East Dunbartonshire pupils are at the ‘art’ of Thomas Muir celebrations

Art competition winners
Art competition winners

Talented young artists had a brush with greatness recently as they celebrated the life and legacy of the ‘Father of Scottish Democracy’.

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

The East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition was held as part of the Thomas Muir 250 celebrations, with the top 20 entries framed and put on display.

Thomas Muir was persecuted and eventually banished in 1793 for his work to champion reform, freedom of speech and voting rights for all.

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

This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth and events in his honour have included exhibitions, a Democracy 250 Walk in Edinburgh, a youth debate (featuring Douglas Academy) at the Scottish National Gallery and more.

The East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition attracted 300-400 entries from primary and secondary school pupils.

An exhibition of the best entries is being held in Thomas Muir Coffee Shop, Huntershill, featuring works by pupils from 12 schools, ranging from P1 to S6.

Certificates were presented to finalists at a special ceremony recently - organised by the Friends of Thomas Muir and attended by Councillor Eric Gotts, Convener of Education, and Provost Una Walker.

Five category winners were announced - as well as an overall winner, whose portrait of Muir is being gifted to the Scottish Parliament.

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 this year’s celebrations.

He was joined by Peter McCormack (East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust) and Melanie Sims (East Dunbartonshire Arts Council).

The category winners were:

P1-P3 - John Watson (Meadowburn Primary Gaelic Unit)

P4-P7 - Eilidh Dolan (Meadowburn Primary)

S1-S2 - Rhea Williamson (Kirkintilloch High)

S3-S4 - Jeremy Phillips (St Ninian’s High)

S5-S6 - Gabrielle Joy Henderson (St Ninian’s High)

Gabrielle Joy Henderson’s portrait was judged to be the overall winner and will be gifted to the Scottish Parliament next month.

The S6 pupil, who attends St Ninian’s High, said, “In the end I was really pleased with the result, but I was quite surprised to win - I really didn’t think I would.

“I can’t believe it’s going to be in the Scottish Parliament. I’m gobsmacked.”

The finalists’ exhibition will be on at Thomas Muir Coffee Shop, Huntershill, until 15 January.

Councillor Eric Gotts, Convener of Education, said, “I would encourage everyone to pop in for a cuppa and see the wonderful art created by our talented pupils.

“The young people are a real credit to their schools and communities, and should be justly proud of their skills - as we are. I really didn’t envy the task of the judging panel.

“It has been a momentous year for the Friends of Thomas Muir and I am glad East Dunbartonshire Council has been able to support their efforts.”

Jimmy Watson, Chair of the Friends of Thomas Muir, said, “The standard of entries was incredibly high and the judges deliberated at length to choose the winners.

“Everyone who was shortlisted is a winner - they are all part of an amazing exhibition which we’re very proud to be able to host.

“Not only is it celebrating a Scottish hero, it is bringing art into the local community - helping to inspire the next generation of artists.”

A cheque was presented to each of the category winners and the overall winner, with support from East Dunbartonshire Arts Council.