In March (2006) the familiar kilted bronze statue, representative of an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander soldier from the Boer War, was returned once again to guard the Castle entrance after being removed for essential repair and conservation work in November 2005.
Unveiled on 12th January 1907, the 20 metre high commanding figure has kept a watchful eye on Castle visitors for almost 100 years. Historic Scotland’s regional architect Chris McGregor stated, “After years of wind, rain and snow, it was clear that the time had arrived for him to have a little time off duty for care and repair. He was sent to a specialist company which did all the necessary work.”
Some of the repair and conservation work carried out on the statue included the removal of the wrought iron corrosion residue, steam cleaning the metalwork, the repair of the rusting hole in the shin, replacement of the section of missing rifle strap, the repair of the crack in the rifle and replacement of other minor components. In addition, the statue’s large Peterhead granite plinth was repointed, and the four commemorative bronze plaques set into the faces of the plinth were steam cleaned and repaired (the missing letters were replaced with bronze ones cast to match the originals). Finally, and most strikingly, the figure was repatinated in its original dark brown colour, returning it to its former glory.
Two coats of microcrystalline wax were applied to guard against the elements, a process which will be carried out annually to protect the metalwork in the future.
The imposing Boer War memorial statue is the work of the sculptor W Hubert Paton who succeeded in giving his figure the grim determined look of a private soldier in the heat of battle. He is represented in full marching order ready to engage the enemy. On the bronze plates below is the inscription “Erected by the Officers of the XCI (or 1st Battalion) Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to the memory of their comrades who lost their lives in the service of their country during the South African War, October 1899 to May 1902” and the names of those who fell. It was placed at Stirling Castle to always form a link between the present and the past and to bear testimony to the courage displayed by all ranks in the war.
The figure itself was based on actual members of the sculptor’s family who sat for the preliminary model. Countless family members of Argylls who served at the time have mistakenly come to believe that it was based on their ancestor. A large number of old Argylls must have smiled to themselves when they told their relatives that they sat for W Hubert Paton.
On 12th January 1907 the Duchess of Montrose unveiled the War Memorial and said “This memorial is dedicated to the lasting memory of the men of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who gave their lives in the service of their country.” Also present was the 1st Battalion’s Commanding Officer, other Officers of the battalion and 140 Other Ranks from Chatham where the 1st Battalion was stationed. These men all wore South African medals having served alongside those fallen comrades whom they came to Stirling to commemorate. In addition other veterans and reservists who fought in the Boer War joined the Guard of Honour. They formed three sides of a square around the memorial, whilst the soldiers of the Depot formed a cordon in front. A very large crowd of local citizens turned out for the ceremony.
The Regimental Secretary, Major Robert Elliot, organised a fitting unveiling ceremony to mark the occasion of the restoration of this regimentally important war memorial. A big thanks must go to Historic Scotland’s Davie Guthrie and Joann Russell who helped the ceremony run smoothly.
Mrs Marjorie McLachlan, Lord Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk officially unveiled the statue on Her Majesty The Queen’s 80th Birthday. In attendance was Major R M Sherriff CBE, Vice Lord Lieutenant for Stirling and Falkirk, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel D N MacGregor-Smith, Captain J Howe, Joann Russell of Historic Scotland and Major Robert Elliot. The small guard consisted of men from the Battalion Recruiting Team, the regimental mascot Cruachan III and the Pony Major. After the inscribed bronze tablet was unveiled, Lance Corporal Tripney played “Flowers of the Forest” allowing a reflective moment in the proceedings. A moving end to the Return to Duty of Stirling Castle’s permanent soldier.