Paying tribute to 'PJ'
Andrew PK Wright
08 Sep 2013
It was a great privilege to be present at the unveiling of the equestrian statue of King Robert on September 5th 2013, which re-enacted a similar event some fifty years previously, to hear the Earl of Elgin's inspired address in homage to his ancestor. Present in May 1964 had been the sculptor Charles d'Orville Pilkington Jackson, by then already in his late 70s, and so it was an unexpected delight to be able to meet descendants of his family who had been invited to the unveiling.
'PJ', as he was known to those who worked with him, was the unsung hero of the wonderful legacy of monuments which draw visitors to the crown of the hill where the king planted his battle standard in June 1314. I admire him not just for his artistic ability, but for the sheer determination with which he saw through this iconic vision – which was entirely his - of the warrior king.
The equestrian sculpture, on which he had lavished so much time and energy in the twilight of his career, had suffered from atmospheric pollution to the extent some of the detail of the fine casting was at risk of being lost, or blurred.
Only a few months ago I was standing within the covered scaffold (erected for the conservators to carry out their work under controlled conditions) face-to-face with the head of the King, genuinely surprised by the massiveness of its dimensions and by the shock of seeing it turn from vivid green to a lustrous copper finish prior to applying the treatment of waxes to restore the original protective bronze surface finish.
Revealed beneath the skirts of the warrior's battle charger were immortalised the initials of the fourteen men who cast the sculpture in Martyn's foundry in Chichester five decades previously, and the signature of the sculptor together with the years of his toil - lest we dare forget. It is a sobering thought to think that, of the main protagonists in the twentieth century battlefield at Bannockburn, Pilkington Jackson was the only one to retire from it without a knighthood.
ANDREW PK WRIGHT OBE BArch RIBA PPRIAS FRSA FSAScot
Chartered Architect & Heritage Consultant