Mandela centenary memorial appeal

By Martin S Gibson

18 July 2018 marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.  A newly formed Scottish charity - the Nelson Mandela  Scottish Memorial Foundation (NMSMF) - is campaigning to raise the funds to erect a statue of Mandela in Glasgow, the first city in the world to award him Freeman of the City.

The NMSMF was launched on 9 October 2017 by two of its Patrons: Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Cllr Eva Bolander and Sir Alex Ferguson, Freeman of the City and former Manchester United manager; and NMSMF Chair and Honorary Consul for South Africa in Scotland, Brian Filling.

Sir Billy Connolly, also a Freeman of the City of Glasgow, is the latest living Freeman of Glasgow to support the campaign to raise the funds for a statue in memory of the late South African President.

Glasgow City Council has already granted planning permission for the statue to be erected in the street that bears the South African leader’s name, Nelson Mandela Place.

Sir Billy joins a trio of prominent Glaswegians, similarly honoured by the city, who are NMSMF Patrons: Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, Kenny Dalglish MBE and Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden.

Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg - fellow Rivonia trialists of Mandela who together spent 48 years in prison - are also among the NMSMF’s  Patrons.

Sir Billy said: “I am honoured, and delighted to join the impressive line-up of worthy Glaswegians as a patron of the campaign to build a statue to Nelson Mandela in Glasgow. I met Mr. Mandela in Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He left  an impression on me that I will never  forget.”

Imprisoned for 27 years for his resistance to apartheid, the iconic South African leader was made a Freeman of the City of Glasgow in 1981, while still in jail. Later that year Glasgow’s Lord Provost Michael Kelly launched a world-wide Lord Mayors petition calling for the release of Nelson Mandela at the United Nations in New York. The petition was signed by thousands of Mayors, contributing to the global movement to secure his freedom.

Mandela was finally released from jail on Sunday 11 February 1990. 

On 9 October 1993 he collected his honour from Glasgow and 8 other UK cities in person addressing an enthusiastic crowd of 15,000 in Glasgow’s George Square. The Scottish Mandela Foundation chose that auspicious anniversary date of 9 October to publicly launch its fundraising campaign.

Now that it is up and running, the foundation regards this Mandela centenary year as vital to its target of raising £250,000 to commission and erect the statue in Glasgow and deliver an associated and longterm educational programme throughout Scotland.


And among the many future events it plans to run throughout 2018, the highlight will be a gala fundraising dinner on Friday 24 August 2018 in the Glasgow Hilton Hotel where Mandela stayed on 9 October 1993. 

Brian Filling said, “Our plan to erect a memorial for Nelson Mandela in Nelson Mandela Place will complete a piece of Glasgow’s history of support for progressive and noble causes and serve as a permanent reminder of South Africa and Glasgow’s important and shared history.

“Nelson Mandela Place is the ideal site - politically, historically and functionally - for the NMSMF’s proposed memorial statue of  Nelson Mandela. The place has a long association with the successful struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the campaign to free Mandela from prison.

“It was THE place where people from all over Scotland and beyond came to protest because it was the residence of the racist apartheid regime’s Consulate; on the 5th floor of the Stock Exchange building in what was then St. George’s Place. In August 1985 the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s Scottish Committee organised a weekly picket of the apartheid Consulate which ran for over a year. Trade Unions, shop stewards committees, CND, churches, NUS and other organisations took turns to staff the picket line. 

“2018 marks the centenary of Mandela’s birth and is the 25th  anniversary of his visit to Glasgow.  It will be a vitally important year for the NMSMF in our campaign to raise the funds to erect a statue and so honour his life, legacy and his special relationship with the people of Glasgow, Scotland and the UK.

“To see the variety of ways you can donate, please go to our website:

“We are also in discussions with various organisations and institutions about how they might support the project and we would welcome others willing to assist. We still have a long long way to go, and we need all our supporters and friends help, to reach our aim.”


An open competition will be held to select the sculptor of the Nelson Mandela statue. Sculptors’ interest in designing the statue has been tremendous so far. The chosen artist will be selected by a Judging panel.


Apartheid South Africa’s Consulate - in St. George’s Place - was for decades the place of much anti-apartheid protest.

  • 1985 - Year long picket begins outside apartheid Consulate;
  • 1986 - St. George’s Place re-named Nelson Mandela Place;
  • 1988 - Huge Anti-Apartheid Movement march - via Nelson Mandela Place - to Glasgow Green where 30,000 people demand: Free Nelson Mandela!;
  • 1990 - Mandela released on 11 February after 27 years in prison. The AAM
  • celebrates in Nelson Mandela Place;
  • 1992 - Apartheid Consulate in Nelson Mandela Place is closed;
  • 1993 - Mandela in Glasgow to receive his Freedom of the City;
  • 1994 - Mandela elected President of democratic South Africa;
  • 2013 - Mandela’s death leads to a large public gathering in Nelson Mandela Place to mourn and to celebrate his life;
  • 2014 - Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: Billy Connolly pays special tribute to Mandela and Glasgow’s role in campaigning for his freedom. He especially praised the re-naming to Nelson Mandela Place.            


Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Filling and Eva Bolander at the press conference to launch the NMSMF.

Sir Alex, who met Mandela on three occasions said, "You have to be special to put to one side what he endured for over a quarter of a century and then go on to lead his country to democracy and to influence his people in such a way. Nelson Mandela was special. an example for the world to follow."

Sir Billy Connolly CBE Freeman of the City of Glasgow

Nelson Mandela