Martyrs’ Monument, Edinburgh

Political Martyrs Monument

Political Martyrs Monument

This 90 foot high obelisk was erected in 1845 at Waterloo Place in Edinburgh. It commemorates William Skirving, Thomas Muir, Joseph Gerrald, Thomas Fyshe Palmer and Maurice Margarot who were known as the Scottish Martyrs. They were tried for sedition in 1793, with the judge telling the jury that sedition in this case meant violating the peace and order of society. In fact they were only campaigning for reform of the parliamentary system to give men over the age of 21 the vote, amongst other things.

They were found guilty and transported to Australia for 14 years. In 1794 they sailed from Portsmouth on The Surprise bound for Botany Bay. William Skirving, the one that I am most interested in as I think I am related to him, died of dysentery not long after reaching Australia. His wife and children were re-housed by a landowner in Kirkcaldy.

Thomas Muir and William Skirving

35 thoughts on “Martyrs’ Monument, Edinburgh

        • Ron,
          I’ve never researched my family tree but my father always said that William Skirving was a great-great-great uncle. The name is so uncommon, I’ve never met a Skirving that I wasn’t related to.

    • Hi Lindsay. If you are a descendent of William Skirving, then we are related in some way. If you would like to get in touch it would be appreciated, it would be nice to see which branch of the family tree your from.

  1. Hi
    I am a descendant of George Mealmaker also a friend of the Muir skirving Fyshe Palmer and others.Also sent to Australia 1800 for sedition .Secretary of Friends of Liberty.I am so sorry he was not included on obelisk.
    First superintendant of female factory NSW A1 Weaver.
    A great loss to the weaving industry in NSW when he died 1808.

    • Liz,
      It does seem a shame that George Mealmaker isn’t on the obelisk, I suppose it was because he was transported at a later date than the others, but he shouldn’t have been overlooked. He did very well in Australia it seems. Thanks for the information, I didn’t know anything about him at all. Sadly transportation was a death sentence for William Skirving who succumbed to disease shortly after getting there.


  2. Hello Are there any Skirving’s still around, I had a Grandfather with the name Skirving as a middle name, I decided to add it to my own.

    Any Skirving’s Out there!!

  3. William skirving was my great x5 grandfather. So I may be related others on this page. If you think you are and want to get in touch, please feel free.

  4. Hi katrina I believe we are related in some way. It would be nice to know in which way. Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.

    • Brian,
      I suspect we will be related in some way, Skirving is such an uncommon name, I think we will all be related. I haven’t researched my family tree, but info passed down the generations is that William Skirving was a great uncle x 4 or 5. We have always had Williams in my family, my maiden name is Skirving, my brothers are William and John.

      • Hello again katrina. The name skirving died out on my side. When Catherine Skirving (William skirving’s great, great granddaughter) married my great, great, great grandfather, George Wilkie in 1856. Catherine was born 24th may 1835 and died 13th November 1906.
        Her father was Alexander 1811-1846
        His father was William 1779- 1847
        His father was also William skirving (the William in question)1745-1796
        His father was again also William 1st July 1720- ?
        I hope this is of some help. And look forward to your reply.
        P.S. my father was Alexander Skirving wilkie.

        • Brian,
          That’s interesting, I have an aunt Catherine, in fact I was called after her but the Scottish version. My father was John born 1926, his father was George. George had 8 children! I think my sister knows more about this, I seem to remember that she mentioned the names Jackson and Wright but can’t remember others. We were all born in Glasgow but going further back they were from the Dunfermline, Kinross and I think Haddington areas. Feel free to email me at

          • Ron,
            Do you know if HIS grandfather was Alexander Skirving the architect, I’m supposed to be related to him in some way but I’ve never checked it out.

          • I am supposed to be related to William Skirving myself, my Grandfather had Skirving as his middle name. I was born Colin Ross Galloway but added Arthur and Skirving to be a living memorial to two great men a Arthur Ross who was killed in WWII, he was a rear gunner,Radio man and a sargent, the other man was a William Skirving who was deported and has been said to to the judge you have judged me today will be judged yourself by a higher person. William has a statue in Edinburgh near to Where my Grandfather and sisters were born. My grandfather was a Harry Skirving Ross.

      • If you would like any more info on the skirving family tree, I’ll do my best to help. Also if you can give me family names pointing in the direction of Skirving. I can cross check and may have information on your descendents.

  5. George Mealmaker was my 4xGreat Grandfather. He died here in Parramatta NSW, Australia where I live and visit his grave occasionally. I am related to his daughter Rebecca who was born here about 1806.

    I would be very interested if anyone knows if George had children in Scotland before he was transported here.

    Many Thanks for any help.

    R. David Coleman

  6. I believe that I am distant relation of William by my Grandfather who was Harry Skirving Ross, can anyone help me find out for certain as if I am. I would like to know how I am related and how his family tree links up with mine.

    Colin A.S.R. Galloway

    • Coli Arthur Skirving Ross Galloway,

      Was Skirving your grandfather’s mother’s maiden name and if so what was her first name and her father’s name?


      • My Grandfather’s Mother maiden name was Duncan her son (My Grandfather) was Harry Skirving Ross, His oldest child is my mother Penelope Ann Galloway (Ross) and I’m her son (born Colin Ross Galloway) but I added Arthur after one of my other relations my Grandfather’s Brother Arthur Ross who was a rear gunner/radio man in last war also I added Skirving as to keep that name going after my grandfather died. Colin A.S.R. Galloway

        • Colin,
          That’s interesting. My own maiden name is Skirving and I gave both my boys Skirving as a middle name to keep it going as there aren’t many of us about. I tend to think that we must all be related in some way. I don’t think any of the first names you mentioned are in my branch of the family though, we have names like Katherine, John, William, George, Robert and there was one Ann.

          • I was born Colin Ross Galloway, but I added Arthur & Skirving. Authur: As my Grandfather’ brother Arthur Ross Died in WW2 & Skirving was my Grandfather’s middle name. I wanted to make myself a living memorial to these two men who both died in far off places. Mid air over Europe & in Australia. Colin A.S.R. Galloway

          • Colin,
            I suspect that those Skirving middle names would have been the maiden name of the men’s mothers. I always check war memorials for the name Skirving, in fact I check everything, TV credits and book indexes as well as gravestones. I’ve only ever seen the name in a couple of graveyards though, both of them in Kirkcaldy, Fife. I’m glad that you decided to keep the name going in your family, in memory of your relatives, there are so few of us around.

          • Ross was my mother’s maiden name as her father was Harry Skirving Ross, (Arthur) who brother who died in WW2 was Arthur Ross and (Skirving) William Skirving’s Political Martyr who was deported died 1746 or 1796.
            Colin A.S.R. Galloway

  7. If anyone wants to see a picture of Rebecca Mealmaker daughter of George Its in the National Library archives of Canberra on net.It is quiet a shame that the Australian Government and Archives doesn’t think Rebecca and family Grave that doesn’t exist anymore should have a Plaque at Botany Cemetery .After all they are the early settlers with a famous father George Mealmaker.Who it seems was a man who helped his fellow man especially the old and the sick convicts. liz

  8. My mother’s maiden name was Ross hence I was at birth called Colin Ross Galloway, but I added Arthur Skirving as my Grandfather middle name was Skirving and his brother was called Arthur but he died in the Second World War.

    I believe I am also a distant relation of the William Skirving who was deported to Austrailia. Colin A.S.R. Galloway

  9. Hello All Skirving Relations, I am also related via my Grandfather Harry Skirving Ross who passed away a few years ago. I later added the Skirving name into my along with my Grandfather’s brother who had died during WWII.

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