The statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns and his dog that stands in Winthrop Square will soon return to its original location in the Back Bay Fens.
And it’s about time, said Matthew Brooks, the vice president of the Fenway Civic Association.
The statue’s homecoming will settle a decades-long kerfuffle that began when the statue was abruptly moved from the Fens to Winthrop Square at the behest of a real estate developer.
“Our neighborhood lost the Burns statue in the 1970s without any public process,” Brooks said. “It was quite a blow.”
As Brooks sees it, relocating Burns back to the Fens will be “correcting a wrong.”
The statue of Burns and his dog, Luath, was created by Henry H. Kitson — the same sculptor who did the Minute Man statue in Lexington — and stood as a landmark in the Fens for many years. Born in 1759, Burns was a widely celebrated poet and lyricist who penned “A Red, Red Rose” (“O my Luve is like a red, red rose”) and other well-known works.
The statue of Burns and his dog was first unveiled in the Fens at a grand ceremony in January 1920. The Boston Globe covered the event and reported that then-Governor Calvin Coolidge helped pull the canvas off the new bronze statue, which stood on a grassy slope overlooking the river near the Westland Avenue entrance to the Fens.
“I am glad that we have here in Massachusetts this statue,” Coolidge said, “and I hope that we shall see it standing there in sun and rain in memory of a man who loved the open fields, who loved and reverenced his fellow men and his country.”
Burns, with his dog by his side, stood in that spot for more than 50 years, until one day in the summer of 1975, when they suddenly disappeared.
At first, some city officials assumed the statue had been stolen. But instead Burns turned up in an unlikely spot in the Financial District, at the corner of Devonshire and Otis streets, better known as Winthrop Square.
In July 1975, Globe correspondent David S. Richwine reported that the statue had been moved at the request of a developer named Ted Raymond.
“We originally asked for the statue of John Winthrop,” Raymond told the Globe.
When that request was denied, the city’s arts commission offered up Burns instead, according to the Globe.
But apparently few others knew about this plan. The Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner at the time, Anthony Forgione, told the Globe that the Burns statue “was taken without his knowledge,” and “community protests will probably force its return.”
But that never happened. Years went by, and after a while, people began to think that Burns was John Winthrop. After all, who else would be memorialized in Winthrop Square?
Which brings us to today. Another developer, Millennium Partners, is building a tower in Winthrop Square, and as part of the deal, an agreement was reached to bring Burns back to his roots on the other side of the city.
Brooks said the agreement is mutually beneficial — the developer will get a clean slate to work with in Winthrop Square, and the Fenway neighborhood will get its statue back.
Christopher Cook, the present commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, said he’s “really excited” for the statue to return to its true home.
Cook said Burns will depart Winthrop Square at end of April or beginning of May, and it will go to a conservator who will clean and restore the sculpture.
If all goes according to plan, Burns will finally get the homecoming he deserves this summer.
“The idea that Robert Burns was situated in the Back Bay Fens . . . it’s very poetic in nature,” Cook said. “You almost believe Burns was in his natural habitat.”