thy stony streets, soul-tried,
The dark clouds settling o’er his head by genius glorified!
Ring down the curtain! Bow the head! The last sad scene is o’er!
A nation mourns the mighty dead, and weeps the wrongs he bore!

Sun, that no shadow now can cloud! Heart that no sorrow wrings!
Man, in whose praises all are loud! Voice, that for ever sings!
A people’s love thy memory doth hold in holy trust,
With glory flashing through the tear that drops above the dust!
O, rich inheritor of fame, rewarded well, at last.
The sun like splendour of whose name smites with fierce light the past,
We gift this marble monument to thy fulfill’d renown
A nobler heirship than the thrones of Princes handed down!
"GLENALVON."

The poem was received with great cheering. In the unfortunate absence of Mr. M’Kie, who had been appointed to propose a vote of thanks to Colonel Alexander, his relative.

MR. DAVID BROWN, Dalry, was called upon to read the speech which Mr. M’Kie had prepared. He said--It must be a matter of deep regreat to the committee and many others in this vast assemblage that Mr. M’Kie, who has taken such an active part in the preliminary proceedings connected with this great demonstration, is unable, through severe domestic affliction, to be present and participate in what I know he has longed looked forward to as likely to be one of the proudest days of his life. "Man proposes, God disposes." The pleasure he had so fondly promised himself is clouded by the dangerous illness of his beloved partner in life, and he is compelled to sit in sorrow while many of us rejoice. At his urgent request, I, his nearest relative, appear here to read the speech he had intended to deliver, and I hope you will bear with me. Mr. Brown then read Mr. K’Kie’s speech, as follows:--

"O say not ‘tis folly nor deem we weak,"

when I state that one chief desire of my life is this day gratified. I have long had the wish that a statue of Burns should be erected in Kilmarnock--have even had a sculptor up to "Alpha" to see if the niche in the building could not be filled with one, but found it would be too great a private undertaking for me. Shortly after the movement for the erection of a statue to the poet was begun in Glasgow, I wrote on the 27th August, 1872, to Mr. Hedderwick to see if he could not suggest some way in which we might get a duplicate for Kilmarnock. His answer, dated 29th August, is to the following effect:--"At present I cannot see how I can help you. Our subscribers now stand at about £470. Your best course would be to wait a little and see how we get on before originating your movement. In the event of the Glasgow scheme proving a success, as it promises to do, you might then safely go ahead with an appeal to Ayrshire and Ayrshire men everywhere. I have no doubt, too, that many others would gladly subscribe, including yours very truly, JAMES HEDDERWICK," I took his advice, adopting the Hastings motto to "Bide my time," until near the close of the year 1876, when I sounded the matter among my friends here. Yet strange, through true, the proposal did not go down until I met with Bailie Baird, who invited me to his house one evening with another friend. He was enthusiastic about it, and a furore got up to have a grand Burns anniversary on the 26th January, 1877, (the previous day being taken up with the unveiling of the Glasgow statue). With Provost Sturrock chairman, and Mr. Turnbull (the then President of the Burns club) croupier, a committee was named to "set the heather on fire," and a subscription list was immediately commenced, which very quickly astonished every one at its success. (Applause.) I don’t think you will conceive me egotistical when I state I have, con amore, taken the leading hand in this undertaking--collecting subscriptions, &c., in which I have been ably assisted by Bailie Baird, Dr M’Alister, Mr Turnbull, Mr Anderson, and though last not least by my worthy fidus achates, Mr James Arbuckle, who has been most industrious in getting up the cash and transferring it to Mr Shaw. Parenthetically I may be allowed to state that the subscriptions are wonderfully well paid up, almost entirely, and now amount to about £2500. And I must not omit to mention that we have been ably backed by several outside our sub-committee, and notably so by our football friends, with whom I fondly hope we have not yet said good-bye; while in the secretaryship I have been seconded in the most faithful and friendly way as joint- secretary by one of my oldest acquaintances in Kilmarnock, Mr. James Rose. In the course of six weeks from our strat our first published subscription list swelled to over £800, and that almost entirely among the inhabitants of Kilmarnock, for I made it a point to be observed by the great world that, a la Hercules and the Waggoner, before asking outside assistance we should show we were able and willing to help ourselves. In such a strain did I write about this time to Col. Alexander, who, with the nobleness of soul and goodness of heart for which he is famed and beloved, at once answered, directing me to enrol his name in our list for £50. (Applause.) His letter came by the late post at night, while I was in my back shop with a friend addressing more of what was called the "begging circulars." On opening it we gave three cheers, shut up, and adjoined to the "neighbouring hostelrie," drank his good health and blessed his noble spirit. (Laughter and applause.) With this subscription and several others of then pounds each from some noble men, our subscriptions that week were about £200, which made our second published list (24th March, 1877) upwards of £1000. In our peregrinations we were generally well received and warmly welcomed, sometimes even hospitably entertained, although occasionally we had to stand a little badgering and buffetting. This I had made up my mind to. Knowing the world in that line as I have long done, the fiery edge of youth having gone from a man who has seen thrice twenty summers and more, I had made a determination to "stoop to avoid hard knocks," both in doors and out of doors, and to this resolution do I attribute to a great extent the success and the accomplishment of this undertaking, which is certainly far more extensive than the most sanguine among us originally anticipated. (Applause.) It has cost no small amount of correspondence, as seen from the advertisements which have regularly appeared in the Standard. We have communicated north, east, west, and south, and I am glad to see here to-day an old Saltcoats friend of my early days, a subscriber from the "far west" San Francisco. I am glad to see here also to-day grand- nephews and great-grand-nephews, in direct descent, the second and third generation, from our poet, while the son of Burn’s brother Gilbert (first generation) writes me from Chapel Izod, Dublin--"I have received your kind invitation  to the unveiling of the Burns Statue, but regret it will not bed in my power to be in Scotland at that time." In conclusion--ladies and gentlemen--allow me to come more directly to the subject of my text: "Col. Alexander," and to say that, irrespective of the Colonel’s handsome subscription --irrespective of his kindness--his generous of purse in giving such munificent bursaries to our Academy--(Applause) --irrespective of all those glorious qualities being concentrated in one man whom we are proud, in the widest sense of the word, of calling a nobleman--I say from his connection with the county which gave birth to Robert Burns, and from the fact of his being proprietor of the Braes of Ballochmyle, which inspired some of the sweetest strains of our poet’s muse, and in which domains is erected a grotto on the spot where Burns saw the lady who prompted the sweet effusion,

"With careless step I onward strayed,
My heart rejoiced in Nature’s joy:
When, musing in a lonely glade,
A maiden fair I chanced to spy:
Her look was like Nature’s morning’s eye,
Her air like Nature’s vernal smile,
Perfection whispered, passing by--
‘Behold the lass o’ Ballochmyle!’"

(Applause.) For these and many other reasons was Col. Alexander seen by our committee to be THE MAN who could most appropriately perform the duty of unveiling this statue, and he has come here specially from London to-day, at great domestic inconvenience, to implement his promise of doing so. I have now, therefore, great pleasure I proposing that you give him a hearty vote of thanks in cheers to make the welkin ring. (Loud applause).

Colonel ALEXANDER, in acknowledging the compliment, said:--I regret very much the absence of Mr. M’Kie, and still more the cause of his absence. He has my deep sympathy, and I think I may say he has yours in his present affliction. I am sure that to his exertions, as well as to those of Mr. Rose, the success of to-day’s proceedings is in a great measure due. I may perhaps mention one circumstance of interest. Standing near me are two great-grand-nephews, or great-great-grand-nephews of the poet--I am not certain which, but both they and you will I know forgive any inaccuracy of description. (Laughter.) In conclusion, why should you thank me for coming here? I ought rather to thank you for bringing me here, and for assigning me so honourable and prominent a position in the proceedings of this day, the events of which I assure you will never fade from my memory. (Applause.)

Mr. COCHRAN-PATRICK said--Ladies, brethren, and gentlemen,--I have been requested to perform a duty which is very pleasing to myself individually, and one which I feel confident will meet with your approbation. I have been asked to propose a vote of thanks to your worthy Provost, whose interest in all connected with the welfare of the burgh is too well known to require any comment from me. It has not often happened in the history of Kilmarnock that the municipal reign of your Chief Magistrate has been signalized by two events of much interest and importance as the presentation of a Public Park and the inauguration of an almost national Monument. I hope he will long be spared to enjoy the dignity of his office, and that you will join me in thanking him for what he has done to-day. (Applause.)

The PROVOST returned thanks, and the proceedings then terminated.


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