Commemorative Sculpture includes Dorothy

Late last year I was contacted by Chris Turner of Dumbarton, one of 100 women who were chosen to take part in the subject of a sculpture commissioned by the Scottish Executive as a permanent reminder of Scottish Women’s contribution to advancing democracy and improving the lives of women in Scotland. The sculpture was being produced by an artist called Shauna McMullan, who decided that it should take the form of a series of handwritten pieces by these 100 women who would choose a role model as the subject of their piece of writing. Chris had chosen Dorothy Dunnett as her role model and wished to invite me to represent Dorothy with her at the reception at the Parliament to mark the completion of the sculpture. I was honoured to be asked and had hoped to attend but sadly pressure of work in the run up to Christmas eventually prevented me from doing so. However Chris has very kindly sent me a report on the reception, which follows here.


Early in 2006, the Scottish Executive decided to install a sculpture in the Parliament Building as a permanent reminder of the contribution made by Scottish Women to the advancement of democracy and the improvement of the lives of women in Scotland. On 8th March 2006, Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities, announced that Shauna McMullan had successfully bid for the commission to produce a sculpture.

Shauna decided that such a sculpture should take the form of the personal handwriting of 100 women giving their thoughts in expression of their admiration of a Scottish Woman whom they viewed as having made a significant contribution towards Scottish Life/culture/democracy. A short sentence was to be part of the sculpture which would be in porcelain and affixed to the walls of the Scottish Parliament in three panels. The 100 women came from all sections of Scottish Life and each one was proposed by the previously named and so on.

The role models covered a large spectrum of Scottish Life and achievement, and the sentences written in conjunction with choice were in some instances very serious, and in others frivolous. I have derived a great deal of pleasure from the writing of Dorothy Dunnett (having read all of her works) and so it gave me pleasure to name her as my role model.

I decided on the words “The written word enhances the mind” as my sentence and I did wonder if I had chosen wisely as many sentences were much longer and more informative of the person to whom they referred. My uncertainty was somewhat assuaged on learning from the artist, Shauna, that Malcolm Chisholm had picked this one out on viewing the sculpture and remarked that ‘it was indeed a truth’.

The Evening Reception held on 14 December 2006 was a pleasant affair commencing with the customary glass of wine and a welcome from the Deputy Presiding Officer of the Parliament who spoke at length of the parliamentary achievements and the role of women. The guests then proceeded to view the sculpture and all were obviously thrilled to pick out the part in which they were involved. My sentence appears two-thirds down on the middle panel and I felt honoured to be part of this sculpture. After the viewing, Malcolm Chisholm spoke and then the artist, Shauna McMullen delighted the audience with her comments. She is a beautiful young Irish Girl of a delightful personality and a person whom it is a joy to know. She has a studio in Glasgow which she shares with her boyfriend; they plan to marry next year. Personally, I found the evening to be pleasant, especially sharing thoughts and experiences with other women and learning what they had written and why.

Shauna informed me that a book will be published sometime around March 2007 and this will detail the names of the roll models and the proposers.

My thanks to Chris for this description, for choosing Dorothy, and for the invitation. I would have been proud to have represented Dorothy, who with her own love of sculpture would undoubtedly have been interested in the piece and proud to have been included. I hope to visit the Parliament in the near future and take a photograph of the relevant section to show on this site. And yes, for once I agree with a politician, a very appropriate choice of words – well done!

Historic Nicolay Map being sold in Edinburgh

Those of us who read Lymond are of course very familiar with Nicolas de Nicolay who rescued Francis from the Knights mortuary and was the real life source of information on the Geomalers. Some may not realise that this celebrated navigator is also associated with the earliest accurate map of Scotland. Now a copy of that map, known as the Nicolay Rutter, is to go under the hammer in the Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull where it’s expected to go for between £20,000 and £30,000.

The map, which is regarded as of prime importance in Scottish mapping history, was in fact drawn earlier by the Scot Alexander Lyndsay, and used by King James V to bring the Western Isles under closer control, but de Nicolay obtained a copy of the manuscript in 1546 via the English admiral Lord Dudley who had been Warden of the Scottish Marches and seems to have acquired it by subterfuge. Nicolay took it to France where it was used by the French King to plan a raid to avenge the death of Cardinal Beaton – the raid being carried out by Leon Strozzi.

The news is mentioned on the BBC website where there is also a video clip of a TV news report and further details are available on the Lyon and Turnbull site if anyone has some spare cash!

Maes Howe site

As we approach the winter solstice it’s worth mentioning again the webcam pictures from Maes Howe on Orkney – which Dorothy used to great effect in King Hereafter. The site is and if the weather is kind then you can see the sun’s rays streaming down the access tunnel into the main chamber at sunset.

I also notice that Sigurd Towries’s excellent Orkneyjar site has a new feature about Thorfinn which I’ll be keeping an eye on.

A School of Literary Excellence

A couple of weeks ago we had a DDRA council meeting here in Edinburgh. The day before it Ann McMillan and I visited Dorothy’s old school – Gillespie’s High School – to visit the head teacher Alex Wallace, and to present the school library with a set of Dorothy’s books. We were warmly received and had some very fruitful discussions on ways in which the school and the DDRA can cooperate, a fuller report on which will appear in Whispering Gallery magazine.

Many readers will be aware that as well as Dorothy the school also nurtured the novelist Muriel Spark, who based her most famous book – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – on the school and one of its teachers. Mr Wallace is keen to encourage a love of literature in his students and is hoping to follow up the declaration of Edinburgh as the first International City of Literature by making Gillespie’s the first School of Literature. Hopefully we can collaborate to generate more interest in the subject and more awareness of both the school and Dorothy’s work.