Canadian Cash and the Other Hero

by Robert Aitken 19th March 2008

One of the most famous images of Bannockburn recognised the world over is the statue of Robert Bruce astride his charger at the Borestone. The man responsible for this fine bronze equestrian sculpture was Charles d' Orville Pilkington Jackson, an Englishman born in Garlenick, Cornwall in 1887.

The Queen on June 24th 1964, the 650th anniversary of the battle, unveiled the statue. Three years earlier an appeal was made to raise £27,000 to fund the project; by 1962 only £5,000 had been raised. At one point in desperation the appeal committee asked for every Scot to give a penny each to the fund.

As no Scottish foundry was big enough to cast the bronze, the plaster model was sent to a firm in Cheltenham, England, but was returned, as not enough money was available to pay the cost of the job, undaunted Jackson went on a fundraising tour of Canada in 1963 and made a secret deal with Eric L Harvie, a rich Canadian lawyer. Jackson would cast a copy of the statue to be erected in Calgary, Alberta to commemorate Scottish links in return for money to fund both projects. Jackson then asked the appeal committee to put half his fee into the fund to get the project finished in time. The appeal still did not reach its final amount until 1966.

As well as being generous Jackson was meticulous in his work, he consulted dental experts, surgeons and orthopaedic experts as well as using the 1819 cast of Bruce's skull to get as good a facial likeness as possible, he remodelled the face more than a dozen times before he was anywhere near satisfied. He considered himself an adopted Scot, educated in Musselburgh and Edinburgh; he fought bravely with the Royal Field artillery during the First World War.

When he began to model the three tons of clay needed to sculpt the statue he was well into his seventies and worked up to 60 hours a week. When he saw the bronze unveiled by Elizabeth 2nd that day in June 1964 the wee five foot four Englishman/adopted Scot with the big heart must have been proud when the wee five foot six Norman/Scot with a big heart was unveiled. So when you next visit the Borestone to see the magnificent bronze sculpture, go to the rear of the plinth and read out the name of the other hero at Bannockburn. Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson.



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