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Chapter 7: The Byron Statue

Reference has already been made to the dynamic personality of Morland Simpson. It seems that there was no limit to the range of the ideas which he put forward, which invariably appear to have been met with much acclaim. One such was first mentioned by him in public on Prize Day, 1898, and soon led to a movement to provide a statue of the poet Lord Byron in Aberdeen. The movement proper was launched at a public meeting in the School Hall on 15th October that year. The Club Executive gave warm support to the idea and nominated five of its members to serve on the public committee charged with carrying through the project. At the next Annual Meeting of the Club, members authorised the Executive to subscribe to the Statue Fund once the intentions of the Statue Committee became known. In the following year a subscription of ten guineas from the Club was intimated conditionally.

From its inception in 1898, with what appears to have been enthusiasm, the tale of the project is a long and complex one. The minutes and reports of the committee are preserved in Aberdeen Public Library. In 1908, ten years after the scheme was mooted, the Club Executive appointed a Sub-Committee “to consider what steps, if any, should be taken regarding the carrying out of the Byron Statue Scheme”. The Club thereafter opened a fund “in order to assist the Byron Statue Committee to complete the movement at an early date”. In 1911, it was reported that the Club subscriptions amounted to over £107, and that a sculptor had been commissioned to execute the Statue, optimistically expected to be completed by the summer of 1913. In the following year, it was reported to the Annual Meeting of the Club that the Statue had reached its final stage. Those few who had seen the model opined that the Statue “will be an ornament not only to the School but also to the City”. In this they were, of course, absolutely right, but yet another eight years were to pass before the scheme was at last completed.

In May 1922 it was reported that “the Executive has learned with satisfaction that a determined effort is now being made to complete the movement for the erection of a Statue of Lord Byron”. The Club Secretary, Theodore Watt, had been appointed Joint Secretary of the Statue Committee, which put the Club in closer touch with what was happening, and in a position to exert more influence. A year later the Statue had actually been delivered in Aberdeen, and the Education Authority had agreed to make available a site in front of the School and to prepare that site for the reception of the Statue. On 14th September 1923 the Statue was at last unveiled by the Marchioness of Huntly in the presence of a large gathering. The date was just a few months short of the centenary of the poet’s death, and it was more than a quarter of a century since the scheme was first proposed by Morland Simpson, who himself had died in 1920 without seeing the fulfilment of his dream. What must be recognised with pride and satisfaction is that the impetus which finally brought this worthy scheme to fruition came from the FP Club. That the Statue now in place is a truly magnificent work is beyond doubt.

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