Great Scots Highlands and Islands

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Great Scots Highlands and Islands

(1) Academics

a) Timothy Pont (1564-1614) b.?

Mapmaker Minister in Dunnet, Caithness from 1601-14. Carried out an extensive survey of Scotland, and his maps were later restored by Robert Gordon of Straloch, and published in Blaeu’s Atlas Novus, and recently made available on the internet by the National Library of Scotland.

b) James Sharp (1613-79) b. Banff

Churchman and Covenanter, imprisoned in London, and in 1657, he negotiated with the impressed Cromwell. After 1660,he pragmatically recognised that both Charles 11 and the Scots nobles were determined to re-impose episcopacy and he accepted the Archbishopric of St. Andrews. Ruthless persecution of the Covenanters and the Fife lairds led to his murder by Fife Covenanters.

c) Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871) b. Tarradale, nr Muirhead of Ord

Geologist he carried our major surveys of Russia and Australia, where the Murchison river named after him. Also the Murchison Falls in Uganda named after him. He became the Director of the Geological Survey in 1855.

d) Hugh Miller (1802-56) b. Cromarty

Geologist and Writer Largely self-taught from his early career as a stonemason. His most important work “The Old Red Sandstone”(1841). Involved in the controversy that led to the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, and started “The Witness”, newspaper of then Evangelical side. He committed suicide in Portobello.

e) William Skene (1809-92) b. Knoydart

Historian son of James Skene of Rubislaw, a friend of Sir Walter Scott. He was a solicitor who spent his time researching Scottish Historical Documents, resulting in his publication “Celtic Scotland”(1876-80.)In 1881 he became Historiographer Royal.

f) Professor Susan Black OBE FRSE (b.Inverness) 1961.

A forensic anthropologist and academic – awarded a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Human anatomy in 1982,and an award in Philosophy in human anatomy for her thesis on “Identification from the human skeleton”, both from Aberdeen University.
She is now a forensic anthropologist of international renown, and has served in Kosovo, Sierra
Leone and Granada, two tours of Iraq and partook in the Thai/Australian Discover Victim Identification as part of the Indian Ocean Earthquake Tsunami International Response.
Now Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at Dundee University. This department is training the UK National Disaster Victim Identification for police and scientists in advanced mortuary practices.
Susan Black has already completed 12 authored and co-authored works.

(2) Architects and Builders

a) James Smith (c.1645-1731) b.Tarbat, Ross-shire

After studying for the priesthood in Rome, he became an architect instead, marrying the daughter of the King’s Master Mason, Robert Mylne. He designed the great Palaces of Drumlanrig (1680-90), Hamilton (1693-1701), Melville, Fife(1697-1700), Yester(1700-15) and Dalkeith (1702-10)and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh (1688-90.)

(3) Artists and Sculptors

a) Sir Robert Strange (1804-91) b. Kirkwall

Artist career inextricably linked with Prince Charles Edward Stuart, whose portrait he engraved and fought with him at Culloden. Later he spent most of his life in London and on the Continent achieved an International reputation for his line engravings.

b) Adam Christie (1868-1950) b. Cunningsburgh, Shetland

Eldest son in a fishing family a writer and musician, but at 32,following a severe depression, he was admitted to hospital in Montrose, where he died. Here, using only a chisel fashioned from a nail, he made numerous sculpted forms, mostly heads, which he carved from stones from nearby fields. He also painted, made wood-relief pictures and fine violins, whilst writing fiddle music and poetry.

c) William McTaggert (1903-1910) b. Aros, Kintyre, Argyll

Artist one of a generation of important 19th century artists, who studied in Edinburgh under Robert Scott Lauder. He is sometimes dubbed “The Scottish Impressionist.”

d) Jim Baikie ( ) b. Orkney

Comic artist worked on publications such as “Look In”, where he illustrated adaptions of “The Monkees” and “Star Trek”. He is best known for collaborating with Alan Moore on Skizz for 2000AD, a spin on ET.

(4) Authors/Writers/Poets

a) Duncan Ban Macintyre (1724-1812) b. Glenorchy

One of the most renowned Gaelic poets and formed an integral part of one of the golden ages of Gaelic Poetry in Scotland during the 18th century. Most renowned of his poems “Praise of Ben Doran“.

b) Jame MacPherson (1736-96) b. Ruthven, Invernesshire.

Poet and collector and translator of Gaelic poetry, including epics of the hero Fingal.

c) William Ross (1762-c.91) b. Skye

Gaelic poet regarded as one of the greatest of Gaelic love poets, much of his verse inspired by his unrequited love of Marion Ross from Lewis.

d) Edwin Muir (1887-1959) b. Deerness, Orkney

A well know poet critic and translator much of his work was infused by his socialist principles and interest in Europe.

e) Neil Gunn (1891-1973) b. Dunbeard, Caithness

His novels were influenced by his passion for Highland history and society. A friend of Hugh McDiarmid, he became part of the 20th century Scottish Literary Renaissance.

f) Sir Fitzroy Maclean (1911-96) b. Argyll

Diplomat, soldier and writer, and especially renowned as the inspiration of James Bond.

g) Sorley Maclean (1911-96) b. Osgaig, Raasay

His work in the field of Gaelic poetry has led to his being viewed as the Father of the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance. Sonhairle MacGill-Eain is commemorated in Makar’s Court, outside the Writer’s Museum, Lawnmarket in Edinburgh.

h) Gordon Mackay Brown (b.1921 ) in Orkney.

Poet, author and dramatist, and considered one of the greatest Scottish poets of the 20th century. Much of his work was, as Seamus Heaney said, seen “Through the eyes of an Orkney needle.”

i) Duncan Williamson (1928-) b.in a tent Nr Furnace in Argyll

Traveller, storyteller and singer and one of Scotland’s best known storytellers, and some books edited by his wife Linda included “The Horsieman“, “The Broonie“, “Silkies and Fairies” and “Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children“.

j) Alison Smith (1962-) b. Inverness

Novelist and short story teller. Her novels won Scottish Arts Council awards and were short listed for the Brooker Prize and the Orange Prize.

k) Alan Warner (1964-) b. Oban

Novelist a writer of darkly humorous books, pictorially descriptive which makes him popular with film directors.

(5) Engineers

a) James Leveson Ross (1848 – 1913) b.Cromarty.

Civil engineer, businessman and philanthropist. Best known as a Railway Engineer, and played a major role in the magnificent and hugely challenging construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, of which he became a major shareholder. He also oversaw the electrification of street railways in   Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, St.John, Birmingham (England), Mexico City and Sao Paolo. He was President of the Dominion Bridge Co.and the Mexican Power Co. He was Hon. Lieut- Colonel of the 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars and Governor of McGill University and the Royal Victoria Hospital. An avid collector of fine arts, he owned several yachts, becoming the first Canadian to be made a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. He died in Montreal.

(6) Explorers and Pioneers

a) Charles Barkley (1759-1832) b. Cromarty

He went to sea aged 11, in his Father’s ship, the “Pacific”, who was a Master in the East
India Company. He eventually became a Captain in his own right, after buying a trading ship
of their own, together with other directors of the East India Company. It was Charles who
was the first man to take an interest in what became British Colombia, and indeed one of three particularly safe anchorages off Vancouver Island, to this day known as Barkley
Sound.

He became a great sea trader, and with his dear wife, Francis with her fair colouring and
red-gold hair, together with their son, became objects of intense interest to all wherever
they went, especially in Hawaii, BC, Alaska and Indo-China.

b) Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820) b. Stornoway

First man to cross North America to the Pacific coast in 1893.

c) Simon Fraser (1776-1862) b.?

A Highlander who emigrated to North America with his parents. He discovered W.Canada for the British New Caledonia and then British Columbia. He discovered the Fraser River and the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver is named after him.

d) John Rae (1813-1893) b. Stromness, Orkney

The greatest Arctic Explorer of the 19th century and founder of the North West Passage. Expert in survival methods, being able to survive for long periods in the Arctic without external supplies. In 1847 he surveyed 700 miles of the coastline around Committee Bay, and the following year sent out in search of Sir John Franklin, bringing back information about the true fate of the Franklin Expedition.

e) William Balfour Baikie ( b. 1824) Orkney

At 30 began an Exploration of Africa as a surgeon to a Government backed project. He later opened up the navigation of the Niger, made roads and established a community near the river, which became the City of Lokoja.

f) James “Scotty” Phillip (1858-1911) b. Dallas, Moray

At 15 he emigrated to the US seeking adventure and settled in South Dakota, seeking gold. He eventually set up a herd of cattle and married a part-native American. He became a great champion of their cause and was largely responsible for the preservation of the buffalo in the US. Later he became a Senator.

(7) Founders

a) Major General Lachlan Macquarie (1761-1824) b. Ulva off Mull

Governor General of New South Wales, Australia from 1809-1820, and was responsible for the development of the city of Sydney. Regarded as one of the “Fathers of modern Australia.”

b) Sir James Matheson (1796-1878) b. Lairg, Sutherland

He met William Jardine whilst working for the East India Company, and in 1832 created Jardine Matheson, Hong Kong’s oldest firm, originally based on the opium trade. With his fortune he bought the Island of Lewis, and built Lews Castle.

c) George Smith (1824-1901) b. Elgin

Founder of Smith, Elder and Co. Publishing House, Cornhill Magazine, The Pall Mall Gazette and the Dictionary of National Biography.

d) William Grant (1839-1972) b.

Distiller and founder of the Glenfiddich Distillery in 1887.The company William Grant still exists today.

e) James Farquharson Macleod ? b. Calgary, Mull

He became chief of the Canadian Mounted Police in 1876. He named the City of Calgary in W. Canada after his place of birth.

f) Gordon Baxter (1918-2013) b. Fochabers, Moray

Entrepreneur and founder of the Baxters Food Empire, and proud son of Moray.

(8) Heroes and Heroines

a) Ewen Macpherson of Cluny (d.1756) b.?

Chief of the Macphersons and reluctant supporter of Charles Edward Stuart, he brought his clansmen to join the Jacobite army after the Battle of Prestonpans, but missed the Battle of Culloden. His home having been burned, he took refuge in “Cluny’s Cage” a cave on the side of Ben Alder, where he was joined by the Prince until the latter’s escape to Skye. Never betrayed by his people, despite the offer of reward, he finally escaped to France in 1755, but soon died there.

b) Flora MacDonald (1722-90) b. South Uist

Saviour and guide to Charles Edward Stuart in his flight to Skye from the Scottish mainland. She was arrested and sent to London to be imprisoned, but later was released and became a VIP at social parties obviously some lady!

c) The Rev.Dr.Donald Currie Caskie DD OBE OCF (1902-83) b. Bowmore, Islay

Son of a crofter, and Minister in the Church of Scotland, best known for his exploits in France during World War II, during which he helped an estimate 2,000 Allied sailors, soldiers and airmen to escape from occupied France, in the main through Spain, all described in his wartime memoir, “The Tartan Pimpernel” (1957).

(9) Inventors

a) Alexander Bain b. Caithness (1811-1877)

Son of a crafter in a big family. An instrument inventor, technician and clockmaker.
His first patent was in 1841 for an electric clock which used a pendulum kept moving by electromagnetic impulses, and he improved on this later with the use of an “Earth battery”, which consisted of plots of zinc and copper in the ground.
In December 1841, together with Lieut. Thomas Wright RN, he patented a method of using electricity to control railway engines by turning off steam – the first change from steam to electric trains!
In 1843 he patented the first facsimile machine.
“For many years I have devoted myself to rendering electricity practically useful, and have been extensively engaged, not only in this country, but in America and on the Continent, in the construction and the working of the Electrical Telegraph; while at the same time the employment of electricity in the measurement of time also drew my attention.”
His surviving examples remain:

  • In the National Maritime Museum in London
  • London Science Museum
  • Royal Scottish Museum
  • Deutsches Uhrenmuseum

A pub in Wick holds his name as does the main BT Building in Glasgow, known as Alexander Bain House.
Meanwhile he is to be honoured at a ceremony in Las Vegas for his pioneering work in the field of image transmission which was used in the development of television, in the form of an Emmy, which will be a source of great pride for the people of East Dumbartonshire and indeed for the whole of Scotland. He is buried in Kirkintilloch.

Truly one of the great Scottish Inventors.

(10) Journalists and Publishers

a) Neil Munro (1864-1930) b. Inveraray, Argyll

Journalist and Novelist best know for his “I”.

(11) Military Men

a) Sir Thomas Randolph Ist Earl of Moray d.1332

Soldier and Politician nephew of King Robert 1 and one of the King’s most important Lieutenants. He recaptured Edinburgh Castle in 1314 and was a Commander at Bannockburn.

b) John Randoplh 3rd Earl of Moray d.in 1346

Soldier and Politician defeated Balliol at Annan in 1332. In 1334 he became a Joint Guardian with Robert the Steward, successfully expelling the English from the S.W. of Scotland.

c) Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald (1853-1902) b. Black Isle.

“Fighting Mac” a crofter’s son, he joined the British Army as a private and became a Major-General, fighting in the Afghan War, both Boer Wars and saving British troops from certain death at Omdurman. He was knighted in 1901, and became Commander-in-Chief in Ceylon in 1902. His career ended in tragedy when he committed suicide in Paris, rather than return to Ceylon to face charges of homosexuality.

(12) Musicians

a) William Marshall (1749-1833) b. Fochabers, Moray

Fiddle player/composer of 257 tunes, the slow Strathspey being his favourite form.

b) William Ross (1879-1966) b.Camsorrie, Glen Strathfarrar, Nr Beauly, Invernesshire

Piper taught by his father and relatives, he won many awards. He was Pipe Major in the Scots Guards and Lovat Scouts and was Piobaireachd Society Instructor to the Army School 1920-57. He was a composer and arranger of pipe music, and published “Pipe Major WILLIAM Ross’s Collection of Highland Music” Books 1 to 5 between 1933 and 1950.

c) Jimmy MacBeath (1894-1972) b. Portsoy, Banffshire

After many years of tramping the road, living in poverty and singing for pennies, MacBeath became celebrated in the 1950’s as a major source of traditional Scottish and Bothy ballads, and a remarkable gravel-voiced performer on recordings and in concert.

d) Karen Matheson OBE (1963-) b. Taynuilt, Argyllshire

Folk singer, with the most stunning voice, who songs many of her material in the Gaelic. Lead female singer of the group “Capercaille.”

e) Julie Fowlis (1979-) b.? brought up in North Uist

Folk-singer with a gorgeous voice, and again sings so much of her music in the Gaelic.

(13) Physicians

a) Sir William MacEwan (1848-1924) b. Rothesay, Bute

Surgeon pioneer, especially in brain and bone, and he extended Lister’s antiseptic technique.

(14) Politicians and Diplomats

a) Sir Henry Barkly (1815-1898) b. Cromarty

A famed and successful British diplomat serving in British Guiana, Jamaica, Victoria (Australia), Mauritius and the Cape Colony, South Africa.
He had a great reputation for reason and diplomacy, and perhaps his greatest days were during his last office, where he played such a major role in reasoning with the Boers and local blacks, especially in the heady days of the diamond finds in the Orange Free State. When he retired, the situation deteriorated dramatically, and maybe if he had been younger, might the Boer War have been averted?

b) Lord Donald A. Smith Strathcona (1820-1913) b. Forres, Moray

Canadian financier and politician became Governor of the Hudson Bay Co., and was the driving force behind the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was High Commissioner to Canada in London from 1896.

c) Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) b. Lossiemouth, Moray

British Statesman with little education, he worked as a clerk, but became an organiser of the Labour Party and an MP in 1906. He became PM of the first Labour Government in Britain in 1924. He was again PM in 1924-35 and in 1931 he formed a (largely Conservative) National Government to combat the Depression.

d) Sir William Whitelaw (1918-99) b. Nairn, Moray

Politician MP for Penrith and the Borders division of Cumbria from 1955-83, when he was made Viscount Whitelaw. He was the first N. Ireland Secretary (1972), and became a key member of Lady Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet.

e) John Smith (1938-94) b. Dalmally, Argyll

Politician in 1992 became Leader of the Labour Party, and perhaps one of the great PM’s who never was?

f) Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (1946-) b. Port Ellen, Islay

Elected labour MP for Hamilton in 1978, he became his party’s spokesman on European Affairs in in 1984, and held the post for 9 years, before moving to the Shadow Cabinet, where he had responsibility for Scottish matters. Became Secretary of State for Defence on Labour’s return to power in 1997, then 2 years later was made Secretary General of NATO, a post he held till 2003. In 1999 he was also made a Life Peer.

g) Brian Wilson (1948-) b. Dunoon, Argyll

Politician and Journalist MP for Cunninghame North since 1987 and Minister of State for various departments since 1997, latterly the PM’s Special Representative for Trade and Reconstruction. He founded and edited the West Highland Free Press.

(15) Scientists

a) Colin Maclaurin (1698-1746) b. Kilmodan, Argyll

Physician, mathematician and astronomer appointed to a chair at Marischal College Aberdeen at the age of 19, and later at Edinburgh(on the recommendation of Isaac Newton)A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, his “Treatise on Fluxions” (1742) gave a systematic account of Newton’s approach to calculus.

b) Alexander Thom (1894-1985) b.Argyll.

Engineer and archaeological theorist of astronomical calendars and megalithic measuring units.