Friday, January 09, 2009

Scottish Martyrs Memorial

The most striking monument in Nunhead Cemetery is undoubtedly the memorial to the Scottish Martyrs. It is not a grave marker, but a memorial to five political radicals - Thomas Muir, Fyshe Palmer, William Skriving, Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Margarot - who were transported to Australia in 1794 for sedition.

Muir was a friend of Thomas Paine, and indeed one of the charges levelled against him was that he had distributed Paine's The Rights of Man. He later escaped from Australia and joined Paine in France, before dying in 1799. Like the others he was involved with the Society of Friends of the People in Scotland, an organisation devoted to parliamentary reform. Gerrald and Margarot were not actually members of this group, but were arrested at their Convention in 1793, which they were attending as delegates of the like-minded London Corresponding Society.

When the Chartist movement with similar aims took off from the late 1830s, its supporters sought to commemorate their predecessors. It was decided to raise funds for two memorials, one in Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, the other at Nunhead. The latter was unveiled in February 1851, its location seemingly chosen as a prominent London cemetery, rather than because of any particular South London connections.

However, Margarot at least was certainly familiar with Southwark. He was part of a deputation sent by the London Corresponding Society to meet with the Southwark Friends of the People in 1792. The latter was established at a meeting at the Three Tuns Tavern in the same year.

The story is told in 'The Scottish Martyrs' by Wally MacFarlane, a pamphlet published by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery.


Anonymous said...

and while you are at Nunhead - find George Livesey's grave just to the left top of the main concourse. His father and aunties are somewhere near the Martyr's Memorial!

Anonymous said...

But Livesey was no friend of trade unions, and did all he could to smash them

Thats a deal breaker in my book

long live the memory of southwark Gas workers (Old kent road), Will Thorne, Eleanor Marx and the Gas Workers Union.

Oh to see the Gasw workers union banners on Peckham Rye on a sunny Sunday