Mary Queen of Scots at Dundrennan

This event, part of the Living Lowlands series, part of Homecoming Scotland, involved Historic Scotland’s first artist-in-residence Iona Leishman in conversation with Stuart Kelly discussing her work before the unveiling, during the event, of her painting “Last footfall”.

It conveys Mary Queen of Scots’ last place of stay in Scotland at Dundrennan in 1568 before fleeing into England to find only imprisonment and execution.

Before the painting was unveiled Leishman described her beginnings as an artist and her time painting at Stirling Castle. While discussing her previous paintings and showing them with a slideshow, Leishman showed her painting “Escape at Dawn” depicting the flight of Mary as a baby from Stirling Castle in 1548 in the face of English invasion during the ironically named “Rough Wooing”, conveying the panic in whisking Mary away from danger. Leishman discussed this interesting meeting of History as Art.

As she said, while being inspired by real locations these paintings are her take own on those historical events. However while this may be true, it can still help in understanding the past because firstly it can help us imagine what the event might have been like but also because history is a flexible enough study that different questions may introduced and asked like “ what does this art show about present views of the past and does differ from pervious ones?”

Lastly the new painting, “Last footfall” was revealed. In the painting Leishman depicts the last days of Mary being in Scotland , with Dundrennan Abbey peopled with fading figures from her life as she flees exhausted from her defeat at the Battle of Langside having lost her crown and her son James to the victorious protestant lords who opposed her. This ended an event that was a fascinating mix of art and history which helps in our understanding the past.