Wednesday 15 March 2023

Forth Rail Bridge - Unesco World Heritage Site


This is the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. It spans the Forth of Firth from South Queensferry, west of Edinburgh, to North Queensferry in Fife. It is a cantilever bridge and was the world’s first major steel structure. It still holds the record for the world’s longest cantilever bridge at a span of 2,467 metres (2698 yards). The bridge received UNESCO World Heritage status in July 2015, making it the sixth such site in Scotland. 

At the height of construction, roughly 4,000 men were employed in the building of the bridge. It consists of three separate four-tower high, double-cantilevers. These cantilevers are connected by 350 ft long girders. All of this is connected to the main bridge structure using enormous rivets. The bridge is supported by granite piers. 

In all, 53,000 tons of steel, 6.5 million rivets and 120,000 yards of concrete were used in the building of the bridge. The concrete and masonry of the piers is faced with 2-foot-thick granite. During the construction, 58 men lost their lives, and a memorial has been erected at South Queensferry naming these victims. 

The painted area of the bridge is roughly 230,000 square metres and while folklore would have it that men paint the bridge from south to north and then turn and paint from north to south all year, the reality is that the paint used is durable enough to last 20-25 years. 

Over 200 trains cross over the bridge each day. There is a double track so that trains may pass in each direction. My grandfather told his children that the trains went up and over the girders, much like a rollercoaster, which was enough to deter them from crossing over to Fife!


Tuesday 14 March 2023

Skaill House


This is Skaill House, overlooking the Bay of Skaill in west mainland, Orkney. Skaill is the Old Norse name for ‘hall’. The house was built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham who was the then Bishop of Orkney. Bishop Graham’s son, John became the first Laird of Skaill House. The house has since been passed down through 12 generations of Grahams. The 7th Laird, William Watt was living in the house in 1850 when it is purported that an enormous storm dispersed the sand, revealing a stone wall.


William called in antiquarian George Petrie to assist in examining his find. Between 1850 and 1878, Petrie uncovered 4 houses and documented all of the artifacts that he had uncovered. The work was abandoned for a few years and later picked up by the University of Edinburgh. In all, there are 10 houses that make up the neolithic village at Skara Brae, including one structure that appears to have been used as a workshop.

All of the structures are made of flagstones which are layered to provide extra support. Each home has a hearth which would have been used not only for cooking but also for heat. It is central to the home. They also have a chest which would have been used as a cupboard, and as well there are beds in each home. The hearth and furniture were also made of stone. It is presumed that the homes would originally have had turf roofs, likely thatched with peat.

Together with the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar, and at Stenness, and the chambered cairn at Maeshowe, Skara Brae makes up the heart of Neolithic Orkney which has a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

 I am forever in awe at the evidence of history that still exists in Scotland. It really does make you realize we are just a blip on the spectrum.

Monday 13 March 2023

Leanach Cottage


This is Leanach Cottage, the only original building to remain standing on Culloden Battlefield. The house was built in 1730 and during the Battle of Culloden, it was situated between the Government lines. Its purpose immediately following the battle is up for debate, with some saying it was likely used as a field hospital by the government troops while others tend to believe the account that following the battle 20-30 wounded Jacobite men ensconced themselves in a nearby farmhouse. Further, once they were discovered by the Government Troops, the cottage was locked, with the men still inside, and set on fire, burning them alive.

 The last inhabitant was Belle MacDonald. Belle and her family offered tours of the battlefield to interested visitors. Belle died in 1912.

 In 1944, landowner Duncan Forbes, who had managed some restoration work on the cottage and who is also responsible for building the memorial cairn on the battlefield, donated the land to the National Trust for Scotland. The Trust used the cottage as the visitor centre for the battlefield from 1961.

 The Trust has restored the roof to the original high pitch design. In 2019, the cottage was opened for visitors to see the inside.

 Oh the stories these walls could tell…

Sunday 12 March 2023

From Sutherland to the Red River

This statue is called The Emigrants and is situated atop a hill in Helmsdale, Sutherland, Scotland. It overlooks Helmsdale Harbour.

The statue is representative of the large numbers who were displaced from their homes in Sutherland, many leaving for Canada. The father is looking forward to a new life and new opportunities while the mother is looking back at the life and friendships she is leaving behind.
There is a replica of this statue in Winnipeg Manitoba where it is known as The Immigrant. Here it is representing the many who came to Canada as Selkirk Settlers, settling on Lord Selkirk's Settlement in the Red River area. One such family was George Bannerman of Kildonan. George is the maternal great grandfather of John Diefenbaker.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Last Minute Cancellation for GLASGOW - April 16-23


Are you ready to research your Glasgow area ancestors? In Scotland? Can you be ready in 6 weeks?

I have had a last minute cancellation for the final tour and am offering it at a reduced deposit. If you think you can be ready in 40 days, you can join the group for a deposit of $425, a 20% discount.

If you are interested, head to the website and email me. First come, first served.

Women in History - Elizabeth Latto Ewan


Elizabeth Latto Ewan was born in Fyvie in 1875. She was the daughter of the Reverend William Ewan of the Free Church at Fyvie, and his wife Elizabeth Ramsay. As a young adult, Elizabeth studied medicine at the Medical College for Women in Edinburgh. She became the youngest recipient of the Scottish Triple Qualification in 1895. From there, Elizabeth continued her studies in Midwifery and Women’s Diseases in both Dublin and Glasgow. She returned to Aberdeen in 1896 and opened her practice. Hers was the first women only medical practice in Aberdeen. 

Elizabeth made a point of offering care to women of lower classes, finding them more susceptible to illness and disease. To supplement her income, Elizabeth also worked as a medical examiner for the Colonial Mutual Assurance Society. She became the Society’s first female member in 1898. 

Although she, at times, clashed with her conservative male colleagues, Elizabeth was known as charming and having high standards and professional integrity. Throughout her career, Elizabeth championed women’s rights and healthcare for all classes of women.


Women's History Month - Madge Easton Anderson


Madge Easton Anderson was born in Glasgow on 24 April 1896. Her parents were Anne Catherine Chisholm Robert Easton Anderson. Robert Easton was a maker of surgical instruments while Anne’s father had been a seller of books in Inverness. Madge was the youngest of three girls born to the couple.


After completing school, Madge received an MA and then went on to study at the Faculty of Law at the University of Glasgow. She trained as an apprentice at the law firm Maclay Murray and Spens LLP.  The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women to enter the legal profession for the first time, paving the way for Madge. A year later, she became the first woman to work as a professional lawyer in the UK. 

Madge also volunteered her time through the University’s settlement organization to offer free legal advice to people in the Anderston area of Glasgow. She is recorded as being a ‘Poor Man’s Lawyer’ offering legal advice to those who could not afford it. 

In 1937, Madge qualified as a solicitor in England. This made her the first woman to qualify in two jurisdictions within the UK.  In London, Madge worked in partnership with two other women, making their firm the first of all female law firm in the UK. 

In her retirement, Madge moved back to Scotland, purchasing a home in Dunkeld. For a time, she ran this as a private hotel. She eventually gave that up and moved to a cottage near Crieff. Anderson died at the Royal Infirmary in Perth at the age of 96.


Sunday 5 March 2023

Women's History Month - Beatrice Clugston


Beatrice was born in the east end of Glasgow in 1827. Her father, John Clugston was an accountant Treasurer of the Calton Provident Bank. Beatrice’s mother was Mary Mackenzie. This couple had 5 children with daughter Beatrice being the eldest.   

As a child, Beatrice was surrounded by philanthropy work. Her father, uncle and cousin were all heavily involved in philanthropic works, and as such, it was not a surprise that Beatrice, too, turned to philanthropy as a young woman. She took to visiting the Glasgow Infirmary every morning and chatting with the patients. In doing this, Beatrice became acutely aware of the plight of the impoverished patients and set up a Dorcas Society which provided clothing to these patients as well as a small sum of money when they were discharged, to help them get back on their feet. Part of the work of this society was that the women took turns visiting those patients who had no other visitors so that they did not feel alone during their time of need.   

When she wasn’t helping people in hospital, she would visit inmates in prison. She was an incredibly talented fundraiser and managed to raise enough funds to create the Glasgow Convalescent Home in Bothwell. She went on to found a second home in Dunoon and set up the Broomhill Homes for Incurables in Kirkintilloch. 

In spite of her ability to raise funds for others, Beatrice paid little attention to her own finances and by early 1876, she and her mother were in fairly dire straits. Soon a subscription was raised, taking in £3000 which provided an annuity for her and her mother. Beatrice died in December 1888 at the age of 61. Her legacy lives on in the buildings she founded.

Saturday 4 March 2023

Women's History Month - Winnifred Drinkwater


Winnifred Joyce Drinkwater was born in East Renfrewshire on April 11, 1913 to Albert Drinkwater, an engineer, and his wife Emma Banner. Winnie was one of three children born to the couple.

At the age of 17, Winnie joined the Scottish Flying Club where she trained under instructor Captain John Houston. 

Later that same year, Winnie made aviation when she became Scotland’s youngest aircraft pilot. By the time Winnie turned 21, she was the youngest commercial pilot in Britain. She subsequently went on to become the first female pilot in the UK to fly the Glasgow to London route.


Friday 3 March 2023

Women's History Month - Fanny Wright


Frances Wright was born in Dundee, Scotland, on September 6, 1795, to Camilla Campbell and her husband James Wright, a wealthy linen merchant. Fanny, as she was called, was the second eldest of three children. However, an older brother died when Fanny was still young. She and her sister Camilla were quite close throughout life. The girls lost their mother when Fanny was just two years of age. They then lost their father, James died not long after. The sisters were sent to England where they were raised by her mother’s family, the Campbells.


Wright believed in universal equality in education and feminism. She also opposed organized religion, marriage, and capitalism. Fanny followed social reformer, Robert Owen, of New Lanark Mills, and visited  him in his venture at his New Harmony in Indiana. Along with Owen, Fanny was a strong advocate for free public education.   

Wright was also a vocal advocate of birth control, equal rights, sexual freedom, legal rights for married women, liberal divorce laws, the emancipation of slaves, and the controversial idea of interracial marriages.   

Taking inspiration from the New Harmony community in Indiana, Fanny purchased about 320 acres along Wolf River, about thirteen miles from Memphis. Here, she founded a community named Nashoba.  Fanny purchased about thirty slaves, nearly half of them children, to live in this experimental new community. Her plan was for the slaves to gradually acquire their freedom through their labor on the property. Wright also planned to eventually colonize the newly emancipated slaves to areas outside the United States. The settlement ultimately failed, not due to Fanny, but rather because of the mosquitos and the diseases they carried. 

Wright was a publisher, lecturer and writer as well as a social reformer.


Women's History Month - The Templeton Disaster


The Templeton Carpet Factory sits next to the People’s Palace and Glasgow Green. It was commissioned in the late 1880s and is designed on the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Construction began on the factory in 1888. Late the following year, disaster struck.

November 1, 1889 was a cold evening. The winds were high. So high, in fact, that they blew down a large section of the eastern extension to the factory. The ruins fell onto the neighbouring weaving shed, causing the shed to collapse. The workers in that shed were almost all women of the east end of Glasgow. They were trapped in the ruins. While 32 injured women were rescued by the Eastern and Central Fire Brigades, another 29 women sadly lost their lives. Some of the dead were girls as young as 12 and 14. This disaster is the greatest peace time tragedy for the East End of Glasgow. A memorial garden is incorporated into the grounds of the former factory and paving stones list the names of the women who perished.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Women's History Month - Victoria Drummond


Victoria Drummond was born on 14 October 1894 at Errol in Perthshire. She was one of four children born to Captain Malcolm Drummond and his wife, Geraldine. Captain Malcolm Drummond of Megginch was the Groom in Waiting to Queen Victoria. It was as a result of that relationship that Victoria received her name. Queen Victoria was her Godmother. Victoria’s mother, Geraldine Margaret Tyssen-Amherst was the daughter of William Tyssen-Amherst who was the 1st Baron Amherst of Hackney.

As a young girl, Victoria would visit the engineering works of Robert Morton and Sons in Errol, maker of steam-powered and petrol-engined trucks and busses. She asked Mr Morton how she could learn to be a marine engineer and go to sea. His advice was for her to serve an apprenticeship and then find a ship that would give her a berth as an engineer. 

When Victoria turned 21, her father encouraged her to choose her own career. She once again stated that she wanted to be a marine engineer. A year later, she was apprenticed at the Northern Garage in Perth. Her foreman, Mr Malcolm, had worked in the Clyde shipyards, had gone to sea and had risen to be a Chief Engineer at sea. As such he fully supported her training. 

After 2 years at the garage, Captain Drummond arranged for her to wok at the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Company in Dundee. Here she worked on the engine and boiler works at Lilybank. A year later, Victoria joined the Women's Engineering Society and completed her apprenticeship. She was now a Marine Engineer, Journeyman

During a career that spanned 40 years Victoria made 49 ocean-going voyages. She is recognized as Scotland’s first female Marine Engineer.