Tours of Edinburgh

Articles about Edinburgh and Scotland by David Wheater

My Edinburgh

Articles about Edinburgh and Scotland by David Wheater, founder of Tours of Edinburgh.

The Political Martyrs' Monument, Old Calton Burial Ground, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Tours of Edinburgh The Political Martyrs Monument, Old Calton Burial Ground, Calton Hill, The Scotsman Hotel, St Giles' Cathedral Spire, Edin.jpg

The Political Martyrs' Monument, Old Calton Burial Ground, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh

The Political Martyrs' Monument is one of my favourite monuments in Edinburgh. 

It's located in Old Calton Burial Ground, which is accessed from Waterloo Place opposite the Apex Hotel. At over 90 feet tall, it's visible from almost everywhere in the city centre and is, undoubtedly, one of Edinburgh's most iconic landmarks. I took this photo of it last year with the Scotsman Hotel and St Giles' Cathedral spire in the background. It's also one of the locations we visit on my Edinburgh Camera Tour.

Although I love this Obelisk for its dramatic visual impact, I think its greatest significance lies with the five men it commemorates, Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald. They were all members of the Edinburgh Society of Friends of the People which was an electoral reform society founded by Thomas Muir in 1792. They were all charged with sedition and sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia for advocating Parliamentary reform in 1793. At his trial, Thomas Muir stated 'When our ashes shall be scattered by the winds of heaven, the impartial voice of future times will re-judge your verdict' - as indeed rightly happened. Their fight for universal suffrage was only fully recognised and pardoned in 1832 with the passing of the Scottish Reform Act.  

The Obelisk is made of ashlar sandstone blocks and was erected mainly thanks to the efforts of Joseph Hume MP who laid the foundation stone in 1844. After the laying of the first stone, four hundred members of the Complete Suffrage Association, all dressed in black, marched past the High Court to mark the occasion and shine a light on the mis-trial of these men. It was designed by Thomas Hamilton who also designed the nearby Royal High School and the Robert Burns Memorial. Another memorial to the men is located in Nunhead Cemetery in London. The whole event is said to have inspired Robert Burns to compose 'Scots Wha Hae'.

You can visit the memorial most days in Old Calton Burial Ground, or why not join me on a 5 hour photography tour of Edinburgh. You can book via Email or telephone me on 07400 705 357.

David WheaterScottishComment