Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Statue of Sir James Shaw

Found just off the London Road, opposite the Dick Institute and next to the War Memorial.

The statue was originally sited at The Cross in the centre of the town in 1828 but moved to this location in 1929 owing to the increased usage of motorised vehicles in and around The Cross.

Sir James Shaw, (1764-1843; known in this area, at least, as Jimmy), was born in 1764 in Mosshead Farm at Riccarton in the south of Kilmarnock. He attended Kilmarnock Grammar School before going to America when he was 17. He returned a few years later and then worked in London with his brother. He then became very interested in politics and was eventually elected as MP for the City of London. He was also the first Scotsman to be elected Lord Mayor of London, in 1805. He was given the baronetcy in 1809.

A relation of Robert Burns, Sir James became very popular in Scotland by by raising money for the poet's widow and children.

As the statue, Shaw is sculpted in Carrara marble, depicted in his mayoral robes of office and holding a scroll that represents the 'warrant of precedence' which he obtained in 1806. This was the right of the Lord Mayor of London to take precedence over everyone (except the monarch) in all public processions in the city.

The statue was described in a history of Kilmarnock (by Archibald McKay) as

"... a noble work of art, worthy of the creative genius of the sculptor, Mr. Fillans, and no less worthy of the venerable baronet whom it commemorates, and of whom, we believe, it is a faithful likeness. In symmetry of form it is truly admirable. The mild, benevolent features of Sir James are finely developed ; and, as a whole, it is replete with that seeming animation and intellectual expression which mark the superior powers of the sculptor, and give to the object itself a high and permanent interest."

The sculptor was James Fillians (1808–52) who worked as a handloom weaver in Paisley before training as a stone mason. He was greatly admired for his statue of Sir James Shaw and a banquet was held in his honour.


  1. I love the way you give the history of the person, the statue, the artist and all kinds of things!! That's so interesting that he raised money to support Bobby Burn's family and that he himself was once Lord Mayor of London, of all places!! You really should consider writing a pictoral history of Scotland, Jane!!