The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson today learnt how to pan for gold – in the same spot where the precious metal was sourced to make Holyrood’s ceremonial mace.
The Presiding Officer put his new found skills to the test to search for gold at the Lowther Hills around Wanlockhead, Dumfriesshire. The area is home to the Hidden Treasures, Museum of Lead Mining, at Wanlockhead - Scotland ’s highest village at 1531ft.
Staff from the centre showed him how the gold for the mace – presented by Her Majesty the Queen at the official opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 - was sourced. Mr Fergusson said: “It is most fitting that my visit here comes just days after the Scottish Parliament’s birthday party to mark its tenth anniversary. “As Presiding Officer I have the honour of sitting next to the mace, an important symbol of devolution in Scotland, every time Parliament sits in the Chamber. “It has been fascinating getting a first-hand insight into how and where the gold for such a beautiful work of art was found."
The first documented evidence of the recovery of gold from the area dates back to the 16th century – when it was used to make a crown for King James V. The Presiding Officer was later given a tour of the museum which has a visitor mine, period cottages, miners’ library and a walk-through exhibition telling the story of how lead ore was located and the processes it went through to become the lead products we know today. Norman Anderson, Chairman of Wanlockhead Museum Trust, said: “We are delighted the Presiding Officer has once again taken the time to visit the Museum that he has supported over the years. “Wanlockhead is a fascinating and important site and it was a pleasure to see the Presiding Officer panning for gold and enjoying a tour of the site.”
Earlier in the day Mr Fergusson toured the studio where renowned silversmith Michael Lloyd designed and crafted the ceremonial mace for the historic opening of Parliament a decade ago. Mr Lloyd, who works in Stewartry in Galloway, explained how he chose to use Scottish silver with an inlaid band of gold panned from Scottish rivers to symbolise the marriage of the Parliament with the land and the people. He also explained techniques he used to weave the words, "Wisdom, Justice, Compassion, Integrity," into thistles at the head of the mace to represent the aspirations of the Scottish people for the Members of their Parliament.
Mr Lloyd, a freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company, said: “ I still feel immensely privileged to have created the mace which is more a contribution to history than simply a piece of art work and it’s an honour for Mr Fergusson to visit my studio, where it was made.”Mr Fergusson’s visits were part of his summer tour of visits to engage with communities across Scotland to mark the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament.
The Presiding Officer’s visits are part of his summer programme of visits to engage with communities across Scotland to promote the 10 th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament.