On what is now the site of the Argos store and the adjacent Savers chemists, once stood Norges Hus (Norway House), the social centre for the Norwegian community in the town during World War 2. In addition to its community hub role, it also housed stores and workshops for the exiled Norwegian forces where equipment and uniform could be repaired. The exterior was unmistakably adorned with Norwegian flags and the rudder of a Luftwaffe aircraft downed by Norwegian forces. However, the building’s role as a community hub for the new Norwegian members of the Dumfries community was its principal purpose. Whilst created to service the new Nordic “Doonhamers” (the collective noun for the townsfolk of Dumfries) from 1943 Norges Hus also functioned as headquarters for the Scottish Norwegian Society which sought to foster cultural, social and commercial links between Scotland and Norway. Branches of this original society continue to exist in Scotland today, with the “Scottish Norwegian Connection” group being particularly active (Scottish Norwegian Connection | Facebook) . Sadly, the original Norges Hus has since been demolished, but a plaque commemorating its location can be found on the wall, between the Savers and Toytown stores.
The WW2 connection between Dumfries and Norway is substantial, and we hope you have got a flavour of it. However, we have only been able to scratch the surface on this walk. If you would like to find out about more links between Dumfries and the surrounding areas with Norway, please take some time to browse Our Norwegian Story – A Project by The Stove Network.
The statue of Burns in the centre of the square is one of the more prominent works by the Scottish sculptor Amelia Robertson Hill (1821-1904), her work can also be found on the Scott Monument in Edinburgh and the neighbouring statue of David Livingstone in Princes Street Gardens.
The sculpture of our national bard shows him sitting on a tree-stump with a dog and hat at his feet, it was carved by Italian craftsmen making use of marble from the city of Carrara in Tuscany and was unveiled in Dumfries in 1882, and has been located in Burns Square ever since, moving only slightly as road layouts have changed over the years. One of Burns’ most famous works “A Man’s a Man for A’ that” is a piece expressing an egalitarian view of society and perhaps an idea and echo of the ideals of the French revolution, which took place around the time Burns was publishing much of his work.
To the left of the statue (as you are look at Burns from the front) is a plaque commemorating the site of the former Greyfriars Monastery, which was so instrumental in the story of Robert the Bruce, which is detailed further in the Castledykes Park stop of the walk.
Dumfries rightly lays claim to significant Burns heritage from his later life, and of course is the bard’s final resting place. If you would like to explore more about the life and times of Burns in Dumfries and his enduring influence on the town, please see the excellent In the Footsteps of Burns | Robert Burns’ life in and around Dumfries (burnsdumfries.co.uk) website.