A group of stitchers who helped create the Great Tapestry of Scotland have expressed sadness their handiwork was targeted by thieves while on display in Fife.
More than 50,000 people have now viewed the artwork at the Kirkcaldy Galleries since it was installed in June.
Visitors now only have until tomorrow to see one of the biggest community projects in the world up close.
But while there is immense pride at how successful the exhibition has been during its Fife run, anger remains that one of the 160 individual panels that makes up the tapestry was stolen nine days ago.
Some of the 1,000-plus volunteers who created the stolen Rosslyn Chapel panel have broken their silence.
In a joint statement to The Courier, Fiona McIntosh, Anne Beedie, Margaret Humphries, Jean Lindsay, Jinty Murray, Philippa Peat and Barbara Stokes said it had been “comforting” to read messages of support from across the world and called on the culprits to return the work to its previous state.
“As news broke we were in a state of disbelief and shock, we have felt anger and the reality is sinking in: we are heavy hearted,” they said.
“It is very sad to think that someone would do such an outrageous thing.
“A piece of the jigsaw is missing and it is our piece.
“It was our “baby” which took nine months to lovingly create.
“The stitching took 450 hours but you do not create a piece of art like this without many hours of thought in addition.
“We gave the time willingly and felt very privileged to be part of such an amazing community project.
“At the launch of the Great Tapestry we were very proud to see it take its place among the other very beautiful works.
“Many will take their grandchildren to see the panel to which their grandmother contributed.
“We are now deprived of that pleasure.
“Memories of creating it cannot ever be stolen, but now the panel belongs to the Scottish nation.
“Please whoever you are, give it back to us: you have stolen more than a tapestry.
“It was taken quietly. Return it quietly.”
It also emerged yesterday that the Kirkcaldy-based company involved in providing the linen for the project, Peter Greig and Co, have donated linen to match the tapestry should organisers decide to restitch the missing panel.
Project manager Jan Rutherford said the Tapestry Trustees have been delighted with the exhibition’s success, but admitted that was tinged with sadness.
“The theft of one of the panels has brought great frustration and disbelief,” she added.
“Messages of support have been received from all corners of the world and that has lifted all of those involved.
“The designer of the tapestry, Andrew Crummy, and the stitchers who took his artwork and created this beautiful panel have all been devastated by its loss.
“The thief must know the distress caused not only locally but around the country and beyond and we would ask simply that he or she do the right thing and return it – post it back, leave it with the Gallery, hand it into the police.”