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Robert Burns Lives!
An article by Floridian John Hollingsworth

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

Floridian John Hollingsworth was kind enough to provide me with information regarding the defaced Burns statue in Chicago’s Garfield Park, the subject of this website a couple of weeks ago. In the process John shared that he had an old document on Robert Burns that had been in his family for generations. I invited him write a brief history of the article to share with our readers, and the following is the result of that request.

John is retired but still consults on government computer and telephone systems in areas such as main telephone systems and county emergency operation centers. I like the way he says, “I am old and retired” but the consulting work “keeps me busy and alert.” More of us might need to follow John’s example.

To me, articles like John’s are great examples of what Robert Burns Lives! is all about. You will find on our website writings and editorials from some of the world’s greatest Burns authorities, experts, professors and authors who have taught Burns and Scottish literature for decades. Just as importantly, however, you will also find laymen like John Hollingsworth and me who earn our living through various professions to support our families but who have a deep love of Burns as well. I hope you enjoy this brief article as much as I did, and our hearty thanks to John who interrupted a busy work schedule to share it with us. This is the story of a Burns heirloom that one family treasures. Perhaps there is a story you would like to share with our readers. Think about it and let me know. (FRS: 10.29.09)

Robert Burns

An Old Burns Document
By John Thomson Hollingsworth

This document was published July 21, 1896 by Rev. Archibald Ross to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Robert Burns passing July 21, 1796. I don’t know how many were printed or exactly how my family first obtained this copy.

My grandfather Alexander Thomson and grandmother Christine Dalgarno Thomson were born in Scotland in 1879. My mother Agnes Fulton Thomson was born there in 1902.

My grandfather was a journeyman house painter and he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1910. He did not care for the city and found some friends who settled in Paterson, New Jersey which had a large Scottish population and were attracted to jobs in the silk industry. My grandmother, mother and her brother followed in 1911. They arrived in Boston then traveled to Paterson.

My grandparents were active in several Scottish organizations in Paterson. My grandmother was a member of the Daughters of Scotia, Flora McDonald Lodge 25 from her arrival until her death in 1974. She got my mother to join. However my mom did not attend meetings but paid her dues until she passed away in 1985 having transferred her membership to the Nellie Donn Lodge in Hollywood Florida. My grandfather was a leader of the Clan McDonald in Paterson, and my cousin Sally Ann Thomson Homs has his medal that was presented to him.

I would assume that they obtained the Robert Burns commemorative while active in Scottish Activities. As I did not arrive on the scene until November 1940 a lot of family history had occurred long before my time. I received the document from my mother, prior to that she had moved several times in New Jersey and in 1974 moved to Dania Beach, Florida.

The original has been in my family’s possession since it was published in 1896. No special storage was done over the years, and it has been stored in a file folder in my garage office for years. It is not in the best of condition but I managed to scan the document this year after we got settled in our new home. Attached is a copy of the document for you to use on your website. .

My short family tree:

Mother - Agnes Fulton Thomson, born 1902
Grandmother - Christina --- Nee Dalgarno, 1879
Grandfather - Alexander Thomson
Oldest ancestor - Lachlan Thomson, 1820

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