Forgotten Books, the World’s Forgotten Boy, her Best Loved Poet and my Pipe Dreams
Did you know that there are more statues of Robert Burns around the world than any other artist ever? In fact there’s only ever been more statues of Christopher Colombus and Queen Victoria and they’re starting to be pulled down!
Friday 23 July 2021
If one of my pipe dreams had come true I’d be in Cass Park, Detroit today performing a Burns busk with our band The Bum-Clocks below the Burns statue there but alas…
It’s now one hundred years to the day since the unveiling of the statue of Robert Burns there. It would be the perfect gig for us as The Bum-Clocks formed out of another pipe dream of mine – that Robert’s first published poem The Twa Dogs was actually a celebration of his relationship with that favourite son of Detroit – Iggy Pop.
It makes total sense if you read the poem with that in mind. The dog’s called Caesar, just like Iggy’s album American Caesar, he was always wearing a dog collar and of course there’s I Want To Be Your Dog.
Even the lines about where Caesar is from fit like a long sleeve glove –
The A. A. standing for Ann Arbor where Iggy grew up in a trailer park (or was it a dog pound?)
The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar,
Was keeper for His Maister’s Voice and pleasure:
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
Shew’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dugs;
But whalpet some place far away
Fae Detroit City A. A!
So that all then led to the discovery that Rabbie and Iggy even wrote songs together and when the twa pally dugs grew “ tired at last wi monie a farce, they sat them doon upon their arse, an there began a lang digression aboot the lords o’ the creation “ they soon moved onto the ladies and sang ‘Green Grow the Belles o’ Mauchline and the Lassies O’ New York City-O’.
Here’s all the proof if you don’t believe me…
Now back to the statues. The plan for this day was to twin the Burns statue in Detroit with the one in Fountain Gardens, Paisley, the finest Burns Statue in the world. It was designed by F.W. Pomeroy, the same guy who made the iconic scales of justice figure at the Old Bailey courts in London and has a level of detail and sophistication beyond any others.
The Detroit one was a replica of the statue in Ayr and Robert stands arms folded looking at the epic Masonic Temple ( the largest in the world ) opposite Cass Park.
It seems the driving forces for erecting Burns statues were Masonic lodges across the world as Robert was a Freemason so one of their own “craft ” (as Irvine Welsh memorably describes them in his Edinburgh cop novel Filth which I absolutely loved performing as a one man show).
My learning about the statues around the world even came from a Detroit Scot – Edward Goodwillie. He wrote the first book on them, ‘The World’s Memorials of Robert Burns’, published in 1911 by the Waverley Publishing House, Detroit with the pipe dream of a statue there growing out of it as Goodwillie describes from the start…
Good Edward Goodwillie then lists all the Burns statues up till 1911. Many more were erected after that, numbering over sixty across three continents.
That Masonic Temple became a gig venue in more recent years so would have resonances amongst auld Detroit rockers – wonder what they thought of the statue of Robert? Maybe the Bum-Clocks could play there one day…
Today’s twinning of the statues would have seen a gig in Fountain Gardens
with us Bum-Clocks taking part live from Detroit. I’d even tried to look at how folk around the world could go to their local Burns statue and tune into the gig live. I had meetings with the department exploring New Technology at the University of West of Scotland and the idea of the statues becoming ‘beacons’ that can be tuned into when close to them through an app is pretty simple and, crucially, cheap technology. It could have even worked fine with social distancing!
Just imagine folks across three continents all listening to this live beneath their Burns statue…
All of this could have been a reality today if Paisley had won their bid for City of Culture. Jean Cameron, who led the bid, was hugely keen on the project and all sorts of local connections had already been developed.
But as I started with- alas it was not to be. Coventry won the bid and my consolation prize (another great Iggy song that – Consolation Prizes) there is a gig with Bill Drummond on 1 August 2021 when we take up again touring intro and outro plays with the documentary about his World Tour, Best Before Death.
So there’s that and the Bum-Clocks world tour of Burns statues remains a pipe dream for another day but there is an EP with Ramrock Records in the offing that I’m hugely excited about.
There is yet another shaggy dug story about me and Andrew Dixon, ex-head honcho of Creative Scotland, who led the City of Culture bid for Coventry but that too is for another day…
Tam Dean Burn