Relatives get fired up for handover of special 'toon Tam

HE was a larger-than-life character who famously and colourfully manned Edinburgh's One O'clock Gun for more than a quarter of a century.

So it is perhaps only fitting that Tam the Gun is to be immortalised not with a stuffy portrait but with a caricature.

Relatives of Thomas McKay have been gifted the work, which was first produced for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as part of a major exhibition.

After his relatives spotted the artwork and left messages of thanks for the artist, Brian Flynn, organisers the Scottish Cartoon Art Studio pledged to present the original artwork to them when it became possible.

This week the organisers will meet Mr McKay's family in The Chanter on Bread Street to present the picture on the fifth anniversary of his death.

The opportunity arose after the Chanter arranged to have a permanent exhibition of some of the studio's famous caricatures - known as Fizzers.

Terry Anderson, co-ordinator of the studio, said he was glad to finally be able to present the artwork to the family.

"When we had the exhibition of notable Scots, which included the image of Tam the Gun, we saw that the family had left lots of supportive comments in the visitor book," he said.

"It occurred to me then that should the opportunity arise we would give them the original artwork. When I heard the Chanter were setting up this permanent display it seemed the ideal time, and of course it will also mark five years since he passed away."

Staff Sergeant Thomas McKay MBE was the District Gunner with 105th Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) from 1979 until 2005.

During that time he was responsible for the daily firing of the One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, becoming the longest-serving holder of the post. He passed away from cancer in November 2005, aged 60.

A copy of the caricature will also be on permanent display at the Chanter, alongside images of other famous Scots such as Billy Connolly, Ian Rankin, Andy Murray and David Tennant.

Lorna Crawford, manager of the Chanter, said: "We recently had a major refit. We wanted to keep the theme very much Scottish, with Scottish artworks, and so we have a permanent display of caricatures of about 12 famous Scots.

"The studio got in touch when they heard about this and told us what they wanted to do, and obviously we are delighted to welcome the family here for the handover."