Ten years of devolution marked on the wall for Holyrood


Two new literary additions to the Scottish Parliament’s wall of quotations were unveiled for the first time today – after a 10-month nationwide search.

Set to join the 24 quotations already on display on Holyrood’s unique Canongate Wall are extracts from 'A Man is Assynt' by Edinburgh poet Norman MacCaig and 'Oh Dear Me (The Jute Mill Song)' by Dundee songwriter Mary Brooksbank – making her the first female writer featured.

Hand-carved onto specially-selected tablets of Shetland Bressay flagstone and Highland Ledmore marble, the two extracts were chosen from more than 300 public suggestions by a panel of judges made up of MSPs and literary experts.

Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP said: "The Canongate Wall was always supposed to be a living wall – one that we would add to when the time was right, and the 10th anniversary year of the Scottish Parliament has presented us with an ideal opportunity to do this.

”One of the greatest successes of the Parliament has been its record of engaging with the people of Scotland and this search has resulted in submissions from every corner of the country. The extracts chosen reflect two aspects of Scotland’s character – its tough industrial heritage and its inspiring natural beauty.”

Chair of the Canongate selection panel, Robin Harper MSP, said: "I am delighted that after a very thorough vetting of more than 300 suggestions, the panel came to a unanimous decision on the two quotes for the Parliament wall.

"One from a much-loved and well-known folk musician, and the first to reflect the world of work – Mary Brooksbank, our first female contributor to the wall – and one from a poet whose absence from the wall may have mystified many of his admirers – Norman MacCaig, whose poems so often evoke the majesty of the Scottish landscape."

The search for a new quotation for the wall was originally launched by the Presiding Officer in March, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Parliament and 10 years of devolution.

Both extracts have been carved into stone by Perthshire-based Gillian Forbes, one of two stone carvers who worked on the original carvings for the wall. Mary Brookbank’s extract has been carved into marble from Ullapool’s Ledmore quarry, while the extract from Norman MacCaig has been carved into Bressay flagstone from Shetland.

The selected quotations are:

From Mary Brooksbank’s 'Oh Dear Me (The Jute Mill Song)'
Oh, dear me, the warld’s ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are aye wi’ least provided,
But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine,
For there’s no much pleasure livin’ affen ten and nine.

From Norman MacCaig's A Man in Assynt
Who possesses this landscape? –
The man who bought it or
I who am possessed by it?
False questions, for this landscape is masterless and intractable in any terms that are human.

The stones and the stone carver
Allen Fraser from Scotland Geotours found the Bressay Flagstone in Shetland while Ian Evans-Boiten found the Ledmore Marble in Ullapool.

Based in Forgandenny, Perthshire, Gillian Forbes was one of two stone carvers who worked on the original carvings for the Wall.

She developed her interest in stone at Glasgow School of Art after researching eighteenth-century Scottish headstones. She then became an apprentice memorial mason with Matt Bruce of Scott & Rae Monumental Masons in Glasgow.

The inspiration for her carving is drawn mostly from the natural world, and an interest in plant and animal forms. She set up in business in rural Perthshire in 1995.

She became a founding member of the Scottish Lettercutters Association in 2001 and in 2005 was awarded a QEST Scholarship to study under Marc Chevalier-Lacombe near Orleans, France. In 2008 she won the JD Fergusson Arts Award Trust Travel Award which enabled her to travel to Carrara, Italy to learn marble carving.

Canongate Wall
The overall design of the Canongate Wall was by Sora Smithson and contains a representative range of Scottish stones carved by Gillian Forbes and Martin Reilly. The stones are set in large pre-cast concrete panels.  At the lower end of the wall is a townscape based around a sketch by Parliament architect Enric Miralles of Edinburgh's Old Town as viewed from his room in the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street in Edinburgh.

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