Nelson monument, Taynuilt


Having been chased off the Argyll hills a couple of weeks ago by thunder storms clattering around the sky, I ended up in Taynuilt, which claims the distinction of having the earliest monument to Nelson to be erected after Trafalgar, beating the monument on Glasgow Green.

The monument is easy to get to, but not easy to find – you go up a lane beside the village shop, and up a path ahead of you and follow it round and you’re there, but you have to know where you’re going. It can be seen from the main street, but only just.

Monument from the road

The reason they could get it done so quickly, of course, is that there was nothing to build – the monument is a single standing stone, which had fallen locally and was taken to the small hill and lifted again. It was apparently done on Christmas Day 1805 – about 6 weeks after the news would have arrived, and two weeks before the funeral (and three weeks after Nelson’s body arrived in England, despite what the newspaper report says).

Nelson monument

The lettering – going by gravestones, at least – looks more Victorian than Georgian, although it would be hard to do the usual Georgian carving on that kind of stone – a plaque seems to have been attached at some point, which might have been the original.

Monument inscription

The reason for the early monument in such an apparently odd place is the ironworks at the edge of the village, founded in 1753, and based there because there was such a good supply of wood for charcoal locally. Most of the iron produced there was just sent on as ingots to be worked elsewhere, but a large number of cannon balls for the navy were also cast at the site, so the workers would have felt a link to the battle.

Bonawe Iron Furnace

David Douglas monument, Scone


Finding myself back in Perthshire, I went to have a look for the David Douglas monument that I didn’t find the last time. I got off the bus too early because I was worried about getting off too late, but it turned out that I should have waited for the road sign – it was obviously a more famous thing than I expected.


The monument stands in the grounds of Scone Old parish church, which was originally built in the old village beside Scone Palace in the 1780s, and moved to the site of the new village in 1806, rebuilt from the stones of the original.

The monument is up behind the church, towards the back of the churchyard.

Old Scone churchyard

It’s an imposing monument, if very much in the Victorian tradition! The inscription is also very Victorian – and very presbyterian – a whole essay on not only his professional but his personal characteristics.

Monument inscription

But affectionate, I think – under the formality, there’s a sense that this is someone who will be missed.

There’s also a much more modern commemoration of his life, at the foot of the monument.

Douglas information board

The back of the monument also has an inscription, this time giving a lost of some of his famous plant introductions.

Reverse inscription

The Dean Bridge


Back to Telford this week, and a local site. The Dean Bridge was one of Telford’s last major projects, completed in 1831 when he was 73.

It’s been a place that interests me for far longer than I’ve really been chasing Telford – I used to work nearby, and wander down to eat my lunch in the valley below.

One if the most striking things about it is the contrast – from above you would hardly know you were on a bridge, because the land on both sides is level, and the bridge itself flat. Only the treetop and the lack of buildings give it away, and since the parapets were raised in the early 20th century it’s not easy to look over to the river.

Bridge from above

Down below it is completely different – the arches tower above at a dizzying height.

Bridge from below

A plaque on the bridge celebrates Telford’s involvement, put there to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth.

Dean Bridge plaque

The settlement at the Dean Village – a famous site of mills on the Water of Leith – long predates the bridge, and there are still odd old buildings there, although mixed in with a strange combination of Victorian recreations and modern creations.

Dean village

Until the building of the New Town the village was well outside the city, although I think this old picture exaggerates the distance – it’s only about half a mile to the castle rock. But by the 1820s the city had spread out as far as Moray place, and the very steep river valley was standing in the way of further expansion – the old crossing is a bit further west, and means a steep ascent and descent. The bridge was funded mainly by the owner of the land on the far side, who hoped to make a lot of money from opening it up, although the local road trustees were also involved.

It’s not easy to get a clear view of the bridge as a whole – if the twisting valley doesn’t get in the way, the trees do.

The bridge

One of the most distinctive features of the bridge is the double arches – large central arches carrying the road, and narrower arches carrying the footpaths. (The other really distinctive feature is that the piers are hollow, but you can’t see that from the outside.)

Double arches


Telford in Eskdale


I set out on Saturday to come up on the ‘back’ of the Ettrick hills from north of Eskdalemuir, but when I got there I found my route blocked by forestry works.

Fortunately that wasn’t the only thing I meant to come to the area for, so I set off on the trail of Thomas Telford instead. Of course, if I had planned to do this, I would have checked more carefully on what I meant to see, but I knew that I had to start at Bentpath where there was a memorial to Telford, and could then go on to Langholm.

(The place names have confused me before when reading about Telford. Westerkirk is the area and the parish, taking in the valley where Telford was born and other places round about, and once including what is now the parish of Eskdalemuir. Bentpath is the tiny village which holds the parish church and the library and the former school, and where Telford went to school, and Glendinning is the farm up at the head of the valley where he was born.)

The memorial is now outside the little Westerkirk library.

Telford memorial and Westerkirk library

The inscription on the left hand panel reads:

This seat was erected in 1928 to perpetuate the memory of Thomas Telford son of the ‘unblameable shepherd’ and to record his fame as an engineer and his untiring benevolence. Apprenticed to a stonemason in Langholm. His creative genius gave to the nation many works of inestimable benefit. He was the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

‘Unblameable shepherd’ is a quotation from Telford’s own carving on his father’s gravestone, but I was unsure about where he was buried, and when I could only find the new graveyard in Bentpath I thought that the older graves must be in Langholm or Eskdalemuir – it turns out that the old graveyard is hidden up beyond the church.

Telford description

The right hand side has a quotation from a poem written by Telford himself as a young man, on the death of a childhood friend.

There ‘mongst those rocks I’ll form a rural seat,
And plant some ivy with its moss compleat;
I’ll benches form of fragments from the stone,
Which, nicely pois’d, was by our hands o’erthrown

Telford poem

The centre has a carved portrait of Telford, and a brief inscription about his life:

Thomas Telford FRS. Born at Glendinning 9 August 1757 President Institution of Civil Engineers from 21 March 1820 to the time of his death 2 September 1834

The monument was put up in 1928 on the centenary of the founding of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and was originally a bit further up the road, near where the Esk and the Meggat Water join.

Telford portrait

The Westerkirk library is the oldest library in Scotland still lending out books, and was originally founded by the miners of the Jamestown mine, right by Glendinning. The mine opened in 1793, about 35 years after Telford’s birth, and closed in 1799, and the library moved to the Westerkirk school in Bentpath in 1800, and to its own building when the school was rebuilt around 1840.

Telford left money in his will to be used for buying books for the library, which eventually added up to quite a proportion of it.

Westerkirk library

I had vaguely planned to walk down to Langholm and get the bus back, but the notice at the library reminded me about Glendinning itself – I could go directly to Langholm easily enough another day, but I wasn’t likely to head back up that long valley, and I figured out that I should be able to go on over the hill to Eskdalemuir, which was more appealing than walking all the way back out again.

The junction of the little road has a sign saying ‘Telford cairn’, although it doesn’t say anything about it still being 3 and a half miles away.

Telford cairn sign

The walk in just follows the road, but it was a lovely valley, little rounded hills and clear burn, until eventually the hills at the head of the valley came into view – Glendinning and Jamestown are just at the end of the main valley, before it splits into two branches.

The end of the valley

There’s a little carpark at Glendinning, mostly for the Greensykes bothy, and a board giving information about Telford’s life and a rather dramatic picture of his birthplace.

Glendinning information board

The cairn itself is a little bit up the hillside, with a wall behind it.

Memorial cairn

The inscription is very simple:

To commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of THOMAS TELFORD at Glendinning on 9th August 1757

Cairn inscription

I kept on up the hill to head back towards Eskdalemuir, which gave me a good view of the valley below – Telford’s father’s cottage would have been somewhere this side of the farmhouse, I think, and the mine was up the side valley opposite.

Looking down on Glendinning

Will the real George Heneage Dundas please stand up

(Also mostly a repost from elsewhere.)

I’ve mentioned George Heneage Dundas, the real life counterpart of Jack Aubrey’s friend, here before, but I haven’t posted my attempt to gather together both life stories. The character of the books is fairly classic O’Brian – based on history, but not quite, taken from his own family to become a son of one first Lord of the Admiralty and brother of another, in the shape of the first and second Lord Melville, Henry and Robert Dundas. (Which I think is a shame, because I find his real family far more interesting!)

In real life he was the fourth son of Thomas Dundas, son of Sir Lawrence Dundas. It doesn’t seem to have been a naval family – two of his brothers were in the army and another in the church, so it was presumably just something for a fourth son to do – but in those days it must have been difficult not to be involved somehow with ships, and his grandfather invested heavily in East India company ships and seems to have helped relatives to be appointed to posts on them, while his father was involved with steamship trials on the Forth and Clyde canal, so that the early paddle steamer Charlotte Dundas is named after his sister.

Two Dundas families

The two families involved, descending from Sir Lawrence Dundas, the ‘Nabob of the North’, and Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, ‘The Uncrowned King of Scotland’ were distantly related in some fashion, but certainly weren’t friends.

Both were Scottish families originally – Lawrence Dundas was probably born in Edinburgh, where his father was a merchant, and is buried at Falkirk, but he bought various properties across the country, so that by the time his grandson was born the family was based at Aske Hall in Yorkshire.

There’s a wonderful case study of Aske Hall and Lawrence Dundas, carried out as part of a research project on The East India Company at home, which is well worth a look, either to find out more about the family or for pretty pictures of houses and interiors of the time.

Henry Dundas was born at Arniston in Midlothian and is buried at Lasswade reasonably nearby, and although both of them must have lived most of their lives in London, his son also died in Midlothian and was buried at Lasswade. I don’t know nearly enough about the politics of Scotland between the Union and the Reform Acts to understand the power that the Melvilles had, only that they did – one legacy being the fact that almost every town in Scotland appears to have a Dundas Street!

Edinburgh monuments

The two families meet in St Andrew Square in the New Town of Edinburgh, where a monument to the first Lord Melville dominates the square, and towers over half of George Street.

Lawrence Dundas is represented by Dundas House, now the head office of the Royal Bank of Scotland,on one side of the square – the site was meant to be used for a church, but it was such a commanding site – looking right down the central street of the New Town development – that he just decided to keep it for himself.

The house is built on the point from which the New Town was measured and laid out, and there’s a plaque in the floor of the bank to commemorate it.

I’ve read a story somewhere that the statue on Lord Melville’s monument was deliberately built with its back to Dundas House, but this does seem to be only a story.

The second Lord Melville had to be content with a much smaller monument at the other end of the New Town, which now acts as a kind of roundabout.




Two naval careers

Dundas’s first appearance in the books, as commander of Calpe at the battle of Algeciras, fits with the historical record, and seems to be the historical character – it’s not until Post Captain that he becomes the son of the First Lord of the Admiralty. (Which can only be true if M+C really does run from April 1800 to an Algeciras in the autumn of 1801, but that’s a whole other story.)

Before the story starts the fictional Hen seems to have spent most of his time in the West Indies, where he was with Jack in both Surprise and Bellephoron, while the real GHLD spent time in the Mediterranean, at least once he became a lieutenant, ending up on Queen Charlotte, where he would have served with Cochrane had Cochrane not been away in charge of a prize.

It was on Queen Charlotte that he became known for his efforts when she went on fire, which led to him being appointed to Calpe.

After Algeciras the stories split again, with the real GHLD mostly in the North Sea and the Baltic in Euryalus, and the fictional one first in the Leeward Islands, and then in England on half pay.

By late 1812 and The Ionian Mission, the real and fictional characters meet up again in the Mediterranean, although with Hen in Excellent rather than his actual Edinburgh – since this is the book where everyone is based on Lord Collingwood, this may be a nod to him – although the time spent on blockade seems to belong more to Euryalus, which spent some time with Collingwood’s fleet in the Mediterranean and later off Toulon, than to the real Edinburgh, which was ‘very actively engaged on the coasts of Italy’.

By Treason’s Harbour Hen has caught up with his real counterpart by moving into Edinburgh, which suggests that O’Brian did still have history in mind. The real GHLD then stayed with Edinburgh and the Mediterranean until the end of the war, but the fictional Hen dots about sometimes as required by the plot and sometimes for no particular reason – heading for the North American station in Eurydice in The Reverse of the Medal, back again in The Letter of Marque, in the ship of the line Orion in the Thirteen Gun Salute, the older and smaller Berenice from The Wine Dark Sea to The Yellow Admiral (apparently because he has upset his brother, now in charge of the Admiralty), Hamadryad in The Hundred Days, and Lion in Blue at the Mizzen.

We’ll never know what the fictional character would have done later on – the real one left the navy at the end of the war and stood on and off as a Member of Parliament, eventually becoming Second Naval Lord and briefly First Sea Lord – the highest naval posts in the Admiralty, as opposed to the First Lord of the Admiralty, who by that time was always a civilian.

(I’m not sure which name he actually used – he was christened George Heneage Lawrence Dundas, and signs his letters to the Gazette with all his initials – G.H.L. Dundas – rather than the Geo. Dundas I was half expecting. I still suspect that he used George, but O’Brian, who does his research even if he then muddles it up so much that no one can unmuddle it, did get that Heneage from somewhere before he had started playing about with history – he’s Heneage in Master and Commander.

I haven’t (yet) found another George in the immediate family for him to be confused with, or named after for that matter – it’s possible that he was named after e.g. a godfather – there seems to have been a line of George Heneages in Lincolnshire – but that’s only a wild guess.)

Hidden horticulturalists

Quite a while ago now – back in the Glasgow book festival – I went to a talk about horticulturalists – two parts, of which the one that really interested me was about the early gardening trainees of the Royal Horticultural Society.

The story of the book began with the discovery in the RHS archives of a book of handwritten records by the young men who were the original trainees in their garden at Chiswick, dating back to the early 1820s. This was essentially the start of modern gardening – the first time that you would expect to have plants gathered from around the world in a garden, and would need to know how to look after them.

I ended up with the impression that the RHS don’t seem to have valued anyone who worked for them particularly highly – the trainees were so poorly paid that it was a requirement that they weren’t married, as they wouldn’t be able to support a wife! But hopefully they went on to better things.

The only one of the trainees who everyone has heard of, apparently, is Joseph Paxton, who went on to build the Crystal Palace – I hadn’t heard of him, but I have now, and it was while he was working at Chiswick that he first came to the attention of the Duke of Devonshire, who owned the land where the garden was.

I enjoyed the talk, and I liked the festival, but the one thing I do prefer about the Edinburgh book festival is the format of talks based around readings, as well as around discussion – I think it gives you a better idea of the book, as well as the topic.

Anyway, the library has the book on order, and I have a preemptive reservation on the currently non-existent book, so hopefully I will know more about it all soon.

The other half of the talk, although the wrong period, was about a man with the wonderfully Northumberland name of Collingwood Ingram, so I feel that he deserves a mention, although there was nothing Georgian or even northern about him – his great project was saving all the different varieties of cherry tree which had once been popular in Japan, and were vanishing in favour of only one or two kinds.

Two Bridges on the Tay


The day I went up to Scone, I also visited Dunkeld – mostly to go walking, but also to have a look at Telford’s great bridge over the Tay, an important link in his work on the Highland road system. However, before I got there my attention was attracted by another old bridge, built between 1766 and 1771 to cross the river at Perth.

There had been various bridges nearby in medieval times, all eventually destroyed by floods, and for about 150 years before this bridge was built only ferries had crossed the river. But with travel increasing and trade expanding a new bridge was proposed, and designed by John Smeaton, best known for the Eddystone lighthouse – this was before the main work on the Highland roads, but it must have been in mind, because the bridge was partly paid for from the forfeited Jacobite estates.

Smeaton’s Bridge

A century or so later the bridge was made wider, but it has been done quite neatly, leaving the basic arch of the bridge alone and adding walkways on either side.

It’s a beautiful thing, but one of my favourite things about it is that it’s made of something just a little bit like puddingstone, so where the stone is wearing, tiny pebbles are showing through.


Floods on the Tay were fairly common, and the new bridge had to stand up to one only three years after it was finished, which it did well. Several have happened since then, and there is a record of flood heights on the back of the first pillar.

Flood records

Plaques on the bridge record its building and the later widening.

Smeaton bridge plaque

I did finally make it up to Dunkeld, although I didn’t have much time for looking at the bridge. This was one of the first achievements of Telford’s work for the Commission for Highland Roads and bridges, built in 1809, and an essential link in the main route north to Inverness. Wade’s military road had taken a different route north, crossing the Tay at Aberfeldy where his bridge still stands, but otherwise there was no bridge over the Tay north of Perth.

Dunkeld bridge

It’s a beautiful bridge but a very plain one, with only this tiny bit of decoration at the ends, and apparently it only got that because a local landowner paid for it – the government funding only paid for substance, not for decoration.

Subtle decoration

Collingwood Society – Thomas Hardy

This month’s Collingwood Society talk was about another underrated character of the age, possibly even more in Nelson’s shadow – famously Nelson’s flag captain at the time of Trafalgar, and as the talk put it, one of the few men famous for a conversation.

He was born in 1769, the same year as two even more famous characters of the age – Wellington and Napoleon – but making him 10 years younger than Nelson and 20 years younger than Collingwood, and came from a family which had already produced four admirals.

He was briefly at school in Crewkerne before starting his naval career as a captain’s servant – one of the usual designations for young boys there to learn about the life – on Helena, under the command of Francis Roberts, known as a survivor of the explosion of the Quebec, and for a scrap with the Spanish while taking dispatches through the blockade to Gibraltar. A letter written from Helena mentions a dog called Bounce, a nice coincidence, and also talks about him being sent back to school, which happened a year or two later – his name appears on the books on the Carnatic for part of this time, but he probably wasn’t there.

From 1785 to 1789 his name vanishes from the naval records, and he may have been in the merchant service, possibly because of financial troubles in the family. In 1790 he reappears as a midshipman on Hebe, becoming a master’s mate by the end of the year, and after another couple of transfers he became a lieutenant in 1793 on Meleager, in Nelson’s squadron – a squadron lucky with prize money – and then on Minerve, which Nelson joined as commodore.

While serving on board a prize, Santa Sabina, in December 1798, Hardy was captured and briefly held as a prisoner at Cartagena, but he was soon exchanged. Another adventure saw him setting out in a small boat to rescue a sailor who had fallen overboard while the ship was under pursuit – when Nelson shortened sail to retrieve the boat this confused the pursuing Spanish enough that they did the same, allowing Minerve and all concerned to get away safely.

In May 1797 Hardy was appointed Master and Commander of the brig Mutine, which he had captured in a cutting out expedition, and went on to command her at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, becoming captain of Nelson’s flagship, Vanguard, after the battle when Edward Berry was sent home with dispatches. He transferred with Nelson to Foudroyant, but returned to England after Berry’s return, arriving home on Christmas Eve 1799. A year later he was back with Nelson on St George with the Baltic fleet, although the ship took no active part in the Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson having transferred to Elephant for the battle.

He was lucky enough, or well connected enough, to be employed through the Peace of Amiens as the captain of Isis, carrying out diplomatic missions including taking the Duke of Kent to Gibraltar and Lord Robert Fitzgerald to Lisbon. By late 1802 he was back with Nelson, on board Victory, and in spring 1805 Victory led a chase of a French and Spanish fleet to the West Indies and back. The combined fleet slipped back into Cadiz, under blockade by Collingwood’s fleet, and Hardy and Nelson returned briefly to England, where Hardy was summoned to tell the royal family about Nelson’s actions, and in September sailed to join the fleet off Cadiz, setting the scene for Trafalgar.

Hardy and Nelson were together for the first part of the battle, walking together on deck, where Nelson observed that it was ‘too warm work to last long’, and Hardy visited Nelson after he had been shot, where the famous request was made – also Nelson’s observation that he had hoped for 20 captured enemy ships, and a request that his body not be thrown overboard.

Here we had a digression on ‘Kiss me, Hardy’ and the Victorian suggestion that what was actually said was ‘Kismet, Hardy’ – unlikely both because the word ‘kismet’ isn’t recorded in English until 1849, and because Hardy did kiss Nelson, to Nelson’s apparent satisfaction, but which hung around for long enough to provoke furious debate in the Mariner’s Mirror in 1925.

Victory was badly damaged in the battle and was towed to Gibraltar by Neptune, returning to Portsmouth 5 weeks later with Nelson’s body aboard, and Hardy took part in Nelson’s funeral procession in January 1806. In February he was made a baronet for his part in the battle, and awarded the naval gold medal – he was also left £100 and all Nelson’s telescopes.

Hardy’s next appointment was as captain of Triumph, first with Strachan in the Atlantic and then with Berkeley in North America, and while in America he married Berkeley’s daughter Louisa. He then went to Portugal as his father-in-law’s flag captain in Barfleur, supporting Wellington’s operations there. In 1812 Berkeley retired and returned to England, and Hardy went back to North America, where the United States were once again at war with Britain, on Ramillies, and was attacked by a submarine which fortunately failed to attach an explosive to the ship.

By now Hardy had three daughters, and he spent some time in London as captain of the Royal Yacht at Deptford, becoming involved in an odd affair where he first won a libel case against the Morning Herald, who had alleged that his wife had run off with the Marquess of Abercorn, and then fought a duel with Lord Buckingham, who he believed had been writing anonymous letters about his wife.

In 1818 he was made Commander in Chief for South America, a mainly diplomatic post – his letters home are greatly concerned with his daughters, another similarity with Collingwood. In 1825 he became a Rear Admiral, and ended up in command of an experimental squadron in the Channel, advising on ship construction and recommending the building of heavier ships. In 1830 he became First Naval Lord, encouraging the introduction of steam warships, resigning in 1834 to become Governor of Greenwich Hospital, where he died in 1839, having become a Vice Admiral in 1837.

David Douglas and Scone


The current Scone Palace is Georgian neo-Gothic, built between 1802-1808 as an extension of a late 16th century building.

Scone Palace

The site is much older than that – just beyond the house is the Moot Hill which is the ancient crowning place of the kings of Scotland, now with a Georgian chapel on top.

Chapel on the Moot Hill

The village of Scone was one in the grounds of the house – or possibly the abbey and the old house were in the village – but about the same time the house was rebuilt the owners got tired of having a village so close and moved it a couple of miles away.

There are various remnants of the old village left in the grounds – the gate in the old walls, the market cross, and even old graves.

Scone gate

This stone, near the original site of the church but now alone in the woods, marks the grave of John Wright, minister of Scone in the late 18th century, and his son.

Old tomb

I might come back and visit the house some time, but this time I had really come to look for David Douglas. He was born in the old village of Scone in 1799, just before all this was going on, and started his career as an apprentice gardener at the palace. The first Douglas fir in Scotland is in the grounds, grown from seeds which Douglas sent back in 1826.

The Douglas Fir

A little pavilion nearby holds information about Douglas and other Scottish botanists and plant collectors of the time.

David Douglas pavilion

It’s a nice little building, decorated with carved cones, all with the distinctive three-tongued bract of the Douglas fir.

Cone in the ceiling

One of the boards told me that there was a memorial to Douglas in the grounds of Old Scone church, but although the handful of remaining buildings of Old Scone are just outside the gates, it turns out that Old Scone church has been moved up to New Scone. So that’s something I really will have to go back and see, along with the plant collectors pavilion at Pitlochry…

Throwback: The Rest and Be Thankful


A Telford tangent this time, or a continuation on the theme of Highland transport (that also being what I plan to read about this month).

The pass at the Rest and Be Thankful is one of the few ways through the hills into Argyll, and an important route long before it was ever a road in the modern sense, and when the military took on the task of opening up the highlands after 1745 it would have been an obvious place for them to look at.

The original military road was built around 1750, and lasted for nearly 200 years before work on a new road began in the late 1930s. The original line was closer to the valley bottom for most of the way, so climbed steeply to the head – one of the bends at the top is in the foreground. The old road is still farm access, and used when the new road is out of action – the Arrochar Heritage trail has some nice pictures of it in use in the old days.

The old road

From the top of the pass you can see just how directly the new road cuts through the hillside – it’s not particularly surprising that the hill slides down on top of it every so often. The old road did take a more natural line, even if it’s a terrible pull to the top.

Two roads

But the real point of my visit to the top was to find the old marker stone there.

The first stone at the top was put up by the soldiers who built the road (and presumably named it – any earlier name for the pass would likely have been in Gaelic).

The one there now is a later replacement – several places online had told me that, and so I was quite amused to discover when I actually got to the stone that the replacement itself was more than 200 years old, erected in 1814 when the road was handed over to the Commissioners of Highland Roads and Bridges, part of Telford’s great project to improve access to the Highlands for more peaceful reasons.

Rest and Be Thankful marker stone
Marker stone inscription