Many people passing through Renton by car are surprised to see, beside the playground of the primary school, a large Tuscan column surmounted by an urn.
This imposing monument was erected in 1774 to commemorate the life and achievements of one of the most famous people born in the locality - Tobias Smollett, the 18th century novelist, playwright and historian.
There must have been a real sense of civic pride in Renton at the time. The village had not long acquired its name from Cecilia Renton, who had married into the Smollett family. The family owned much of the land on which the village was built. Cecilia was, in fact, the daughter-in-law of the novelist's sister, and it was his cousin James Smollett who had the column designed and erected.
In 2003, the area around the column was redesigned to accommodate the war memorial too. A curved background wall separates the column from the school playground, and there is a mosaic at pavement level depicting Smollett's various achievements in life and literature.
SI LEPORIS,INGENIIQUE VENAM BENIGNAM,
SI MORUM CALLIDISSIMUM PICTOREM,
UNQUAM ES MIRATUS
IMMORARE PAULULUM MEMORIAE
VIRI VIRTUTIBUS HISCE
QUAS IN HOMINE ET CIVE
ET LAUDES ET IMITERIS
HAUD MEDIOCRITER ORNATI:
QUI IN LITERIS VARIIS VERSATUS,
POSTQUAM FELICITATE SIBI PROPRIA,
SESE POSTERIS COMMENDAVERAT,
MORTE ACERBA RAPTUS
ANNO AETATIS 51.
EHEU! QUAM PROCUL A PATRIA!
PROPE LIBURNI PORTUM IN ITALIA,
TALI TANTOQUE VIRO,PATRUELI SUO,
CUI IN DECURSU LAMPADA
SE POTIUS TRADIDISSE DECUIT,
AMORIS, EHEU! INANE MONUMENTUM,
IN IPSIS LEVINIAE RIPIS,
QUAS VERSICULIS SUB EXITU VITAE ILLUSTRATIS,
PRIMIS INFANS VAGITIBUS PERSONUIT,
JACOBUS SMOLLETT, DE BONHILL,
ABI, ET REMINISCERE,
HOC QUIDEM HONORE,
NON MODO DEFUNCTI MEMORIAE,
VERUM ETIAM EXEMPLO, PROSPECTUM ESSE:
ALIIS ENIM, SI MODO DIGNI SINT,
IDEM ERIT VIRTUTIS PRAEMIUM!
IF ELEGANCE OF TASTE AND WIT, IF FERTILITY
OF GENIUS, AND AN UNRIVALLED TALENT IN
DELINEATING THE CHARACTERS OF MANKIND,
HAVE EVER ATTRACTED YOUR ADMIRATION,
PAUSE A WHILE ON THE MEMORY OF TOBIAS
SMOLLETT, M.D., ONE MORE THAN COMMONLY
ENDOWED WITH THOSE VIRTUES WHICH, IN A
MAN OR A CITIZEN, YOU WOULD PRAISE OR
WHO,HAVING SECURED THE APPLAUSE OF
POSTERITY BY A VARIETY OF LITERARY
ABILITIES AND A REGULAR FELICITY OF
COMPOSITION, WAS BY A RAPID AND CRUEL
DISTEMPER SNATCHED FROM HIS WORLD IN
THE FIFTY-FIRST YEAR OF HIS AGE. FAR, ALAS,
FROM HIS COUNTRY, HE LIES INTERRED NEAR
LEGHORN IN ITALY.
IN TESTIMONY OF HIS MANY AND GREAT
VIRTUES THIS EMPTY MONUMENT, THE ONLY
PLEDGE, ALAS, OF HIS AFFECTION, IS
ERECTED ON THE BANKS OF THE LEVEN,
THE SCENE OF HIS BIRTH AND OF HIS LATEST
POETRY, BY JAMES SMOLLETT OF BONHILL,
HIS COUSIN, WHO WOULD RATHER HAVE
EXPECTED THIS LAST TRIBUTE FROM HIM.
TRY AND REMEMBER THIS HONOUR WAS NOT
GIVEN ALONE TO THE MEMORY OF THE
DECEASED, BUT FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT
OF OTHERS. DESERVE LIKE HIM AND BE