New portrait marks the 250th anniversary of local hero’s birth

Potrait ofThomas Muir
Potrait ofThomas Muir

A portrait of one of East Dunbartonshire’s most famous sons, Thomas Muir of Huntershill, has been unveiled to celebrate a landmark date.

‘The Trials of Thomas Muir’, by internationally renowned Scottish artist Ken Currie, was commissioned by East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Muir, known as the father of Scottish democracy.

The painting was unveiled by EDLC Trust Chair Scott Hill and East Dunbartonshire council leader Rhondda Geekie at a special event in Milngavie’s Lillie Art Gallery, and it will be on display in Kirkintilloch’s Auld Kirk Museum from October 10-31.

Ken Currie was happy to see his finished work on display and said: “I am hopeful that people who are interested in Thomas Muir will come here and look deep into the portrait and get some sense of the sacrifice that particular individuals in history have made for us to live in the democratic society we have today.

“Thomas Muir put his life on the line for that ideal and I have tried to capture some of the adversity and suffering he faced in pursuit of it.”

Thomas Muir’s family were originally from Birdston, on the outskirts of Kirkintilloch, and he was an elder of Cadder Parish Church. His father bought Huntershill House and estate in Bishopbriggs in 1782.

His passionate campaigning for freedom of speech and democracy was instrumental in sowing the seeds that brought about the jury reform, the universal right to vote and inspired the formation of a whole raft of reform societies which have shaped our nation today.

During the 1790s many of the Campsie Parish calico printworkers and weavers from Kirkintilloch supported him in his campaigns to establish democracy in Scotland.

He was tried for sedition in 1793 and was banished to the Botany Bay penal colony in Australia.

A committee to commemorate the anniversary was formed at the beginning of the year.

Jimmy Watson, Thomas Muir 250 national committee coordinator, said: “It’s recorded that a portrait of Thomas Muir was commissioned by his parents and hung at Huntershill House in the main living room.

“Unfortunately, through time this portrait went missing. We believe this portrait was painted by the celebrated Scottish artist David Martin and is most likely now held in a private collection.

“On the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir, it’s fantastic news that EDLC Trust have commissioned Ken Currie to paint a new portrait. It’s a very fitting tribute that we expect will become of significant interest to those living and visiting East Dunbartonshire.”