Friday, June 09, 2006

Adam Smith's Grave Made Respectable Again

Good News for those interested in history and Adam Smith. Today’s Edinburgh Evening News carries a report by Andrew Picken of the restoration of Adam Smith’s tombstone and the posting of much needed signage to help visitors find his grave at the Canongate Churchyard where he was buried in 1790.

The tombstone and its immediate surrounds have been somewhat dilapidated for many years and also they were difficult to find unless you were prepared to walk round every grave until you found it.

Here’s part of the article (copyright Scotsman Newspapers – I hope the Editor and his lawyers will please forgive my publishing it):

“Wealth of oil tycoon funds tribute to a nation's hero” by Andrew Picken

“THE burial place of one of Scotland's greatest thinkers has finally been given the prominence campaigners have long said it was due thanks to the generosity of a Scots-born oil tycoon.
The tomb of leading economist Adam Smith, known as the "father of capitalism", has been lying largely forgotten in the Canongate Kirkyard for years despite the important role Smith played in shaping the modern world.

A campaign to give the grave more prominence was started four years ago and has resulted in today's official unveiling of an Adam Smith flagstone (pictured below) on the Canongate entrance to the Kirk and markers through the graveyard to the tomb of the Kirkcaldy-born philosopher.

Oil boss Bob Lamond, who was educated at George Heriot's and studied geology at Edinburgh University, donated £10,000 for the improvements, which he hopes will attract more visitors to the historic grave.

The grave has been given further prominence by a large Caithness stone slab, inscribed with a quotation from Smith's most famous book The Wealth of Nations, being installed in front of it thanks to a donation from the private bank Adam and Company, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr Lamond's interest in the grave came after he read an article in a business magazine during the mid-nineties contrasting the state of Smith's dilapidated tomb in Edinburgh with the well-kept grave of socialist philosopher Karl Marx in London.

"I was amazed to read this," explained Mr Lamond, 61, a regular visitor to the Capital since he moved to Canada in 1965. The contribution that Smith made to the world should be recognised.

"A number of years ago I offered to put up a plaque and now we have arrived at this which, seeing it all finished today, makes me very proud. I think the combination of the flagstone and the guiding markers will help bring a greater number of visitors to the kirk.

"What we have now is a tasteful and subtle tribute to a man who can be rightly thought of as a proud part of Edinburgh's heritage. The stone work on the original grave is still going strong and the new slab with the quote from Wealth of Nations is a great addition."
Adam Smith died in 1790, having lived his last years in Panmure House, close to the Canongate.

Alasdair Fairburn, a volunteer at the Canongate Kirk who has been involved in the campaign to improve access to Smith's grave, said: "Working in the Kirk we were always being asked by people where Adam Smith's grave was and it was never really that clear to guide people there.

"We get all sorts of people, from economic students to American tourists, in to see this grave and it is great to see the finished article after all these years and I hope it will create a renewed interest in the Kirkyard.

Lord Provost Lesley Hinds said: "This very generous gesture has been made possible by the good nature, determination and selfless contributions of those who respected the life and important work of Adam Smith. It is always a delight to me to discover the range of services people are prepared to offer to the City of Edinburgh. The unveiling of this flagstone and marker is a case in point. Adam Smith was truly a great Scotsman, it is only fitting that this is recognised and his grave is marked to identify him as such.’

In 2007, a statue is to be erected in the High Street opposite where Adam Smith worked as a Scottish Commissioner of Customs from 1778 to a few months before he died in 1790. While employed in this role he was responsible for 95 per cent of the Customs correspondence, so he did not treat it as mere sinecure, as was more common in the 18th century.

The new statue is being sponsored by public subscription (no public funds) organised by the Adam Smith Institute, a lively think-tank (see its daily Blog at: and it is under artistic design in Paisely, near Glasgow.

Smith lived with his mother (Margaret Douglas) and his cousin (Janet Douglas) at Panmure House (still standing, though the worse for use – fine future site for an Adam Smith library and museum?) in the High Street, located between the new statue by the St Giles Church and the Canongate grave yard.


Blogger Durward Discussion said...

Two years ago I visited Canongate to see if any of my ancestors were buried there. At the time I was surprised that the Adam Smith site while nicely set off seemed to be somewhat neglected. I'm glad to hear that they are improving it.

5:12 am  
Blogger Do Oda said...

Just came back from a visit to Edinburgh and was hoping to find a statue of Adam Smith, didn't find one. Did we just miss it?

10:45 pm  
Blogger Pastor Jeff said...

Yep, right next to St. Giles. Big and bold.

10:18 pm  

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