Duck row reignites ahead of Sir Nigel Gresley statue unveiling

Sir Nigel Gresley's statue. A duck, out of shot, is planted at his feet

Sir Nigel Gresley's statue. A duck, out of shot, is planted at his feet

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A row over the removal of a duck from a statue of the Scot who designed the Mallard and Flying Scotsman locomotives has been reignited, days before its unveiling.

Campaigners have sought to get a mallard reinstated next to the figure of Sir Nigel Gresley after his family said the bird would detract from the memorial’s dignity.

Supporters of the duck have argued that it would make the 7ft high monument more engaging by highlighting the Edinburgh-born engineer’s connection to Mallard, which holds the steam speed record of 126mph.s

The duck was part of the original design by artist Hazel Reeves, but was scrapped by the Gresley Society Trust (GST), which had commissioned it.

The sculpture is due to be unveiled at King’s Cross Station in London – from where both locomotives ran – to mark the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel’s death on 5 April.

Protesters, whose petition to restore the duck has attracted support from more than 3,000 people, have now lodged a complaint with the Charity Commission over the GST’s handling of the controversy.

The move comes as it emerged that Scottish peer Lord Lindsay, a leading figure in the GST, backs reinstating the mallard.

Campaigners said the GST had made a “false claim” in announcing that all ten of its vice-presidents, who include Lord Lindsay, had made “significant adverse comments” about the duck.

Sir William McAlpine, another vice-president, has already declared his support for the mallard.

Lord Lindsay, a former Conservative minister, said: “I strongly support the presence of a mallard. I believe the duck should be reinstated.

“I had not been approached for my views. It is therefore not accurate for it to be suggested that all vice-presidents disapproved of the mallard.”

Petition organiser Libby Ranzetta said: “The trustees claimed they had consulted widely before taking the decision, and that, having taken it, they enjoyed the support of members and donors to the statue appeal. None of these is true.”

GST chairman David McIntosh admitted to The Scotsman yesterday it had been wrong to make the claim about the vice-presidents’ views as he had forgotten he had not consulted Lord Lindsay.

However, vice-chairman Philip Benham said the GST’s trustees, who are responsible for its running, had concluded the duck would be “inappropriate”.

He said: “It is not the right image to remember someone who was essentially a railway engineer.

“Based on the mock-up of the statue, which included a duck, the natural reaction of some people is to find it funny and to laugh, thus denigrating the memory of Sir Nigel by portraying him as a figure of fun.”

Mr Benham said the link with Mallard would be shown by an image of the locomotive on the cover of The Engineer magazine, which Sir Nigel is holding in the statue.

The Charity Commission said it was assessing the complaint to see if there had been any irregularities.

A spokesman said: “In light of concerns that the charity may have admitted elections may have breached charity law, we have contacted the trustees to ask for their comments about the process around the elections and annual general meeting.”

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