Bronze statue to capture Robert Louis Stevenson in childhood

A sketch of the statue shows Stevenson with a notebook, watched by a dog
A sketch of the statue shows Stevenson with a notebook, watched by a dog
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One of Scotland’s best-known writers is to be immortalised with a new statue – portraying him as a child.

Well over a century after his death, a public statue of Robert Louis Stevenson is being created to honour his connections to Edinburgh, the city of his birth.

A bronze statue of the writer – who famously denounced public memorials to writers – 
depicting him as a youngster will be installed outside the 
parish church where his grandfather used to be the minister.

The young Stevenson used to make regular trips to the 
village of Colinton, in the west of the city, while Dr Lewis 
Balfour preached there.

Now the statue, which is being designed by Midlothian sculptor Allan Herriot, is planned as the focal point of an art trail through the historic village. It will depict an aspiring writer with a notebook on his lap, watched by a local dog.

Although there are several memorials to Stevenson – including at his former home at Heriot Row and inside St Giles’ Cathedral – there are only two modest statues inside the Writers’ Museum, off the Royal Mile, where a vast collection of material linked to the writer is held.

The image of the proposed statue has been revealed ahead of the first ever city-wide celebrations to mark the writer’s birthday today.

A new exhibition also begins today charting one of Stevenson’s most famous journeys – along a 13-mile trail through the Cévennes mountains in France, accompanied by a donkey.

The £150,000 project in Colinton, which has been approved in principle by Edinburgh City Council, will also see a number of panels of Stevenson poetry erected in the public garden outside the church – including The Summer Sun, The Gardener, Looking Glass River and The Swing – and on a walking trail through the village. Ornamental steel railings will also feature a timeline depicting other notable occasions in 
Colinton’s history.

Roy Durie, a member of Colinton Conservation Trust, which is behind the proposed statue, said: “We’ve been trying to get these plans off the ground for several years now, but the whole project now has permission from the council and we’re now working up the designs for the statue with the artist.

“The first part of the project is due to get under way next summer and the big priority is to get the statue in place as soon as possible. There are quite a few tributes around Edinburgh to Stevenson, but this is actually the first statue of him that anyone will be able to visit.”

Stevenson was born in 1850, at Howard Place, Edinburgh, son of lighthouse engineer Thomas Stevenson, and his wife, Margaret. The family later lived at Heriot Row.

His childhood was plagued by illness which left him frail and thin. He studied engineering at Edinburgh University, but his talent was writing. He eventually made his home in Upolu, one of the Samoan islands. He died from a stroke aged 44 on 3 December, 1894, leaving behind his works, including Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped.

The Edinburgh City of Literature Trust is staging a special RLS Day today as part of a campaign to both raise awareness of his work as well as promote literary tourism in the capital.