The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
Letter to the Editor
The following letter appeared in The Chicago Tribune
sometime in the 1950s.
Chicago, Dec. 9
I was extremely interested in your story of the
Englishman who is translating the poems of Robert Burns
into English. I don't like the heading of the story. We
Scots never refer to Burns as "Bobbie," perhaps because
that is the slang for an English cop.
Burns has been translated into many languages, so we
Scots, perhaps, should be gratified that still another
country has chosen to become better informed on the
works of our national bard. One thing is certain, a
nation sincerely searching the works of Burns will find
two themes pre-dominant: friendship and the dignity of
the individual, regardless of his social background.
England stole our Stone of Scone, but you may be sure
that they cannot take over our national bard; he is too
well enshrined in the hearts of Scots everywhere;
millions of them who need no English translation to
understand his message.
In conclusion, if your translation of the "Address to
the Haggis" is a sample of Mr. William Kean Seymour's
work, we can "dae withoot it."
George C. Buik
Burns Society of Chicago
Abraham Lincoln loved to read the Bible, the writings of
Shakespeare and Robert Burns. He was introduced to these
writings while living in New Salem, Illinois, by Jack
Kelso, the village philosopher.
When the centennial year of the birth of Robert Burns
occurred in 1859, more than 900 celebrations were held
around the world. In Springfield, the Illinois State
Journal carried the following announcement: "The
Festival, in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of the
birth of this gifted poet, comes off tonight at Concert
We understand that every arrangement has been made to
render the occasion a most agreeable reunion of his
friends and admirers..." The cost was two dollars per
gentleman and the proceeds were to be given to the poor.
His Honor, the Mayor, was in charge of the distribution.
The program started at 8:30 p.m. with supper being
served. Instrumental music was provided by the Young
American Brass Band and two pipers who were dressed in
Highland costume. In the first half seven toasts were
given, each accompanied by special music. Part two
consisted of twelve musical renditions. The last song,
of course, was Auld Lang Syne.
"The Company sat down at nine o'clock and after
satisfying the appetite with eatables, the 'mountain
dew' was brought out, and together with a large number
of mysterious looking bottles, was freely circulated
during the remainder of the evening... The regular
toasts were responded to in order by Messrs. A. Lincoln,
Linder, Matheny, Blaidell, and others..."
On Thursday morning, January 27, 1859, the Journal
carried an extensive account of the celebration. "It
appears from the program, which was long enough to have
been the work of a Scotch preacher, that everyone was to
have a chance to take part."
Mrs. Robert Ballantine
*Someone You Should Know*
On October 25, 1888, some sixty-three gentlemen met at
the Grand Pacific Hotel and organized the Burns Memorial
and Monument Association. It was their intent to erect
"in one of the leading parks a fitting monument to
Robert Burns." Nine men signed the papers of
incorporation and the first donation was a silver dollar
from James Murray, on the eve of his departure for South
Governor Moonlight of Wyoming attended "a grand
demonstration" in Central Music Hall on January 24,
1889. Later, on August 10, a picnic and games were held
at Elliott's Park, Matteson, IL. A number of clans
donated money, including Clan McKenzie of Braidwood, IL.
Very soon it was announced that one thousand dollars had
been collected. But, the times were difficult and it
would be several years before any substantial progress
would be made.
On June 25, 1902, James D. Carrie issued an invitation
to Scottish ladies "by birth, descent or marriage" to
meet at the Sherman House with the object of forming a
Ladies Auxiliary. A large number of ladies attended and
their number would grow to 75 members. "By parlor
socials, entertainments, etc." the Auxiliary raised over
two thousand dollars. For two years "a pleasant meeting
place" was furnished to the ladies by the Paterson
Shorthand Institute "absolutely free of cost."
The role of women in the Scottish history of Chicago has
been rather difficult to define. We do know that early
in the history of the Saint Andrew Society, women had
worked side by side with their husbands in distributing
the charity of the organization. Ladies were assigned to
each of the three districts in Chicago, but they
received little in the way of public recognition and
their names were seldom recorded. The first woman was
not admitted to full membership in the St. Andrew
Society until 1947.
The leader of this new group was always Mrs. Robert
Ballantine, but there is little known about her life. We
do know that at the annual meeting of the Burns Monument
Association on November 23, 1903, Mrs. Ballantine was
elected a Director of the Association and was to serve
with Daniel Ross Cameron, William Ritchie, and Dr. R. A.
Sempill. It was the first time a woman was elected to
such an office and invited to serve with men.
The statue of Robert Burns might have never become a
reality without the work of Mrs. Robert Ballantine, for
she made a trip to Scotland and called upon the
sculptor, W. Grant Stevenson. During this meeting she
arranged for payments to be made; and, on May 12, 1904,
the first installment was sent to Edinburgh. One year
later, on May 8, 1905, Mr. Stevenson notified the
Association that the statue and panels for the pedestal
had been successfully cast. At the annual election in
1905, another woman was added to the Board, Miss Helen
F. Lonie, who was elected Assistant Secretary.
The "grand parade" for the dedication was held August
25, 1906. It began at California and Washington
continuing westward to Garfield Park. The Ladies'
Auxiliary, under the leadership of Mrs. Ballantine, "all
dressed in white, with brilliant silk tartan sashes,
filled about a dozen carriages."
The exercises at Garfield Park, commenced shortly before
3 p.m., in the presence of thousand of enthusiastic
Scots." Mrs. Kate Campbell Sauders, "the favorite
Scottish elocutionist," gave several readings from
Burns. Four-year-old Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson
unveiled the statue.
This 'n That
In 1993, Jack and Gayle Baker gave me a book entitled, "Mither
Wit and Native Fire: The Genius of Robert Burns." The
book was published in 1992 by The Robert Burns Club of
Milwaukee and includes pictures of a number of statues
to Robert Burns.
How many of these monuments have you visited? Alloway,
Arbroath, Dumfries, or Edinburgh, Scotland; New York
City (Central Park); Albany, NY (Washington Park); Barre,
VT (Spaulding Campus); Falls River, MA (Public Library);
Denver, CO (City Park); Chicago, IL (Garfield Park); San
Francisco, CA (Golden Gate Park); Milwaukee, WI (Knapp &
If you know the location of other monuments and statues
to Robert Burns please let us know.
In 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer with one
out in the bottom of the ninth to give the New York
Giants a dramatic victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The
win gave the Giants the National League pennant. Thomson
was later honored by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society
as the "Athlete of the Year" and was given a gold watch.
Whatever happened to
Bobby Thomson, the Scottish
In 1977, the "Sixth Annual Highland Dancing Competition"
was held at the Scottish Home. One of the participants
was ten year old Eric Johnston of Hinsdale. The article
also speaks of Mrs. Wendy Massie who taught highland
dancing in Berwyn, Illinois. Her husband, Graham Massie,
was a piper with the Stockyard Kiltie Band. Whatever
happened to these people?
More Golf Stories
The Downers Grove, Illinois, Golf Course now claims to
be the first golf course west of the Allegheny mountain
range and the first 18-hole course in the United States.
So says the Suburban Life Citizen newspaper of
October 1, 1994. According to Carol Tapio "The first
nine holes were laid out on a farm belonging to A.
Haddow Smith in 1892. The land was purchased with $10.00
donations from 20 or 30 members of the Chicago Golf
Club, with the effort spearheaded by Charles Blair
Macdonald made his living at the Chicago Board of Trade
and was apparently a rather cantankerous Scot. He loved
golf, but had a terrible slice, so he designed the holes
"to play toward the right." He added the back nine in
1893, but their exact location has been lost. "The holes
that exist now are on the land that held the original
nine." The course was originally chartered as the
Belmont Golf Club.
In 1894, the Chicago Golf Club abandoned the Belmont
site and moved to its present location in Wheaton,
Illinois. At the beginning of the Great Depression, the
Belmont Club was sold to the Slepicka family who opened
it to the public. In 1968, the Downers Grove Park
District purchased the course for $750,000.
Pictured: Charles Blair MacDonald
Whatever happened to Jeannette Miller "Queen of the
Heather" in 1968? She is now Mrs. Jeannette Colombi and
lives in Rockford, Illinois. She was a student of
Margaret Baikie Johnson and attended New Trier High
School. She had a "mother who encouraged me to keep my
Scottish heritage and a great dance teacher...". Thanks
for answering our letter and sending the newspaper
articles. One more Queen has been found.
A letter from Sam Harrod III of Eureka, Illinois, tells
us that the first golf course in the United States was
Savannah, Georgia in 1796. His information comes from
a non-fiction book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and
Evil," published by the Georgia Historical Society.
Thanks for writing. Could you send us more information?
John Fisher writes from Littleton, Colorado, to tell us
that he has a book on the life of John Logie Baird
entitled "The Secret Life of John Logie Baird." He has
offered to loan us his copy if we are unable to find
one. He adds that Baird, who is credited with the
invention of television in 1926, was the son of a Church
of Scotland minister. John Logie Baird died in 1946.
Clyde M. Clark of Bradenton, Florida, has solved the
mystery of the Saddle and Sirloin pictures. They are
displayed in the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center at
Louisville, KY. After writing to the Chamber of
Commerce, he was able to purchase a book that tells the
story and shows each portrait. There are a lot of Scots
among the 330 personalities. Thanks for sending a copy
to the History Club Library. Mr. and Mrs. Clark recently
visited the Scottish Home and we had an enjoyable visit.
They will be moving to Seattle to be closer to a
daughter. Good luck and stay in touch!
David McKee is thought to have been the first blacksmith
in Chicago. He was born in Virginia in 1800 of Scottish
ancestry. He married Wealthy Scott, daughter of Stephen
J. Scott, who we assume was of Scottish lineage. It is
believed that he arrived at Fort Dearborn (Chicago) in
1822 or 1823. He paid taxes in 1825 and voted in 1826
and 1830. His home and shop were located at what is now
Kinzie and Franklin.
In 1828, he was the mail carrier between Chicago and
Fort Wayne, Indiana. On horseback, it took one month to
make the round-trip journey. He is said to have guided
the families of Israel P. Blodgett to their new home in
what is now DuPage County. He died April 8, 1881, and is
buried in Big Woods Cemetery.
Our thanks to Thomas C. McMillan for his speech in 1919
for the above information. Does anyone know the location
of the Big Woods Cemetery?
The history club recently visited the cemetery next to
the Lyonsville Congregational Church on Joliet Road in
Countryside, IL. We found the grave of Margaret
McNaughton (1814-1856) the wife of Samuel Vial. She was
the first school teacher in Lyons Township, having come
to America with her parents from Aberdeen.
The log school house where she taught was built in 1843
and stands opposite the church on Joliet Road.
Why are Scotsmen so good at golf?
They realize that the fewer times they hit the ball, the
longer it will last.
"If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of
Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around
the Scotch-Irish of that region and make my last stand
for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to
British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a
John Logie Baird
"To me, seeing by telephone always seemed as reasonable
a possibility as hearing by the telephone."
Achieved by Baird, the world's first...
~ public television demonstration on January 26, 1926
~ television transmission across the Atlantic in 1928.
~ first version of color television, 1925 to 1928.
~ The first 3D and color system developed between 1925
Additionally, he was a pioneer in the development of
facsimile and fiber optics, his work on radar is being
increasingly acknowledged. When he died, June 14, 1946,
he left but a few thousand pounds, but his impact on the
world was enormous.
More information can be found at the
Museum of Broadcast Communications.
From the Editor...
This issue of our newsletter is centered around Robert
Burns and his birthday on January 25. The residents of
the Scottish Home will again visit the Burns statue and
lay a wreath. It is a pilgrimage that began about six
years ago. Chicago weather is usually atrocious, but we
go anyway. The erection of this monument is a great
story. I wish we knew more about Mrs. Ballantine, but we
will continue the search.
Of course, there will be Burns' dinners around the
world. Here in Chicago there are several opportunities
to celebrate. The Elgin Society and the "Nicht Wi'
Burns" are the two largest. The Elgin Society has theirs
at the St. Andrews' Golf Course in West Chicago, and the
other one is held at the Hilton Hotel in Oak Lawn. You
can get further information by calling The Scottish
Burns Club of Milwaukee has an interesting
newsletter that you might enjoy. The Newsletter
Secretary is Patricia J. Kucki, 3712 N. Murray Avenue,
Shorewood, WI 53211-2553. We have appreciated our
complimentary copies and also enjoyed the book they
We continue to receive membership donations and letters
from around the country. As time permits, we will try
and answer each one; however, we want you to know that
it is all much appreciated. As a family, we have enjoyed
putting the information together for you. Have a healthy
and prosperous New Year.