It is obviously monument season again, because having gone to Comrie to climb another hill, I made a short (but very steep) detour to visit Lord Melville’s monument there, having been to see the one in Edinburgh a while ago.
The monument sits on a little hill looking down on Comrie – you can see it from the edge of the village, although not from in among the houses.
Melville had local connections of a kind – he had a house at Dunira a few miles away, although his roots were in Midlothian, and he was made Baron Dunira as well as Viscount Melville (a title which had really come from his wife’s family). There must have been a fairly keen local campaign to get the monument built, as it was erected only a year after his death – maybe all the keener because his reputation had been tarnished in London.
Almost every town in Scotland has a Dundas Street, so it’s no surprise that Comrie does, leading up to the road to the monument – but it goes one better by also having a Dunira Street.
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.
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).
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.
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.