From Charles: Thank you for your work on the Unifying Cairn: and meet Sir Ranulph Fiennes!


Hugh Paxton’s Blog will attend this cairn building exercise on the 28th of this month. And will let you know a little bit more about what it involves. The cairn aims, symbolically to heal wounds and prevent the break up of friends, neighbours and countries. The following message and invitation to bring a rock comes from Rory, one of the project’s organisers.

Dear Friends of Hands Across the Border,

Thank you all very much who came yesterday. We saw 2 year-olds, and 92 year-olds carrying worn peridotite stones from the summit of the Black Cuilin in Skye, quartz form the cairngorms, Shropshire Slate, millstone grit form Derbyshire, and a sharp-edged brown flint from Kent. There were miniature pebbles form the Tyne and Thames, and a stone the size of a table-top from the exact line of the border. Some had been painted with Saltires, others inscribed with poems – others just bluntly stated “Old Red Sandstone Perthshire” or ‘Christenberry crag”. By the end of the day the rocks lay six layers deep, forming what will be the foundation of the Auld Acquaintance cairn. The music came from the pipe-major from Langholm, an English piper from Dumfries – accompanied by a Scot with a piccolo, and finally from a man in full Jacobite fig, who was still piping six hours after we had begun.

My favourite moment, however, was at two o’clock, when almost five hundred of us – Welsh, Kentishmen, Cornish, Ulstermen, Highlanders, Borderers, and Cumbrians, linked arms, to sing Auld Lang Syne. That powerful, linked circle three deep, has now defined the perimeter of the cairn – which will be 150 feet in circumference. (See photo). The sun, the gentle movement of the river Sark, under Thomas Telford’s union bridge, the number of families, all emphasised the peaceful solidarity and friendship that has grown across the border over the last three hundred years. We came from four nations, and dozens of counties, but built the structure, together like one extended family.

Now comes the hard part. It will take, hundreds of thousands of stones to build the sides of the cairn, over the next few weeks. Please, therefore, if you haven’t come, come soon. If you were with us yesterday, please come back and donate a little time, helping to build the structure. If you were prepared to volunteer a day over the summer, working on site that would be particularly welcome – gloves, and burgers will be provided.

And please pass on the message to friends from anywhere, and from any political persuasion. It is not intended to be a party political event – yesterday we had the Shadow Scotland Minister Russell Brown (Labour, Dumfries and Galloway) working alongside David Mundell (Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale). The historians Simon Schama, David Starkey, Max Hastings, and Antony Beevor, the philosopher AC Grayling, the General Charles Guthrie, and the writer Alain de Botton have all contributed stones to the cairn.

Finally, if you would like to meet – and work alongside – the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or know anyone who does, he will be working with us on site, next Monday, 28 July, in the afternoon. He will also give a short speech, reflecting on stone, rock and the union, and would be delighted to meet anyone who is there. We will also be joined next Monday by the great climber Alan Hinkes OBE – the first British man to climb every peak over 8000 meters. And we are inviting climbers, mountaineers, and explorers from across the United Kingdom to join us for what will be a challenging afternoon.

The cairn is behind the ‘First House in Scotland’ toll-house at Gretna (just South of the Gretna Gateway). Directions can be found at We are also collecting donations towards the project. Any donations of any amount welcome at
Thank you again very much for all your support. And hope to see many of you soon, perhaps this coming Monday,

Very best wishes


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MP for Penrith and the Border · House of Commons · London, London SW1A 0AA · United Kingdom


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