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The Character Statues

Helen MacGregor

Found on the west facade of the Scott Monument, opposite Rob Roy MacGregor, beside the Museum Room window.

Helen McGregor (from the novel 'Rob Roy', 1817) is shown wearing a plaid fixed at the shoulder with a large brooch, and wearing a Scots bonnet with feather. She is holding a targe (a small shield) and shortsword.

Rob Roy's wife Helen, is a ferocious Amazon and staunch Jacobite - "an awfu' wife she is" according to Bailie Nicol Jarvie, who later describes her as "nane o' the maist douce maidens, nor meekest wives neither, and folk say that Rob himsell stands in awe o' her."

She confronts Jarvie and Frank Osbaldistone when they ride into Rob Roy's country. Frank recalls,

"I have seldom seen a finer or more commanding figure than this woman. She might be between the term of forty and fifty years, and had a countenance which must once have been of a masculine cast of beauty; though now, imprinted with deep lines by exposure to rough weather, and perhaps by the wasting influence of grief and passion, its features were only strong, harsh, and expressive. She wore her plaid…disposed around her body as the Highland soldiers wear theirs. She had a man's bonnet, with a feather in it, an unsheathed sword in her hand, and a pair of pistols at her girdle."

Helen exacts a cruel price from any who cross her, and orders the drowning of the English traveller Morris for decoying her husband into a trap. As Rob Roy says, "My Helen's an incarnate devil when her bluid's up."

About the Sculptor

William Brodie (1815 to 1881)

William Brodie was born in Banff on 22 January and died in Edinburgh 30 October 1881. He was the son of a shipmaster who moved to Aberdeen with his family. William was apprenticed as a plumber and studied at the Mechanics Institute,where he began casting small figures in lead. He developed onto modelling medallion portraits and in 1847 was encouraged to study at the Trustees School of Design, where he learnt to model on a larger scale. One of his first works was a bust of his patron Lord Jeffrey.

He was elected ARSA (Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy) in 1851, RSA in 1859 and became Secretary of the RSA (Royal Scottish Academy) in 1876.

Other works in bronze include: ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ (1872) near Greyfriars Kirkyard; ‘A Peer and his Lady Doing Homage’ (1875) for the Prince Consort Memorial in Charlotte Square, Sir James Young Simpson (1877) Princes Street West.

Other works in stone are ‘The Genius of Architecture crowning the Theory and Practice of the Art’ and the monument to Dugald Stewart on Calton Hill, a portrait bust of Rev. John Paul in St. Cuthberts church, as well as several on the Scott Monument - Jeanie Deans, The Earl of Leicester, Amy Robsart, Edith of Lorn, Oliver Cromwell, Helen McGregor, and Madge Wildfire.

‘In portraiture Brodie had a peculiarly happy knack of catching the likeness. Furthermore, it was almost always a pleasing and characteristic likeness elevated without being over idealised.’

- Quote taken from the dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture.


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