Search goes on for new home for Hawick statue

Hawick's James Wilson statue.
Hawick's James Wilson statue.

The fate of Hawick’s James Wilson statue is still up in the air as efforts by council officers to bring it in from the cold are drawing a blank thus far.

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

The 12ft-high marble sculpture was gifted to Wilson’s home town of Hawick after the magazine moved office, and it arrived in the town in August last year, taking pride of place outside Tower Knowe.

The statue was damaged last December, however, two fingertips from its right hand going missing.

Police were called in, but it was never established whether that damage was accidental or down to vandalism.

Potential weather damage is another cause for concern.

Hawick’s common good fund sub-committee has been looking for potential new homes indoors for the statue since March, with the heritage hub emerging as the front-runner.

Council officers have now raised concerns over such a move, though, citing potential problems with the load-bearing capabilities of the floors due to the building’s under-floor heating system.

The town’s Wilton Lodge Park museum was also looked at as a potential alternative home, but again concerns about the strength of its floors were raised.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull told this week’s meeting of the committee: “I think it definitely needs to be put inside, just for protection against vandalism and the elements.

“If there’s a problem with this venue, we may have to look at another location, but I think it has to be somewhere that is visible.

“The whole reasoning behind having him in the heritage hub was that he’d be looking along the high street towards his place of birth.”

Fellow Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson added: “It has to be inside. For his own safety, put him inside.”

Members of the common good fund committee voted unanimously to give council officers the authority to seek structural engineering advice on the load-bearing capabilities of the heritage hub’s flooring.

Council officers have also sought quotes for repairing the statue, involving grafting new fingers onto one of its hands and re-attaching a thumb, and that work would be expected to cost £780.

Wilson, born in Hawick in 1805, was a businessman and politician.

He founded the Economist in 1843, as well as the now-defunct Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China in 1853.

He was later sent by Queen Victoria to India to establish a new paper currency and reconfigure the country’s finance system following the rebellion of 1857. He died a year later in Calcutta of dysentry at the age of 55, leaving a wife and six daughters.