University mace to be unveiled at historic ceremony
Jon Hunt, workshop manager; Kirsty Eaglesfield, designer; and Stephen Bottomley, Department Head, Edinburgh College of Art
A beautiful mace symbolising the landscape and natural elements of the Highlands and Islands will take centre stage at a formal ceremony later this month to mark the creation of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
To be used for years to come at graduation events across the region, the specially-commissioned work-of-art will be presented to mace bearer Allan Bransbury during an historic robing ceremony at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, at 4.30pm on Thursday, 25 August.
It will go to work the following day at the very first graduation ceremony of the new university at Lews Castle College UHI, Isle of Lewis.
The mace – nearing completion at Edinburgh silversmiths Hamilton and Inches - will then take pride of place at the front of an academic procession, due to start around 6.30pm, to the Town House where civic leaders will hold a reception in honour of Scotland’s newest university.
More than 600 people have already accepted invitations, or reserved seats, for the robing ceremony. They include MP and MSPs; students, staff and governors of the 13 university partners across the region; representatives from local authorities and government agencies; honorary fellows and academics. Free seats are also available to members of the public but must be reserved through the Eden Court box office.
Gifted by the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Strathclyde, the university mace has been designed by Edinburgh College of Art’s jewellery and silversmithing department. The college becomes part of the University of Edinburgh this month.
Department and project head Stephen Bottomley said: “We were delighted to be asked to take on this exciting project for a new and innovative university and have created a design reflecting the rich diversity of land, sea and air and their combined elemental strength.”
Four past and present students, led by 2008 graduate Kirsty Eaglesfield, were responsible for the design and have worked on individual elements of the metalwork with Hamilton and Inches. The others are Emma McCallum, who graduated last year, honours year student Hazel Thorn, and third year colleague Sarah Stanford.
The mace is made from silver and wood – with indigenous Scottish light ash for the shaft – and some gold and mixed metals in the detail. The ornamentation symbolises sand or beaches, water and air, while the lower mount is adorned with three 18ct yellow gold wires depicting mountains. A concave plate is mounted at the very bottom of the mace, reflecting the theme of water and waves.
The honour of being mace bearer for the day has been bestowed on Allan Bransbury who was assistant director of the former University of the Highlands and Islands Project. He will carry the mace at the front of the procession, headed by the Royal British Legion Scotland Inverness Pipes and Drums, to the Town House.
The festivities will include a fly-past by RAF jets, a film showing the university’s students, locations and activities across the partnership, formal speeches, and poems, traditional music especially composed for the occasion, and a welcome to guests in Gaelic, Orcadian, Scots, English and Shetlandic by school children representing the region.
As it crosses the Ness Bridge in the town centre, RAF jets will make a low level flypast in honour of Scotland’s newest university. This will be the climax of a flypast of all the campuses – a symbol of the collegiate nature of the university.
The University of the Highlands and Islands was granted university title by the Privy Council in February this year. It now has over 8000 students, located and studying throughout a partnership comprising: Argyll College UHI; Highland Theological College UHI, Dingwall; Inverness College UHI; Lews Castle College UHI, Lewis; Moray College UHI; NAFC Marine Centre UHI, Shetland; North Highland College UHI, Thurso; Orkney College UHI; Perth College UHI; Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, Skye; Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI, Dunstaffnage; Shetland College UHI, and West Highland College UHI.