2018: The Messenger

The Messenger was a series of four site-referential works in the landscape, made in response to the rich history of Mellerstain House and the fascinating characters who lived here.


Welcoming visitors to the park, The Messenger typifies Jack’s approach of melding past and present. The work is the first to reference Lady Grisel Baillie, who, aged 12, delivered messages from her father, Sir Patrick Hume, to the imprisoned Scottish conspirator Robert Baillie. It is thought that she met his son George Baillie (1664-1738) at this time, and they married fifteen years later. The couple later commissioned William and Robert Adam to build and decorate the neoclassical style house for which Mellerstain is now famous.

A statue of Hermes has stood on the front terrace at Mellerstain for many years. In Greek Mythology, Hermes was a herald and messenger to the gods, and possessed numerous powers often embodied in the staff he traditionally holds, known as the Caduceus. The Caduceus is a symbol of trade, negotiation, writing and commerce, and here acts as a link to the considerable gifts of Lady Grisel. Having lost its stone Caduceus some years ago, Jack has intervened to repair Mellerstain’s statue of Hermes with new dayglow Perspex one, intricately detailed with etching. It represents the union of Grisel and George and the extraordinary events that followed.


The beautifully decorated interior of the Georgian manor is one of the finest examples of the work of Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam (1728-1792). It is adorned with ceiling roses throughout, and these designs are now celebrated outside the house in Jack’s In Memoriam, a 25-metre wide drawing on the lawn in white turf paint. This piece also serves as a memorial to the 13th Earl, John Baillie Hamilton (1941 – 2016), a British peer and politician famed for his extensive knowledge of crop circles and interest in the paranormal, who resided at Mellerstain throughout his life until his death in 2016.


Also on the lawn is Look Out a recreation of a former observation tower that once stood between the east and west wings of the house. The original building, like many in the region, was created as a look out post, and may have been used for securing household possessions, livestock and residents, during battles and raids by The Border Reivers. Built simply out of stone these towers had iron baskets with a peat fire in the cupola, which was lit as a beacon to signal danger. In reference to this fact, Look Out has smoke that gently rises when visitors approach.

Jack’s facsimile resembles a dolls’ house, similar to one in the collection inside the house. At the back of the tower visitors can discover a series of shelves on which sit copies of some of the objects listed in Lady Grisel’s account books – swords, cart wheels, barrels of gunpowder, sacks of food, a chandelier and various household and farming items. The objects reference the extraordinary details of the household management at Mellerstain and evoke the everyday, and extraordinary, lives and travels of former residents.


Overlooking the lake stands a bold large-scale white neon text work, mounted high on a scaffold, entitled No Borders. An ode to George and Grisel Baillie’s free spirited travels, it reads ‘No Borders, Just Horizons, Only Freedom’, a quote by American aviator and feminist icon Amelia Earheart, who was a pioneering female explorer of the early twentieth century known for pushing boundaries. This quote also reminds visitors of Mellerstain’s close proximity to the Anglo-Scottish border and alludes to contemporary debates on Scottish independence, Brexit and the wider role of borders, referencing both personal boundaries and freedom of movement.