In Edinburgh on Saturday a pageant was held – perhaps the largest this century – to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott.
Following a service in St Giles Cathedral, hundreds from all walks of Edinburgh civic life led by the Rt Hon Lord Provost of Edinburgh processed down the Mound to a short ceremony in Princes Street Gardens at the Scott Monument. The Edinburgh Reporter understands that merchant banker, Sir Angus Grossart, supported and promoted the pageant which was scheduled to take place earlier in the year.
Photos and video from the event are below.
At the base of the monument the Lord Provost delivered a short speech, saying: “How wonderful to see so many people gathered here in Edinburgh today in honour of Sir Walter Scott who was born 250 years ago in 1771.
“One of Scotland’s greatest ever thinkers, Sir Walter is credited as ‘the man who invented a nation.’ Born in College Wynd in the city’s Old Town, the young Walter emerged at the intersect between the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Romanticism and Revolution.
“Throughout his life he was both thrilled at the past and in awe of the present. A child prodigy, Walter entered Edinburgh University at the age of just 12 to read classics.
“It was then that he was introduced to literary giants such as Robert Burns who helped instil in Walter a deep appreciation of the struggles of his Scottish forebears.
“He went on to a career in law and served in the Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons as the threat of a French invasion loomed.
“He travelled widely with visits to Europe which heavily influenced his perceptions of Scotland and how it was viewed by others.
“His writing came to public attention with his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ described as the most exciting collection of ballads ever to appear.
“But Scott came close to financial ruin several times, making him produce work of wider popular appeal.
“The historical novel ‘Waverley’ – a name familiar to us all – published in 1814 was a huge success.
“This was the much needed big break and the rest is history.
“Scott was a natural born storyteller and a master of dialogue. His flair for the picturesque also enabled him to describe the Scottish landscape as sublime.
“A great advocate of everything that Scotland has still to offer today.
“This spectacular monument to Sir Walter Scott is homage to a towering figure of great influence throughout the world.
“With an enduring legacy, he said ‘Teach your children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary’ – a lesson as true today as it was then.”
The child prodigy who began studying Classics at the University of Edinburgh when he was only 12-years-old became first of all an advocate and judge, and later a historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian.
His writing was considered so important that not only the railway station was named after him, but a large monument was erected in Princes Street Gardens to commemorate his contributions to Edinburgh and Scotland.
He died, aged only 61, in straitened circumstances which are regarded to have hastened his early demise, as did a case of polio during his childhood. He was born in the Old Town but died at Abbotsford.
Scott was no stranger to a pageant and was asked by the council of the day to manage the visit of King George IV to Scotland. He dressed the King in tartan, making it a Scottish symbol of the future.
His accolades and positions in Edinburgh society are too many to repeat here, but some of those who joined the procession today represented the various areas of Scott’s life. Below there are photos of Roddy Dunlop QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and Scott was a member of faculty, The Duke of Buccleuch whose ancestors are linked to Scott, and Peter Matheson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh where Scott studied. The High Constables of Edinburgh (wearing top hats) took part. The George Watson’s School Pipe Band played along with the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Regiment of Scotland 2 SCOTS and The Royal Company of Archers lined the entrance to the cathedral with their green uniforms and feathered hats.
The military involved in today’s procession were the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry. Scott was a member of the Royal Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons where he was appointed quartermaster and secretary.
Sir Angus had asked writer and author, Rory Knight-Bruce to dress as Dandie Dinmont a fictional character in one of Scott’s novels, Guy Mannering. Rory told The Edinburgh Reporter: “I am dressed up as Sir Angus asked me to take part in the parade with 47 Dandie Dinmonts. For anyone who has an iota of Scots blood and a love of dogs, they should have a Dandie. They are fine young canines blessed by the Borders and by Sir Walter himself.”