Political Martyrs' Monument

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The Monument on Calton Hill.

The Political Martyrs Monument is a Category A listed memorial[1] in the Old Calton Cemetery on Calton Hill, Edinburgh commemorating five political reformists from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is a tall ashlar obelisk on a square-plan base plinth.


The monument is in the form of a 90 ft obelisk of grey-black sandstone blocks inscribed on one side with—

the memory of
Erected by the Friends of Parliamentary Reform
In England and Scotland.

On another are two inscriptions from men commemorated on the monument—

"I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause—it shall ultimately prevail—it shall finally triumph. Speech of Thomas Muir in the Court of Judiciary on the 30th August 1793.

I know that what has been done these two days will be Re-Judged. Speech of William Skirving in the Court of Judiciary on the 7th January, 1794."

History of the monument[edit]

The Monument.

In 1837 the Radical politician Joseph Hume MP initiated a plan to erect a monument to the five men. Hume chaired a London-based committee to raise public subscriptions in support of the monument and settled on its location being in Edinburgh. In that year the publisher William Tait of Edinburgh wrote on their behalf to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh requesting that land be made available on Calton Hill for this end.[2]

The foundation stone was laid by Hume on 21 August 1844, with 3,000 people gathered for the occasion.[3] The Old Calton Burial Ground, and other parts of Calton Hill, are home to a number of other monuments and memorials. The monument was designed by Thomas Hamilton, who is also responsible for a number of other structures on Calton Hill including the former Royal High School building and the memorial to Robert Burns.

On February 1852 Hume initiated the construction of a second Monument at Nunhead Cemetery in London. This monument stands at 33 feet high.[4]


The five men commemorated—two from Scotland and three from England—were imprisoned for campaigning for parliamentary reform under the influence of the ideals of the French Revolution. The five were accused of sedition in a series of trials and transported to Australia in 1794 and 1795, with varying sentences. In 1796 Gerrald died from tuberculosis and Skirving from dysentery. In the same year Muir, with the help of a French sailor, had escaped on an American ship, but had some disastrous experiences before finally making his way to revolutionary France. He took part in revolutionary intrigue but died in 1799 of illness and injuries received in his travels to France.

Fyshe Palmer and Margarot survived their sentences of 14 years but Fyshe Palmer died of fever while attempting a trading voyage back to England. Only Margarot returned to Great Britain.


  1. ^ Calton Old Burial Ground and Monuments, Historic Scotland, retrieved 22 July 2009
  2. ^ http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/117414/details/edinburgh+waterloo+place+old+calton+burial+ground+obelisk/?date=asc
  3. ^ Christina Bewley 1981 Muir of Huntershill: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211768-8
  4. ^ "The Scottish Martyrs" by Wally MacFarlane, a pamphlet published by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery.

Coordinates: 55°57′12″N 3°11′09″W / 55.9534°N 3.1858°W / 55.9534; -3.1858