Countryside Legend Tom Weir's Statue Unveiled on the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond
All roads led to Balmaha on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond on Monday 29th December 2014, as hundreds of people from all over Scotland witnessed the unveiling of an impressive bronze statue in memory of countryside legend and "Scotland’s most popular mountain man’’ Tom Weir. Attendees joined in the celebrations by raising replicas of Tom’s signature red and white 'toorie' hat to mark the centenary of his birth and his great contribution to introducing generations to Scotland’s outdoors through his adventures as a climber, naturalist, writer and broadcaster.
Well-known outdoor writers and broadcasters Cameron McNeish and Jimmie MacGregor joined Tom’s widow, 94 year old Rhona Weir, to unveil the statue against the idyllic backdrop of Balmaha Bay. A special musical tribute was performed by popular Scottish minstrel Alistair McDonald who played some of Tom’s favourite music, including Loch Lomond and The Rowan Tree.
Speaking at the statue unveiling, Cameron McNeish said: “Tom would have been 100 years old today and it's interesting that he was born only a few days after the death of the great John Muir. The two men were so similar in many ways; in their passion for wild land and in their belief that we should look after and nurture the natural world as much as we could.
“Just as John Muir is remembered in his birth town of Dunbar with a statue in the Main Street so Tom will also be remembered with a statue on Loch Lomondside so that future generations will remember him and what he achieved for Scotland.’’
Jimmie MacGregor said: “Tom Weir and I shared a Springburn working class background and an intense interest in the natural world, but I knew him initially only through his articles in the Scots magazine. Later I came to appreciate his inspirational and educational influence through his wonderful television programmes.
“After the first of his regular appearances in Macgregor's Gathering on Radio Scotland it was obvious that no script was required, such were his natural talents as a communicator. It is impossible to calculate the number of people who were introduced to the splendours of the Scottish countryside by Tom and we all owe him a great deal.”
Tom’s widow, Rhona Weir, is delighted with the quality of the statue and said: “The level of detail and likeness to Tom is amazing and I am pleased the statue has been sited at one of Tom’s favourite spots on Loch Lomondside which inspired so much of his writings and broadcasts on Scotland’s great outdoors.
‘’I earnestly hope Tom’s statue and the associated picnic area and viewpoint will be a source of much pleasure to those who visit Scotland’s first National Park over the coming years and I would like to thank the many people from all walks of life and different bodies who have made this possible.’’
Susan Taylor, Administrator of the Tom Weir Memorial Group, added: “This special celebration and statue unveiling is the culmination of almost three years hard work by a dedicated group of volunteers who were determined to mark Tom’s contribution to enriching the lives of many tens of thousands of people with his writings and broadcasts on facets of Scotland’s rich and diverse heritage.
“The fact that we have raised over £70,000 is tribute to the high regard Tom is held in and we are grateful to the hundreds of knitters who donated thousands of Tom’s signature red and white toorie hats, which has been a great fundraiser and are very much in evidence today, and the thousands of other members of the public who have generously donated funds.
“We are also grateful to other funding partners including the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Stirling Council, DC Thompson, STV and The Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, without whose help it would not have been possible to fund and deliver the statue and associated works in memory of Tom in time for his centenary anniversary.’’
The statue sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn, who was in attendance at the statue unveiling presented Tom’s widow, Rhona with a miniature replica.
The delivery of the project, which included a phase 1 facelift to the existing picnic area and creation of a raised plinth and walling to provide a high quality setting for the statue, was coordinated by the conservation charity, Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and site contractors were Alexander Fraser Electrical Services Ltd and Lomond Grass of Balmaha. The upgrading scheme designers were MW Architecture & Design of Balfron Station.
Photographs accompanying the article by Paul Saunders Photography:
Header Image: From left to right - Jimmie MacGregor, Tom Weir's widow Rhona Weir, Cameron McNeish
Group shot of Tom Weir supporters, to the right of the Tom Weir Statue, Tom's widow Rhona Weir, sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn, Jimmie MacGregor
Photo of Tom Weir's widow Rhona Weir with the Tom Weir statue
Photo of the statue's creator, sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn
Tom Weir was a prolific writer and broadcaster on Scotland’s great outdoors for more than 50 years and until his death in 2006. He lived for many years with his wife, Rhona at Gartocharn at the southern end of Loch Lomond where she was Head Teacher at the local primary school. He was best known for his popular TV series Weir’s Way which ran between 1976 and1987 and has been frequently re-run over the past 27 years. He also had a monthly feature in the Scots Magazine for almost 50 years.
Tom was the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Lifetime Achievement Eagle Award from the British Outdoor Guild of Travel Writers. He was also the first recipient of the John Muir Award for Lifetime Achievement. Tom was also an active campaigner for the protection of the Scottish environment and in particular his beloved Loch Lomond where he became a founding member and Honorary Vice-President of the Friends of Loch Lomond when the independent conservation body was formed in 1978.
The Tom Weir Memorial Group was formed in February 2012 by a number of individuals from many walks of life who were keen to mark Tom’s great contribution to enriching the lives of several generations of Scots by introducing them to the wonders of Scotland’s great outdoors. Go to www.facebook.com/tomweirmemorial
The Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs has a strong membership base and is supported by a large number of individuals and companies who are passionate about caring for and celebrating the special qualities of the National Park. Go to www.lochlomondtrossachs.org.uk
For more background information on sculptor Sean Hedge-Quinn and examples of his work go to www.seanhedgesquinn.co.uk. Sean has recently completed a statue of James Herriot and is credited with creating statues of many famous football figures, including Sir Alf Ramsay and Sir Bobby Robson. This follows on from a successful career in the film industry as a model maker for blockbuster films as diverse as Harry Potter, Phantom of the Opera, Clash of the Titans and Bond’s Skyfall.
For further information on the Tom Weir memorial campaign contact Susan Taylor, Administrator of the Tom Weir Memorial Group on 07882 942945 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or James Fraser, Chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs on 07894 908807 (email@example.com).