New location identified for Hawick’s James Wilson statue

Hawick's James Wilson statue is on the move.
Hawick's James Wilson statue is on the move.

The fate of Hawick’s James Wilson statue could soon be decided as council officers say they have now identified a suitable location to move it to.

The marble tribute to Wilson, founder of the Economist magazine, was created by Edinburgh sculptor John Steell in 1865 and for three decades until 2017 it stood in the weekly publication’s old head office in London.

The 12ft-high sculpture was gifted to Hawick after the magazine moved office, and it arrived in the town amid much fanfare in August 2017, taking pride of place outside Tower Knowe.

In December of that year, the statue was damaged, with two fingertips from its right hand found to be missing.

The police were called in, but it was never established whether the damage was accidental or down to vandalism.

Hawick’s common good fund sub-committee has been looking at potential sites for the statue, with the heritage hub emerging as the front-runner.

However, council officers have now ruled out a move there as its floors’ load-bearing capabilities are inadequate due to the building’s under-floor heating system.

Now, councillors sitting on the sub-committee have agreed to move the statue to just outside the building, under the external canopy to the right of its entrance.

Presenting an update to councillors last week, Scottish Borders Council maintenance officer Frank Scott said: “We had a structural engineer come out and check the heritage hub, and he has confirmed our suspicions that the floor is not strong enough to take the weight of Mr Wilson.

“He did suggest an alternative location when he was there, which is outside of the building, but he would be under the canopy, although not completely.

“I was asked to get a quote, and it would cost around £1,565 to move him there if you think that’s a good location. Otherwise, we’re back to the drawing board.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull said: “I’d be quite happy with the location as it would still be looking in the direction of where he was born along the High Street, but it would be great if we could get a complete glass box for him.”

Fellow Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer added: “We’d be shifting it somewhere where there’s a bit of protection from the elements and it’s in a heritage area, so I’d be quite happy with this.”

Councillors voted unanimously to agree to relocate the statue and also instructed officers to look into the cost of constructing a glass box to shield it from harm.