Robert Burns Monument – Toronto’s Memorial to the Scottish Poet

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1787 - A portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth
1787 – A portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth (Courtesy of Alexander Nasmyth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The monument to Robert Burns is located in Allan Gardens on the Sherbourne St side (about midway between Gerrard St E and Carlton St) in the Garden District of Toronto.

About Robbie Burns

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet. He was born on January 25, 1759, and died on July 21, 1796, at the age of 37. Burns is best known for his poem “Auld Lang Syne,” often sung to celebrate the new year. He wrote many famous works such as “Tam o’ Shanter” and “To a Mouse.” Mr Burns wrote in both Scots and English, and his work often focused on the lives of the Scottish people along with their culture and struggles.

Toronto’s Monument

2020 – Looking east towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens. The memorial was unveiled on July 21, 1902, the anniversary of the Scottish poet's death
2020 – Looking east towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens. The memorial was unveiled on July 21, 1902, the anniversary of the Scottish poet’s death

In June 1902, the cornerstone of the Robert Burns monument was laid by the Masons (Robert Burns became a brother of the Masons of Scotland in 1787 as a poet laureate). A sealed jar containing various items was placed inside the monument, including copies of Toronto’s daily newspapers, poems about Robert Burns, a volume of Scottish Canadian poems and coins. The ceremony was accompanied by the 48th Highlanders Band playing Scottish airs and a quartette singing Scottish songs.

The following month, on July 21, 1902, the Scottish people of Toronto and admirers of the poet gathered to see the unveiling and dedication of the statue of Robert Burns on the anniversary of his death. The monument was draped in the flag of Scotland and the Union Jack.

The bronze sculpture was created by David Watson Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland. The pedestal (also designed by DW Stevenson) was the work of a Canadian firm, McIntosh Granite & Marble Company. The four bronze panels on the pedestal that feature scenes from Burns’ notable works were crafted by Emanuel Hahn, a graduate of the Toronto Art School. The sculpture cost $3,000, while the pedestal, freight charges, and other incidentals cost $1,000.

The monument was initially located in the northeast corner of Allan Gardens and was Canada’s first memorial to the poet. In 1956, it was moved to its present-day location in the park, about 100 m south.

Robert Burns Day/Night

Also known as Robbie or “Rabbie” Burns, he remains a beloved figure in Scottish literature and culture to this day, so much so that every year on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25, Robert Burns Day/Night is celebrated by his admirers. The festivities include readings of his poetry, toasts and a traditional Scottish dinner with haggis as the main dish.

Did You Know?

  • In 1901, there were two sites being considered for the location of the monument, the other being Queen’s Park.
  • Emanuel Hahn, the artist who created the four panels on the Robert Burns monument, also created other works around the city, including the Sir Adam Beck Memorial statue and the monument to Ned Hanlan on Toronto Island.
  • There are over 60 statues of Robert Burns around the world, and about nine of them are in Canada.
  • Robert Burns engaged in several relationships and fathered 13 children. He did, however, marry Jean Armour, the mother of 5 of his children.

Robert Burns Monument Photos

1902 - This photo was taken the year the Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens was unveiled. The sculpture was created by Edinburgh artist David Watson Stevenson
1902 – This photo was taken the year the Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens was unveiled. The sculpture was created by Edinburgh artist David Watson Stevenson (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 202)
January 21, 2024 – The Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens is located along Sherbourne St in Toronto's Garden District. Every year on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25, Robert Burns Day/Night is celebrated by his admirers. The festivities include poetry readings, toasts and a traditional Scottish dinner with haggis as the main dish
January 21, 2024 – The Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens is located along Sherbourne St in Toronto’s Garden District. Every year on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25, Robert Burns Day/Night is celebrated by his admirers. The festivities include poetry readings, toasts and a traditional Scottish dinner with haggis as the main dish
1907 - Looking northeast towards the Robert Burns monument and the Sherbourne Street Methodist Church (today Saint Luke's United Church) at Carlton St and Sherbourne St. The monument was later moved to its present-day location, still along Sherbourne St but midway between Gerrard St E and Carlton St
1907 – Looking northeast towards the Robert Burns monument and the Sherbourne Street Methodist Church (today Saint Luke’s United Church) at Carlton St and Sherbourne St. The monument was later moved to its present-day location, still along Sherbourne St but midway between Gerrard St E and Carlton St (Toronto Public Library R-644)
January 27, 2024 –  Looking northeast towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens with Saint Luke's United Church in the background
January 27, 2024 – Looking northeast towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens with Saint Luke’s United Church in the background
May 3, 1913 - Robert Burns monument at Allan Gardens
May 3, 1913 – Looking northwest from Sherbourne St, just south of Carlton St, towards the Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens. The memorial to Scotland’s national poet cost about $4,000 in 1902 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1548, Series 393, Item 3134)
2020 – A close-up view of the bronze Robert Burns statue in Toronto's Allan Gardens
2020 – A close-up view of the bronze Robert Burns statue in Toronto’s Allan Gardens
July 22, 1929 - The Burns Literary Society honouring the memory of poet Robert Burns at the monument in Allan Gardens. The group is shown placing a wreath at the monument around the anniversary of his death
July 22, 1929 – The Burns Literary Society honouring the memory of poet Robert Burns at the monument in Allan Gardens. The group is shown placing a wreath at the monument around the anniversary of his death (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17347)
July 22, 1929 - Members of the Burns Literary Society shown placing a wreath at the Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens around the anniversary of his death. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as Scotland's national poet and is celebrated worldwide
July 22, 1929 – Members of the Burns Literary Society shown placing a wreath at the Robert Burns monument in Allan Gardens around the anniversary of his death. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet and is celebrated worldwide (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17348)
1936 - Looking west towards the Robert Burns monument at Allan Gardens. The monument is shown at its original location in the park, at the southwest corner of Carlton St and Sherbourne St. The memorial has since been moved about 100 m south
1936 – Looking west towards the Robert Burns monument at Allan Gardens. The monument is shown at its original location in the park, at the southwest corner of Carlton St and Sherbourne St. The memorial has since been moved about 100 m south (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 97)
2020 – Looking east towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens. The memorial was unveiled on July 21, 1902, the anniversary of his death
2020 – Looking east towards the Robert Burns Monument in Allan Gardens. The memorial was unveiled on July 21, 1902, the anniversary of his death
January 21, 2024 – The plaques read:

"Nae treasures nor pleasures, Could make us happy lang; The heart ay's the part ay, That makes us right or wrang.”

Erected 1902, Rededicated 2002
Halton Peel Burns Club

"Erected to the memory of the poetry and his admirers July 21, 1902"

D.W. Stevenson, R.S.A. Edinburgh, Sculptor
January 21, 2024 – The plaques read:

“Nae treasures nor pleasures, Could make us happy lang; The heart ay’s the part ay, That makes us right or wrang.”
Erected 1902, Rededicated 2002 Halton Peel Burns Club

“Erected to the memory of the poetry and his admirers July 21, 1902”
D.W. Stevenson, R.S.A. Edinburgh, Sculptor
January 27, 2024 –  Enscribed on the base of the bronze Robert Burns sculpture is the artist’s name “D.W. Stevenson, R.S.A. S – 1902
January 27, 2024 – Enscribed on the base of the bronze Robert Burns sculpture is the artist’s name “D.W. Stevenson, R.S.A. S – 1902
January 27, 2024 –  A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem The Cotter's Saturday Night and the verse "From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs." It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 – A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem The Cotter’s Saturday Night and the verse “From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs.” It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 –  A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem To A Mountain Daisy and the verse "Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour." It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 – A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem To A Mountain Daisy and the verse “Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow’r, Thou’s met me in an evil hour.” It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 –  A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem John Anderson, My Jo and the verse "But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my Jo." It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 – A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem John Anderson, My Jo and the verse “But blessings on your frosty pow, John Anderson, my Jo.” It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 –  A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem Tam o' Shanter and the verse "Ae spring brought aff her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail." It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
January 27, 2024 – A bronze panel that features a scene from Robert Burns poem Tam o’ Shanter and the verse “Ae spring brought aff her master hale, But left behind her ain grey tail.” It is one of four panels created by artist Emanuel Hahn
1787 - A portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth
1787 – A portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth (Courtesy of Alexander Nasmyth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
SOURCE
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Oct 29, 1901, pg 9
  • The Toronto Daily Star Newspaper Archives: Oct 29, 1901, pg 4
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 23, 1902, pg 5
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jul 22, 1902, pg 1
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jul 23, 1929, pg 13
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Nov 5, 1954, pg 4
  • City of Toronto: Amending of Designating By-law – 160 Gerrard St E (Allan Gardens), dated Sep 5, 2012
  • National Trust for Scotland: The life of Robert Burns
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library & Wikimedia Commons

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