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Glasgow marks 250 year anniversary of Scots radical Thomas Muir

Glasgow marks 250 year anniversary of Scots radical Thomas Muir

The man at the centre of one of the most notorious court cases in Scottish history is about to be honoured 250 years after his birth.

Regarded by many as the 'father of Scottish democracy', 18th century radical Thomas Muir is to be celebrated in a special symposium on Friday by the very university he once expelled himself from in protest centuries ago.

Born in Glasgow in 1765, Muir attended the 'gowned classes' of Glasgow University from the age of 10, but left in protest years later after refusing to apologise for accusing the then principal and faculty members of mismanaging funds.

A trained lawyer who campaigned widely for greater democratic rights for the Scottish people, Muir lived in a time when bagpipes, Gaelic and wearing tartan or kilts was banned in Scotland in an attempt to bring the wayward Scots clans under government control.

As an outspoken proponent for political reform, Muir angered the political establishment who saw him as a ring leader.

via STV via STV

Tried and found guilty of sedition in 1793, the radical was banished to Botany Bay, Australia, for 14 years, but the trial was widely regarded as a fix.

He eventually escaped to Mexico and then France after a dramatic battle at sea which smashed his left cheek bone and left the side of his face to droop revealing his teeth in a perpetual grimace.

Upon reaching sanctuary in Europe, he then called on the French Government to “liberate Scotland” but he died two years later.

Thomas Muir’s reputation was so damaged among the establishment, however, he was almost airbrushed out of history.

There are no Thomas Muir statues in Glasgow, although there is a bust of him in the Bishopbriggs Library and the National Portrait Gallery has a small image of him in contrast to a considerably larger painting of the judge, Lord Braxfield, who condemned him.

But on Friday October 30, to mark the 250th anniversary of Thomas Muir’s birth, the University of Glasgow will host a celebration in honour of one of their most notorious alumni.

For the first time in centuries, the university will study the evidence of his self-inflicted expulsion and discuss his life as a student, his politics and his achievements.

Professor Gerard Carruthers, Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature, said: "The symposium is recognition that Thomas Muir is coming in from the cold after 250 years. It is recognition that he fought for what he believed in.

"Muir was a man of conscience. He was also thrown out of almost every club to which he ever belonged. The Church of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the University of Glasgow to name a few.

"He was divisive and argumentative but he was also passionate when it came to what he believed in. Throughout his life he didn’t care who he upset, if it was something he strongly believed in he would not give up."

The Thomas Muir Symposium, hosted by the University of Glasgow’s Burns Centre, will be held in The Humanities Lecture Theatre, from 12noon – 5pm, October 30. Admission is free.

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