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Canadian hero's bicentenary boosts site

TO the passer-by it is no more than a boarded-up pub and former massage parlour in a city alleyway destined for demolition.

SIR JOHN A MACDONALD: Canada's first prime minister.
SIR JOHN A MACDONALD: Canada's first prime minister.

But what is widely believed to be the Glasgow birthplace of Canada's national hero has taken on a new-found significance with the bicentenary of Sir John A Macdonald's birthday less than a year away.

Canada's first Prime Minister, and generally seen as the father of the nation, was born in central Glasgow on January 11 1815, before moving with his family across the Atlantic aged five.

In Canada, the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission, which is organising 200th-birthday events for 2015, has expressed concerns that the site on Brunswick Lane, alongside the Mitre and Fox and Hound pubs, will be pulled down without recognition of its significance.

The site is owned by retailer Selfridges, which had planned to open a store in the city during the last decade, but the local authority has said there are no imminent plans for its demolition.

According to Glasgow City Council both it and the Scottish government "are very aware that January 11 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth in Glasgow" adding that it "will continue to discuss with the site owners what form any commemoration to Sir John may take on the site around Brunswick Lane".

First Minister Alex Salmond is one of the honorary commissioners on the Canadian bicentennial organising group, as is former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major.

Kate Burgess, marketing and communications co-ordinator for the commission, said: "While we are unaware of any recent movement on the property in Glasgow, our organisation has been thrilled at the interest in Sir John A's 200th birthday."

Some research suggests that Sir John, known as The Great Chieftain, was born just across the Clyde and later moved to the Merchant City area, although research for a 1967 Canadian television documentary and Historic Scotland a decade ago pinpointed the Brunswick Lane location.

Canadians searching for Sir John's birthplace had previously drawn a blank as Glasgow's street plan was changed last century and the birthplace was lost.

And around 15 years ago Canadian history enthusiasts put up a plaque at Ramshorn Kirk's cemetery off Ingram Street as they could not find the exact location.

A council spokesman said: "The council will continue to discuss with the site owners what form any commemoration to Sir John may take on the site around Brunswick Lane."

Sir John became Canada's first Prime Minister in 1867.

He made his place in history for pulling together six small colonies and making them into one of the world's richest nations.

He held the office of Prime Minister between 1867 and 1873, and 1878-1891, as the country expanded with the addition of large territories, built a trans-continental railway, and settled much of the west.

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