Tommy was the mouse that roared
A Hollywood star has thanked all those involved in siting a statue to his grandfather at a Falkirk landmark '“ and has promised to visit soon.
Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of Thomas Clement Douglas, a social reformer and politician who was born in Camelon in 1904.
The acclaimed actor sent a message for the ceremony when a bronze bust was unveiled in the visitor centre at the Falkirk Wheel.
The family of Tommy Douglas left their home in a Sunnyside tenement to emigrate to Canada in 1910 where he went on to dedicate his adult life to helping others, firstly through the Christian ministry and then in politics, eventually becoming the Premier of Saskatchewan province from 1944-1962.
He introduced Medicare – free health care – for all Canadians and in 2004, two years before his death, and was voted ‘The Greatest Canadian’ in a poll run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
For over a decade members of Camelon Local History Society, led by the late Willie Abercrombie, researched the life and times of Tommy Douglas and were determined to ensure his memory was never forgotten in the place where he was born.
Kenneth Shirra, a member of the group, said: “Willie Abercrombie was what we now call a community activist, someone like Tommy Douglas, who cared about the place and the people around him.
“Willie used to live in the Sunnyside tenements and became interested in finding out more about Tommy Douglas. He was always keen to see some sort of tribute to him locally.”
However, following Mr Abercrombie’s death in 2009 plans came to a standstill before being resurrected a few years ago.
Mr Shirra added: “When Tesco and Aldi opened in Camelon there was planning gain and this money was to be used to erect a fitting memorial to Tommy Douglas, the man from this area who made such an impact on the life of others.”
With the support of MSP Michael Matheson, Falkirk Community Trust, Provost Pat Reid and Falkirk Council the bust was commissioned from Alloa artist Walter Awlson and cast in bronze by Powderhall Bronze Foundry, Edinburgh.
At last week’s unveiling, Provost Reid welcomed everyone before speeches from Ian Scott, chairman of the community trust, Helena Huws of Scottish Canals and Mr Shirra.
Local amateur actor Alan Clark of Tryst Theatre then gave one of Tommy Douglas’s most famous speeches, The Story of Mouseland in character as the politician.
Provost Reid then read out the email from Kiefer Sutherland, which stated: “To the town of Falkirk , Falkirk Council and Walter Awlson, on behalf of myself and my family I would like to say how honoured we are that you have chosen to recognise Tommy Douglas. We look forward to visiting as soon as possible to see the finished statue. Best wishes for the unveiling.”
Anne Stewart, daughter of Willie Abercrombie, then performed the unveiling.
A spokesperson for Falkirk Community Trust said: “The bust has been sited in the Visitor Centre at the Falkirk Wheel and will be accessible to the many thousands of visitors and residents who visit there each year.”