Radical reminder of ‘that bloody day’

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Two artistic Borderers are combining their talents to create a poignant memorial to the victims of one of the bloodiest episodes in Scotland’s social history.

Galashiels-born sculptor Angela Hunter, whose studio is in Innerleithen, and Broughton landscape designer James Gordon have been commissioned to design and install the work, which is due to be officially unveiled next month in Greenock.

It commemorates the Radical War of 1820, sometimes called the Scottish Insurrection, which saw widespread strikes and demands for reform, particularly from weavers impoverished by economic downturn.

The unrest spilled into Greenock on Saturday, April 8 , when a party of prisoners was being escorted to the town’s jail by the militia set up to crush the movement. Locals took to the streets to protest and, on their way back from the jail, the militia responded to insults and stone-throwing by opening fire – killing eight people and wounding 10 others.

The youngest of the victims was eight-year-old James McGilp and the oldest was 65-year-old John MacWhinnie – and it is their hands, clasped in solidarity, which are symbolised in Angela’s bronze work, enclosed in a bronze ring and mounted on a sandstone plinth.

James has been charged to design a memorial wall bearing the graffiti-like inscription, “Remember the 8th of April that bloody day when many were wounded and carried away”, along with the names of those killed.

Among those who opposed the radical movement was Sir Walter Scott. After the insurrection was quelled, it was on Scott’s advice that hundreds of unemployed weavers from the west of Scotland were put to work paving a track around Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh. The path is still known as the Radical Road.

Angela’s 2013 bust of rugby commentator Bill McLaren has pride of place at Murrayfield. In 2009, she completed the bronze – Turning the Bull – which graces the civic space in the Heart of Hawick.