In tIn the summer of 1986, the Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland’s picturesque capital city. To mark the historic occasion for Scotland, Laings was bestowed the honour of designing and crafting the Commonwealth Baton, an iconic emblem that embodies the spirit of the games.
“The design was inherently challenging but equally exciting. Immediately I looked to previous batons in search of inspiration but my objective was to create something that had never been seen before. I wanted the piece to have some drama about it, different from those of the past, but most importantly it had to be indigenously Scottish."
Ten months before the Commonwealth Games took place, Laings was approached by the royal palace to design the baton. Crafting such a design from precious metals and gemstones presented technical challenges – the baton needed to be durable enough to withstand the lengthy journey and robust in case it was dropped, but equally beautiful to represent both Laings and Scotland to our Commonwealth friends around the globe.
Michael Laing looked to the legends of Greece for the inspiration behind the design. He was inspired by the Greek mythology of ancient games, which ceremoniously displayed flaming torches and sacred fires as symbols of competition. As the host country, Michael wanted to combine this creative vision with materials from Scotland itself, with the ambition that the design would be crafted from local resources. Rather than choosing traditional gemstones for the baton, Michael forged a different path and sourced rare Scottish Jasper from the mountains.
Together with Robert Reekie – Curator of Geology at National Museum of Scotland, Michael travelled to the Campsie Fells to find the perfect stone for his creation. It took Robert over 100 hours to polish, groove and shape the stone for the design, using tools in the geology department of the museum. Scottish Jasper has rich, burgundy tones which were described by Michael as “a splendid autumn scene”. This wonder of nature brought to life the fire of Michael’s original vision.
“Standing with my parents and watching the baton arrive with the Queen herself was a moment of immense pride for me, a real triumph of my career as a designer. The whole process from imagination to conception and working with exceptional support along the way is truly an experience that I, those involved and the teams at Laings today will appreciate forever more."
Following the Commonwealth Games, the baton returned to Laings Edinburgh where it was showcased alongside the medals of Allan Wells MBE, Commonwealth and Olympic Gold Medallist. As well as being one of the most accomplished Scottish athletes of all time, Allan Wells carried the baton for the last leg of the 1986 Commonwealth relay. As a sprinter in his youth, this was a full circle moment for Michael Laing.
Discover the baton at the National Museum of Scotland in the Scottish Galleries, housed in the exhibition Scotland: A Changing Nation.