Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Wednesday, 27 October 2010 10:23 UK
In the footsteps of Thomas Muir
Huntershill House (Jimmy Watson)
Huntershill House was the home of political reformer Thomas Muir

A man described as the founding father of Scottish democracy is to take a more prominent place on Scotland's map with a proposed new heritage trail which is in the early stages of planning.

Thomas Muir was a political reformer based in Huntershill, Bishopbriggs.

The 18th Century advocate was instrumental in encouraging the establishment of parliamentary reform societies in Scotland, leaving a lasting legacy of democracy.

His life and work are now being recognised with the establishment of a heritage trail.

New route

The proposed new eleven-mile route uses existing paths suitable for families, walkers and cyclists. A map highlighting Muir's connections and interesting features along the way is planned.

Statue of Thomas Muir by Alexander Stoddart (Jimmy Watson)

Thomas Muir promoted universal suffrage, establishing reform societies in Scotland, promoting votes for all. In 1792 a "Convention of the Delegates of the Scottish friends of the People" was held in Edinburgh calling on the government for parliamentary reform.

Muir was tried for sedition in 1793. The French Revolution was in full force across the Channel and the government feared the same would happen in Britain.

Muir was viewed as a traitor by the Government although others were inspired by his deeds. Robert Burns finished "Scots Wha Hae" on the day Muir's trial began and it is believed the song was penned in tribute to Muir and his radical colleagues.

Man of Strathkelvin

Muir was sentenced to transportation to the penal colony of Australia for 14 years. He escaped from Botany Bay in 1796 and settled in France. He died there at the age of 33, in 1799.

Muir was very much a man of Strathkelvin, now better known as East Dunbartonshire, growing up and living at the family home of Huntershill House. His name is remembered in the district with a permanent exhibition at Bishopbriggs Library and a cairn and martyr's gate in his honour at Huntershill Village.

Gentlemen, from my infancy to this moment, I have devoted myself to the cause of the People. It is a good cause. It shall ultimately prevail. It shall finally triumph
Thomas Muir, 1793

Nationally and internationally Muir is arguably less well known. A monument on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, dedicated to Muir and his fellow martyrs Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerrald dominates the skyline but few people realise the significance of the five Scottish martyrs in advancing the cause of democracy.

This year there were calls for a posthumous pardon for Muir and for a new statue dedicated to him to be erected in Edinburgh at either the Scottish Parliament or on the Royal Mile in recognition of his legacy. It is hoped that the heritage trail will raise awareness of Muir and his struggle to advance the rights of the common man.

'Forgotten hero'

Jimmy Watson, spokesman for the Friends of Thomas Muir, said: "My hope is that we'll raise awareness of this almost forgotten hero and at the same time promote outdoor activities, education, local history and tourism."

The trail begins at Clachan of Campsie traversing through Lennoxtown, Kirkintilloch and other places of importance to Muir before ending at his home at Huntershill House.

Jimmy describes the trail as: "The gateway to the great outdoors. The trail starts at Glasgow's north boundary and passes through some of East Dunbartonshire's most beautiful countryside and meanders alongside the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Glazert Water and the River Kelvin."

The Thomas Muir Trail is due to open in May 2011, launching at the Thomas Muir Festival. The trail can be walked or cycled in sections and has links to public transport.

East Dunbartonshire's deputy council leader, councillor Billy Hendry is also proposing that the current redevelopment of Bishopbriggs town centre includes a building, civic space and monument dedicated to Muir.

In pictures: Thomas Muir Trail
27 Oct 10 |  People & Places
Call for Holyrood statue rethink
04 May 10 |  Scotland



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