Moray firm bears the weight of Capital tribute to Polish hero

Made in Moray - Edinburgh tribute to a famous Polish bear is being produced by Rothes firm
Made in Moray – Edinburgh tribute to a famous Polish bear is being prepared by Rothes firm.

A PIECE OF MORAY craftsmanship will soon be on show in Scotland’s capital as part of a lasting tribute to a much loved and heroic bear.

Wojtek the Brown Bear was perhaps an unlikely recruit into the Polish army during the Second World War – but an official recruit he was, tasked with the job of carrying boxes of live shells to gun emplacements.

He became a symbol of the wartime struggle for Poland and her people, having been reared from a cub by soldiers before being officially recruited into the ranks. Wojtek was said to have developed the habits of his comrades, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, as he became a symbol of the Polish struggle against Nazi Germany.

Wojtek was attached to the Polish Second Corps in Persia in 1942 and remained with the army fighting in Egypt for two years. It was after the war that he came to Scotland when his unit was camped in Berwickshire – and when his battalion were ordered home to Poland, Wojtek wrangled a discharge to the care of Edinburgh Zoo.

Now the heroic bear is being remembered in the Capital with a £250,000 sculpture funded by the Wojtek Memorial Trust being put in a place of honour in Princes Street Gardens – the result of several years of campaigning for official recognition by the Trust.

The sculpture – one and a half times real life size – will be unveiled at a special ceremony in November, and working hard towards that date is a team from G Laing Stonecraft of Rothes, who have been contracted to create the base on which the work of artist Alan Herriot will stand.

Led by Gary Laing, the three-man Moray team includes stonemason Jordan Peden and with a particular interest in this work, sculptor Stanislaw Makocki, who is from Poland but now lives in Fochabers.

Taking time out on the work in Edinburgh Gary told insideMoray: “We are honoured and delighted to be playing a part in creating this wonderful tribute to such a heroic bear – and it’s perhaps fitting that one of our team in the capital is himself Polish.

“It is I believe the first time in around 80 years that a new statue has been put in place on Princess Street Gardens so it is a particular pleasure for us to be a part of this project.”

Mr Laing’s firm are no strangers to taking their craft well beyond the confines of Moray, their work on display at such as the Stonehaven Town Hall, St Mary’s Cathedral and Marischal College in Aberdeen and the West Church in Thurso.