An army of local stitchers are forging ahead with a tapestry to mark the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh at Musselburgh.

They celebrated the official unveiling of the first panel at Musselburgh-based Queen Margaret University (QMU) last Thursday.

The completed needlework went on show to the public for one day only at the university the next day.

The 40-strong group of stitchers were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown but went on to complete the first panel which measures 2.5m high and 2.06m wide, and portrays Mary, Queen of Scots and her mother, Marie de Guise.

They worked from their homes and got together at local venues such as Musselburgh Museum and the Fisherrow Centre.

The tapestry will feature another five panels telling the story of the last battle to be fought on Scottish soil between the Crowns of Scotland and England.

Pinkie Cleugh took place on September 10, 1547, on the banks of the River Esk.

It was a battle between the armies of Scotland and England, led by the Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, and the Lord Protector of England, the Duke of Somerset, whose aim was to secure the betrothal of nine-year-old King Edward VI of England to five-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots.

It was the last pitched battle between Scottish and English armies, and is seen as the first modern battle in the British Isles. The outcome was a disastrous defeat for the Scots, with 10,000 troops massacred in the rout, which became known as Black Saturday.

The tapestry also showcases the rich history of Musselburgh and surrounding areas.

Roger Knox, of the Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield and Tapestry Group, opened the unveiling ceremony, before They Chased Oor Lads Awa’, composed by Alec Hodgson, was sung by Alan Hunter.

Professor David Stevenson, Dean of the School of Arts, Social Science & Management at QMU, officially unveiled the panel and later said: “Queen Margaret University always wants to find ways to support and celebrate our local community and we were therefore delighted to host this event, which not only raised awareness of this important but little known battle in Scotland’s history, but also showcased this inspiring artwork, which has painstakingly been put together by talented craftspeople across the county.

“We look forward to seeing the tapestry project continue to grow.”

Those present got the chance to view the completed panel and add a

stitch to the second panel. A programme of speakers was also enjoyed.

East Lothian artist Andrew Crummy, who is leading the tapestry’s development, and Liz Neilson, chief stitcher, explained the tapestry’s design and construction.

Mrs Neilson later told the ‘Courier’: “Hopefully it won’t take too long to finish the large second panel depicting the young Edward and the Duke of Somerset as all the 18 small side panels are finished.”

She explained: “After we received Andrew Crummy’s linen drawing, we had arranged Saturday stitching mornings in the atrium at the Fisherrow Centre.

“Just across the road, in the Brunton Hall, we were celebrating International Women’s Day and a group of ladies from Musselburgh’s twin town Champigny came over and put the very first stitches into the head of Marie de Guise.

“Unfortunately, after this, we had to delay stitching sessions due to Covid.”

Mr Crummy explained: “The Pinkie Cleugh tapestry actually takes its inspiration from the Marian Hangings, which were sewn by Scotland’s most famous stitcher, Mary, Queen of Scots.

“The main large hangings, which measure about two metres by three metres, tell the story of the battle, while the crosses and roundels surrounding a central embroidery tell the stitchers’ own stories about Musselburgh.”

As the soldiers came from all over Scotland for the battle, it is hoped that stitchers from other parts of the country will get involved in helping to complete the tapestry.

A question mark currently hangs over the tapestry’s permanent home as one of the preferred locations is the staircase inside the Brunton Hall, parts of which are currently closed following a roof survey.

Dr Andrew Coulson, of the Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield & Tapestry Group, said another possibility was the Old Town Hall in Musselburgh if that was upgraded and brought into use again. He highlighted a wall on the atrium at the Fisherrow Centre as another option.

He added that it was likely that the tapestry would tour Scotland, perhaps even before it was completed.