Rory Stewart, member of parliament for Penrith and the Border, welcomed a group of schoolchildren from Lees Hill Church of England Primary School near Brampton to the Auld Acquaintance Cairn in Gretna yesterday. Twenty one of the school’s twenty-seven pupils came to the cairn accompanied by parents and teachers to learn more about the Scottish independence referendum and how it may impact them.
The children, who ranged in age from three to ten years old, were joined by Reverend Janice Murray, the school’s parish minister, who lead the children in prayer and sang hymns in the Cairn’s central chamber. The children then spent the afternoon painting stones to add to the Cairn.
Headteacher Jill Stevenson said: “We have been learning about the referendum in class and the reasons both for and against independence. It is important that they understand both sides of the argument. However, living so close to the border, many of our pupils have family on both sides of the border and so want Scotland to stay within the Union.”
Jake Stearns, aged 9, said “Things wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have Scotland. We’re better sticking together so that we’ll be stronger.”
Located right on the Scotland-England border, in a bend of the River Sark, the cairn – the project of MP Rory – has seen thousands of people from Britain and beyond lay their own rocks, drawing thousands who do not have a vote in the referendum but want a voice. It is a visually very powerful symbol of the Union and represents the only physical opportunity for English, Welsh and Northern Irish people to demonstrate their friendship and their belief in Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.
People from all walks of life and leading celebrities, including Joanna Lumley, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Douglas Alexander MP, have already flocked to the site from as far afield as Mull, Aberdeenshire, Yeovil and Aberystwyth solely to place a stone on the cairn in a peaceful act of solidarity and respect for keeping the United Kingdom together. Many have brought their own stones, which have a special meaning for them, hundreds of miles to form the Cairn. Each and every stone tells a different story.
Speaking in the week in which the Scottish people will decide their future, Rory said: “The thing that has been lacking in all this debate as far as I am concerned is the heart, from the British side. Everyone you talk to in Scotland says, my heart says ‘yes’ my head says ‘no’. My view is, ‘Your heart should say no’.
“Our cairn is a physical demonstration of the heart. If you dig into the cairn you will find layer upon layer of stone, carved, painted, engraved all the way down to the ground. It is an extraordinary 100,000-line poem to Britain.”