Changes afoot at Auld Kirkyard, but William Wallace statue bid stalls

A Selkirk Community Counillor has called again for a statue of William Wallace to be placed in the town's Auld Kirkyard, but it isn't likely to happen any time soon.
A Selkirk Community Counillor has called again for a statue of William Wallace to be placed in the town's Auld Kirkyard, but it isn't likely to happen any time soon.

Another call has been made to erect a statue to William Wallace in Selkirk’s Auld Kirkyard, commemorating his appointment as Guardian of Scotland, thought to have taken place at that spot.

Community councillor Jim Stillie has broached the subject before, and asked at Monday’s meeting at the Victoria Halls what was happening about it.

However, it appears the burden of planning and costing such a venture may lie squarely on Mr Stillie’s shoulders, as he was asked by treasurer Judith Thompson to look into possible heights, type of stone and costs.

Mr Stillie said: “I don’t really have the time or the brains to do that ... I was just hoping the community council would pick it up.”

Fellow community council member David Deacon told him: “You are in the community council.”

Mr Stillie said: “We are the only town in the country that can lay claim to this. It’s a huge part of our history.”

But chairman Alistair Pattullo commented: “I am not convinced a statue would draw any more people to the town.”

There are moves to make the site more tourist-friendly, however.

At the same meeting, Stuart Davidson of the Selkirk Business Improvement District scheme, said moves were afoot to replace two information boards in the historic kirkyard, in the style of the ones already in place in the High Street.

The BIDs funding comes directly from payments made by town centre businesses.

He said: “We are keen to replace the boards which are there, so they are fresh, updated, and have the same feel as the ones in the Market Place.”

Since the current information boards were placed in the Auld Kirkyard, a geophysical survey – joint funded by the Selkirk CARS group abd Scottish Borders Council – was made of the area, which showed that the current ruin was built on top of a previous building, which strengthens the likelihood that this was indeed the site of the “Kirk o’ the Forest” where Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland in 1297 – and this information, along with images taken from the survey, will appear on the new boards.

The signs would also bear information on the Murray Aisle, which contains the remains of the Murrays of Philiphaugh, one of whom was a maternal ancestor of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mr Stillie asked if there were plans to make the signs multilingual.

But Mr Davidson said: “No, we are looking to simplify it. We are looking towards putting in QR codes, so people can get extra information on their mobile phones.”

Following a mistake in the original information boards the BIDs team placed in the Market Place – in which the Battle of Philipburn was commemorated, rather than the Battle of Philiphaugh – some members of the council were keen to check over the wording before the signs were made.

Community councillor Ian King asked if members could have a look at the text before the signs were printed, which Mr Davidson agreed to.

There are other plans to make the site more tourist-friendly.

Previous inspections have found broken, collapsing and toppled gravemarkers, missing sections of ironwork and vegetation growths on mausolea, but a local group of people is keen to put this to rights and save the historic venue.

Maintenance work at the kirkyard, including the resetting of fallen gravestones, would cost £15,000, said community councillor Alisdaire Lockhart, who has been working with the Friends of the Auld Kirkyard group.

He said the money would have to be raised, and that the next step would be opening a bank account or to check with the community council if its account can be used for that purpose.