WHEN the United Nations declared 2015 as the International Year of Light, British scientists commissioned a beautiful ‘James Clerk Maxwell Baton' to be displayed at celebratory events across the country.

One such celebration took place last week at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles when 150 Primary pupils ‘lit up’ their very own aliens to send SOS messages at 300 million metres a second.

These Priorsford pupils were some of over 500 students taking part in the annual Peebles Science Event.

Experts provided workshops across the STEM subjects for the local primaries, ably helped by selected pupils from Peebles High School.

This was followed by an evening lecture from Professor Tom Stevenson, who presented an illustrated biography and described some of the scientific achievements of James Clerk Maxwell, beautifully interspersed with music and song from Andy and Flora Munro, and accompanied by Dave Elliot on accordion.

During his lifetime JCM wrote many poems and verses and was an accomplished singer and guitarist; some of these poems were put to music by Andy.

The IOP Baton was on display throughout the lecture and formally handed over to Fiona Maher who accepted it on behalf of the Midlothian Science Festival, where it will play a major role at their ‘Park in the Dark’ celebration in Dalkeith next week.

A spokeswoman for the Peebles Science Event told us: "We are very grateful to the Eastgate Theatre for again providing the excellent resources and support, the wonderful team of Scientists who provide the children’s workshops, to Professor Tom and the entertainers for sharing the evening with the Baton, to the sponsors including the Peebles Callants who generously donated £100 to the event, and of course to the pupils and their teachers and helpers who made the whole event so special.

"We know JCM would have enjoyed every minute."

JCM was born in Edinburgh and was a member of the Clerk family, several of whom still live in Penicuik where young James spent many happy days during his childhood.

His parents’ home was at Glenlair in in the Galloway hills, near Castle Douglas, where young James was educated at home by his parents. Unfortunately, his mother died when James was aged eight.

He was sent to Edinburgh Academy where his country accent and home-made clothes were a source of merriment to his classmates who dubbed him ‘Dafty’.

James, however, had already developed a love of learning and experimenting with ‘head and hands’ and soon excelled across the curriculum whilst maintaining a strong sense of fun and mischief.

JCM went on to study at Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities and an outstanding academic career.

He ranks with Newton and Einstein as one of the greatest scientists ever and was the major contributor to the understanding of the nature of light itself.