Muir at the ‘art’ of the Scottish Parliament

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP and artist Gabrielle Joy Henderson unveil Gabrielle's winning painting of Thomas Muir.
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP and artist Gabrielle Joy Henderson unveil Gabrielle's winning painting of Thomas Muir.

A talented young artist had a brush with history when her portrait of the ‘Father of Scottish Democracy’ was unveiled at the Scottish Parliament this week.

Gabrielle Joy Henderson’s inspired depiction of Thomas Muir won the 2015 East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition and is now on display at the Parliament.

It’s a fitting tribute to the democratic champion, who was persecuted and eventually banished in 1793 for his work campaigning for reform, freedom of speech and voting rights for all.

Hundreds of pupils from East Dunbartonshire schools put paintbrush, pencil and pen to paper to create portraits of Thomas Muir last year.

The inspirational figure’s strong links to East Dunbartonshire are celebrated annually by the Friends of Thomas Muir, who organise a festival in his memory - supported by East Dunbartonshire Council.

Gabrielle painted the winning portrait when she was an S6 pupil at St Ninian’s High in Kirkintilloch. She was delighted to be at the Parliament on Tuesday to see her painting unveiled by Scottish Parliament Presiding

Officer Ken Macintosh.

Mr Macintosh said, “Gabrielle has dramatically portrayed the disfigurement of Thomas Muir, the Scottish political reformer who campaigned for democracy, freedom of speech and voting rights for all at huge personalcost.

“The Schools Art Competition helped celebrate the 250th anniversary of

Thomas Muir’s birth and we are proud and pleased to be able to display Gabrielle’s winning portrait at the Parliament until January.”

The judges include renowned artist Ken Currie, who created ‘The Trials of Thomas Muir’ - a painting commissioned by East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust to coincide with the 250th celebrations.

Councillor Maureen Henry, Convener of Education in East Dunbartonshire, said, “Gabrielle’s stunning portrait of Thomas Muir was a worthy winner and I am delighted it will be on display in the Parliament.

“All the pupils who entered the schools art competition last year should be proud of their efforts. I am continually impressed by the inspiration, talent and hard work of our young learners locally.

“I hope as many pupils as possible get a chance to enter this year’s school art competition and look forward to seeing their creations.”

Jimmy Watson, Chair of the Friends of Thomas Muir, said, “It’s an absolute honour to see Gabrielle’s portrait of Thomas Muir in the Scottish Parliament.

“The standard of entries was incredibly high last year and the judges deliberated at length to choose the winners.

“Not only does the annual competition celebrate a Scottish hero, it takes art into the local community - helping to inspire the next generation of artists.

“Last year was a momentous one for the Friends of Thomas Muir - marking the 250th anniversary of his birth - but we haven’t rested on our laurels and there’s a full programme again this year.

“Check out the website for details of this year’s events - including the schools art competition -”