(An American with a great Scottish name!)
Wallace Bruce was born in Hillsdale N.Y. in 1844, the son of Alfred and Mary Ann McAlpine Bruce, of good Scots stock, which probably instilled in him a love of all things Scottish, especially Robert Burns. He graduated from Yale University in 1871 and took up a literary career, quickly becoming a most prolific poet and author.
Bruce was appointed as United States consul at Edinburgh in 1889, a post he held until 1893. During this time he delivered Burns anniversary addresses at Ayr, Edinburgh, Kilmarnock and other venues throughout Scotland and indeed the World, speaking about the life and work of his favourite Poet. The famous Henry Ward Beecher wrote to him regarding his volume ‘Clover and Heather,’ "I congratulate you on issuing such a charming volume. It will be thankfully received by every lover of Burns. I thank you as one. You have touched the strings with melodious results."
Some of Bruce's books which have been published are "Old Homestead Poems", "In Clover and Heather", "The Hudson", "Wayside Poems", "Here's a Hand", "Leaves of Gold", "Scottish Poems" and "Wanderers".
Bruce joined Hudson Lodge in 1869 at the age of 24. His Grand Lodge Registry number was 130768 and he was the 279th member to join that lodge. He was initiated on 17th November 1869, passed on 1st December 1869, and raised on 30th December 1869. On 7th April 1875, Bruce withdrew from the membership of that lodge as it would appear he moved away from the area.
On his moving to Edinburgh as US consul, Bruce soon quickly became associated with the Freemasons in the city, in particular with Lodge Canongate Kilwinning of which he was made an honorary member, and following in the footsteps of his poetic idol, was elected as Poet Laureate of the Lodge, a position which he relished.
However, it is perhaps for a most public and unselfish act that Wallace Bruce should be better remembered and more widely acclaimed, for it was he who was responsible for the raising, in the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh, of the only American Civil War monument ever to be erected outwith the USA.
This imposing monument to the Scots who fought in the Union army is the only memorial outside the United States to those who lost their lives in the American Civil war, which is altogether surprising considering the number of different nationalities who died during this conflict. The monument consists of two figures - a crouching, freed slave extending his arms in gratitude to an imposing Abraham Lincoln. The freed man is resting on furled flags, symbols of victory. The statues are made of bronze and the figure of Lincoln is about 16 ft high. The base is marble. A medallion on the monument has the flags of Britain and the United States surrounded by thistles and cotton plants. (See photograph below).
The story of how the monument came to be is quite remarkable. A Scots woman - a Mrs. McEwan - applied to American Consul Wallace Bruce for a widow's pension as her husband had served in the Union Army during the Civil War . Towards the end of Sergeant-Major McEwan's life his health was so poor and money was so scarce that his wife and children had to go out to work to support their little family. Matters became so desperate that McEwan even tried to give his precious sword to his doctor in exchange for fees. The doctor said his business was to save life, not to take it and he wished neither the sword nor other recompense but pleasant remembrance. Mrs. Bruce, the consul's wife, met Mrs. McEwan when the latter, whose husband had by now died, went to the consulate to claim her pension. Full of sympathy upon hearing her story, Mrs. Bruce asked, although Memorial Day had passed, whether she might place some flowers on McEwan's grave. Sadly the widow said that her husband had been buried in a pauper's grave which could not be identified.
Consul Bruce approached the Edinburgh Corporation for a burial site for Scots who had served in the Civil War and had returned to their native land. A plot was provided in the Old Calton Cemetery, close to the tomb of David Hume, the historian and philosopher. Bruce also wished to raise a statue of Abraham Lincoln and launched a fund-raising programme in the United States.
A well-known American sculptor, George E. Bissell (1839-1920), who had worked in the United States and in Paris, undertook to execute the bronze statue, which was intended to be a gift to Scotland from America, so Bruce obtained subscriptions from many influential Scots-Americans, including Andrew Carnegie. The unveiling ceremony aroused so much interest that admission to the burial ground was by ticket only. Crowds of people stood outside in Waterloo Place, even though the weather was wet and windy.
Bro, Stewart Donaldson, Lodge Stirling Royal Arch No.76– January 2012
Old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh
Monument to Scots Soldiers
who had served in the American Civil War 1861 – 65
Instigated by Wallace Bruce, American Consul.
Monument to David Hume in background.
(photo by C J McFadyen PM)