Scotland’s most controversial statue – and the attempts to destroy it

Posted By: September 03, 2017

The statue of the Duke of Sutherland, or “the Mannie,” at the summit of Beinn a’ Bhragaidh near Golspie in the Highlands of Scotland

Maddy Searle.The i Newspaper. London. Monday August 28th 2017

As southern US states debate the fate of their Confederate statues, a similar argument continues in Scotland. Since the 1990s, there have been various attempts to demolish and vandalize a particularly controversial Victorian statue in the Highlands of Scotland. Meet the Mannie The statue depicts George Granville Leveson-Gower, the first Duke of Sutherland, and a landowner who was responsible for the most notorious of the Highland Clearances in the 19th century. Known locally as ‘the Mannie’, the sculpture was erected at the summit of Beinn a’ Bhragaigh near Golspie in 1837, following the Duke’s death in 1833. While some believe that the statue should remain in tact to remind people of a difficult time in Scotland’s history, others argue that it is an extravagant tribute to a man who valued profit more than the lives of his tenants. Graffiti and demolition The monument is made up of a 76 foot high pedestal, and a 24 foot high statue of the Duke of Sutherland. It is so tall that it can be seen from several miles away. The statue was sprayed with graffiti in 2010 – the word ‘monster’ in green paint In 1994, former Inverness councilor, Sandy Lindsay, proposed that the statue should be demolished. Later, he argued that the statue should not be destroyed, but instead relocated and replaced with a Celtic Cross or a plaque dedicated to the Highland Clearances. Ruins of village cleared during the Highland Clearances. Ruins of village cleared during the Highland Clearances (Photo: Shutterstock) The statue was sprayed with graffiti in 2010 – the word ‘monster’ in green paint. A year later, two attempts were made to topple the statue, by removing sandstone bricks from either side of the plinth with tools. The statue was also used as part of a pro-independence campaign in 2014, when a ‘Yes’ banner was hung on it by the group The Hills Have Ayes. The Duke of Sutherland The infamous Highland Clearances took place in Scotland between 1811 and 1820. During this time, the Duke of Sutherland had families moved from his Highlands estate to make way for sheep farming. Some of the Duke’s tenant farmers left voluntarily, but many had farmed the land for generations and did not want to leave their homes. These tenants were forcibly removed by the Duke’s men, who burned and demolished the farmers’ homes. George Granville Leveson-Gower, Duke of Sutherland. George Granville Leveson-Gower, Duke of Sutherland (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) George Granville Leveson-Gowever was a millionaire who had served as an MP twice during the 1780s and 1790s. He later became the British ambassador in Paris. In 1785, he married Elizabeth, the Countess of Sutherland, and so became the owner of a vast Highland estate – the largest in Europe at the time. In 1811, parliament passed a bill granting half the expenses of building roads in the Highlands of Scotland, as long as landowners paid the other half. The Duke of Sutherland took up parliament’s offer, and built roads across his estate, where there had been almost none. The Highland Clearances The Duke was horrified at his tenants’ living conditions, and believed that subsistence farming could not sustain them in the long term. As a result, he planned to resettle thousands of families along the Sutherland coast, on the assumption that they could take up fishing as a new occupation. However, the evictions were soon met with opposition, which was brutally repressed by the Duke’s men, including one of his factors, Patrick Sellar. Elizabeth, Duchess Countess of Sutherland, painted by George Romney (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) Sellar was accused of murder, but later acquitted and given one of Sutherland’s huge sheep farms. Although the Highland Clearances were widely condemned at that time – and although the Highlanders told the House of Commons of their plight – little was done to prevent the forced evictions. It still remains to be seen whether the Duke of Sutherland’s statue will survive another 180 years, or if it, too, will be evicted from its Highland home.