17 April 2007

Proud son of Banff honoured - Banffshire Journal

By George Boardman, Banffshire Journal

A DESCENDANT of Banff who became an 18th century Prince of the Russian Empire was commemorated with a life-size statue worth £200,000 last month.

The monument that was worked on for a year by a team of four, is in the city of Chernyakhovsk, in Russia, and celebrates Michael Barclay de Tolly, a descendant of Sir Patrick Barclay of Towie, who lived 400 years ago in Banffshire.

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson, who attended the unveiling ceremony, told the 'Journal' that there were about half a dozen television crews on hand to capture the event for Russian viewers.

Chernyakhovsk officials are keen that a plaque commemorating Michael Barclay de Tolly be put on a suitable building in Banff, according to Mr Stevenson.

Descendents of the de Tollys were also invited along to the ceremony and the 'Banffshire Journal' made an appeal in January for relatives to come forward.

And last week a de Tolly contacted the paper by email from the United States, saying that there were a number of his descendents now living there.

Michael (1757-1818) became Minister of War, Field Marshal and Prince of the Russian Empire, and was one of the heroes of the Russian Army during the wars against Napoleon.

The Mayor of Chernayhovsk, where Tolly died, invited both Aberdeenshire Council and the Scottish Parliament to send representatives to participate in the unveiling of the new statue on the last day of March this year.

In the event, the date was finalised less than a week before that and only Mr Stevenson was able to make the very brief visit. He said: "The Chenayhovsk 'savet', their council, had laid on a typically Russian celebration to ensure that the whole of Russia knew that they were honouring a man who spent his last days in their community and who is to this day a legend in his adopted country.

"The military paraded before the guests, including myself, and about half a dozen TV crews recorded the day. Speeches were focused on how much a Scot had meant to their community.

"I was warned to restrict my speech to two minutes – and with some large Russian soldiers at my back, I did.

"When we pulled the silk cover off the statue a fusilade of fireworks temporarily deafened me. A crowd many thousands strong cheered.

"When I returned at about 11.30pm to photograph the statue for the 'Banffie', there were still many locals admiring the statue and reading of Barclay de Tolly's origins in Scotland on the plaque in front."

"I know that the Council still want to arrange for one of their members to go the Chernayhovsk at a later date. They will be very welcome and encouraged to create permanent links between our communities.

"I was presented with a large bronze medal which I accepted with the intention that it should be given to Banff museum.

"Chernayhovsk officials are very keen that a plaque commemorating Michael Barclay de Tolly be put on a suitable building in Banff. They would like to visit our community and participate in its unveiling.

Stewart Stevenson was presented with a large bronze by international sculptor Vladimir Surovtsev (right) from Moscow.

"That is something I hope the new Council will be able to support."

Amy Barclay contacted the 'Banffie' last week and revealed that there are a number of de Tollys in America. She said: "I am pleased to tell you that I have one of the youngest Barclay de Tollys snuggled in next to me, my daughter.

"Her grandfather, George Barclay de Tolly emigrated to Canada from Poland following World War II. He married a lovely Canadian woman, Muriel, and they immigrated into the United States in the 1950s. They have six children, all residing in the New England area. George and Muriel have seven grandchildren ranging from ages 21 to the youngest three. As far as we know, these children are the last of the Barclay de Tollys, with only three carrying the family name."

In 1621, Peter Barclay de Tolly, a merchant and kinsman of Sir Patrick Barclay of Towie, left Banff for Rostock. In 1664 his son, John Stephen, a lawyer, settled in Riga and was still alive when the Russians conquered Livonia in 1710.

But the name was immortalised in Russian history by Michael Barclay de Tolly (1757-1818).

Son of an army lieutenant, he started his military career as a cuirassier N.C.O. He excelled in almost every campaign after the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-91, and became the first Russian Governor-General of Finland.

As Minister of War, he went on to reform the Russian Army.

Barclay de Tolly took part in the invasion of France in 1814 and commanded the taking of Paris, receiving the baton of Field Marshal in reward.

In 1815 he served as commander-in-chief of the Russian army which invaded France, and was created a Prince at the close of the war.

He died at Insterburg (the modern Chernyakhovsk) in Prussia on May 26, 1818, on his way back to Russia.

A grand statue of de Tolly was erected in front of the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg at the behest of Emperor Nicholas I. Another monument to him was later built in Riga.

to read the original story click on Banffshire Journal

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