David Burns, the current president of the Irvine Burns Club, was back on duty over the weekend, writes Bill Nolan.
Mr. Burns pictured above celebrated the 19th century writer’s birthday with flowers at the birthplace of John Galt’s High Street in North Ayrshire.
John Galt was born in 1779. A Scottish writer, entrepreneur, and political and social commentator, he is considered to be the first political writer in English-language issues related to the Industrial Revolution because of his writings and the way he openly wrote on the many social and political topics .
Today, as his books re-emerge in literary circles, he is best remembered in some parts of the world as the explorer who opened western Ontario and founded the city of Guelph.
In 1813 Galt had the idea of writing a novel from the west of Scotland based on the observations of a pastor. However, he should wait until Walter Scott’s writing had changed the climate of Scottish literature before a publisher would accept a book on a Scots subject.
However, once published, Galt’s works flew out of the press and The Ayrshire Legates was serialized in 1820, followed by The Steamboat and Annals of the Parish in 1821, and The Provost and other novels the following year.
Alongside this literary success, Galt continued his political campaign for the developing Canadian colony, became secretary of the Canada Company, and between 1827 and 1829 made his way west to open western Ontario, where the townships of Guelph and Goderich were established .
For Galt, the Canadian project was the fulfillment of his personal ambitions, but he fell victim to colonial bureaucracy and was eventually forced to return to Britain in 1829 on charges of debt and imprisonment.
To pay off his alleged debts, Galt returned to writing professionally, writing short stories for magazines and writings, as well as several long novels. He returned to Greenock in 1834 and continued to write until his death at the age of 60 in 1839.
David Burns said, “In recent years Irvine and City of Guelph have moved closer together and several groups and individuals have visited their transatlantic counterparts.
“The Irvine Burns Club, in partnership with NAC, produced a 35-minute show,” In the Footsteps of Robert Burns and John Galt, “which aired in Guelph and featured Provost Clarkson and I.
“I also joined the Provost last Sunday to exchange greetings with our Canadian friends and we continue to hope that these ties can be strengthened once our two communities return to a post-pandemic world.”
On Friday at 7 p.m., Galt will also be remembered with the traditional John Galt Annual Memorial Lecture, given this year by Professor Kenneth McNeil of Eastern Connecticut State University. #
The annual lecture will be held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anyone interested in learning more about one of Irvine’s preeminent literary talents can do so via www.thejohngaltsociety.com