Panel of Scottish Diaspora Tapestry stolen from St Giles

A panel of the stunning Scottish Diaspora Tapestry has been stolen while on display in St Giles Cathedral, the first time the entire tapestry has been on view in Scotland since it returned from a two-year round the world trip.

The space in the exhibit where the stolen panel should be
The space in the exhibit where the stolen panel was displayed is now closed off with police tape

Police are investigating the theft, which occurred on Sunday afternoon between 2 and 3:30pm and have issued an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

Police say a man was seen entering the building and removing the tapestry panel before heading into the High Street:

“The suspect is described as white, 6ft tall with a slim build, a receding hairline with short cropped hair at the sides and a fair complexion. He was wearing a long-sleeved white top, light-coloured trousers and carrying a jacket.”

Sarah Phemister, visitor centre manager for St Giles Cathedral, said:

"We're disappointed and very sad that a panel of the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry was stolen while on display in St Giles. We are doing everything we can to assist the police in their investigation and are hopeful that the panel will be recovered.

"This beautiful artwork has been lovingly sewn by people across the globe as a celebration of the contributions of Scottish people and their descendants. As such, its value is beyond price.

"We appeal to whoever took the panel to return it as soon as possible.”

Sheila Baird and Hilary Williams
Sheila Baird and Hilary Williams who are helping host the tapestry in St Giles also took part in sewing several of the panels.

Beautiful and historic artwork

Created by Prestoungrange Arts Festival in 2012, the tapestry was originally made up of 150 panels, but more than doubled in size during its travels, returning to Scotland as a 305-panel international community artwork stitched by more than 1,000 people in 34 countries.

Scottish artist Andrew Crummy supervised the design and stitching of the tapestry with assistance from the festival’s Gillian Hart and Yvonne Murphy.

The result is a stunning visualisation of the experiences, achievements and legacies of Scottish migrants around the world and across the centuries.

The Tapestry went on display in St Giles on Thursday 4 May and the exhibit is open to the public until 18 May. Entry is free and opening times are: Monday to Friday 9am–7pm; Saturday 9am–5pm; and Sunday 1pm–5pm.

Stolen panel

Missing panel
The missing panel tells the story of the Scottish community in Veere, Netherlands

The stolen panel tells the story of the Scottish community in Veere, Netherlands, and depicts two church ministers. Rev Alexander McDuff, who was the first Scottish clergymen to serve in Veere in 1614, and Rev James Lickly, the last minister to serve in the Scots Kirk when it closed in 1799.

The panel also contains four engraved communion cups commissioned for the Scots Kirk and a bell that represents two bells made in Veere.

One of the bells was made for St Giles in Edinburgh. The other was created for Edinburgh’s Netherbow Port and now hangs at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile.

Witnesses sought

Anyone with information can contact Gayfield CID via 101 and quote incident number 2639 of the 7th May. You can also make an anonymous report through the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Detective Constable Chris Harding from Gayfield CID said: "The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is a priceless piece of artwork with great historical significance and this brazen act of destruction and theft has left the owners of the tapestry and the staff at St Giles Cathedral shocked.

"As part of our inquiries we are keen to hear from anyone who recognises the description of the suspect, or who is approached by anyone looking to sell or pass on the stolen panel.”

The tapestry’s last stop before St Giles was Westminster Palace where it was hosted by members of Crown Court Church.

Plans are underway to create a permanent home for The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry in Prestonpans, East Lothian, alongside the original Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Tapestry.

In September 2015 a panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland was stolen from Kirkcaldy Galleries. The panel, which showed the apprentice pillar in Rosslyn Chapel has recently been restitched and replaced. The 160-panel Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry were both supervised by the same artist, Andrew Crummy.

Plans are underway to create a permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels.