It only felt right in following on from the Marjory Bruce cairn in Gallowhill to choose another cairn. I did think about finding another Bruce or even a Stewart connection but one afternoon when roving elsewhere, it occurred to me that there was another cairn in the Central Belt that might work. On Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh are quite a few monuments but perhaps the least known is a cairn erected to commemorate efforts to establish a Scottish Parliament. In 1992, after the Conservatives won the general election, a vigil was established at the bottom of the hill to campaign for a Scottish Parliament. The Conservatives were against a Scottish Parliament and this was against the prevailing public view in Scotland, as proven by a referendum held by the Labour government in 1997 which eventually brought the Scottish Parliament into being. The Parliament now sits just below Calton Hill at Holyrood and it can be seen from the cairn.
It was a nice spring day and I walked around the cairn before plonking myself on the grass. The cairn was topped by a firepit, though unlit. Stones had been placed around the cairn for various reasons – linking to Lochmaben and Robert the Bruce, the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, Robert Burns and also Jane Haining, a missionary who did a lot of work to protect Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, eventually dying at Auschwitz. On the bottom of the cairn was a quote from Hugh MacDiarmid (him, again), which read:
‘For we ha’e faith
In Scotland’s hidden poo’ers.
The present’s theirs,
but a’ the past and future’s oors’
The Scottish Parliament came into being in 1999. I was at school the day it opened and heard Concorde fly overhead. For a lot of people, it was the culmination of a lifetime’s ambitions. Donald Dewar, the First Minister, made a speech which described the Parliament as ‘not an end, but a means to better ends’. It’s twenty years later and the Scottish Parliament is still around, very much a fixture in Scottish life. Whether it should have more powers or indeed whether it should be the legislature of an independent country is for other folk to discuss. The efforts to establish the institution over generations succeeded and it led to the cairn, another Loose End.
From the cairn, I could see right down London Road with the Forth and East Lothian behind. Arthur’s Seat was busy with a steady line of folk heading up Salisbury Crags. I could see right into East Lothian, to Traprain Law, the Hopetoun Monument, even the Lammermuirs. Behind me Calton Hill had quite a few folk on it too, mainly sticking around the National Monument. I sat there for a bit, thinking of connections then went round to stand and look across the city, to Leith, Easter Road, the New Town and the Forth Bridges.
This wasn’t a hard one for connections. The Scottish Parliament was just downhill or I also thought of the Donald Dewar statue on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Really, I could have chosen anywhere I could see or a place linked to any of the people mentioned on the cairn. In the meantime, I sat by the cairn, enjoying the sunshine. The present was mine.
Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.
Also, following on from yesterday’s Saturday Saunter post, I have since acquired a copy of Emma by Jane Austen, which I will be re-reading in the coming weeks. I last started it about ten years ago so hopefully I’ll get beyond page five this time.