Nelson Mandela in Scotland, 1997
Nelson Mandela in Scotland, 1997
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Nelson Mandela in Scotland, 1997

Murdo MacLeod


Hosted by the then prime minister Tony Blair, the 1997 Commonwealth heads of government meeting, held in Edinburgh from 24 to 27 October, was the largest in the organisation’s history to that point. Even the Queen made an appearance, the first for a monarch. This was Nelson Mandela’s second appearance as South African president – and his last. You feel as if you are intruding on a rare private moment, as Mandela is glimpsed through a carriage window sitting on a train heading to St Andrews for meetings. For the photographer Murdo MacLeod, this was the closest he could get to the retreat’s main players. “It was one of those pooling arrangements; glimpses in railway stations were about as good as it got,” he recalls. At the last Chogm, held in London in 2018, the secretary-general, Baroness Patricia Scotland, quoted Mandela: “Vision, without action, is just a dream. Action, without vision, just passes the time. But vision with action can change the world.”


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