Lord Provost, Gordon Highlanders, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It means a great deal to me to have been invited to unveil this special statue, which commemorates my old local Regiment and which has been so dear to me over the years. When I was a child in the 1950’s, some of my earliest memories were of old Gordon Highlanders who had fought their way through the last war, some of them suffering terribly in Japanese prisoner of war camps, and then found their way back to Balmoral – wonderful characters like Pipe Major Bob Brown, who had been with my Great Grandfather, King George V; Pipe Major Bob Nicol and the heavily be-medalled Robbie Anderson who later became the farm grieve.
These men formed an important part of my upbringing and so you can perhaps imagine what an enormously proud moment it was when Her Majesty appointed me as Colonel-in-Chief of The Gordon Highlanders in 1977, not only because it was such a famous Highland regiment, with a magnificent reputation, but because it was, literally, a local family regiment in which so many people I knew and looked up to had served. I felt incredibly privileged to have been made part of that family, and still feel so today. As I said at that final, sad and poignant parade in Seaton Park in 1994:
"there will always be a very special place in my heart, which is forever a Gordon”.
It is wonderful that this project has been supported so enthusiastically by the Lord Provost and the Council of the City of Aberdeen. You have done my old Regiment a great honour and your generous support will ensure that The Gordon Highlanders are kept very much alive in Aberdeen. The Regiment’s history, values and unique North Eastern characteristics – indeed its total heritage – have so much to teach both young and old.
If I may, I would also like to congratulate you on the location; you have chosen a splendidly appropriate site. Castlehill Barracks stood just behind the nearby Citadel and was the Depot of the Gordon Highlanders from 1872 until 1935, when it moved down King Street to Gordon Barracks, Bridge of Don. Union Street is a street the Regiment marched down many times, with bayonets fixed, Colours flying and Pipes and Drums playing, to exercise their Freedom of the City.
Statues are not simply decorative. The remind us of a city’s history, heritage and its greatest citizens. Today we have ensured a permanent memorial to all those who served in The Gordon Highlanders between 1794 and 1994, while at the same time commemorating the gallant deeds and famous reputation of the Regiment. This statue, which I now take so much pride in unveiling, stands in the heart of the North East – the very area the Regiment came from and represented magnificently for two hundred years.