Highland Mary monument at Dunoon (August 1896)

A series of celebrations in Scotland which have been connected with the centenary of the death of the poet Burns came to a close with the unveiling by Lord Kelvin of a statue of Highland Mary at Dunoon, on the Firth of Clyde.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:26 pm
The statue of Highland Mary looks out over the Holy Loch at Dunoon as a large ship passes in February 1992.
The statue of Highland Mary looks out over the Holy Loch at Dunoon as a large ship passes in February 1992.

Highland Mary, “as those familiar with the life Burns would have been aware,” had been nursemaid near Dunoon.

She had been engaged to be married to Burns when she died, and the poet immortalised her memory by writing ‘To Mary in Heaven’.

Her proper name was Mary Campbell.

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The statue was the work of Mr D W Stevenson, RSA, Edinburgh, and had been subscribed for by Scotchmen from all parts of the world who admired Burns.

The News Letter’s correspondent wrote: “Highland Mary is standing looking wistfully across the Firth of Clyde towards the Ayrshire coast.

“The head is that of a well-favoured, sweet, and modest girl, and the figure is attired in a costume studied from pictures of her time by David Allan, an artist whose graphic illustrations of Scotch country life of the period have a reputation for thorough accuracy.

“In her left hand Mary holds a facsimile of the Bible presented to her by the poet.”

The unveiling ceremony took place under the most favourable circumstances as regards weather, and there was a large crowd of spectators.

Lord and Lady Kelvin and a distinguished company were present, while a large number of Burns clubs were also represented.

Lord and Lady Kelvin held a reception, after which the ceremony took place.

Lord Kelvin presided, and in a few opening remarks, said that the memory of Highland Mary was cherished wherever the Scotch language had permeated.

He said: “Her life has had a far-reaching effect on the poet’s life, and Dunoon had done well to commemorate one whom Burns had immortalised, and who was born within a mile of the town.”

Mr Colin Rae-Brown also spoke, ridiculing the idea that Highland Mary could possibly have been a myth.

He said: “She had a real and important existence.”

The statue was then unveiled, and a garden party followed in, the castle.