Robert Burns


The Poet Robert Ferguson
(Burn's Inspiration)

(From the Edinburgh Evening News of Tuesday 8 February 2005)

He's a poet . . and now we'll know it


HE was Scotland's forgotten poet and the greatest inspiration of Robert Burns. But an unmarked statue of 18th-century writer Robert Fergusson erected outside Edinburgh's Canongate Kirkyard has done little to enhance his reputation.

The lack of identification on the bronze statue has left tourists and local residents scratching their heads as they walk past. Only a sheet of paper tied to the kirkyard's railings told passers-by anything about the man celebrated in bronze.

But now Fergusson's long-awaited recognition will be sealed with the installation of carved paving stones and a metal plaque set to proceed in the next few weeks. The statue was erected in October outside the graveyard where he was buried after dying in an asylum aged just 24.

Fundraising problems meant the statue has been left nameless for four months. But the Friends of Robert Fergusson today announced they have raised enough cash to pay for paving stones inscribed with the poet's name and a plaque with details of his life.

The stones, carved in Motherwell, will be put in place in around a fortnight, while the plaque is in the final planning stages. Members of the group, which has worked on the statue by award-winning Fife sculptor David Annand for four years, said they were delighted the work would finally be finished.

Bill Watt, fundraising co-ordinator for the Friends, said: "The statue is going to be complete. It will get respect from passers-by instead of standing there like a foundling with no name. I am delighted. "We need to arrange with the council when it will be possible for them to replace the normal paving stones with the carved ones, but we're expecting that to be in the next two to three weeks."

He said the metal plaque was likely to be mounted on a stone plinth and would display details of Fergusson's life, adding: "We hope it will be installed within about six weeks."

But with a total of £38,000 raised, most of which was used to cover the cost of the statue, the installation of the £3000 paving stones, which will bear the poet's name and the opening line from one of his most famous poems - "Auld Reekie - wale o ilka toun" - will clear out the Friends' coffers.

Mr Watt said the group was still looking to apply for a council grant to ensure they would have an emergency "vandalism fund" to repair the statue.

A council spokeswoman said: "Mr Watt has approached the Lord Provost for advice as to who would be the appropriate people to contact to apply for grants for the stones. We will point him in the direction of the most appropriate people to contact."

Fergusson's poetry was so inspirational to Burns that the Scots Bard paid for the gravestone at his burial place.

Born in 1750, Fergusson attended the University of St Andrews, where he began writing poetry. However, he developed a mental condition and was incarcerated in the Edinburgh Bedlam, where he remained until his death in 1774.


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