Poetic justice as statue is unveiled

CROWDS gathered on Sunday to witness the unveiling of a statue that commemorates a man whose words stir the blood of every Teri.

Almost a year ago to the day that the bridge of the same name was lowered into place, the James Thomson statue was finally revealed to the public in a special ceremony.

Led by Ian Landles and including Hawick Saxhorn Band as well as singers Michael Aitken and Iain Scott, the occasion would surely have been enjoyed by the man who wrote the world-famous 'Star O' Robbie Burns' and the beloved Common-Riding songs 'Up Wi the Banner' and 'The Border Queen' with such rousing lines as "Shout Teriodin again and again", and "They'll wish that they had ne'er been born, or else been born a Teri".

An idea by local musician Iain Scott, Ian Landles and Alec Martin in a bid to honour not only the poet and songwriter, but also the founder member and first President of Hawick Burns Club, the day was the culmination of three years' hard work.

And an expectant crowd was not disappointed when the tribute to the Hawick bard, created by local sculptor Bill Landles, was finally revealed.

Alec Martin told the 'News': "It is so striking, Bill Landles has done a tremendous job and done Hawick proud. We have certainly put James Thomson on the map".

This admiration was shared by Honorary Provost Kenny McCartney who said: "It was an historic day and the statue is a very impressive and fitting tribute to James Thomson."

Indeed, the new bridge and statue pay tribute to a Bowden-born man who, as told by Ian Landles, has long-deserved recognition in Hawick.

In his opening speech he recounted how Thomson completed a cabinet-maker apprenticeship in Selkirk, before "taking the golden road ti Hawick".

Alluding to the statue gazing out to where "Slitrig Dances Doon the glen to join the Teviot Waters", Landles explained how 'Jamie' quickly became taken with the spirit of Hawick and penned the two most popular Common-Riding songs, whilst the statue is near the Burns Club which he founded through his admiration for Robert Burns.

Mr Landles told how on March 2, 1878, James took the chair at a meeting of 17 local Burns' enthusiasts in John Graham's public house in the Back Raw — now the Holland House — and drew up the Burns Club's constitution and became its first president.

Mr Landles explained: "It was at the club's first annual denner in the same premises the following January that stocking-maker Thomas Strathearn first sung the song set ti music be James Booth, that Jamie hed written specially for occasion. The song which is sung a' owre the world ti this day, the only song ever sung at a Burns supper no written by Burns umsel."

The impressive bronze statue created by local sculptor William Landles, a gift to his native Hawick, was hailed by Ian Landles on Sunday as "the lineal descendant o oor beloved 1514 Memorial". This he explained was because when Bill attended Edinburgh College of Art, his lecturer Andrew Dodds had been William Beattie's apprentice and helped to make the Horse.

But the ever-modest Bill, who is one of Scotland's best sculptors, told Ian, his cousin's son, "don't you dare say that."

However, his year-long creation and final piece of work was certainly given a hero's welcome on Sunday and as Ian Landles explained, pays clever tribute to the Hawick bard, and also includes some hidden surprises.

The base has four plaques which contain quotations from the poet's four most famous works; 'The Star O' Robbie Burns' tablet looks towards the Burns Club, 'The Auld Mid Raw' plaque looks in the direction of the famous west end landmark. And the 'Up Wi' the Banner' plaque looks down to Hornshole, from where the poet's immortal words Hawick's "true-hearted heroes so famous in song" are gained.

And round the back is the first dedication in the town to Hawick's internationally renowned painter Anne Redpath from sculptor Bill, whom she encouraged into his career.

The sculptor has also hidden the names of his grand-children Eliza and Harry on leaves that they made. But the most prominent link between the sculpture and the poet is a real family connection shown by the statue's goblet. It is a replica of one made by James Thomson from a wooden beam from Auld Mid Raw, given to Bill Landles' great-grandmother when the tenements were demolished. Ian Landles said of his great-great grandmother: "It was presented in appreciation o her and her faimily's kindness ti um. She yaised ti make um a bowl o soup whiles when hei was doon on his luck."

The base of the statue also contains some of the last remaining stones of the Auld Mid Raw. And so striking is the statue in appearance that it has drawn many passers-by, keen to learn more since its unveiling which VisitScotland says will be a great jewel in Hawick's crown.

Sheila Campbell, Visit Scotland Customer Services Manager told the 'News': "It is fantastic that another one of Hawick's worthy sons is being recognised in this way.

"The Star of Robbie Burns is so closely linked with Burns and Burns suppers across the world, that I am sure it will surprise visitors to discover that it was written by James Thomson and not the great bard himself.

"Hawick is famous for its camaraderie and James Thomson is remembered in song every year at the Common-Riding through the songs he wrote."

And alluding to Hawick as an up-and-coming visitor spot Mrs Campbell added: "Hawick is becoming more and more of a tourist town with many different attractions for visitors to enjoy.

"This statue may well inspire others to be more inquisitive about their own roots, and soon they will be able to do that when the new Heritage Hub project is completed."

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