The Scott Wilson Memorial Sculpture
The Scott Wilson sculpture was commissioned to replace an existing monument to Captain Robert Scott and Doctor Edward Wilson of the Antarctic in the Centennial year of 2012. After serving with Captain Scott as a scientist on the Discovery Antarctic Expedition, Dr Edward Wilson was employed by the government to undertake the Grouse Disease Survey. During this time, he lived and worked from nearby Burnside Lodge. Captain Scott visited him frequently and asked him to accept the post of Chief Scientist and Surgeon on the fateful Terra Nova Expedition. Much of the planning was done from here.
In 2011 Bruce was approached by Kirriemuir Landward East Community Council with a view to replacing the cairn to the memory of Captain Robert Scott and Doctor Edward Wilson of the Antarctic. This cairn was a replacement for the original monument erected by Mrs Reginald Smith, a friend of both men. Mr Reginald Smith published books by both men and owned Burnside Lodge where Dr Wilson stayed in Glen Prosen.
The first task was to source the granite. Bruce visited Craigenlow Quarry in Aberdeenshire, and with the help of Allan Bruce from Fyfe Glenrock Granite , managed to locate a suitable 30 ton block of granite. Mike Macaulay of Breedon Aggregates offered the granite free of charge.
The next process was to submit drawings to the Community Council for approval. The design was approved and fund raising began. Within 6 weeks funding was procured from private donations, Angus Environmental Trust and the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.
On January 17th (coincidentally the centennial anniversary of Scott and Wilson reaching the South Pole) the granite block was taken from the Quarry to the Fyfe Glenrock Granite works for the initial cutting. The block was too large for their largest saw, so they took over a quarry saw from their Bulgarian quarry to cut the stone. This was done free of charge and for this we are very grateful.
On May 5th the granite was transported to the workshop in Kirriemuir. We were fortunate to have the services of John Kelly crane hire and W &W Mackie, hauliers who were so professional and charged us very reasonable rates. Work then began on the carving. The hours were very long and the work was very arduous and dirty, but adrenaline kept Bruce going. To do a sculpture on this scale was very challenging but rewarding.
We were visited in June by David Wilson, Edward Wilson’s great nephew and Captain Scott’s grandson Falcon Scott and his daughter, Lucy. Although the sculpture was in its early days, ideas and thoughts were exchanged. Their input into the sculpture was appreciated. We were also visited by some children from Cortachy Primary School. They all tried their hand at carving.
Finally, the sculpture was finished and successfully installed at Scott’s View at Glen Prosen. All went well thanks to the professionalism of the crane company and other helpers.
On December 8th 2012 the sculpture was unveiled by David Wilson and Falcon Scott. It was dedicated by Rev. Oliver Vellacott, who now lives at Burnside Lodge where Dr Wilson stayed when at Glen Prosen. Also present was Philippa Foster Back, granddaughter of Frank Debenham. He was a young geologist on the expedition, and on his return to England founded the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.
The sculpture is the largest granite sculpture created in Scotland since the 1920’s. The sculpture is sited at Scott’s View, Glen Prosen, Angus. It is a fitting tribute to the bond between two remarkable men and their relationship with Glen Prosen.
Video’s showing Bruce’s battle with the giant block of Granite used for the sculpture;
Bruce’s thoughts and inspiration for the Scott Wilson sculpture
Before commencing such a project I had a lot of research to do. I did a lot of reading and there is much literature about Polar travel and Scott and Wilson. The involvement of their descendants, Falcon Scott and David Wilson was a great help.
The two inscriptions , “The Agony” and “the Ecstasy” were important aspects of the sculpture. Scott’s words showed his agony as his best friends lay dead next to him. The Wilson quotation was equally emotional and showed his ecstasy for the beauty of the Antarctic. It was taken from his 1911 diary.
The two huskies are Osman (with the chain) and Stareek. Both were leaders within the pack, chosen for their power, intelligence and leadership. Frank Debenham , who survived the expedition, vividly describes with much emotion these two amazing dogs.
The pony with the plaited mane was Edward Wilson’s pony, Nobby. The other pony was called Snippets and was led by Robert Scott. The ponies and dogs were a lifeline for the expedition and were greatly loved by all the men and deserve a place on the memorial.
The Emperor penguin and chick represent the Winter journey carried out by Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard. They endured “Hell on Earth” in 24 hour darkness, severe gales, crevasses and freezing temperatures with only candle lanterns. Their object was to collect some penguin eggs. Wilson wanted to see if he could determine where in evolution the penguin was placed. After this most arduous journey, Wilson and Bowers still went on the South Pole Journey in the summer.
The figures of Captain Scott and Doctor Wilson were carved with the help of some amazing photographs, These were taken by Herbert Ponting, the expedition’s official photographer.
Before their tragic deaths, Wilson found the Glossopteris indica fossil, which provided evidence of the movement of the earth’s land masses. Darwin had theorised this but this find was the proof. This find and all the other biological, meteorological and geological experiments made this one of the most successful and passionate scientific expeditions.
In this sculpture I have tried to capture the passion of Captain Robert Scott and Doctor Edward Wilson for Antarctica. I hope it is a tribute to their bravery and legacy.
The Memorial Dedication
This dedication was given on December 8th 2012 by Rev. Oliver Vellacott who now lives at Burnside Lodge in Glen Prosen where Wilson stayed. It was very fitting for him to be asked to dedicate the memorial.
The Jewish scriptures contain this text: “Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us.”
We are in the presence today of famous men..and also of whom they begat – their families, from whom we have already heard this afternoon.
But this memorial is a reminder to us all of what they begat in a wider sense – within the British psyche, which holds this story in its collective memory as one of the great heroic tales. This legacy even today constitutes an inspiration to many of our young people and, interestingly, the more so because of its tragic outcome. Thomas Hardy, one of Scott’s favourite authors, once wrote: “The best tragedy – highest tragedy in short – is that of the WORTHY encompassed by the INEVITABLE”.
Their legacy extends even further – to feats of exploration and scientific discovery in this last 100 years, not least in the exploration of space. Tragedy has accompanied this also, as in the death of 7 astronauts in Challenger 7 in 1986 which prompted President Reagan to quote the Canadian John Magee who shortly before his own tragic death in the skies,penned the following lines,“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth…The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.“
We gather here to dedicate this memorial which has been so exceptionally sculpted by Bruce Walker to capture the stature and vision of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Dr Edward Adrian Wilson in equal measure. Each of these men held the other in the highest possible regard and we include ourselves in that embrace of respect today. We do this in the presence of God, which I am confident in saying would have been their wish. Amongst the many volumes that have been written following that fateful event, one has particular significance for this occasion. It is entitled, “The Faith of Edward Wilson”. This personal faith in God was evidenced in countless ways and in particular in his letters and diaries. He ‘touched the face of God’ even while he lived! I simply quote from Wilson’s final letter to his wife:
“I leave this life in absolute faith and happy belief that… all is for the best to those who love God..and we have both loved Him with our whole lives… Don’t imagine me dying in any pain or suffering or in sorrow – either bodily or mental – for I shall simply fall asleep and awake with Christ .”
And from Scott’s very last journal entry:
“For God’s sake look after our people.”
Great and eternal God, creator of all things, to the very ends of the earth, we stand in Your living presence confronted by our own mortality and that of those who have gone before us. As we dedicate this memorial today we realise that these brave and honourable men, though dead, yet still speak. They speak to us of the image of God in which they were made and we discern in them glimpses of Your own Personhood – faithfulness, honour, endeavour, justice, love for mankind and a revelling in the sheer beauty of all that You have made.
May this solid and lasting memorial stone, fashioned by the hand of man, speak to us down the years through the exploits and character of these men of the highest of all virtues, of Yourown great character and Your exploits in this fallen world, fashioning a solid and enduring salvation for us in the standing memorial of the life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – ‘God with us’.
We pray for ourselves, and specially for the families of those we honour today, that our lives may be enlarged to embrace You and may be enriched by a passion ‘to touch the face of God’ in humble exploration of the wonders of Your creation and of Your very being.
Our prayer is offered in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest Pioneer of all, who has opened up the way for us beyond mortality and into eternal life,
We now dedicate this memorial to the memory of Capt Robert Falcon Scott and Dr Edward Adrian Wilson in the presence of Almighty God, and may the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – be with us and remain with us this day and always.