George Anderson Lawson
Bronze statue and plinth with granite pedestal
(Melway ref. 2F K4)
Born in Edinburgh in 1832, artist George Anderson Lawson trained at the Royal Scottish Academy and in Rome before settling in Liverpool. His best-known work is a statue of the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns, which stands at Ayr, in Scotland. A replica of this statue was cast in London for the City of Melbourne, and was erected in 1904 under the auspices of the Caledonian Society. Lawson's Burns is an imposing, larger than life-size figure depicted in tails and breeches, his posture and countenance suggesting a powerful spirit.
Born in 1759 in the village of Alloway, near Ayr, Robert Burns is one of the most celebrated figures in Scottish history. His work is of great literary importance and he is notable for his influence on the poetry and culture of Scotland. The son of a poor peasant farmer, Burns grew up in abject poverty. Yet recognising the value of education, his father contracted local teacher John Murdoch to tutor his son. From an early age it was apparent that Burns was a gifted scholar. His first published book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786), immediately captured the hearts of the Scottish public, and was considered one of the greatest collections of poetry ever written. Burns became prolific, publishing many poems, among them his famous 'Auld Lang Syne'. He died in extreme poverty of rheumatic fever in 1796 at the age of 37.
Lawson's sculpture of Burns cost around £1000, and it is said that nearly every Scot in Melbourne contributed. The memorial symbolises the contribution Scottish migrants made to the early development of Victoria, with many of the first graziers and squatters in Gippsland and the Western District being of Scottish descent. The memorial remains a uniting symbol for Melbourne's Scottish community. It was originally located on the west side of St Kilda Road, where Sir John Madden, the lieutenant governor, unveiled it on 23 January 1904. It was moved to its current site in 1970, due to changes along St Kilda Road.