Nostalgia: Nelson Mandela in Edinburgh

Eric Milligan presents Nelson Mandela with a copy of the News; below, Mandela with Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1997

Eric Milligan presents Nelson Mandela with a copy of the News; below, Mandela with Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1997

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HIS plane was waiting on the runway for the journey back to South Africa – but with characteristic graciousness Nelson Mandela halted the departure.

One final gift from the people of Edinburgh was to be presented – a copy of the Evening News, hot off the press, with detailed coverage of his historic trip to the Capital that week.

“We rushed out to Turnhouse and he held back the plane so I could hand him a copy,” says former Lord Provost Eric Milligan of the moment in 1997.

“I thought President Mandela would quite like to have it as a keepsake of his very successful visit to Edinburgh.”

It was an event Mr Milligan and his wife would never forget, the moment captured on camera, above.

That was October 1997 when the late political figure was welcomed to Edinburgh for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The visit saw him join a 54-member body to discuss a range of issues from human rights to economic co-operation. The trip also gave the city council the opportunity to present him with the Freedom of Edinburgh.

As the world pays tribute to Mr Mandela, many people in Edinburgh will have fond memories of his connections with the city.

Some will also be reminded of the fierce opposition to apartheid in his home country and the protests against it – and his imprisonment – which were held in the Capital.

In February 1990, hundreds of people turned out to celebrate his release from prison after 27 years. Festival Square buzzed with excitement as they marked a momentous event in South Africa’s – and the world’s – history.