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New Minister to visit Melrose Abbey

17 March 2009

Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, visited Melrose Abbey today as part of his familiarisation of Historic Scotland, an agency now under his wing following a recent cabinet reshuffle.

Historic Scotland, charged with safeguarding the nation’s built heritage and promoting its understanding and enjoyment, care for Melrose Abbey.  The Abbey is one of their top ten visitor attractions, welcoming over 45,000 visitors a year, and sitting as a key part of the Borders tourism industry.  Melrose Abbey is also a hub of education and conservation activity for Historic Scotland.  

During his tour of the abbey, the Minister met Iona Clark, the Junior Brain of the Borders – an initiative that has been sponsored by Historic Scotland for 5 years and encourages local P5 pupils to learn about their local culture and natural environment.  This scheme is a typical partnership that Historic Scotland Education employ as part of an accomplished education network across Scotland.  Iona, from Earlston Primary School, took the title in 2008.  

Gary Lafrait and Paul Mackie, apprentice stonemasons at Melrose Abbey, also met the Minister today.  The agency host a substantial conservation base at the abbey, servicing conservation needs at Historic Scotland properties in the surrounding area.  Apprentice programmes are run by Historic Scotland all over the country, ensuring traditional craft skills are kept and developed for future generations.

A character from the past was also in attendance today at Melrose Abbey.  A costumed re-enactor, who tells his tale of Melrose Abbey to visitors as a ‘Lay Brother’, was there to greet the MSP.  

Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Mike Russell said:  “Historic Scotland are a leading provider of tourism attractions in Scotland.  Melrose Abbey is a visitor attraction that has a strong contribution to Borders and national tourism, and a clear place at the heart of the community.

In addition, the other aspects of this attraction are fascinating.  From our Junior Brain of the Borders, to our young apprentices and costumed characters, Historic Scotland are engaging with people in lively and inventive way.”  

Any media wishing to attend the visit, should contact Rebecca on her mobile.  Alternatively, come to Melrose Abbey and ask for Rebecca, between 2.25pm – 3pm.

Notes for Editors

  • Images of the visit are available, please contact us.
  • Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:
  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871