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Robert Burns Monument Kay Park Kilmarnock Ayrshire.

Burns Monument Kay Park Kilmarnock : Where is Kilmarnock? : More photos of Kilmarnock.
by Martin J. Galloway Editor.

Take a good look at the picture - for it is gone!

Someone was here around 4:30 am on 19th November 2004 -- and set the monument on fire. Not only did they almost burn it to the ground, two firemen were injured in the ensuing blaze.

The circumstances surrounding the breach of the Burns Monument in Kilmarnock has sent shockwaves around the local community and around the World. Burns fans everywhere are angry that such an important piece of Scottish history was not better protected. But was it an opportunity waiting to happen I ask, rather than simply just terribly bad luck?

The Burns Monument sits at the highest point in a 29 acre open expanse called Kay Park. The land was purchased, designed and gifted to Kilmarnock by local insurance broker Alexander Kay. The statue was unveiled on 9th August 1879 by Colonel Alexander of Ballochmyle. An occasion so grandiose that it attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen for a Kilmarnock event. The view from the Burns Monument offers a fantastic panorama over the NE part of Kilmarnock town centre. It's a beautiful fairly remote place with rolling hills and an abundance of mature trees, but was it's remoteness it's Achilles Heel?

Ayrshire likes to portray it's love for Robert Burns, a poor farmers son who has captured the World's attention with his spontaneous gift of verse. Burn's single handedly not only put Ayrshire, but put the whole awareness of a Scots language on the map. Everyone here is proud to say they come from Burns' Country. Everywhere you look there are references to him, statues, memorial, books, street names, shopping malls, the list could go on forever. Here in Ayrshire Robert Burns is King, number one, he's the Man that makes coming from Ayrshire mean something, a reason to hold your head high and be proud of this lush farming landscape.

.....But is it a blind pride perhaps?

The story of what happened here at Kay Park highlights serious flaws in the so called pride in Robert Burns. As incredible as it may seem this beautiful monument had been closed and boarded up since 1988. For 16 years this magnificent 80 foot Baronial style memorial stood empty, fenced off, dark and forgotton. Forgotton? One of the more beautiful of 19th Century memorials to Robert Burns was closed and fenced off to the public. Is it a surprise to you now that it was breached and burned to the ground by the mindless and uninitiated?

The pride in Robert Burns by those responsible for the Monument did not run very deep. For such an important piece of Ayrshire history to be left unoccupied and unused is an incredible insult to those who bought and paid for its construction. Surely there was a means to promote the monument within the tourism industry? It's not difficult to understand that running anything these days costs money, but did anyone really try? Perhaps we have all fallen into a pool of stagnant complacency content to live off the notoriety of Burns' past? Here is cold hard living proof why we need to keep these monuments open and alive.

What's left of the Robert Burns Monument in Kay Park Kilmarnock after a malicious fire.
Photo: Burns Monument in ruins May 2005. Destroyed by fire 19th Nov. 2004. Bordering on complete demolition. Two firemen were hurt fighting the blaze when the roof collapsed. Click to enlarge.

During my visit in May 2005 many historians told me of their concerns that the whole thing will be demolished. The front quadrant with Roberts statue is all that is left. Much chatter is presently going on at local government level as to what to do with the remains. Figures of a staggering 4 million pounds sterling are being thrown around as a cost to rebuilt to original. It is a terrible loss not only to Robert Burns fans around the World, but it put's in question the safety, enthusiasm and funding made available to keep Scottish historical buildings from becoming rubble.

The view from the Robert Burns Monument in Kay Park Kilmarnock.
Photo: View from the steps of Robert Burns Monument Kay Park looking south west towards Kilmarnock Ayrshire.

If you are a lover of Robert Burns and you live near a memorial in his namesake, for Gods sake don't let your Local Authority leave it to rot or fall victim to easy vandalism. What happened here in Kay Park Kilmarnock, could just as easily happen in your Town.


Martin J. Galloway Editor.
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BURNS MONUMENT KAY PARK KILMARNOCK. Click to enlarge. Click here to learn more about Robert Burns. Burns Monument in ruins May 2005. Destroyed by fire 19th Nov. 2004. Bordering on complete demolition. Two firemen were hurt fighting the blaze when the roof collapsed. Click to enlarge.