FOR almost 90 years, the monument commissioned to honour Borders military commander Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and his welfare work for ex-servicemen, proudly stood on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
But last week, in a ceremony attended by the Princess Royal, the refurbished Earl Haig monument was rededicated in a new location at the castle, allaying concerns about its preservation and protection.
The castle’s Hospital Square is the statue’s new home, bringing it closer to the National War Museum, an institution of outstanding importance in understanding Scotland’s military history.
For many years, the statue had been enveloped each summer by the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s seating, so the move allows the statue to be properly viewed all year round and helps accommodate construction of the tattoo’s new £16million seating arena.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and chairperson of the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo, George Grubb, says the statue’s new home is a fitting and prestigious alternative site.
“This move had the blessing of the late second Earl Haig of Bemersyde, son of the Edinburgh-born field marshal, who applauded the efforts of the council, Historic Scotland, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the National War Museum to protect and promote his father’s monument,” said Mr Grubb.
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, explained: “As a Scot who was a key figure in British military history, Earl Haig links well with our wider displays on the Scottish experience of war and military service.”
Historic Scotland, the custodian of Edinburgh Castle, was an integral part of the project team, whose meticulous efforts have rejuvenated and relocated the Haig memorial.
Chris Watkins, Historic Scotland’s head of major projects, said the excavations of the castle esplanade and the works to accommodate the new stands provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to investigate the history and development of this area and to conserve the equestrian statue of Earl Haig.
“This bronze statue of the earl, which was gifted to the City of Edinburgh by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji of Bombay, has been given far greater presence in its new setting where it will be better appreciated by the millions of visitors to the castle,” he said.
In a painstaking 12-month conservation project, the monument was removed from the Castle Esplanade and, with traditional materials and equipment, taken apart, cleaned and repaired by Edinburgh conservation specialists.
The work then received many layers of protective wax, which will help safeguard it from the elements.
To penetrate deep into the inner parts of the bronze statue, a video bore scope was used to assess the health of its internal structure, as the masonry plinth, on which the statue sits, was meticulously dismantled and rebuilt using the numbered original stone blocks.
The second Earl Haig of Bemersyde, who died in 2009 and whose family home near St Boswells was a gift to his father from the nation after the First World War, attended the original unveiling of the statue with his father in 1923.
He had given his full support to the relocation of his father’s monument, saying: “The protection and promotion of my father’s monument, which is of historic importance, is precisely what Edinburgh Council along with Historic Scotland, the National War Museum and the Edinburgh Tattoo are endeavouring to accomplish. I am happy to endorse their efforts and the sculpture’s move to its new home.”