THE Princess Royal described the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton as “very good” during a planned visit to unveil a memorial to Scotland’s sea heroes in Edinburgh today.
Princess Anne, who was in Leith for the unveiling of a monument to Scotland’s merchant seamen, also offered a small smile when asked what she thought of the news, before disappearing into a waiting car.
Her brief acknowledgment came moments after she joined hundreds of people on The Shore in Leith to view a new Memorial sculpture which depicts the varied history and operations of the Scottish Merchant Navy.
Veterans, serving members of the armed forces, cadets, members of the public and some notable local figures including, Kwik-Fit entrepreneur, Sir Tom Farmer as well as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, watched as the sandstone monument was officially presented.
The Princess Royal is the patron of Merchant Navy Memorial Trust (MNMTS), the organisation that raised the money to fund the memorial, the first ever dedicated solely to the Scottish Merchant Navy.
Princess Anne thanked those who had come along to the event to witness the unveiling of, “a remarkable memorial for a very remarkable group of people.”
In her address to the crowds of people she stressed the importance of remembering those from the past and carrying that reminder into the future.
She said: “This memorial offers not just the opportunity for a public thank-you but to remind future generations just how important the service remains and our understanding of it.
“I’m hugely impressed by the support gained for this memorial from the donors; from the work the trustees have done it reflects enormously well on Leith and Edinburgh, on the speed of its response to this suggestion.
“I fear that might not happen everywhere in Britain, but it does show that there are places that really do appreciate the role of the Merchant Navy helping their country.”
The Princess Royal went on to say that she hoped this memorial marked a turning point that would draw attention towards the Merchant Navy, “an area which has never been fully thanked”.
Ex-Able Seaman in the Merchant Navy, Kenneth MacLeanm, 75, travelled from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides to attend the ceremony in Leith.
He wore the military medals of his father, who also served in the Merchant Navy but died aged 33 in 1942 when his ship was blown-up by a German torpedo.
He said: “It’s wonderful because it’s in a really central place and the young people will see it and they will realise the sacrifice that was made, because the battle of Britain would never have happened if the Merchant Navy had not delivered the RAF the petrol for their planes.
He added: “They were getting blown-up and they were just disappearing from the sea just in a couple of minutes, so the Merchant Navy were making that sacrifice all the time to bring everything to our country.”
Gordon Milne, Founder and Trustee of MNMTS, said: “The Merchant Navy has never been recognised as a serving service it was volunteers, they were not conscripts, and although 32,000 British Merchant Seamen lost their lives in World War Two and 6,500 of those were Scots, it has been lost from the public recognition of the sacrifice they gave.
He added: “There has been a tremendous need for that to be rectified by the memorial today.”
Edinburgh-based sculptor, Jill Watson took a year of solid work to create the final monument. She said it was a “huge privilege and huge responsibility” to create the memorial.
The four sides of the memorial pillar are split into layers that reflect various aspects of the Merchant Navy including, the history of the ships, dangers that faced the seamen and the many jobs that the seamen such as navigation and docking the ship as well as death at sea.
She said: “It’s a memorial, it’s not a war memorial but it does cover lost of life and huge sacrifice and so I hope I have done justice to these men.”