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A Report from the Freedom For All Commemoration Walk

Over 200 walk to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade.

Sunday 25 March 2007

Amidst bright spring sunshine, over 200 people walked from Musselburgh to Inveresk Lodge Gardens to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. The event organised by Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) symbolically re-enacted the journey of Robert Wedderburn, the son of James Wedderburn, the owner of Inveresk House and a slave maid on one of his Jamaican plantations. Professor Geoff Palmer, a member of the ACTS 2007 working group, explained to the walkers that Robert came to Musselburgh in 1795 to visit his father. He did not get a good welcome  - being sent away with a ‘cracked sixpence’ and became a radical and well known anti-slavery activist in England.  Before setting off the walkers joined in prayer remembering the suffering of men, women and children caught up in the trade, the dedication of the abolitionists both black and white, and they offered a shared commitment to name and act to eradicate all forms of contemporary slavery.

The walk moved off to the beat of a single African drum, with Rev Jim Jones, Convener of the Scottish Churches Forum and Ms Rhona Brankin, Minister for Communities, accompanied by Major Alan Dixon, Pamala McDougall and Rev Douglas Nicol, other members of the Scottish Churches Forum, leading the way. Before long some of the children who were walking had made their way to the front of the procession and led the walk as they danced and skipped to the drum’s beat.

At Inveresk Lodge Gardens the procession was met by the present Lord Wedderburn who said that he would use the fact of this walk to increase the call for Robert Wedderburn to be included in the Wedderburn family register.  Rhona Brankin addressed the walkers saying that slavery and its legacy still affects the modern world, ‘that is not just through criminal acts like people trafficking , but also through the iron grip that holds millions in poverty across the world’.  Ms Brankin added that from a 21st century perspective the decision to abolish slavery looked like a simple choice between right or wrong ,’ but that would overlook the courage and conviction of many people who faced down the vested interests of those who sustained the evil trade in human lives. Many of those were Scots, and 200 years from the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, we should remember the vital contribution they made’.

 Rev Jim Jones, said that he hoped the walk had filled each person present with renewed energy to see the world in which we live in its true light and he drew people’s attention to the ‘Scotland and Slavery’ leaflet produced by ACTS which provides information about the modern evil of human trafficking and ways in which people can engage in campaigns to eradicate this new trade.   He concluded by saying ‘my prayer is that the churches will continue their longing for justice and longing for the freedom of the human spirit, recognising that each person is made in the image of God, is precious to God and should be to all humankind’.

For pictures from the walk click here and  further information about ACTS other activities to mark the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, including the National Ecumenical Service of Commemoration on June 16th at the David Livingston Centre, Blantyre, visit www.scotlandandslavery.org.uk or contact ACTS on 01259 216980.

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