Monthly Archives: August 2014


Published in The Financial Times, Tuesday 26 August 2014

Gretna becomes focal point for Scottish independence No vote

By Chris Tighe

In a field not far from Gretna Green, a place long associated with weddings, a monument to the sense of Britishness felt by people on both sides of the border is growing day by day.

E5G41N The Hands Across the Border community build the Auld Aquaintance Cairn on the England Scotland border at Gretna. The cairn is being built by people who believe in the Union between England and Scotland ahead of the Scottish referendum on independance. Rory Stewart Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border: STUART WALKER
The instigator of the project, Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for the Cumbrian constituency of Penrith and The Border

With less than a month until Scots vote on whether to end their country’s union with England after 307 years, the Auld Acquaintance Cairn has become a focus for members of the public to demonstrate their desire for the union to continue.

In the past five weeks, more than 10,000 people have visited the cairn to add stones, many painted with messages or flags.

The instigator of the project, Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for the Cumbrian constituency of Penrith and The Border, wanted, he says, to give people north and south of the border the chance to show their affection for the union and support for its continuation.

“I worry something has gone wrong over the past 20-30 years with British identity,” says Mr Stewart, an Old Etonian of Scottish parentage.

But, he adds: “I do believe in the end that British people do care about keeping their country together. This provides an opportunity for people to express that.

The cairn has an outer wall, built by Cumbrian and Scottish drystone wallers, and a central chamber, rising to 12ft, which can be entered.

The public’s stones are piling up in the space between the two. The design draws on the Bronze Age Clava burial cairns of Inverness.

Asked whether the cairn could persuade undecided Scottish voters, Mr Stewart likens the referendum to a marriage where one person is thinking of leaving. “It’s important to say: stay with Britain.”

He believes the outcome of the vote on September 18 is far from certain.

“I think it’s going to be very, very close.” Five points, he predicts, is the most that will divide the two sides.


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Hands Across The Border are delighted to announce the publication of a short film which we believe sums up the meaning of our project. The film features people who live close to the cairn expressing what Scotland’s place in the Union means to them and why they’ll be backing our campaign. Rory Stewart also talks about the ideas behind the cairn and what it stands for. The cairn has come on a long way since the film was shot, but do please have a look at it and spread the word among your friends and family! Have a look at the film here: Hands Across The Border Film

Commemoration at the Cairn this Sunday 24 August

As part of Hands Across The Border’s highly successful project to build an enormous cairn in Gretna as a symbol of unity and friendship in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum, Rory Stewart MP will be welcoming former servicemen and members of the public to our ‘Commemoration at the Cairn’ event this Sunday from 12 until 3pm. To tie in with the First World War centenary celebrations, the event will focus upon the unique history of the local area during the Great War.
Gretna was once the site of the UK’s largest munitions factory which employed some 30,000 people and stretched 12 miles right across the border from Eastriggs in Scotland to Longtown in England. It was also the site of the Quintinshill rail disaster, the UK’s worst ever rail crash, in which some 215 Scottish troops were tragically killed on their way to Gallipoli. The event will have interesting speeches, fascinating exhibits and plenty of food, fun and activities for all ages. It will be a fantastic opportunity for learning and reflection for members of the public and ex-servicemen alike. Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb KBE CMG DSO, a Scottish former Commander of the Field Army and Director of UK Special Forces, is our special guest and will be speaking at the event. General Lamb was deputy commanding officer of multi-national forces in Iraq and was special advisor to US General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. We look forward to seeing you there!

Car Boot Sale & Teddy Bear’s Picnic Saturday 16 August

Car boot sale post


Bring the whole family along to the Auld Acquaintance cairn for a picnic and car boot sale on Saturday 16 August from 12 to 5 pm. Kids can bring their teddy bears and get creative decorating stones for the cairn. There will be a BBQ on site for who doesn’t bring a picnic.

Phone 07850 584436 to reserve a selling spot. Price only £5 per car!

We look forward to seeing you all down at the cairn on Saturday! See the ‘Getting there’ tab on our website for directions to the site.