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Netherbow Port Swings Open Again as Highlanders Take Edinburgh ...


Jacobite supporters were joined by author Alexander McCall-Smith in the Netherbow [Monday 14 February] to mark the launch of the Battle Trust's Appeal to Parliament for all public support and funds to help better interpret the Battle of Prestonpans. The occasion was the 'retaking of the city via entry at the Netherbow Gate just as Cameron and the Highlanders did on September 19th 1745 - without a shot being fired.' [The photographs throughout were taken for the Trust by Tony Marsh.]

The launch coincides with an Exhibition at the Scottish Storytelling Centre this week of major sections of the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry – created by 200 volunteers and telling the story of the Jacobite rising.

The Scotsman reporter Claire Smith wrote:

Scotland Street author/ story teller extraordinary Alexander McCall-Smith has joined the international campaign for a living history visitor centre to commemorate the Battle of Prestonpans. Enthusiasts from the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust's Alan Breck Regiment yesterday to launch an appeal to raise £2 million private funding towards the £7m total cost of the centre to be located at the Prestongrange Heritage Museum.

At the heart of the new permanent centre will be a pavilion designed to display the Prestonpans Tapestry - part of which went on display yesterday at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

McCall-Smith said: "This is one of the most exciting arts projects there have been in Scotland for a long time.

"I saw the Tapestry when it was on display at the Dovecot Gallery in Edinburgh in December - I was looking at the reaction of people when they viewed it and they were just blown away by it.

"It is a remarkably accessible portrayal of a bit of Scottish history and to see it brings it right back to life. It is an example of what people can do when they sit down together to create something."

The Prestonpans Tapestry, which is longer than the tapestry of Bayeux, was designed by artist Andrew Crummy and completed last year by 200+ volunteers from as far afield as France, America and Australia. The work consists of 104 metre-long linen panels - each of which took about 250 hours to complete.

The Tapestry tells the story of how Bonnie Prince Charlie's Highland army defeated the government forces led by General Sir John Cope. The Victory was a great triumph of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion - but has been overshadowed by the story of the defeat at Culloden.

Gareth Jones, chairman of the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust said: "Visitors will come to Scotland and visit Culloden - but Victory in Prestonpans is an important part of the same story. The purpose of the tapestry is to tell the story.

"We would be doing everybody a great disservice if we didn't eventually find the Tapestry somewhere to live."

The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust, which is also supported by actor Brian Cox, hopes to raise £2m private funding towards the centre and has petitioned the Scottish Government to give another £5m to make the project a reality.

East Lothian Council is supportive of the plan to locate a tapestry Pavilion on land at the town's Heritage Museum and for the existing Miners' Bath House at the museum to be converted for interpretatipon and other heritage activities.

The Pavilion design is based on a circular cloister surrounding a white thorn tree - to commemorate the fatal wounding of the local redcoat hero Colonel Gardiner.

Stitch co-ordinator Dorie Wilkie said: "The Tapestry must have a permanent home. It gets more and more popular wherever it goes. People are more and more enthusiastic about it."

Designer Andrew Crummy said the creation had taken on a life of its own. "We never imagined this would happen. It's all about these people coming together to create this artwork - linking community and linking stories."

Other press and tv coverage told the story ...

Metro, The Times, Press & Journal, Edinburgh Evening News, The Herald, East Lothian Courier, EL News, Daily Telegraph and countless online media carried the day's storyline. In other interviews with the BBC, Scottish & Sky tv, Alexander McCall-Smith said he hoped the public would get behind the bid to create a permanent home for the work in the East Lothian town of Prestonpans. He said: "When I first saw this wonderful tapestry I was completely bowled over. It is a remarkable achievement - a monumental and beautiful work. I am filled with admiration for the artist and the people all over Scotland who engaged in this tremendous artistic project.

"I think it's very, very important that this should be given a good home, where it can be appreciated by local people and visitors to Scotland. It tells the story of a very dramatic piece of Scottish history in a beautiful way. It demonstrates what the issues were and who was behind each side."

The battle was fought on September 21, 1745 and saw Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army win a resounding victory over the Hanoverian forces of King George II.

The Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust, the body behind the campaign and the tapestry, is asking members of the public and the Scottish Government to back its latest initiative.

Trust Chairman Gareth Bryn-Jones said: "We've welcomed the support the Government has given to Culloden in the past, and more recently to Bannockburn. Now we're seeking help to create a building dedicated to the interpretation of the early part of the '45 rising - the part when Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army were full of Hope and Ambition."

All this action was outwith the Story Telling Centre located at Netherbow Port ... but inside ..

A host of visitors including many families with youngsters had made their way to the Centre. Lynn Fraser of Fantoosh Face Art painted faces appropriately. The Highlanders re-enacting provided added colour and strength to the story told in the Tapestry.

The Alan Breck Regiment continued its foray up the Royal Mile. At the Mercat Cross James was proclaimed King James VIII and III. At the Gates of the Castle the garrison was invited to surrender to the Prince, but as custom has it, they declined! One hapless naval gunner was taken into custody.

N.B. The Exhibition and Activities continue all week until February 19th ...

Whilst Monday was a grand day for re-enactments and of course publicity, its real purpose was and is to ensure as many as are able and informed do indeed visit at the Story Telling Centre during the week long exhibition - especially families! As well as viewing the Tapestry and lectures/ discussions, Friday 18th sees the Pans' Story Tellers led by Tim Porteus entertaining all who visit.

Finally, the Trust's sincere thanks to all at the Story Telling Centre for their kindness and support in making the exhibition possible in their fine facilities.

Published Date: February 16th 2011

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