Amidst calls for statues to be removed or explanations provided, there’s one historical wrong that could be righted by simply engraving another name.
For the Martyrs’ Monument in Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh recalling those transported to Botany Bay for seeking democracy has the names of Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer, William Skirving, Maurice Margarot and Joseph Gerald etched on it.
One name is omitted and that’s the forgotten Martyr. George Mealmaker, a weaver from Dundee, wrote the pamphlet that saw the Rev Fyshe Palmer prosecuted for sedition. Despite the risk to himself Mealmaker admitted to that, but the authorities probably thought a radical minister a better catch than a humble weaver.
How wrong they were. Mealmaker was a remarkable man and viewed as the leader of the United Scotsmen. They were a clandestine organisation formed after the early trials when it was decided they would fight back rather than go meekly. They were modelled on, and supported by, the United Irishmen, explaining why the euphemism for being prepared to resist physically was to be “planting Irish potatoes”.
They were active especially in weaving communities; because of them Henry Dundas was afraid to visit communities such as Perth and brought in military repression across central Scotland.
It’s inconceivable that the anti-militia riots that convulsed the land in 1797 weren’t, in many ways, fostered by them.
Arrested and transported for 14 years, Mealmaker died in Australia a few years later – only Margarot made it home. He deserves to have his name added to that roll.
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