EVERY so often I like to write a column that is different from my usual style and today’s is one of those. As I write about the statues of Scotland as part of this series on our built heritage I will, as always, state the facts as I know them, but today I am being very personal in my choice of what to feature.

That’s mainly because there are so many statues which form part of our Scottish built heritage – including the hundreds erected in graveyards and on war memorials across the land – that it would be impossible to describe them all, so I have had to choose my favourites.

I have visited them all at least once and some I go to see regularly because I find them inspiring. If you think I’ve missed out important ones please email me at nationalhamish@gmail.com. 

I will try to place them all in context and, contrary to my normal rule on not writing about contemporary matters, some of my choices will be quite recent additions to our built heritage but that is justifiable as they are all intended to be permanent fixtures and real additions to our history.

Most of the statues are of individual persons, real and fictional, and animals, and most are intended to be memorials as per the monuments I wrote about last week.

Often the only distinction between a monument and a statue is the name they bear – for instance, the Scott Monument in Edinburgh contains the superb statue of the writer by Sir John Steell. My favourite statue in all of Scotland is that of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.  The National: The sun sets behind the statue of Robert the Bruce on his war horse at the Battle of Bannockburn site near Stirling (Jane Barlow/PA)It never ceases to inspire me and I know how much it means to so many supporters of independence, not least because it memorably captures the king’s face – the design was drawn from a cast of Bruce’s skull that was rediscovered at Dunfermline Abbey in 1818.

Depicting Bruce on his war horse with his battle-axe at the ready, the statue was sculpted in bronze by Charles Pilkington Jackson (1887-1973) in 1964 when he was 76 – next year will mark the work’s 50th anniversary.

Commissioned by Edward Bruce, the 10th Earl of Elgin (1881-1968), the statue and plinth were unveiled by the Queen on June 24, 1964, the 650th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Though born in England, Pilkington Jackson studied and worked in Scotland for most of his life and collaborated with

Sir Robert Lorimer on many projects, including the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle for which he sculpted numerous statues.

No-one can say for certain what is the oldest statue in Scotland but if you define a statue as a figure made artistically from stone, wood or metal, then the female Ballachulish Figure is probably the oldest and certainly the most puzzling “statue” in Scotland.

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The National Museum of Scotland tells her story on its website: “The mysterious Ballachulish figure is a roughly life-sized figure of a girl or goddess, carved from a single piece of alder, with pebbles for eyes. It was found during building work in November 1880, under deep peat.

“It was lying face down on the gravel of an old raised beach, around 120 metres from the shore of Loch Leven. It might originally have stood beside a pool. The figure has been radiocarbon-dated to around 600 BC, making it more than 2500 years old and belonging to a period when iron was beginning to be used in Scotland.”

Just under 5ft tall, NMS suggests the figure could be a representation of a pagan goddess, with Ballachulish chosen as her standing place – there is evidence that the figure fell over or was toppled – so she could watch over the nearby dangerous waters in Loch Leven. She is in the care of NMS and will probably remain a mystery for ever.

Reportedly the oldest equestrian statue in Scotland is in Edinburgh, on the Royal Mile not far from NMS, and is of King Charles II, dating from 1685, the year of the Merry Monarch’s death. It is the oldest statue in the capital and may have been the work of the Dutch sculptor Grinling Gibbons.

The oldest equestrian statue in Glasgow dates from 1735 and is of King William II of Scotland (III of England) the Dutch Prince of Orange who along with his wife Queen Mary usurped the throne of his father-in-law the Stuart King James II.

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The apocryphal story is that William wrote to James after the Battle of the Boyne to say “don’t worry, in 300 years everyone will have forgotten us” but sadly that is not the case as the impressive statue of the king adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral has been damaged in what are likely to have been sectarian attacks several times in recent years.

Elsewhere, Glasgow has its own “nest”’ of statues in George Square at the heart of the city. I have spent many a happy hour going round the square learning and re-learning the stories of the people whose lives are remembered by a statue there.

There are a round dozen statues, all of figures from the 19th century, ranging from Sir Walter Scott atop an 80ft column to rare equestrian statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – the Queen insisted that she and Albert be on horseback – sculpted by Baron Carlo Marochetti.

Also featuring are statues of the politicians Sir Robert Peel, the prime minister renowned for forming the forerunner of the Metropolitan Police; four-times prime minister William Gladstone; and James Oswald, Glasgow merchant and MP.

Robert Burns and Thomas Campbell represent literature, while chemist Thomas Graham and engineer James Watt are the two inventors in the square. Showing how Victorian Glasgow was very much the Second City of the Empire, the final two statues are of major military figures, Sir John Moore and Field Marshal Lord Clyde.

George Square is Scotland’s greatest single collection of statues at one place but Glasgow has many other statues, including new ones erected outside Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium – the former having club founder Brother Walfrid, the club’s greatest manager Jock Stein, greatest captain Billy McNeill and the man voted greatest-ever player, Jimmy Johnstone.

The National: Robert Burns Statue in Ayr

Ibrox also has a most poignant statue of former captain John Greig sculpted by Andy Scott as a memorial to the 66 people who died in the Ibrox Disaster of 1971. I understand Greig will soon be joined by a statue of Walter Smih; the late manager is most deserving of one.

Elsewhere in the city you can find on Clydeside the striking statue of La Pasionara, Dolores Iraburri, the famous Spanish republican leader during that country’s civil war. It was erected in the 1970s and was not without controversy but stands as a memorial to the 65 Glaswegians of the International Brigade who gave their lives fighting against the forces of Franco. The plinth contains La Pasionara’s famous motto: “Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees.”

Glasgow being Glasgow, it is not the impressive equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington outside the Gallery of Modern Art that is admired but the fact that it is almost permanently adorned with a traffic cone. And I can never walk through the west side of the city without stopping for a laugh with Lobey Dosser the comical representation of Bud Neill’s cartoon character.

THERE are dozens of statues of Robert Burns across Scotland – hundreds more across the globe – and my favourite is at Union Terrace in Aberdeen, a life-size statue sculpted by Aberdonian Henry Bain Smith and unveiled to great acclaim on September 15, 1892. Of all the Burns statues I have visited it seems to me to be the best likeness.

Dundee has several old-style statues, such as that of James Carmichael who founded the engineering firm that built Scotland’s first railway locomotives and iron ships, but it is the modern representations of figures from DC Thomson comics that have become very popular – Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and Oor Wullie, who in their own way are important characters in Scottish history.

As I shall show in a future column on religious buildings, there are not many church statues or artworks surviving from before the Reformation of 1560, but strangely there is a statue of John Knox which can be found in Edinburgh in the courtyard of New College. Knox disavowed such idolatry but it was the least the Kirk could do for the Great Reformer since his grave was lost under the car park beside St Giles’ Cathedral.

Also on the Royal Mile are relatively recent statues *unveiled in 1995 and 2008 respectively) of the philosophers David Hume and Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations. Hume’s racist views should be better known but the statue should stand.

Another of my favourites is further down the Royal Mile at Canongate Kirk where the statue of Robert Fergusson, the man who inspired Burns to take up poetry, will be at the centre of events to mark the 250th anniversary of his death next year – I will write about him then.

Other statues in central Edinburgh that I like are those of James Braidwood, founder of the world’s first municipal fire brigade in the capital, and the statue of Sherlock Holmes at the top of Leith Walk. It’s actually a memorial to Holmes’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, just as the lovely statue of Peter Pan in Kirriemuir is a memorial to JM Barrie. The statue of Alexander Selkirk at Largo in Fife is apparently of the man himself but dressed as Robinson Crusoe.

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There are precious few statues of women across Scotland, but that of Flora MacDonald, the heroine who saved Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a huge adornment to Inverness where she stands outside the castle.

There are statues of animals and these include the extraordinary Kelpies beside the Falkirk Wheel, the work of Andy Scott which opened to the public in 2014.

A personal favourite is the Moffat Ram which stands in the town on top of a fountain and represents Moffat’s long links to the wool and textile industries. If you look closely you’ll see the ram has no ears.

Two other animal statues are those of Hamish McHamish in St Andrews, which commemorates the town’s famous stray cat, and the life-size statuette of Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh, which needs no further elucidation from me.

To me the most beautiful statue in Scotland is the Sculpture of a Pensive Man in Perth’s High Street. Created by Fife artist David Annand, it consists of two life-sized male figures inside a steel ring with a plaque containing the words of a local poet, William Souter (1898-1943), which he wrote in 1941:

Nae day sae dark; nae wüd sae bare;

Nae grund sae stour wi’ stane;

But licht comes through; a sang is there;

A glint o’ grass is green.

Wha hasna thol’d his thorter’d hours

And kent, whan they were by,

The tenderness o’ life that fleurs

Rock-fast in misery?

The ensemble really does make you stop, stare and think. Annand has a large portfolio of public artworks, including the first statue open to the public all year round of Mary, Queen of Scots near Linlithgow Palace.

I have seen Annand’s statue The Patter featuring Billy Connolly and his great friend and mentor Chic Murray, commissioned by former Oran Mor owner Colin Beattie, and I hope one day it will go on permanent display in Glasgow.

I hope you’ll agree that all these statues and the many more I could have mentioned all make their own contribution to Scotland’s built heritage.