Memorializing Scotland’s Women

Women’s History Month – March 2017

March is Women’s History Month so I was pleased to discover 2 initiatives in Scotland to recognize Scottish women and their achievements and contributions to society. The first one is the “Scotland’s Heroines” project which you can read about here. 130 years after a “Hall of Heroes” was created at the Wallace Monument near Stirling (think Sir William Wallace, or Mel Gibson in Braveheart if you must), the idea is that a woman will finally be added to the busts of the 14 men already included in the hall. There is a shortlist of women on the website and even a youtube page here to find out more about each nominee. There’s a public vote to choose the winner – if you feel inspired you can vote until the end of March. The official website of the Wallace Monument puts it this way, highlighting that it would like to “tell the story of women who have surprised, delighted and inspired so many with their determination, fortitude and spirit” whilst also highlighting that there are “physical and logistical constraints” to accommodating more than one heroine at this time.

The second project is an interactive project mapping memorials to women in Scotland:

“All over Scotland, in towns, villages and in the countryside, there are many types of memorials, large and small, commemorating the lives and achievements of women. Some names are well known, others have been forgotten. All the women have contributed in some way to the life of the country we know today.”

The map is satisfyingly littered with blue pins showing the location of monuments and memorials submitted so far. You can view it here and click on any of the pins to get a description (and sometimes a picture) of the memorial and information about the woman it is dedicated to. I went back to one of my childhood haunts via the map – Linlithgow in West Lothian, where my maternal “granny” lived. I was pleased to see that the 2 memorials submitted so far for Linlithgow highlight completely different types of women. The first is for Mary Queen of Scots, who was born in Linlithgow Palace.

linlithgow-palace

(Linlithgow Palace as it is today – still grand, although without a roof.)

The second is a memorial called “Katie Wearie’s Sundial”. Although the memorial is relatively new (a bronze sculpture from 2011) it has been installed near a spot where there used to be a tree, known locally as “Katie Wearie’s Tree”, The original tree was purportedly where a young girl drover (or possibly an older woman on her way to market) would rest up after a hard day’s work (or to fortify herself for some market shopping, depending on which story you believe).

old-photograph-katie-wearies-tree-linlithgow-scotland

(An undated photograph of Katie Wearie’s Tree in Linlithgow)

A palace and a tree could not be more different. I love the idea of mapping these memorials. Whilst women like Mary, Queen of Scots will never be forgotten by history, others like Katie Wearie remind us that we should pursue the story of our women and memorialize them where we can – not necessarily with physical memorials but through exploring and recording family lore for the future.

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