Benno Schotz bronze busts of John Cairney and Alannah O'Sullivan

In 1969 John was playing Robert Burns in his solo show based on the poet’s life and work. The occasion was a matinee performance, when a well-dressed drunk man in the stalls was continually reciting some of the Burns poems with him, much to his amusement but to the irritation of the audience. So much so that John was forced to step down off the stage, beckon his ‘co-performer’ from the aisle, march him towards the exit still quoting Burns. On the appropriate line, he opened the door and pushed him out. The man immediately started banging on the door to get back in, but two attendants rushed to his help and he was escorted from the theatre. John walked back to some applause and resumed the play from where he had left off. After the show, visitors to the dressing room included Benno Schotz, the Queen's sculptor in Scotland, and his wife, Millie. Benno was still chuckling over the incident and said that John must come and have lunch with him at Glasgow at the Art Club, because he had the idea of making a head of Robert Burns, if he would sit as model. This was duly arranged and from that time on, Benno Schotz became his very dear friend. They had many lunches at the Art Club and in the course of time, the head was done and bought by the Burns Federation for display at the Dick Institute in Ayr. 

Eight years later he was still playing Burns, this time in New Zealand, and met with a New Zealand actress, Alannah O’Sullivan. She then worked with him in Scotland and in 1979 they became engaged to be married. While in Glasgow, they met with Benno, who immediately dubbed her ‘my Kiwi Cleopatra’. He would like to sculpt those cheekbones, he said. John commissioned him to do so and the result is the companion bust to John Cairney as Robert Burns, a second of which Benno threw for him.

As far as John understood from Benno, three busts of John as Robert Burns were thrown from the original cast. The first for the Burns Federation, the second for a lady in Edinburgh, and the third for Alannah.

In the early eighties, Benno asked for the ‘Alannah’ bust so that he might show it at one of his Retrospectives in Edinburgh at the Royal Scottish Academy on the corner of Princes Street and the Mound.