Town's £84,000 artwork is a coo coup

MOST civic sculptures in Scotland tend to honour the great and the good – from heroes like William Wallace to literary giants such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

Workers at Powderhall Bronze Foundry position a model from which to make a mould.

But an Aberdeenshire town is planning to defy tradition later this year when it unveils its tribute to the most celebrated figure in the burgh's history – a life sized bronze statue of a cow.

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Almost a century ago, the farming community of Turriff was the unlikely setting for one of the most bizarre anti-government riots ever staged in Britain.

At the centre of the disruption was an unassuming white shorthorn cow, famed throughout the country as the "Turra Coo".

In 1913, the Turra Coo hit the headlines when it was transformed into a symbol of defiance by local farmers in their furious opposition to the new National Insurance Act championed by David Lloyd George, the then chancellor and future prime minister.

The act made health insurance payments compulsory for workers between 16 and 70. But local farmers complained the level of contribution for their farmhands was too high as they were rarely sick.

Robert Paterson was one of the local farmers who refused to pay the new contributions. And the shorthorn was seized by sheriff's officers to pay his debt to the government.

The auctioneer's attempt to sell the cow sparked a riot as an angry mob, 100 strong, pelted the sheriff's officers with eggs, soot, turnips and cabbages.

The animal was later quietly sold in Aberdeen and bought by local farmers who returned it to Mr Paterson. But the furore also led to the formation of the Scottish Farm Servants' Union to campaign for better pay and conditions in the agricultural industry.

Until now the legendary cow has only been celebrated in commemorative plates and tankards. But a statue of the Turra Coo has been commissioned at cost of 84,000 as the town's first piece of civic art.

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The unveiling of the statue later this summer will mark the culmination of a five-year campaign to honour the Turra Coo by the Turriff Tourism Action Group.

Kate Ferguson, the chairwoman of the group, said it was hoped that the "lively addition" to the centre of Turriff would act as a catalyst for the rejuvenation of the entire town.

She said: "A statue to honour the Turra Coo is long overdue. It was an innocent creature which was dragged into history.Turriff has no public art at all and it's a fitting choice for our first project. Farming is very important to this area – so why not. There is a strong feeling of civic pride in Turriff about the ownership of the beast."

Ms Ferguson added: "We are hoping it will be major tourist draw for the town and act as a catalyst for various projects and events round about it as well."