Robert Burns Memorial Drinking Fountain

Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England

The only statue of Rabbie Burns in the North of England was erected in Walker Park, Newcastle upon Tyne to commemorate a visit by Burns to the city of Newcastle on 29th May 1787. The statue, mounted on a drinking fountain, was donated by the Tyneside Burns Club with subscription from the many Scottish workers in the local shipyards who had raised money over a five year period.

Unveiled on 13 July 1901 by Hugh Crawford Smith MP, he announced that Burns would probably have liked something stronger in the fountain than water, to which a voice in the crowd shouted ‘Aye wad he, a glass o’ th’ hard stuff’, which was met with laughter.

The drinking fountain was a customized structure manufactured by Walter Macfarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. The base was an octagonal plinth with four steps rising to an octagonal platform on which the structure was seated.

The font, design number 18, had a wide base with canted corners, on which was set a circular shaft ornamented with water lilies. Four lion jambs supported four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. The 6 feet 6 inch central column was an abbreviated version of column number 32 decorated with projecting acanthus leaves, and a dedication shield bearing the legend: Presented / To / The District Council / By / The Burns Club / Walker On Tyne /1901. Tin cups were suspended on chains at the base of the capital.

The circular capital supported a 6 foot statue of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard. Sculpted by D. W. Stevenson of Edinburgh, it depicted Burns standing contrapposto with arm outstretched in the act of reciting ‘A Man’s A Man For ‘A That’. The capital hosted an engraving with lines from the previously mentioned poem, It’s Coming Yet For A’ That, / That Man To Man, The World O’er / Shall Brothers Be For A’ That.

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Neglected due to lack of use, and vandalised in the 1970s, the head and arms of the statue were severed.

Restoration of the statue was commissioned by the North East Federation of Burns Societies in 1975 and undertaken by a firm of Hatfield-based welders. Missing fingers on the right hand were recreated using glass fibre.

The statue was then returned to its position atop the drinking fountain and relocated to Heaton Park where it was unveiled on 24th September 1975. Almost a decade later the statue was removed by vandals and rolled down a hill where it broke into pieces. The fragments were recovered and stored by Newcastle City Council at Jesmond Dene Nursery in February 1984. The fate of the cast iron drinking fountain and inscribed plaque is unknown.

Three decades later, pieces of the statue were discovered in the depot. Two statues were created in cast iron; a version containing original pieces which is in the new building in Jesmond Dene; and a replica which was erected in the original location within Walker Park in 2016 thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Parks for People project.

The original design of Casting #19 included a statue of Samson. It was modified in many ways to suit the purchaser including height of the column and the statue terminal. Examples shown in the slideshow below illustrate the detail of the drinking fountain upon which Robert Burns once stood in Walker Park.

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Glossary:

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter

 

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Posted on July 22, 2015, in Architecture, Cast Iron, England, Lost, Memorial Drinking Fountain, Saracen Foundry and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. jamesmcconnel

    Hello, where did you come across the higher resolution image of the statue itself?

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