Video highlights whale jawbone campaign

The Jarl's Squad at the Jawbone arch in Edinburgh. Photo: Karen Paul
The Jarl’s Squad at the Jawbone arch in Edinburgh. Photo: Karen Paul

Shetlander Heidi Pearson features in a short video as part of her campaign to save the iconic whale jawbones which form an arch at the entrance to the Jawbone Walk in Edinburgh’s Meadows.

It is part of a fund-raising campaign which is under way in both Edinburgh and Shetland, and one of the leading lights in this is Shetland ex-pat Ms Pearson, who lives near the jawbones.

She said: “The Meadows wouldn’t be the same without them and people in Shetland care about them too. I’m just trying to get word out and fund-raising is going to start properly in the New Year. I really hope there’s a big response as you simply couldn’t have Jawbone Walk without the jawbones.”

The Lerwick Jarl’s Squad was in Edinburgh last week as part of the city’s Hogmanay celebrations and Ms Pearson took the opportunity to invite squad members to the Meadows to raise the profile of the campaign. The Vikings feature in her video, which was made after she contacted Edinburgh-based online arts channel Summerhall TV.

Heidi Pearson : Jawbone Walk from on Vimeo.

The bones came to the capital as part of the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1886 as the basis of the Shetland and Fair Isle knitters’ stall, where it had reportedly been the highlight of the exhibition and even visited by Queen Victoria.

The six knitters sat spinning, carding and weaving under the bones, which were draped with lace curtains and herring nets of different hues, with the flags of Great Britian, Denmark and Norway at the corners and the arms of the burgh of Lerwick at the front.

After the exhibition the bones were gifted to the capital, and they were erected at the entrance to the Meadows a year later. But now they are showing the effects of weather and pollution and are to be taken away for specialist conservation work, costing up to £60,000.

Specialist assessments have been carried out for the project, which will strengthen the structure by injecting the affected areas with a conservation-approved acrylic resin. Bespoke “shoes” in stainless steel or bronze will replace the concrete blocks in a bid to prevent future damage.

The work will be undertaken by specialist contractors, and requires the four whale jawbones to be dried out, so the arch would be dismantled and removed from site to a workshop for about six months.

Communications manager for Edinburgh World Heritage David Hicks said Edinburgh’s jawbone arch was unique: “The others were erected by whaling communities, whereas Edinburgh’s example was gifted by Shetland knitters. The jawbone arch is a well-loved local landmark, but is in need of repair.

“Our main role is to work with the City of Edinburgh Council and to support the local community in a fundraising campaign, to be properly launched shortly.”

While in Ediburgh the Jarl’s Squad took part in the torchlight procession, on 30th December. The guizers paraded from Parliament Square, across George IV Bridge, down the Mound and along Princes Street for 90 minutes, watched by tourists standing behind barriers.

Jarl’s Squad member Colin Grant, brother of outgoing Guizer Jarl Stevie Grant, said it had been a “brilliant” experience.

The guizers were preceded by six local pipe bands and were followed by several thousand people with hand-held torches with smaller flames. The followers had raised money to take part and Colin said around £70,000 would go to charity.

He said: “Compared with Lerwick it was a very different experience. It was great meeting all the folk. Both sides of Princes Street were lined. I thoroughly enjoyed it and all the squad had a good time. It was our last hurrah of 2013, a good way to end the year.”

The guizers also burst into song from time to time during their truimphal march, and enjoyed a massive bonfire and fireworks display, featuring saltires and thistles, on Calton Hill afterwards.

Earlier that day they had met Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, and had had a two-and-a-half hour photoshoot with national and foreign media, including some from Japan.

There are several ways to give to the Jawbone Walk  appeal. Visit search for the Meadows Jawbone Arch. You can give by credit or debit card and if you are a taxpayer your tax can be reclaimed.

Cheques should be sent to Edinburgh World Heritage, 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR, marking the envelope ‘Jawbone’. Mobile phone donations can be made by sending a text message to 70070 with the appeal code EWHT27 and the amount. You will receive a reply with a link to allow reclaim of tax.


Add Your Comment
  • Heidi Pearson

    • January 6th, 2014 19:40

    It was Summerhall TV that made the video after I contacted them to see if they would cover the story. Big thanks to Summerhall TV and the members of 2013 Jarl Squad for their help n support.


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