Discover Edie Ochiltree

28th April 2022

Abbotsford's Collections and Interpretation Manager, Kirsty Archer- Thompson, tells the story of our Edie Ochiltree statue. 

At the entrance to our woodland path network to the west of the house stands a sandstone statue of the wandering beggar (or gaberlunzie in Scots), Edie Ochiltree, one of Walter Scott’s most beloved literary creations. Ochiltree is one of the most memorable characters in Scott’s 1816 novel, The Antiquary.  

The statue is nearly identical to the figure carved for an empty niche of the world-famous Scott Monument in 1871 by the Darnick-based sculptor Andrew Currie. Currie was a devoted fan of Scott’s literature and was thrilled by this centenary commission; it was said that he was so passionate about the project that he tracked down a direct descendant of the real-life inspiration behind Scott’s fictional character (a local man named Andrew Gemmell), simply to better study the family facial features!

We know that Andrew Currie was employed by the Hope-Scott family at Abbotsford for a variety of projects in the late 1860s, not least our sleeping deerhounds that guard the entrance door to the Hope-Scott Wing (at that time the principle living quarters of the house), so it seems almost certain that our carving of Ochiltree is one of his creations, whether as a family commission for Walter Scott’s centenary year or as a practice piece for his subsequent work at the monument.      

The gravestone of Andrew Gemmel in Roxburgh churchyard was erected the mid-nineteenth century and its carved detail overtly links him with Scott’s Edie Ochiltree. Gemmell died in 1793 at the age of 106! Photograph courtesy of Kirsty Archer-Thompson.

By 2012, our Ochiltree statue had lost his right hand and walking stick and a team of stone conservators set about the task of meticulously reconstructing and restoring them, aided by a close examination of the detail in Currie’s Scott Monument statue and an antique painted plaster model of the figure preserved in the Abbotsford collections, in order to recreate the form and pose of the original. These repairs were then seamlessly blended with the antique stonework.  

Sources suggest that these sleeping hounds were commissioned to impress Queen Victoria, a great dog lover, during her visit to Abbotsford in August 1867. They were completed just hours before she arrived! Photograph by Angus Bremner.

These days, Edie is a popular character on our estate, welcoming walkers to our woodlands with his genial smile. He’s held balloons on Scott’s birthday, ended up with several feet of snow on his hat, and appeared in lots of your photos over the years with families and four-legged friends! So, next time you are wandering Scott’s woods, why not give him a friendly wave?

Photograph by Ray Cox