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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 11 - A man who stood head and shoulders above the political posturers

THOSE familiar with the sayings of Marcus Porcius Cato, the elder (234-149 BC) - and which reader of The Scotsman is not? - will recall his comment on statuary in the Roman empire: "I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one."

Take it from me, a keen observer of sculptural body language, that the late Donald Dewar, the putative father of the Scottish nation, tireless driving force for devolution, the original, genuine Scottish Executive First Minister, keen antiquarian book collector and famed fish finger fancier, would have been of the same austere opinion.

I congratulate the sculptor, Kenny Mackay, on his 9ft high bronze of a man who stood head and shoulders, physically and intellectually, above so many political posturers and sermonisers at The Mound. He has clad our dour Donald in a suit, at once formal to indicate sartorial appropriateness to his high office but carefully rumpled to show that Scotland has a plethora of pressing needs.

The facial expression is pure, vintage Dewar. It is a mixture of earnestness, officiousness, suspicion, mild indigestion and gloom, perhaps at hearing of yet another upsurge of schism and doubt among ever-complaining MSP ingrates at the rising cost of the Holyrood parliamentary pagoda. As such, it could provide a salutary stony glare to discourage perspiring shoppers in their tracks from overheating the economy as they pass the statue, placed in Glasgow’s new Buchanan Street precinct.

The statue shows Dewar as a man of solid substance, not style, but the troubled frown, suggestive of someone trying to repair a watch with boxing gloves, indicates a peeved, studious politician who, if alive and dumped in the area would, with a look that spoke volumes, be likely to ask: "What am I doing in this place of conspicuous capitalist consumption? Get me out of here and take me to the nearest antiquarian bookshop."

It would have been, perhaps, more fitting for our much-respected and, even, loved Donald if the statue had been placed in the precincts of the new parliament building with a message on the plinth aimed at representatives of envious nations, "Look upon my work, ye mighty, and despair." Alas, a glorious opportunity has been missed and Edinburgh, the natural home of statues in the land of mountain and flood, where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between them and the weather-eroded and frozen-stiff citizenry, has been deprived of a green and glowering but well-executed addition to the capital’s monumental mass.

The Dewar work, on a 3ft plinth has already proved an irresistable magnet for those madcap monument mountaineers whose life seems dedicated to planting traffic cones on the illustrious, statue-sculpted heads of the great and the good.

Edinburgh’s pigeon-parking statuary straightforwardly commemorate public benefactors, the military and royalty, but a comparatively-recent work, erected beside a West End fin-ance house, showing a rider frantically grappling with a high-rearing horse, is enigmatic but possibly indicates galloping inflation checked by bank rate adjustments.

As a diligent statue watcher, I can reveal that the representation of David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian and economist, erected only a few years ago at Edinburgh’s Lawnmarket, has been the target of revellers lacking Hume’s high-minded imperatives.

It has been crowned several times with the conic cap of low comedy, thus imparting an unexpected air of rakish insouciance to an otherwise austere image. Considering that Hume is toga-clad and situated in the wind-grieved environs of the High Street and George IV Bridge, it would have been more fitting to have covered the author of A Treatise of Human Nature and a five-volume history of England, as well as other works of weight, with an anorak, scarf and woolly hat.

Although Edinburgh has statuary riches, it is my belief that too many people deserving of such commemoration are ignored. Alongside social reformers, public benefactors and literary luminaries, we should have statues of relevance to our daily lives depicting nurses, teachers, people struggling for existence in sink estates, overburdened mothers, cycle-and-car-endangered pedestrians and the typical Scottish taxpayer bowed with rents and rates and the rising costs of keeping body and mind in working order.

Modestly, I see it looking a bit like myself. If it appears, I would await the accolade of the traffic cone with confidence.

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