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"There, But Not There."

"There, But Not There."

Friday September 21 2018

Jackie Macadam reflects on a timely art installation in an Edinburgh church.


“At first we thought about the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, but in the end we settled on the Canongate Kirk, the parish church for the castle, and considered to be Edinburgh’s military church.”

The Rev Neil Gardner, minister at the Canongate church in Edinburgh, is talking about a unique and very moving, art installation, currently on display in the church.


‘There, but not there…’ is a UK-wide fundraising initiative that aims to raise £15 million for a range of military charities helping former servicemen and women with physical and mental conditions after their service.


The Canongate hosts five ghostly silhouettes, clear ‘cut-outs’ in acrylic, designed by conceptual artist Martin Barraud.



Other churches and community groups are also taking part, with their own ghostly silhouettes.

Neil explained: “We have focussed on the stories of five local soldiers whose names are engraved on family gravestones in the kirkyard. There are hundreds of names on the parish war memorials, too many to focus on, so we've selected these five local boy stories during the course of the centenary commemorations of the First World War.


“They are Captain Alick Herries, Private Robert MacQuarrie, Private John McConnell, and brothers George and David Simpson.


“None are buried here but on the Sunday nearest the centenary of each death we have reflected during the service on their story and sacrifice and then laid flowers by the family stone afterwards.


“Now the five poignant silhouettes inside the Kirk as part of the ‘There but not there’ project remind us not only of these men in particular, but of the many more local men they represent, whose names are engraved on our war memorial, who were once part of our parish and community but did not return when the war was over.


Captain Herries

“Captain Alick Herries (right) served with the 2nd Battalion the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, survived Ypres but was killed aged 24 in July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.


“Having previously worked as a stationer, Private Robert MacQuarrie served in The Royal Scots before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps. He was killed on the first day of the Battle of Messines, in July 1917, at the age of 32.


“Private John McConnell was born next door to the Kirk at 149 Canongate, and 35 years old when he was killed in action at Hazebrouck, in May 1918, while serving with 8th Battalion The Black Watch.


“George Simpson is commemorated along with his younger brother David on a family stone. Their parents were married in Canongate Kirk in 1887. George, a Drummer in The Royal Scots, was heading for Gallipoli when he was killed, at the age of 25, in the Gretna Green train disaster, which claimed the lives of over 220 people in May 1915. He’s buried, along with many of his comrades, in Rosebank Cemetery, Edinburgh. David followed their father into The Black Watch, and died aged just 20 in Mesopotamia in March 1917. He has no known grave.


“The reaction has been very positive,” said Neil. “I was fascinated to watch a blind visitor sit behind one and run her fingers over the outline of the head and shoulders - they represent something tangible too.” 


The silhouettes will remain in place until Remembrance Sunday, Sunday November 11. ​