Festival to celebrate a radical hero

Contemporary portrait of Muir, showing the wounds he received in a battle with the Royal Navy.
Contemporary portrait of Muir, showing the wounds he received in a battle with the Royal Navy.

Banished to Australia for sedition after an establishment show trial which made a mockery of justice Bishopbriggs man Thomas Muir (“of Huntershill”) never lived to see the liberating ideals of the American and French revolutions repeated, as he had hoped, in Britain.

But his incredible adventures while on the run as an escapee from the penal colony in Botany Bay, and his unflinching fight for democratic ideals, made his reputation as a revolutionary champion of the long struggle for British political and social reform.

The Friends of Thomas Muir organise a festival in his memory every year,commemorating his East Dunbartonshire roots, and this year a whole host of special events are being staged to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Highlights include:

* 250th Anniversary Exhibition at William Patrick Library, Kirkintilloch until October 3 - telling the remarkable story of Muir and the turbulent times in which he lived. It features items from the Thomas Muir collection held in East Dunbartonshire Archives and Local Studies.

* A refresh of the permanent Thomas Muir display at Bishopbriggs Library.

* John Kay Print exhibition - featuring original etchings covering ‘The Times of Thomas Muir’, at Thomas Muir Coffee Shop, Huntershill Village, on September 12, from 10am to 4pm.

* Reception at the Scottish Parliament on September 23 - including a play by Bishopbriggs Academy pupils and a performance by Douglas Academy Music School, Milngavie

* Democracy 250 Walk from the Political Martyrs’ Memorial to the Scottish Parliament on October 3 - with a contingent from from East Dunbartonshire, led by Milngavie Pipe Band

* Chance to see ‘The Trials of Thomas Muir’ - a dramatic new portrait painting by Ken Currie - at the Auld Kirk Museum from October 10 to 31.

* East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition with a Thomas Muir theme. An exhibition of finalists will be held at the Thomas Muir Coffee Shop in November.

Councillor Alan Moir, Convener of Development and Regeneration, said, “The Council has been a long-term supporter of the Thomas Muir Festival and of the Friends of Thomas Muir - who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of this important Scottish figure.

“We are delighted to once again be supporting the festival - along with East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust - and hope as many people as possible take the chance to find out more about Muir and be inspired by his achievements.

“I am particularly pleased that East Dunbartonshire schools and young people are once again involved in celebrating Muir through a number of interesting and innovative events.”

Muir’s family was originally from Birdston, Kirkintilloch, and he was an elder of Cadder Parish Church - where a memorial window is set to be unveiled.

During the 1790s many of the Campsie parish calico print workers and weavers from Kirkintilloch supported Muir in his campaign for political reform.

His father bought Huntershill House and estate in 1782.

Scott Hill, chairman of East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust, said, “I was pleased to help unveil the stunning portrait of Thomas Muir - painted by renowned artist Ken Currie - at the Lillie Art Gallery recently.

“I would encourage people to go along to the Auld Kirk Museum and see the portrait for themselves in October.

“That is just one of a wealth of celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of Muir’s birth.”

National coordinator Jimmy Watson added: “The Thomas Muir 250 national committee and the Friends of Thomas Muir are grateful to everyone who has helped to make this year’s events possible.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to remember Thomas Muir and celebrate all those who fought for democracy and our right to vote.”

The Friends of Thomas Muir - supported by East Dunbartonshire Council - work to raise awareness of Muir and at the same time promote an interest in democracy, outdoor activities, education, local history and tourism.

For more information visit www.thomasmuir.co.uk www.thomasmuir.co.uk or find the festival on Facebook and Twitter.