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He’s oor Shirra

Abbotsford Visitors Centre

Abbotsford Visitors Centre

Souters have voiced their anger at Selkirk being swept from history in the exhibition about Sir Walter Scott’s life at Abbotsford’s new multi-million pound visitor centre.

“I am disappointed and disgusted,” Selkirkshire Councillor Gordon Edgar told The Wee Paper. “We feel we were let down by the Abbotsford Trust, that it’s all purely about Abbotsford. Although we supported them to raise money, it doesn’t reflect the promises we got.

“We were told there would be links to Selkirk and all the other parts of the Borders Scott was associated with.”

“It’s a disgrace there’s nothing about Sir Walter Scott’s connection with Selkirk,” added Viv Ross, a volunteer who has helped create Selkirk’s community action plan, and has organised the Scott’s Selkirk festival for many years.

“We’re all pretty cross about it. We’re talking about links and paths to Abbotsford, but it’s all one-way traffic, sadly. Selkirk is pointing the way to Abbotsford, but we want Abbotsford to point the way to Selkirk.”

The omission was noticed soon after the new visitor centre opened, five months behind schedule in August, during a visit by Selkirk Community Council and a group of Souters striving to secure £1.4million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to regenerate the town.

Viv Ross, the group’s chair, described a moment of comedy, as the Abbotsford Trust’s chief executive and curator, visibly pleased with the exhibition, asked for comments, only to be met by a tirade from Cllr Edgar.

“When Gordon stopped, we saw them breath a sigh of relief,” she reported. “Then Dr Lindsay Neil launched in.”

“The colour drained from their faces,” Mr Edgar added. “They thought they had the be-all and end-all of Scott tourist attractions, but it wasn’t true to his life. Scott spent half his life as an advocate and sheriff in Selkirk, yet nothing is written about it. He is revered as the ‘Shirra’ in Selkirk. Abbotsford would not have existed if Scott hadn’t worked in Selkirk.”

“I don’t think it had dawned on the curator’s mind,” Ms Ross added, “even though the curator lives in Selkirk. He seemed very embarrassed, and said they’d have to do something to rectify it.”

In 20 story panels and 10 glass display cases in Abbotsford’s new exhibition, The Wee Paper spotted just three brief references to Scott as the ‘Sheriff Depute of Selkirkshire’, and no mention, or even a picture, of the town or courthouse where Sir Walter Scott dispensed justice for 33 years from 1799 until his death in 1832.

“I told them this just wasn’t on.” Mr Edgar said. “I want to see Selkirk represented in the permanent exhibition, and a better connection to the Borders. I couldn’t even see anything about Scott’s View. The Borders is proud of Scott.”

In a statement, the Abbotsford Trust’s chief executive Jason Dyer, responded: “The Abbotsford Trust is very proud of and keen to promote Scott’s links to Selkirk and all the Borders towns, and is working with organisations like the Selkirk Regeneration Committee and local community councils to that end.

“The exhibition in the visitor centre gives an overview of Scott’s life and legacy, and does include information of Scott’s time as sheriff of Selkirkshire. This exhibition will be evolving and changing over time, based on responses from visitors and the local community.

“Our visitor centre staff are well-trained and well-aware of Scott’s link to towns and villages in the Borders, and actively encourage people to visit places with connections to him. In addition, once the main house opens next summer, there will be a dedicated temporary exhibition space, and we are already planning a special exhibition on ‘Scott as Sheriff’ to display here.

“We believe the restoration of Abbotsford will benefit Selkirk and the whole of the Borders region by acting as a magnet for visitors from across the globe, and we are working with as many organisations as possible to achieve that aim.”

 

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