On the 27th of June it is 136 years since the gift of the park was first opened to the people of Govan. It’s fair to say that the Victorians enjoyed a bit of a fuss for these types of events, and it’s difficult to convey exactly how exciting the park opening would have been. There was an enormous procession leading into the park before the ceremony, and the whole area was given a holiday in celebration. There were decorations everywhere, lining the streets where thousands of people had gathered. There was bunting, flowers, flags, banners, and messages written in shop windows. You can see some of the messages on display that day in the clip above.
When Isabella Elder gifted the park she named it in honour of her husband and his father, with the hope that they would be in the memories of the people of Govan for generations to come. The poem Rab the Rivetter (below) echoed that wish, that the park would serve as a tribute, and forever remind people of John Elder.
The sculptured monument may mark the bed where he is sleeping;
Well-tended flowers may bloom upon the grave where he may lie;
And loving friends with tender hearts may stand beside it weeping,
But heedless eyes will see it not, and coldy pass it by.
But in the noble gift, today his widow’d wife has give,
We take, in trust, a monument built on foundation sure;
Built on the rock of grateful hearst, the boon is bless’d by Heaven,
And with his fame her honour’d name through ages shall endure.
His epitaph his widow writes on hearts to last for ever,
And on her gift munificent, she only writes his name:
And children’s children yet unborn shall bless the kindly giver,
And they shall to their children sing the ballad of his fame.
from Rab the Rivetter’s Song & Say, a poem written for the opening of Elder Park
However it is Isabella Elder who many of us remember when we think of Elder Park. For being one of a handful of women in Glasgow to have a statue, for her significant contributions to health and education, and for her devotion to Govan. John Elder may have been regarded as a genius, but her wisdom and foresight in gifting the park for ‘healthful recreation’ has continued to serve the community, and over the last year particularly.
For an extremely detailed account of the opening of Elder Park you can check out ‘The Elder Park, Govan. An Account Of The Gift Of The Elder Park And Of The Erection And Unveiling Of The Statue Of John Elder. With Notices Of The Lives Of David Elder And John Elder And Historical Sketches Of Govan’ by Craig, Archibald (Editor).