Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mary McPherson

It's New Year's Day and there's a good chance that, at some point since last evening, you've heard "Auld Lang Syne."  That song was the work of Robert Burns and the monument to him (by Charles Caverley) is one of the most familiar sights in Washington Park.  

If one looks closely at the back of the Burns monument, you'll see an inscription that identifies it as "the McPherson Legacy To The City of Albany."  That's because a provision in the will of one Mary McPherson led to the creation of this monument to the beloved Scottish poet.

Mary was the daughter of one Lachlan McPherson, a Scottish immigrant who worked as a janitor at the State House in Albany, a position which his son, John, took over after his death.  Mary, who is said to have worked as a maid or housekeeper, was the sole heir to their estate.  She, in turn, included a provision (on the suggestion of friends active in Albany's Scottish community) in her will that the money - said to be between $30,000 and $40,000 carefully saved by the father and son over the years - would be used for the erection of a monument to Robert Burns in Washington Park (and that the monument would be known as the McPherson Legacy). 

Mary is buried beneath this rose-colored granite monument on the South Ridge (just across the road from the little sandstone of Captain Cooke).  If one looks behind it, though, there is a much older and nearly illegible headstone flush to the ground which also bears the family name.

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