Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Canongate Venture Former pupil reaches 100

In yesterday`s Evening News was the life of "French polisher Mary Neilson smoothes the path to her 100th birthday" a trip down Old Town memory lane -

Full article here
From article -
"Mary Neilson will mark a major milestone tomorrow

when she celebrates her 100th birthday.
Mrs Neilson was born Mary Thomson in Edinburgh's Old Town on February 24, 1909, the youngest of five children.She grew up in a tenement on Holyrood Road and was a pupil at North Canongate School."

The North Canongate School is now known as The Canongate Venture and at risk from demolition as we know from the "Caltongate"

Mary would have skipped along this lovely minstrel`s gallery and enjoyed the daylight through the beautiful sunny atrium

and was perhaps taught in this room ......the building is 8 years older than Mary and could last another 100 years and be of use to another generation of the capitals residents.

There is no reason to knock it down for what does not exist anymore (Conference dream over) which was used even by Historic Scotland - to justify the destruction of the sound building. The empire of the greedy has like other empires before, risen and now fallen and the time has arrived again for this building to do what it was originally built for, to serve the public good , not the greedy self interest of a few individuals.

Like Mary the building has reached a fine age as it too is strong.

"She's a very strong-willed woman, but I think you would have to be to reach that age"

In the article it also tells how Mary is a member of the Canongate Kirk which has a connection with her former primary school -

Perhaps Mary was one of the pupils who met artist Stanley Cursiter . When he was a young artist in the 1920s from Orkney, Stanley and his friends who were starting out in Edinburgh, they thought it was a great idea that all the children in the capital``s primary schools saw an original work of art hanging in their school and meet the artist themselves. Each painting would tell each school something of the history of their own school and facts about their own neighbourhood.

So Stanley Cursiter did the one for the North Canongate School, recording the founding of the nearby Abbey at Holyrood.

After it was hung in the school though trouble broke out over it and there were letters to ‘The Scotsman’. ( cuttings of which are held in the Geddes Archives at Stathclyde University)

Someone had noticed that the cross in the painting was a crucifix and had written to the newspaper complaining that in a State, Protestant and Presbyterian school a crucifix had been infiltrated. The picture was not allowed to remain on the walls. The young artists thought this was an act of censorship, so they withdrew their support and this was the only picture to survive.
The painting was discovered in the 1960s in the Royal Mile Primary School, then called Milton House School. They did not want to hang it anywhere public and asked the minister of the kirk, Dr Selby Wright what they could do with it. He took it and hung it in the Canongate Kirk.

It now hangs between two windows, preserved from the light.

The painting is based on a Pisanello painting which you can see in the National Gallery in London. It shows the King’s Park and Arthur’s Seat with the wild flowers and animals to be found there.

You see King David kneeling before the white stag with the cross between its antlers.