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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
January 2006

Scottish-American Museum Opens to the Public

The President of the Society, Gus Noble, has announced that the Scottish-American Museum will soon be open on a limited basis to members and friends.

The museum will be open the first Saturday of each month in 2006, beginning in February. It will open at 9 a.m. and close at noon. At 10 a.m. on each of these Saturdays, there will be a discussion of the various subjects listed below led by Wayne Rethford, Historian of the Society. In addition, you will hear the latest historical information about our Society and the Scots of Chicago.

Special tours of the museum can be arranged at any time with a phone call to the office, 630.629.4516.

  • February 4, 2006 - In 1900 several members of the Society sued the President, Walter Scott Bogle, for fraud and incompetence. Hear about the trial, the results, and the people involved.
  • March 4, 2006 - Did the last surviving descendant of Robert Burns die in Chicago on July 16, 1892? If so, where is he buried? Is this a true story? Items in the museum that pertain to Burns will be on display.
  • April 1, 2006 - Who really gave five acres of land to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1910 and what did the area around Riverside look like? Hear about the beginnings of our Scottish Home and some interesting twists of history.
  • May 6, 2006 - The last surviving member of the Boston Tea Party lived and died in Chicago. He was a Scot with a great story, but wait until you hear where he is buried! 
  • June 3, 2006 - C.K.G. Billings married Blanche MacLeish and what a life they lived! Hear the stories of other Scottish couples and what happened in their lives. You may be surprised at who married whom.

On September 15, 1912, Sir George Reid, Lord High Commissioner of Australia, was a guest at a luncheon at the Scottish Old People’s Home in Riverside, Illinois. He later spoke to the residents about Robert Burns. After lunch, James B. Forgan sang “The Land o’ the Leal.” Among those present were: Samuel Insull, Thomas Templeton, John Williamson, Dr. John A. McGill, Dr. William F. Dickson, Dr. S. Cooke-Adams, George A. Walton, W. K. Pattison, Joseph Cormack, Thomas Innes, Horace D. Nugent, the British Consul General; James R. Glass and George Sutherland. Later that evening Sir George and Lady Reid were guests for dinner at the Congress Hotel.

Birthday of Robert Burns - 1859

On January 25, 1859, Chicago celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of Robert Burns. It was organized by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and involved the entire city and surrounding area.

“Large deputations from the cities and towns along the lines of railway centering here, are coming to join with the citizens of Chicago in this affair.” It began with the city’s first great parade. At 10 ½ o’clock in the morning, the Committee on Arrangements, the Mayor, the Common Council, Brigadier General Swift and his staff met in Room #1 at the Tremont Hotel to form the line of procession. At the same time, members of the Society met at the Highland Guard Armory. “Officers are requested to have on their badges and members to have a thistle on their left breast.”

The parade line, lead by the Grand Marshall of the day, Chief McGlashen, formed on State Street at 11 o’clock, “with the right resting on Lake Street.” The military units followed the Chicago Light Artillery, led by Captain J. Smith. Next came four marching bands led by the “Washington Indt.

Reg’s No. 1, under the command of Colonel Davis.” The Fire Brigade was next followed by the Mayor and the Common Council.

After these groups came members of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society and other civic organizations. “Then came citizens on horseback, citizens in carriages and finally citizens on foot.” It was reputed to be the first great parade in Chicago history. These quotations are taken from the Chicago Press and Tribune which called it a “grand procession.”

In the evening an oration was given by ex-Governor McComas which was followed by a concert in Metropolitan Hall. The hall was completely sold out and 500 chairs were placed in the “passages” which one would guess means the aisles. “Carriages for the concert arriving at the LaSalle Street entrance will head south, at the Randolph street entrance will head west. The police will regulate the manner of leaving.” After the oration, there was a banquet and ball at the Tremont Hotel. So large was the crowd that it was necessary to remove all the billiard tables!

Boston Celebrates - 1859emerson_ralph_waldojan06

The Boston Burns Club celebrated the centennial anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth with a great dinner at the Parker House.

The guest list was impressive including the governor and the mayor. At the speaker’s table was Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Lord Radstock. The main address was given by Ralph Waldo Emerson (pictured). 


Birthday of Robert Burns—1861

On Robert Burns’ birthday in 1861, Horace Greeley gave a lecture in Chicago at the Metropolitan Hall on “Self-Made Men.” He said “Robert Burns was surely a self-made man. I apprehend, had he been born in a palace and educated at college, perchance he might have been a smart libertine, perhaps a poet - but at the present day we would have been as ignorant of him as though he had never existed, never written. It was his line ‘a man’s a man for all that’ which first made Democracy possible. All who can read and many who cannot, cherish and love Robert Burns as never was a poet loved and cherished before or since. He had not only the gift of seeing poetry in everything himself, but could also make others see it. Never were such ovations offered to the memory of any Englishman as are annually paid that of this untutored Scotch exciseman.”

Birthday of Robert Burns—1931

burns_statuejan06The Illinois Saint Andrew’s Society, as an organization, did not take a leading role in the raising of the statue to Robert Burns in Chicago. That effort was led by the United Scottish Societies of Chicago which included the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. Individual members of our Society were also members of other Scottish organizations active in this effort and much of the money came from them.

The residents of the Scottish Home always visit the statue in Garfield Park in January, but there is little evidence that our Society has paid much attention to the monument.  There is one exception to this. On January 25, 1931, eleven members of the Society laid a wreath at the foot of the Burns statue on the 172nd birthday of the poet. The group was led by John T. Cunningham and included Robert Falconer, Robert Eadie, Robert W. Hall, Donald Fraser, Robert Black, Samuel Hutcheson, Thomas Catto, John F. Holmes, Dr. W. R. Dickson and William Lister.

The event was also a memorial to Luke Grant who had just died. Mr. Grant was the former publicity representative of the North Shore Lines and the Chicago Rapid Transit lines. He was very involved in the work of the Society and a man greatly missed.

Death of Robert Burns - 1907

Scots usually celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns but here are two instances where they celebrate the date of his death on July 21, 1934. Perhaps, they made the change from January to July because of the weather. More than 1,000 people gathered that afternoon in 1907 at Garfield Park to honor Robert Burns. They honored the greatest of Scottish poets by placing a wreath on the base of the monument. This event was held under the auspices of the Robert Burns Memorial Society of Chicago, which was composed of various Scottish societies. They assembled at the Van Buren Opera House located on West Madison and Campbell Avenue. From here, “clad in their kilts, plaids, and tartans,” they marched to the park. They were led by the clan’s pipe majors, William Gunn and Duncan Forbes who played “Flowers of the Forest” and the “Land of the Leal.” The invocation was given by The Rev. James McLagan, pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church. The address was given by Dr. William Barclay and Mrs. Kate Campbell Saunders read some of his poems. Others participating were: Magnus Flaws and Fred T. Macleod. A large wreath of evergreen, roses, and Scotch heather was placed on the base of the monument by two little girls dressed in white. They were Maud and Mildred Barclay. The wreath encircled a scroll which was inscribed “For Auld Lang Syne.”


Death Of Robert Burns - 1934

According to the newspaper, the Scots gathered again in Garfield Park to remember and celebrate. “They came marching through the elms with skirling bagpipes and with the banners of old Scotland.... They came all aglow with poetry, perspiration and patriotism.” Matthew Fetridge, past chief of the Clan Campbell and royal deputy of the organization in Chicago was the principal speaker.

Among other things Mr. Fetridge said: “The world today for its own safety needs to become imbued with the ideals of Robert Burns.” “He draws ever closer to the people… because he was of the people. And he stands for them, expresses them, as perhaps no other poet ever has done.” Remember what Burns once said, “But while we sing God Save the King, we’ll no forget the people.”  The celebrated band of the Curtis Kilties played during the afternoon heat and towards evening, the Chicago Scottish Choral Society directed by George Calder sang some of the great songs by Robert Burns.  They sang “Afton Water” and “There was a Lad” which was the poet’s song to himself. Miss Mary Dingwall sang “Ae Found Kiss” which is often described as the briefest, sweetest tragedy every written. “It made the young people silent and the old people want to cry.”

Matthew Fetridge died in 1958 at the age of 79. He was an authority on the life of Burns and his poetry and often lectured both here and abroad. He had one son, William H. Fetridge and a daughter, Mrs. Jerome Thor, an actress. He was the grandfather of our Clark Fetridge who is presently a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. One book of poetry written by Matthew Fetridge is in the Scottish-American Museum.

From the Editor

We have dedicated this issue of our newsletter to Robert Burns in the hope that some of our readers who live in the Chicago area will attend one of the Burns dinners listed here or on the web site. I once read that, among the things Scottish immigrants brought to the New World were: their Bibles, their gun, cooking utensils, seeds and the writings of Robert Burns. The schools they established used the Bible, the writings of Robert Burns and the McGuffey Reader. The influence of Burns on the frontier of our nation was immense.

We know that Abraham Lincoln often quoted Burns and once attended a Burns Dinner in Springfield, Illinois. After his death, Thomas Bayley Potter, M.P. presented to his son, Robert T. Lincoln, a two-volume set of Burns’ writings. The covers were of fine, polished fancy wood known as the wood of Mocklin from Dumfries-shire. The two volumes were then placed in a small velvet-lined box made of the same Mocklin wood. The presentation was made in Chicago where Robert Lincoln lived and had a very successful law practice. He is said to have “informed Mr. Potter that his father’s favorite poets were Burns and Milton.” There are some who have said it was Burns and Shakespeare.

May I urge you to support this publication by sending in your renewal of $10.00 to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. Contributions received did not cover the cost of this newsletter in 2005  although it appears that many of you appreciate the materials. We thank you for all the letters, notes, e-mails and telephone calls, and urge your support in 2006.

4th Annual Robert Burns Supper
January 21, 2006, 5:00 p.m.
Cocktails, dinner, program & ceilidh
Hotel InterContinental
King Arthur Court Ballroom
$95.00 each
Seating limited to 200.

36th Annual Nicht w’ Burns
January 28, 2006, 5:45 p.m.
Cocktails, dinner, program &
country dancing>
Oak Lawn Hilton
Oak Lawn
Adults $48.00
Children $11.00  


Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546