LOCAL MSP Christine Grahame has joined the fight to save a three-dimensional map of Scotland, created in the Borders by Polish students in the 1970s.
Conceived by Polish military commander, General Stanislaw Maczek and his wartime companions as a permanent reminder of their part in Scotland’s defence and of the country’s wartime hospitality to Polish forces engaged in the fight against Hitler’s Third Reich, the map is in the grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel at Eddleston.
During the war, the hotel was used as a headquarters and later a staff training college for the exiled Polish forces.
Known as the Great Polish Map of Scotland, it was designed and built as a labour of love by a group of young Polish geographers from the Jagellionian University of Krakow in 1975.
This was at the request of General Maczek, former wartime commander of the 1st Armoured Division, and local war veteran, Jan Tomasik.
The map was set in a sea of real water and fitted with water springs to allow the rivers to actually flow.
However, over the intervening decades it fell into a state of dereliction. Then, four years ago, the Mapa Scotland group was set up to raise funds to restore the map to its former glory.
Ms Grahame this week informed TheSouthern she was writing to the Polish Consular General and the Parliament’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs to try to secure support for Mapa Scotland.
“I feel it has a significant role to play in our history given that it commemorates the vital role of Polish forces in the defence of Scotland in the Second World War, and is a token of thanks to the people of Scotland for the hospitality and friendship given to the Polish people, not only during the war years but also in the decades that followed,” explained Ms Grahame.
She believes the 50m x 40m, three-dimensional outdoor 1:10,000 scale model of Scotland, is a remarkable example of topographic landscape modelling of a complete country, with a design and layout involving pioneering survey and construction techniques with dynamic representation of major river basins using a gravity-driven water supply.
Ms Grahame added: “I think Mapa Scotland deserves a lot of credit and support for its work in restoring the map, which will remind Scots of the historical heritage linking Poland with Scotland for many years to come.”
And she has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament urging support for the project.
Estate agents Savills is selling the Barony Castle Hotel on behalf of owners, De Vere, for just under £2million. Savills confirmed to TheSouthern this week that the property was now under offer.
Keith Burns, secretary of Mapa Scotland, says the project cannot proceed until the property is sold. “However, we’re confident that once the new owners – whoever they may be – are announced, they will recognise the commercial spin-off benefits from our project,” Mr Burns told us this week.
He welcomed the support of Ms Grahame, and added that Mapa Scotland’s formal application to have the map listed had now been lodged with Historic Scotland.
“Historic Scotland has inspected the site and has confirmed the map meets the eligibility criteria for listed status, so we’re just waiting to hear feedback on this.”
Mapa Scotland is looking to raise £50,000 to pay for the materials which the physical restoration of the map will require, while the group itself has all the labour and technical skills needed within its own ranks.
Mr Burns continued: “When the restoration is complete, the intention is to hand the map over to the local community for use as an educational research tool, as a tourist attraction and as a catalyst to underline the important links that exist to this day between Poland and Scotland.”
And Mr Burns says another application, this time to the Guinness Book of Records, could soon be in the offing.
He said: “A young Polish couple from Dundee recently brought an item of interest that was on the web to my attention.
“It was a claim from a group in Canada that a three-dimensional model of British Columbia was the largest three-dimensional model in the world.
“However, the actual land mass area of the Polish map is actually 2.83 times larger than the Canadian model.
“The Canadian group has apparently submitted a claim to the Guinness Book of Records, so we might have to put in a claim of our own.”