Stirling District Tourism and Scotland's Heroines selection panel (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)
Stirling District Tourism and Scotland's Heroines selection panel (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)

Brave Scotswomen join the Hall of Heroes

Busts of two notable Scottish women have been unveiled by the National Wallace Monument as the first female figures to be introduced to the Stirling landmark’s Hall of Heroes in 2019.

Maggie Keswick Jencks and Mary Slessor spearhead the ‘Scotland’s Heroines’ project, which aims to recognise the achievements of Scottish women and their contributions to the country’s history.

The campaign, launched in 2017, asked the public to vote on which remarkable Scottish women should be introduced to the Hall of Heroes to join the likes of Robert Burns, James Watt, Adam Smith and Sir Walter Scott, amongst others.

The thousands of votes cast online across the world and at the Monument resulted in the missionary Mary Slessor and Maggie Keswick Jencks, co-founder of the Maggie’s Centres, being selected to join the gallery alongside the existing 16 busts of famous men from Scotland’s history.

Stirling District Tourism and Scotland’s Heroines selection panel (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)

The two busts have been funded by Stirling District Tourism, the charity responsible for The National Wallace Monument, and have been created in the Edinburgh studio of Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation.

Having researched the lives of both Maggie and Mary, the sculptors, Graciela Ainsworth and Csilla Karsay, sought to create busts that depicted their character, passion and commitment.

Graciela said: ‘It was an honour to be a part of such an important project. We’ve worked hard over the past year to pay true homage to both remarkable women, Maggie and Mary.

‘We really wanted to capture their essence as well as their image, so we worked closely with their relatives and with experts to ensure that the busts were true to these amazing women.’

Zillah Jamieson, chair of Stirling District Tourism added: ‘We are so pleased to be able to recognise the first women of the Scotland’s Heroines project, and to see these busts unveiled.

‘Mary Slessor and Maggie Keswick Jencks both made fantastic contributions to Scotland, as so many women have done throughout this country’s history. Both women exhibited selflessness and personal commitment to social improvement, and through their efforts to help others they achieved worldwide recognition.

‘It is only right that their sculptures should be on display at the National Wallace Monument.’

Maggie Heswick Jenks’ children John Jencks and Lily Clare Jencks (right) with sculptor Graciela Ainsworth (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)

The busts will take their place in the Hall of Heroes at the National Wallace Monument in Stirling in the spring of 2019 ahead of the Monument’s 150th anniversary since its opening.

Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: ‘We are all incredibly proud that Maggie is one of the first women to be commemorated in The Hall of Heroes and with a sculpture that captures her spirit beautifully.

‘It is a wonderful way to remember an inspirational woman and I hope everyone who sees the bust also pauses to think about the thousands of people with cancer, as well as family and friends, that have found support, at what is possibly the hardest time of their lives, thanks to her vision of a different type of cancer care.’

Douglas Binnie, from the Mary Slessor Foundation, added: ‘The Trustees of the Mary Slessor Foundation very much welcome the opportunity to be involved with the unveiling of a sculpted bust of Mary Slessor to be located in the Hall of Heroes.

Members of the Mary Slessor Foundation with (right) sculptor Csilla Karsay (Photo: Phil Wilkinson)

‘Mary Slessor was a weaver, a teacher, a magistrate a missionary and, above all, a humanitarian who staunchly defended the rights of children and women in incredibly difficult circumstances.

‘In her work as a missionary in the Calabar region of Nigeria, she demonstrated a rare ability to combine steely resolve and uncompromising strength with deep compassion and remarkable selflessness.

‘She was both unconventional and inspirational and it is a fitting tribute that her courage and heroism have been formally recognised in this way. We would like to heartily applaud the efforts of all who have contributed to the process. If Mary Slessor was alive today, she would have wondered what all the fuss was about.’

The National Wallace Monument is managed and operated by Stirling District Tourism Limited. The Monument was opened in 1869 to commemorate the life of the Scottish patriot and martyr Sir William Wallace.

As a registered charity, Stirling District Tourism receives no Government funding and is reliant for income from donations and admission fees.

The National Wallace Monument is open each day 9.30am until 5pm in October. 2019 will mark the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the distinctive Stirling attraction. The celebrations will include an extended programme of special events.