As secretary of the St Andrews Society in 1919, John Barr took care of many of the arrangements for the installation of J.M. Mennie’s gift to Auckland of a Robert Burns statue (ref: Auckland Star, 03 May 1919, p.11). The statue was installed and unveiled in Auckland Domain in 1921 (ref: New Zealand Herald, 5 November 1921, p. 8).
Ref: Frederick George Radcliffe, statue of Burns, Auckland Domain, c. 1921, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R142
|Ref: Photographer unknown, Jessie Barr in “Bunty Pulls the Strings”, St Andrews Society, 1928, Munro-John Barr Album (private family album)|
John Barr gave many lectures on Robert Burns, and is reported to have stated that Robert Burns’ ‘Scots Wha Hae’ was “one of the greatest poems of liberty ever penned.” (ref: New Zealand Herald, 5 Sept 1919, p.10) Barr gave a short address at the Auckland St Andrews Society’s 1928 Burns anniversary celebration (ref: Auckland Star, 25 January 1928, p. 5).
|Ref: Leaflet promoting the Auckland St Andrews' Society Burns Anniversary, 1928, Sir George Grey Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZMS 894|
Barr’s speech reinforces the universality of these ideals with a quote from Burns’ poem ‘Is There for Honest Poverty’, often referred to as ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’. Barr looks forward to a future when:
“Man to man the world oe’r
Would brothers be for a’ that”.
Barr sums up Burns’ significance with reference to:
“…. the universal love in which the memory of the ploughman – poet of Scotland is esteemed by Scotsmen and by all those who love their fellow man.”
Keen to find out more? Check out these resources from Auckland Libraries collections:
- Burns, Robert, 'The poetical works of Robert Burns', edited by J. Logie Robertson (1904)
- Burns, Robert, 'The collected poems of Robert Burns: with an introduction and bibliography by Tim Burke' (1994)
- Burns, Robert, 'The complete illustrated poems, songs & ballads of Robert Burns', consultant editor: Samuel Carr (1990)
- Burns, Robert, 'Poems and songs', edited by James Kinsley (1969)
- CD: 'The poems and songs of Robert Burns' (2004).
Author: Carolyn Skelton, West and North Auckland Research Centres