From Gileskirk to Greyfriars

Glasgow Colour Street Map

Sir Walter Scott,
page 16 of 17

they are frequently involved, have been objected to. We ought to remember that the author addressed a more leisurely age, when the march of events, now winged by electricity and steam, was a deliberate and decorous procession. Even in these days of sensational fiction, the lengthy introductions to the “Waverley” novels possess considerable charms for thoughtful readers. The preparations may be long, but they are impressive. Achilles clothes himself slowly and majestically with celestial armour before he goes forth to slay Hector under the walls of Troy.

But these are mere questions, by the way, and almost unworthy in view of the wonderful power and exalted character of our hero. Of all the kings, mighty men of valour, and princes in literature, who have adorned and exalted this land, he is undoubtedly “The Chief.” By the wonderful products of his pen he is ennobled and endeared as no other ever has been, but still more is he lifted up by that grand heroic life. True and sweet as it was in the days of prosperity, yet we would never have known its strength and its brilliance had not adversity moved its depths and manifested its power in the later days. What wonderful beauty in those years when the sun of life was westering, and what glory in the sunset! It was full of faith, full of courage, full of honour. Scotland owes more to him than to any of her sons. Burns was more intense, but in a narrower sphere. Wilson was next, perhaps, in knowledge and versatility, but more impulsive and less patient. If we could summon all from the Valhalla of the Mighty to come to some great assembly of the Scottish nation, Scott would occupy the principal place, Burns would be his vis-a-vis, while Carlyle would centre the right, and Wilson or Macaulay take the left.

The statue of Sir Walter in George Square is by John Greenshields, a native of Lesmahagow, born in 1795, who died in 1835. He was apprenticed to Mr. Cadzow, mason, at Crossford, under whom he acted as quarrier, hewer and builder. Afterwards he established himself as a sculptor in Broomhill, on Clydeside, and executed statues of Lord Byron, George Canning, the Duke of York, Robert Burns, and George IV. His first meeting with Sir Walter is thus described by Rankine, in his “History of Carluke”:—

“Sir Walter and his son-in-law, who had spent the previous night at Auchenraith, arrived at Milton in company with the new proprietor of that fine estate before noon, about the middle of January, 1829, with the purpose of fixing a site for the mansion. The workshed where Greenshields toiled, and the low thatched cottage, the home of his parents, were on the opposite side of the Clyde, almost within speaking distance of the point where a ferry then plied. Sir Walter, eager to meet on his own hearth the rising artist (to whom he had been directed by the Earl of Elgin), suggested a visit to him at once. A signal was accordingly made for the boat. This conveyance was usually managed by Betty, the sculptor’s mother, known to all the country around, and, strictly speaking, the guiding spirit of the family, and it would have been useless to have tried to subvert her rights and privileges on a day to her so auspicious. Betty was soon at her post, let off the boat, and with a few strokes brought it to the other side. The great wizard stepped on board, and soon reached the holding of the cracky boatwife. Here stood her son, the stalwart mason, uncovered, his fair hair tossed by the breeze, clad in a rough home-spun, home-made jersey, and in hodden, just as he had thrown down the mallet, ready to welcome his visitors. The meeting was homely and undemon-


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