Victorian missionary Mary Slessor and the co-founder of Scotland’s network of Maggie’s Centres for cancer sufferers, Maggie Keswick Jencks, will be the first women whose marble busts will be displayed in the Hall of Heroes at the National Wallace Monument, it was announced last night.
The women were chosen from a shortlist of 14 in a public vote to stand alongside the currently all-male line-up of great Scottish figures, including Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce, in the Hall of Heroes in Stirling.
Slessor and Jencks came top of the list that also included Dr Elsie Inglis, suffragist and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Jane Haining, a Church of Scotland missionary, Glasgow artist Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and folk singer Jean Redpath.
Zillah Jamieson, chairwoman of Stirling District Tourism, said: “This has been an incredible campaign, one which has ignited passions and has stimulated an amazing response.
“The level of enthusiasm for women to be given recognition has been truly inspirational – and the challenge for us as a self-funding charity has been to raise the funds required to embark on this project, and to now introduce these women into the Hall of Heroes. We are proud that we have been able to do this, with the help and the support of the visitors who come to the Monument.”
Slessor and Jencks will join the gallery alongside the existing 16 busts of famous men from Scotland’s history.
Slessor (1848-1915) has been described as the most celebrated Scottish missionary since David Livingstone, who inspired her to a life of service. She combined her missionary zeal with a practical approach to helping those in need, and she worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the people of southern Nigeria against a background of prejudice and opposition.
Rev Ian Alexander, Secretary of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “We are thrilled and delighted that Mary Slessor has been chosen as one of the first women to be immortalised in the Hall of Heroes.”
Writer, gardener and designer from Dumfries, Maggie Keswick Jencks (1941-1995), founded the Maggie’s Centres with her husband Charles, which offer practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends. She designed the blueprint for the centres, the first of which opened in Edinburgh in 1996, while she herself was facing cancer.
Many voters commented on the positive impact the Maggie’s Centres had on their lives. Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: “I think she would be surprised to find herself in such illustrious company.”