Scotland’s Heroines Reception

28th Apr 2017

During an evening reception on Wednesday 19th April Stirling District Tourism announced that both Maggie Keswick Jencks and Mary Slessor will soon be welcomed into The Hall of Heroes, in The National Wallace Monument.  The two women both emerged as the front-runners from the public vote, and the decision was taken that they would both be commemorated in the gallery.

It was an honour to welcome some special guests and representatives of the women as speakers during the evening, including:

  • Gerda Stevenson, winner of the Robert Tannahill Poetry Prize and an accomplished actor, writer, singer-songwriter, radio and theatre director.
  • Singer, actress, writer and broadcaster Dr. Dolina MacLennan, who is an Executive Board Member of the Saltire Society and a member of the Scotland’s Heroines Selection Panel.
  • Landscape architect Charles Jencks, who worked with his late wife Maggie Keswick Jencks in designing the blueprint for the Maggie’s Centres.
  • Dona Robertson, an expert on Mary Slessor and a member of The Steeple Church in Dundee which bears a bronze plaque to commemorate Mary Slessor’s work.
  • Zillah Jamieson

During the evening, Gerda Stevenson recited poems on three of the women featured on the Scotland’s Heroines shortlist who will also feature in her own collection of poems on Scotland’s Heroines.  Each of the poems shed light on the passions and achievements of the women – for champion swimmer Nancy Riach, Gerda’s poem takes on the voice of the river, whilst Gerda takes on the voice of a song for Màiri Mhòr nan Òran, the most prolific of the 19th century Gaelic poets, and for Marine Engineer Victoria Drummond Gerda’s poem is in the voice of a ship.

We were delighted to have Gerda Stevenson reveal the two women who will soon be featured in The Hall of Heroes. Following the announcement, Dolina MacLennan discussed the two brave, remarkable women, who were chosen from the public vote.  Dolina noted that while these two women came from entirely different backgrounds – Mary Slessor having started working in a mill in Dundee at the age of 11, while Maggie Keswick Jencks had an affluent upbringing – the pair are both remembered for what they achieved as a result of their relentless determination to care for others.

Mary Slessor devoted herself to improving the quality of life for native people in Calabar, Nigeria.  Her work as a missionary spanned healthcare, social welfare, and education,  Throughout her life, Mary worked tirelessly to rescue twins or orphaned babies, and to improve the life of women living in the area.

Maggie Keswick Jencks, a successful writer and gardener, designed the blueprint for the Maggie’s Centres while she herself was facing cancer.  Maggie’s offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer, and to their family and friends.  Maggie’s ground-breaking model of cancer care now has a network of 20 Centres across the UK, online and abroad with more planned for the future.

Having both Charles Jencks and Dona Robertson attend the reception and give their own accounts of the chosen women was a fitting end to a memorable evening.

Stirling District Tourism is already working on the next stage of the project – to commission the artwork – and an update will be issued in due course.