Artist "speechless" after Moderator presents him with a medal from Pope Francis
Published on 16 November 2023
A Scottish artist has been left "speechless" after Pope Francis gave him a special medal as a token of his appreciation.
Michael McVeigh was presented with it as a ‘thank you' for gifting the Holy Father one of his drawings which depicts the fragility of life.
Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, presented Pope Francis with a print of "Throwaway People" when she visited him at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City in Rome earlier this month.
She said he was "very, very taken" by the artwork which is an expression of the plight of those on the margins of society.
Mrs Foster-Fulton met Mr McVeigh, a modern-day folk artist who has been selling his work on the streets of Edinburgh since 1982, at the Church of Scotland offices to give him his present.
She told him: "Throwaway People is your expression of the fragility of life and how easy it is to fall through the cracks and it is a print that I have bought myself.
"I presented it to Pope Francis and explained the story behind it to him.
"He turned it over and wrote on the back in Italian and said ‘I don't want to forget what you just said'.
"You have shared your gift with the Pope, it really resonated with him and in return he asked me to give you this Papal Medal as a token of his appreciation."
Mr McVeigh, 65, who has exhibited his work in the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, was visibly moved when he accepted the honour from the Moderator.
"Goodness gracious, this is really cool and amazing - I am speechless because this is not what I was expecting," he said.
"When I heard that Pope Francis wanted to give me something to say thanks for the print, I thought it was probably going to be a card with a quote from the Bible and a picture but I never expected a medal.
"What an incredible moment, it is so beautiful and I am going to keep it forever and ever and I will probably show it to everyone I meet.
"I am extremely proud, thank you so much.
"I never expect anything in life but when something like this happens, it is very special."
Mr McVeigh grew up in Dundee and despite leaving school with no qualifications, he managed to secure a place at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, part of the University of Dundee.
He revealed that used to pretend to be a student and attend classes and was eventually rumbled by the management and asked to leave.
But one of the tutors recognised his natural talent and helped secure him an official place on a drawing and painting course from 1977-1982.
Mr McVeigh said it was difficult to explain what inspires him to produce his artwork and he works largely from his imagination.
"I never think about what I am drawing, I just do it although sometimes people give you ideas but maybe it is an outside force that speaks to me," he mused.
"'Throwaway People' is my expression of those who never realise their potential in life and end up on the scrap heap through addiction and homelessness.
"I hope it will help remind Pope Francis not to forget people on the margins of society and continue to provide them with a bit of hope."
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