(Scots Law) A common; a piece of land in which two or more persons have a common right.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Of Stone and Sand

From Matt Baker
My great good friend and Galloway Legend the sculptor Hideo Furuta once said to me when I breathlessly told him I was experienced in carving sandstone 'Sandstone is not stone - it is sand!'

This came to mind as I had a wee wander around Dumfries in the sunshine today - I had a minute to check out the newest addition to the town's public art collection 'Robert Burns Rock' which was unveiled by HRH Princess Anne on Tuesday

Princess Anne (right of sculpture) unveiling 'Robert Burns Rock'
The work is next to St Michaels church on the corner of St Michael Street and Brooms Road - Robert Burns Rock was designed by local artist David Gulland and carved from Dumfries sandstone by stonemason David Little, it was commissioned by The People’s Project to reflect Burns’ poetry and mark the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s coronation. Mark Jardine and his People's Project have been been a hugely positive influence in rebuilding pride in Dumfries.

Sheep on a bridge

it is a Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie ?

I was inspired to revisit the graveyard as I remembered some fine carving and memorable gravestones in there - a sign invited me to experience the inside of the church before the graveyard and I spent a memorable 30 minutes being shown around by Danny. It is such a privilege to spend time with people who have been on this earth a long while, the power of time and the significance and solemnity of events hang between the sentences. We paused in front of the two war memorials in St Michaels - Danny is of the firm opinion that General Haig (commander in chief of the Allied forces in WW1) should be declared a war criminal for the way he conducted the campaign and the treatment of 'deserters' in particular.
The current St Michaels was built in 1746 - turbulent times in Dumfries not long after the retreating Jacobite army held the town to ransom for £2000 and 1000 pairs of shoes.

 an example of the fine carving at St Michaels - typical of local work in sandstone

The powerful Martyrs Monument with adjacent graves of Covenanters who were killed for their beliefs

Visting the church and walking through St Michaels burial ground is a unique experience in contextualising the history and contemporary life that surrounded Burns as he wrote poems such as 'To a Mouse' - which is not about a cute wee animal - but instead a serious meditation on man's effect on his environment. Every generation has the responsibility to re-interpret its history. Robert Burns found a world-class voice for articulating his age - I wonder how history will view our contemporary attempts.

As I headed up the town through past the Globe Inn and down the closes that Burns knew, my head was full of thoughts about how we represent our history and the sandstone that has remained a constant in Dumfries through the tellings of these stories.

It was a classic ending to my pondering to happen across a guy busking on the high street - he was carving in sand - couldn't have been anything else really:



  1. Further to Matt's comments on cute wee mice... I spent a good bit of this morning unblocking my drains (ah, those jobs that need doing), and eventually pulled out what had been causing the blockage - yup, a very dead moose and her bairns. Silly bugger had made a nest in the drain.

    No deep philosophical point, merely a moose observation.


  2. lovely reportage mr baker