Famous Scots.

Famous Scots people past and present. Inventors Sports people actors.

Famous Scots.(Robert Anderson).

Sir Robert Rowand AndersonFRSE RSA (5 April 1834 – 1 June 1921) was a Scottish Victorian architect. Anderson trained in the office of George Gilbert Scott in London before setting up his own practice in Edinburgh in 1860. During the 1860s his main work was small churches in the ‘First Pointed’ (or Early English) style that is characteristic of Scott’s former assistants. By 1880 his practice was designing some of the most prestigious public and private buildings in Scotland.

His works include the Scottish National Portrait Gallery; the Dome of Old College, Medical Faculty and McEwan Hall, the University of EdinburghGovan Old Parish Church and the Pearce Institute; the Central Hotel at Glasgow Central Station, the Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh and Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.

Early life.

Anderson was born at Liberton, outside Edinburgh, the third child of James Anderson (1797-1869), a solicitor, and Margaret Rowand (1797-1868). Educated at George Watson’s College, he began a legal apprenticeship in 1845, and briefly worked for his father’s firm. He began to study architecture in 1849, attending classes at the Trustees’ Drawing Academy (which later became Edinburgh College of Art), and was articled to architect John Lessels (1809–1883).

2880px Mcewan Hall Edinburgh

In 1857 he took a two-year post as an assistant to George Gilbert Scott, in his office at Trafalgar Square, London. Here he worked alongside many influential architects. He then spent time travelling and studying in France and Italy, also working briefly for Pierre Cuypers in Roermond, Netherlands.

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Famous Scots. (Gerard Butler)

Gerard James Butler (born 13 November 1969) is a Scottish actor and film producer. After studying law, he turned to acting in the mid-1990s with small roles in productions such as Mrs Brown (1997), the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and Tale of the Mummy (1998). In 2000, he starred as Count Dracula in the gothic horror film Dracula 2000 with Christopher Plummer and Jonny Lee Miller.

He played Attila the Hun in the miniseries Attila (2001), then appeared in the films Reign of Fire with Christian Bale (2002) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life with Angelina Jolie (2003) before playing André Marek in the adaptation of Michael Crichton‘s science fiction adventure Timeline (2003). He then was cast as Erik, The Phantom in Joel Schumacher‘s 2004 film adaptation of the musical The Phantom of the Opera, with Emmy Rossum; it earned him a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actor.

Butler gained worldwide recognition for his portrayal of King Leonidas in Zack Snyder‘s fantasy war film 300. That role earned him nominations for an Empire Award for Best Actor and a Saturn Award for Best Actor and a win for MTV Movie Award for Best Fight. He voiced Stoick the Vast in the critically and commercially successful How to Train Your Dragon franchise (2010–2019). Also in the 2010s, he portrayed Secret Service agent Mike Banning in the action thriller series Olympus Has FallenLondon Has FallenAngel Has Fallen and the upcoming Night Has Fallen. He played military leader Tullus Aufidius in the 2011 film Coriolanus, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare‘s tragedy of the same name, and Sam Childers in the 2011 action biopic Machine Gun Preacher.

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Famous Scots.Thomas Carlyle.

A tiny house in Ecclefechan, near Lockerbie, is the birthplace of one of the most significant thinkers in Scottish history, and has remained virtually untouched since 1881. Thomas Carlyle was born in 1795 and studied at Edinburgh University. He was a renowned philosopher, novelist, speaker and historian, but his masterpiece – an entertaining history of the French Revolution – was accidentally burned by a friend’s maid. Thankfully, Carlyle was able to rewrite the whole first volume from memory!

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Famous Scots. Bartholomew.

John George Bartholomew.

FRSE FRGS (22 March 1860 – 14 April 1920) was a Scottish cartographer and geographer. As a holder of a royal warrant, he used the title “Cartographer to the King”; for this reason he was sometimes known by the epithet “the Prince of Cartography”.

Bartholomew’s longest lasting legacy is arguably naming the continent of Antarctica, which until his use of the term in 1890 had been largely ignored due to its lack of resources and harsh climate.


Bartholomew came from a celebrated line of map-makers. He was the son of Annie McGregor (d. 1872) and John Bartholomew Junior, and the grandson of the founder of John Bartholomew and Son Ltd. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh.

Under his administration the family business became one of the top operations in its field. Bartholomew himself was not merely a specialist in production, but also a talented geographer and cartographer. It was he who introduced the use of coloured contour layer maps; he also anticipated the needs of late nineteenth and early 20th century travellers by publishing street maps of major cities, cycling maps, railway timetable maps, and road maps for automobiles.

He collaborated with major scientific figures and travelers of the period on projects involving their studies. Bartholomew’s Atlas of Meteorology and Atlas of Zoogeography were issues from a planned five-volume series that was never completed. Before he died he was able to plan out the first edition of the Times Survey Atlas of the World; this and its succeeding editions represent the most successful atlas project of the twentieth century. John was a great friend of geographer and writer John Francon Williams. Correspondence between the two friends is held in the Bartholomew Archive at the National Library of Scotland. Williams also acted as a literary agent for Bartholomew in America, the UK and other territories in the world.

In 1889, he married Janet MacDonald.

He handed the reins of the business on to his son John (Ian) Bartholomew (1890–1962).

A memorial to Bartholomew, sculpted by Pilkington Jackson, exists on the northern wall of the 20th century extension to Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. His wife Jennie, sons Hugh and Ian Bartholomew, and grandson John Christopher Bartholomew are buried at the monument.

His daughter Margaret married Philip Francis Hamilton-Grierson, grandson of Sir Philip James Hamilton-Grierson.

On the centenary of Bartholomew’s death (14 April 2020), Scotland paid tribute to him, naming him the publisher who helped put ‘Edinburgh on the map’.

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Famous Scots. James Campbell.

James Campbell Walker (11 April 1821 – 10 January 1888) was a Scottish architect in the 19th century, practising across the country and specialising in poorhouses and schools. His main claim to fame is in having designed Dunfermline Carnegie Library, the world’s first Carnegie library, in Andrew Carnegie‘s home town of Dunfermline.


He was born in Strathmiglo to a family of bleachers, in Scotland known as “waulkers“. He became the son of Thomas Walker and Barbara Campbell.

He trained in Edinburgh under the architect William Burn from January 1842. In the 1850s he transferred to work for Burn’s friend David Bryce. His work shows the influence of each, but he never received the widespread fame of these two.

Due to family links he received many estate commissions for farms then began to specialise in poorhouses.

Very late in life, in 1875, he married his cousin, Agnes Walker from Eastbourne.

He died of chronic bronchitis in 1888 and is buried in Auchtermuchty in Fife.

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Famous Scots. Robbie Coltrane.

Anthony Robert McMillan OBE (30 March 1950 – 14 October 2022), known professionally as Robbie Coltrane, was a Scottish actor. He gained worldwide recognition in the 2000s for playing Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film series. He was appointed an OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama. In 1990, Coltrane received the Evening Standard British Film Award – Peter Sellers Award for Comedy. In 2011, he was honoured for his “outstanding contribution” to film at the British Academy Scotland Awards.

Coltrane started his career appearing alongside Hugh LaurieStephen Fry, and Emma Thompson in the sketch series Alfresco. In 1987, he starred in the BBC miniseries Tutti Frutti with Thompson, for which he received his first British Academy Television Award for Best Actor nomination. Coltrane then gained national prominence starring as criminal psychologist Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald in the ITV television series Cracker, a role which saw him receive the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in three consecutive years from 1994 to 1996. In 2006, Coltrane came eleventh in ITV’s poll of TV’s 50 Greatest Stars, voted by the public. In 2016, he starred in the four-part Channel 4 series National Treasure alongside Julie Walters, a role for which he received a British Academy Television Award nomination.

Coltrane appeared in the films Mona Lisa and Nuns on the Run and as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in the James Bond films GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. He also appeared in the films Henry VLet It RideDanny, the Champion of the WorldOcean’s TwelveThe Brothers BloomGreat Expectations, and Effie Gray, and provided voice acting roles in the animated films The Tale of Despereaux and Brave.

Early life and education

Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan on 30 March 1950 in Rutherglen, Scotland, the son of Jean Ross Howie, a teacher and pianist, and Ian Baxter McMillan, a GP who also served as a forensic police surgeon. He had an older sister, Annie, and a younger sister, Jane. Coltrane was the great-grandson of Scottish businessman Thomas W. Howie and the nephew of businessman Forbes Howie.

He started his education at Belmont House School in Newton Mearns before moving to Glenalmond College, an independent school in Perthshire. Though he later described his experiences there as deeply unhappy, he played for the rugby First XV, was head of the school’s debating society, and won prizes for his art. He studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art.

Coltrane later called for private schools to be banned and used to be known as “Red Robbie”, rebelling against his conservative upbringing through involvement with Amnesty InternationalGreenpeace, the Labour Party, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.


Coltrane moved into acting in his early twenties, adopting the stage name Coltrane (in tribute to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane) and working in theatre and comedy. He appeared in the first stage production of John Byrne‘s The Slab Boys, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (1978). His comedic abilities brought him roles in The Comic Strip Presents (1982–2012) series (in 1993 he directed and co-wrote the episode “Jealousy” for series 5), as well as the comedy sketch show Alfresco (1983–1984). In 1984 he appeared in A Kick Up the Eighties (Series 2) and Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee, and is credited as a writer for both.

Coltrane moved into roles in films such as Flash Gordon (1980), Death Watch (1980), Balham, Gateway to the South (1981), Scrubbers (1983), Krull (1983), The Supergrass (1985), Defence of the Realm (1985), Absolute Beginners (1986), Mona Lisa (1986), and appeared as “Annabelle” in The Fruit Machine (1988).

On television, he appeared in The Young OnesTutti Frutti (1987), as Samuel Johnson in Blackadder the Third (1987) (a role he later reprised in the more serious Boswell and Johnson’s Tour of the Western Islands (1993)), LWT’s The Robbie Coltrane Special (1989, which he also co-wrote), and in other stand-up and sketch comedy shows. He played the part of Falstaff in Kenneth Branagh‘s Henry V (1989). The same year he starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the television film adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s children’s book Danny, the Champion of the World.

He co-starred with Eric Idle in Nuns on the Run (1990) and played the Pope in The Pope Must Die (1991).He also played a would-be private detective obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in the TV film The Bogie Man (1992). His roles continued in the 1990s with the TV series Cracker (1993–1996, returning in 2006 for a one-off special), in which he starred as forensic psychologist Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald. The role won him three BAFTA awards.

Roles in bigger films followed: the James Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), a supporting role in From Hell (2001), as well as half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films (2001–2011). J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, had Coltrane at the top of her list to play Hagrid and, when asked whom she would like to see in the role, responded “Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid” in one quick breath.

Coltrane also presented a number of documentary programmes for the British ITV network based around his twin passions for travel and transportation. Coltrane in a Cadillac (1993) saw him cross North America from Los Angeles to New York City behind the wheel of a 1951 Cadillac Series 62 coupe convertible, a journey of 3,765 miles (6,059 km), which he completed in 32 days.

In 1997, Coltrane appeared in a series of six programmes under the title Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles, in which he extolled the virtues of the steam engine, the diesel engine, the supercharger, the V8 engine, the two-stroke engine, and the jet engine. In these programmes he dismantled and rebuilt several engines. He also single-handedly removed the engine from a Trabant car in 23 minutes.

In September 2006, Coltrane was voted No. 11 in ITV’s TV’s 50 Greatest Stars and sixth in a poll of 2000 adults across the UK to find the ‘most famous Scot’, behind the Loch Ness MonsterRobert BurnsSean ConneryRobert the Bruce, and William Wallace.

In August 2007, Coltrane presented a series for ITV called B-Road Britain, in which he travelled from London to Glasgow, stopping in towns and villages along the way.

Coltrane voiced characters in several animated films, including The Tale of Despereaux (2008) Pixar‘s Brave (2012), as well as the title roles of Gooby and The Gruffalo (both 2009).

In 2016, Coltrane starred in National Treasure, a four-part drama in which he played a former comedian accused of historic sexual offences. He was nominated for Best Actor at the 2017 British Academy Television Awards, and won in the category at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards. Maureen Ryan of Variety wrote that “Coltrane does a masterful job of depicting every nuance of the character, whose wicked sense of humor masks a startling, and possibly intentional, lack of self-awareness”.

Personal life

Coltrane met Rhona Gemmell, then a student at Glasgow School of Art, in the late 1980s. The couple had two children; son Spencer (b. 1992), and daughter Alice (b. 1998). Coltrane and Gemmell married in 1999, but separated in 2003 and later divorced, however the two remained close.

In February 2005, Coltrane appeared at a Scottish Labour event, in which he said on the question of Scottish independence “It’s a very complicated issue. I would think, probably, eventually I would like to see independence but only an independent Labour Scotland”, while adding “It would have to be terribly carefully considered. There are all sorts of advantages to being part of the United Kingdom and it would be foolish to throw it away immediately” and “I have no time for the nationalists – all they can do is split the vote for home rule and let the Tories in”.

Illness and death

Coltrane suffered from osteoarthritis in later life. He said he was in “constant pain all day” in 2016, and, from 2019 onwards, he used a wheelchair.

Coltrane died at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Scotland, on 14 October 2022, at the age of 72. He had been ill for two years prior to his death.His death was registered by his ex-wife Rhona Gemmell; the death certificate listed the causes as multiple organ failure complicated by sepsis, a lower respiratory tract infection, and heart block. He had also been diagnosed with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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Famous Scots. John Knox.

John Knox (c. 1514-1572) was a Scottish theologian and Protestant reformer who played a significant role in the Scottish Reformation. He is best known as the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and for his influence on the development of Protestantism in Scotland.

Knox was born in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, around 1514. He studied at the University of St. Andrews and became a Catholic priest in the 1540s. However, his religious views underwent a transformation after he was exposed to the writings of Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Knox became a prominent figure in the Scottish Reformation and was closely associated with the Protestant leader George Wishart. After Wishart’s execution in 1546, Knox became involved in a rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church. He was captured and spent nearly two years as a galley slave before being released in 1549.

After his release, Knox travelled to England and Geneva, where he further developed his theological ideas under the guidance of John Calvin. He returned to Scotland in 1559 and played a crucial role in the overthrow of the Roman Catholic Church and the establishment of Protestantism as the dominant religious force in Scotland.

Knox’s preaching was known for its fiery and uncompromising tone, and he was a vocal critic of what he perceived as idolatry and corruption within the Catholic Church. His most famous work is “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,” in which he argued against female rulers, particularly targeting the Catholic Queen Mary I of England.

John Knox died in Edinburgh on November 24, 1572. His influence on Scottish society and religion was significant, as he helped shape the Presbyterian Church and establish a Protestant identity in Scotland that persists to this day. His ideas and writings continue to be studied and respected within the Reformed tradition.

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Famous Scots. Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown: The Statesman’s Journey


In the realm of British politics, few names carry as much weight as Gordon Brown. Born on February 20, 1951, in Govan, Scotland, Brown’s political career spanned several decades, leaving an indelible mark on the United Kingdom’s landscape. From his early days as an academic to his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer and eventually Prime Minister, Brown’s journey is one of resilience, intellect, and unwavering commitment to public service. In this blog post, we delve into the life and legacy of Gordon Brown, exploring his political achievements, leadership style, and enduring impact on British politics.

  1. From Academic to Politician:

Gordon Brown’s journey into politics began at the University of Edinburgh, where he excelled academically, studying history and political science. He later pursued a Ph.D. at the same institution, further cementing his intellectual prowess. Brown’s academic background laid a strong foundation for his future political career, shaping his analytical thinking and deep understanding of economic and social issues.

  1. Chancellor of the Exchequer:

As Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007, Brown played a pivotal role in shaping Britain’s economic policies. His stewardship of the Treasury during this period witnessed significant economic growth, with initiatives like the independence of the Bank of England and the introduction of tax credits. Brown’s fiscal prudence and focus on reducing poverty earned him a reputation as a skilled economic manager.

  1. The Global Financial Crisis:

Gordon Brown’s leadership faced its most defining moment during the global financial crisis of 2008. As Prime Minister, he guided the country through a tumultuous period, working closely with world leaders to stabilize the economy and prevent a complete collapse of the banking system. Brown’s decisive actions, such as the bank bailouts and the G20 summit in London, earned him recognition as a statesman capable of navigating turbulent times.

  1. Social Justice and International Advocacy:

Throughout his career, Gordon Brown championed social justice and global cooperation. He focused on issues such as education, poverty reduction, and healthcare, both domestically and internationally. As Prime Minister, he introduced policies like the Sure Start program, aimed at providing support for early childhood development. After leaving office, Brown became involved in various international initiatives, including the Global Campaign for Education and the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Global Education.


Gordon Brown’s political journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication to public service and his commitment to addressing socioeconomic inequalities. From his academic beginnings to his influential role as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister, Brown navigated complex challenges and left a lasting impact on the United Kingdom’s economic and social policies. His legacy is characterized by his intellectual rigor, his emphasis on social justice, and his leadership during times of crisis. Gordon Brown’s contributions to British politics and his ongoing advocacy for global issues stand as a testament to his enduring influence and commitment to creating a better world.

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Famous Scots. Colin Campbell.

Colin Campbell (1 November 1686 – 9 May 1757) was a Scottish merchant and entrepreneur who co-founded the Swedish East India Company and was Swedish King Fredrik I‘s first envoy to the Emperor of China.

Early life.

He was born in November 1686 to John Campbell, a lawyer and prominent citizen of Edinburgh and his wife Elizabeth Campbell of Moy, Inverness-shire. They were related to the noble family of Clan Campbell of Cawdor, later prominent in the Peerage. Colin was the youngest of three brothers (following Archibald and Hugh) and all followed their father in becoming notaries, merchants and prominent citizens. Colin became a Burgess of Edinburgh in 1720, when the citation described him as “of London“.


In 1723, he lost a great deal of money and was left burdened in debt following the spectacular investments and subsequent financial collapse known as the South Sea Bubble. He vowed to repay all his debts, and did so before he died, but meanwhile had to flee from his debtors to Ostend in Belgium. This was then part of the Austrian Netherlands, where Campbell helped the Austrians in their attempts to set up an Austrian rival to the British East India Company. He stayed there until 1730, mostly as a supercargo, accompanying ships and managing sales. The Austrian scheme was not a success, largely because of British opposition, so he moved to Stockholm, in Sweden. The following year he moved to Gothenburg, Sweden’s premier port, where other Scottish merchants had been long established.


In Gothenburg, he entered into partnership with wealthy and well-connected Swedes. Henric König (1686–1736) was an import/export broker from Stockholm, from a family of German Hanseatic merchants, though now resident in Sweden. His brother, Christian (1678–1762) was secretary to the Chancellery Cabinet and through him Henric had contact with the King Fredrik I. Köning had been developing an East Indian trading scheme, along with Niclas Sahlgren, a merchant who had worked with the Dutch East India Company, and who had already been involved in a possible Swedish West India project. Campbell approached Sahlgren who invited him to Sweden.

Swedish East India Company

Campbell’s Coat of Arms on Chinese porcelain in Gothenburg City Museum.

In April 1731, the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) approved the King’s Charter giving the Swedish East India Company a monopoly of all Swedish trade with the “East Indies” (meaning any port east of the Cape of Good Hope ). The Company was expressly forbidden to trade in any areas under the control of other countries (for example Britain and the Netherlands) without their permission, and the “privileges” which the Charter gave them amounted to no more than “the common rights of nature and peoples” (as one commentator said) but the riches expected were signalled by the Company agreeing to pay the King about 25,000 silver dollars per voyage. And indeed the Company was successful, making the Directors (of which Campbell was one) very rich indeed. As only Swedes could be Directors of the Company, Campbell applied for naturalisation as a Swede (on 14 June 1731), and was raised to the nobility, with a coat of arms recalling his Campbell ancestry and a motto of “Memento Deus dabit vela” (Remember that it is God who fills the sails).

First Voyage to Canton

Ship and crew

The first voyage of the Company was that of the Fredericus Rex Sueciae, which set sail from Gotheburg on 9 February 1732.] Colin Campbell was supercargo – carrying all the authority of the Company – to whom the First Captain, Georg Herman Trolle had to defer. There were a number of foreigners aboard the ship] including the Second Captain, George Kitchin, Mr Baron, Chief Mate and Hindric Bremer, Second Mate, the Chief Carpenter, Mr Brown, Jack, the ship’s boy, and Daniel Campbell, James Moir and Gustav Ross, all assistants to Campbell, who was the First Supercargo. The Second, Third and Fourth Supercargos were Mr Graham (also called Brown), Charles Morford and John Pike.

Ambassador to China

Campbell also carried sea-passes and a passport which confirmed him as minister plenipotentiary to the Emperor of China, the Grand Mogul and other Asian princes – all issued in Dutch, in case they were stopped by that navy, which indeed they were. He never made contact with the Chinese Emperor or the Grand Mogul. He did though establish a long lasting and profitable connection between Sweden and Canton.


The voyage lasted 550 days, with a stay of 120 days at Canton. In fact, the vast bulk of the Company’s subsequent voyages went to Canton and only once or twice even approached the modern East Indies. She went by way of NorwayCádiz and the Cape of Good Hope. Thence she went to St Paul, the Straits of Sunda and on to Canton, anchoring on 19 September 1732, six and a half months after leaving Sweden.

Dutch stop them

On the journey home, on 3 February 1732, they were stopped in the Sunda Strait by seven Dutch ships, whose officers refused to recognise the passes, evacuated the ship, put aboard a contingent of Dutch soldiers and ordered it to sail to Batavia, the headquarters of the Dutch. Only Colin Campbell was left aboard. At Batavia, the Governor General, Dirck van Cloon, examined Campbell’s passes, apologised and allowed him to proceed on his journey, under escort, on 9 February. Campbell had kept a diary/account of the voyage, but had destroyed it at the approach of the Dutch, in case they would think he had been spying, and in case they found out any commercially sensitive information. Campbell had studiously declined to provide any information on his cargo. He reconstructed the diary mentally years later, and its manuscript was published in 1996.

Voyage home

They proceeded to Europe, stopping off at the island of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil to replenish supplies and some recuperation from scurvy. On 7 September 1733, the Fredericus RS was once more in Gotheburg, eighteen months after it had departed. Campbell immediately set out a catalogue of complaints against the Dutch. A first dividend of 25% was declared for the shareholders of the voyage, followed by a second dividend of 50%. A very prosperous voyage, despite the Dutc

Success, riches and death

Over 20 subsequent voyages took place over the next 15 years, and Campbell grew rich, before paying off all his debts and dying in 1757.

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Famous Scots. James Bremner.

James Bremner (25 September 1784 – August 1856), a notable Scottish naval architect, harbour builder and ship-raiser.

Life and work.

James, the youngest of the nine children of Janet and James Bremner, was born in Stain, near Keiss, in the parish of WickCaithness, in Scotland.

His only education was the Bible. At the age of 16, he was apprenticed for six years to the shipbuilders “Robert Steele & Sons” of Greenock. After he had completed his apprenticeship he returned to Wick and started his own shipbuilding yard in Pulteneytown, near Wick Harbour, where he built 56 or more vessels, ranging in size from 45 tons to 600 tons. At this time, he also became well known throughout the United Kingdom for his skills in rescuing sunken and stranded vessels. When there was an insurrection in Wick he treated the injuries of combatants from both sides and was tried for Sedition as a consequence. His peers found him Not Guilty and he was carried from the court on the shoulders of the cheering local populace.

A monument to James Bremner, Naval Architect, overlooking Wick Bay and harbour.

When, in 1846, Brunel‘s SS Great Britain went aground on the sands of Dundrum BayIreland, it is to his son, Alexander Bremner, that Brunel turned for help after various leading salvage experts had either declared the salvage impossible or failed in an attempt. Alexander called in his father to develop a successful methodology. The method used by Bremner was later used to refloat her off a beach in South Georgia over a century later, after which she was brought back to her final resting place as a tourist attraction in Bristol. He frequently corresponded with Thomas Telford and was employed by Brunel as an engineering consultant when he built the Thames Tunnel under the Thames.

His career involved the rescue of perhaps 236 or more stricken vessels. As well as building and rescuing ships, he worked on 19 harbour structures in Scotland, not least an extension to Telford‘s harbour in Wick Bay. He had watched Winter gales destroy harbour walls by lifting and working loose the horizontally laid stones. When he rebuilt the walls he simply relaid them on their ends to eliminate this structural weakness.

Bremner became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1833, and he was awarded the Telford Medal for several of his papers on engineering.

Bremner married early in his life and had numerous sons and daughters. His wife died in 1856 and Bremner himself died in the August of the same year. In 1903 a tall obelisk was erected to his memory on high ground overlooking Wick Harbour, where it stands to this day.

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Famous Scots. Tian and Yang.

This week we learned Edinburgh Zoo’s much-loved giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang will be returning home to China. Since arriving in December 2011, the beautiful animals have drawn thousands of people to see them.

It was hoped the pair would have a cub together to help preserve the future of the species – but this wasn’t to be. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland was granted the pandas by the China Wildlife Conservation Association as a 10-year loan to Edinburgh Zoo. They are the only giant pandas in the whole of the UK. The Covid pandemic extended their stay, but it has been announced Tian Tian and Yang Guang will be leaving the Capital in around Autumn 2023.

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Famous Scots. John Abel.

John Abell (1653 – after 1724) was a Scottish countertenorcomposer and lutenist.

Life and career

John Abell was born in 1653 in Aberdeenshire and by 1 May 1679 he had become a member of the Chapel Royal. He was listed as a singer, lutenist and violinist for King Charles II. He was sent to Venice by the king as an example of a high quality English voice, returning by 1682. Between 1679 and 1688, he received large amounts of money from the king to study. During this time he graduated from Cambridge with a MusB and married Lady Frances Knollys on 29 December 1685.

During the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he fled to continental Europe, where he won fame and wealth by his singing. There are several anecdotes relating to his travels from this time, several from the writings of Hawkins.

Upon his arrival at Warsaw, the king having notice of it, sent for him to his court. Abell made some slight excuse to evade going, but upon being told that he had everything to fear from the king’s resentment, he made an apology, and received a command to attend the king next day. Upon his arrival at the palace, he was seated in a chair in the middle of a spacious hall, and immediately drawn up to a great height; presently the king with his attendants appeared in a gallery opposite to him, and at the same instant a number of wild bears were turned in; the king bade him then choose whether he would sing or be let down among the bears: Abell chose the former, and declared afterwards that he never sang so well in his life.

— J. Hawkins

Daniel Purcell attempted to coax Abell back to England in 1696 for a salary of £500 per year (worth over £1 million in 2019) however, he declined. In Kassel he was made Intendant of Music (1698–1699), before returning to England around 1700, where in 1701 he performed the title role in Daniel Purcell’s The Judgment of Paris: in the following year his coronation song for Queen AnneAloud proclaim the cheerful sound, was performed.

He also gave public and private concerts, and taught music. Furthermore, he wrote and compiled songs in the Italian style of the time, with a collection of his being published in 1701 and another posthumously in 1740. He lived his later years in Cambridge, where he is thought to have died, some time after 1716.

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Famous Scots. Erik William Chisholm.

Erik William Chisholm (4 January 1904 – 8 June 1965) pianist, organist and conductor sometimes known as “Scotland’s forgotten composer”. According to his biographer, Chisholm “was the first composer to absorb Celtic idioms into his music in form as well as content, his achievement paralleling that of Bartók in its depth of understanding and its daring”, which led some to give him the nickname “MacBartók”. As composer, performer and impresario, he played an important role in the musical life of Glasgow between the two World Wars and was a founder of the Celtic Ballet and, together with Margaret Morris, created the first full-length Scottish ballet, The Forsaken Mermaid. After World War II he was Professor and Head of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town for 19 years until his death. Chisholm founded the South African College of Music opera company in Cape Town and was a vital force in bringing new operas to Scotland, England and South Africa. By the time of his death in 1965, he had composed over a hundred works.

Early life and education

Erik Chisholm was the son of John Chisholm, master house painter, and his wife, Elizabeth McGeachy Macleod. He left Queen’s Park School, Glasgow, at the early age of 13 due to ill-health but showed a talent for music composition and some of his pieces were published during his childhood. He had piano lessons with Philip Halstead at Glasgow’s Athenaeum School of Music, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and later studied the organ under Herbert Walton, the organist at Glasgow Cathedral. By the time he was 12 he was giving organ recitals including an important one in Kingston upon Hull. The pianist Leff Pouishnoff then became his principal teacher and mentor. In 1927 he travelled to Nova Scotia, Canada, where he was appointed the organist and choirmaster at the Westminster Presbyterian ChurchNew Glasgow, and director of music at Pictou Academy.

A year later he returned to Scotland and from 1928 to 1933 he was organist at St Matthew’s Church, Bath Street, Glasgow, later renamed Renfield St Stephen’s and now St Andrew’s West. In 1933 he was appointed organist at Glasgow’s Barony Church; however, as he had no School Leaving Certificate, he could not study at a university. Due to the influence of his future wife, Diana Brodie, he approached several influential music friends for letters of support for an exemption to enter university. In 1928, he was accepted to study music at the University of Edinburgh, under his friend and mentor, the renowned musicologist Sir Donald Tovey. Chisholm graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1931 and as Doctor of Music in 1934. While at university, he had formed the Scottish Ballet Society in 1928 and the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music in 1929 with fellow composer Francis George Scott and Chisholm’s friend Pat Shannon. From 1930 to 1934 Chisholm also worked as a music critic for the Glasgow Weekly Herald and the Scottish Daily Express.

Scottish career and World War II.

After his education, Chisholm’s work was described as “daring and original”, according to Sir Hugh Roberton, while also displaying a strong Scottish character in works such as his Piano Concerto No. 1, subtitled Piobaireachd (1930), the Straloch Suite (1933) and the Sonata An Riobhan Dearg (1939). In 1933 he was the soloist at the première of his Dance Suite for Orchestra and Piano with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at an International Society for Contemporary Music festival in Amsterdam. He also played the Scottish premieres of Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff‘s Piano Concerto No. 3. From 1930 he was the musical director of the Glasgow Grand Opera Society which performed in the city’s Theatre Royal, conducting the British premières of Mozart’s Idomeneo in 1934 and Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict in 1935 and 1936, respectively. He was also the founding conductor of both the Barony Opera Society, the Scottish Ballet Society, the Professional Organists’ Association, and in 1938 he was appointed music director of the Celtic Ballet. As director he composed four works in collaboration with Margaret Morris, the most famous being The Forsaken Mermaid; the first full-length Scottish ballet. Chisholm had many friends in the music world, including composers like Béla BartókBaxAlan BushDeliusHindemithIrelandMedtnerKaikhosru SorabjiSzymanowski and Walton, and invited many of them to Glasgow to perform their works under the auspices of the Active Society.

At the outbreak of World War II, Chisholm, a conscientious objector, was declared unfit for military service on the basis of poor eyesight and a crooked arm. During the war he conducted performances with the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1940, and later joined the Entertainments National Service Association as a colonel touring Italy with the Anglo-Polish Ballet in 1943 and served as musical director to the South East Asia Command between 1943 and 1945. He first formed a multi-racial orchestra in India, but after arguments with his superior, Col. Jack Hawkins, he was removed to Singapore. Here in 1945 he founded the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Many of the musicians were ex-prisoners of War, and from them Chisholm recruited Szymon Goldberg as leader. Goldberg had successfully hidden his Stradivarius violin up a chimney in the prison camp for three and a half years. Chisholm created a truly cosmopolitan orchestra of fifteen nationalities from East and West, which gave 50 concerts in Malaya within six months. After returning to Scotland, Chisholm married his second wife, singer and poet Lillias Scott (1913-2018), the daughter of Scottish composer Francis George Scott. In 1946 he was appointed professor of music at the University of Cape Town and director of the South African College of Music.

South African career

Strubenholm, the home of the SA College of Music.

Chisholm’s obituary in The Edinburgh Tatler recalled that “the three highlights of his life were in hearing at age seven Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata played by Frederic Lamond on a piano roll; becoming acquainted with the music of India and lastly being offered the chair of music at Cape Town University in 1947.”

That year, Chisholm revived the South African College of Music where he eventually would teach composer Stefans Grové and singer Désirée Talbot. Using Edinburgh University as his model, Chisholm appointed new staff, extended the number of courses, and introduced new degrees and diplomas. In order to encourage budding South African musicians he founded the South African National Music Press in 1948. With the assistance of the Italian baritone Gregorio Fiasconaro, Chisholm also established the college’s opera company in 1951 and opera school in 1954. In addition, Chisholm founded the South African section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1948, assisted in the founding of the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre on 1 December 1950, and pursued an international conducting career.

The South African College of Music’s opera company became a national success and toured Zambia and the United Kingdom. In the winter of 1956, Chisholm’s ambitious festival of South African Music and Musicians achieved popular success in London with a programme of Wigmore Hall concerts and the London première at the Rudolf Steiner Theatre of Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle. The company also performed Menotti’s The Consul as well as Chisholm’s own opera The Inland Woman, based on a drama by Irish author Mary Lavin. In 1952 Szymon Goldberg premièred his violin concerto at the Van Riebeeck Music Festival in Cape Town. His opera trilogy Murder in Three Keys enjoyed a six-week season in New York City in 1954, and two years later he was invited to Moscow to conduct the Moscow State Orchestra in his second piano concerto The Hindustani. In 1961, his company premièred South African composer John Joubert‘s first opera, Silas Marner.

Chisholm did not support the South African policy of apartheid and had socialist leanings. Chisholm convinced Ronald Stevenson, a fellow Scot, to perform at the University of Cape Town. During a performance of Stevenson’s Passacaglia, the programme made references to Lenin’s slogan of peace, bread and land and also in salute of the “emergent Africa”. The following day, South African police searched Chisholm’s study in a failed attempt to link him with working for the USSR.

Later years and legacy

Composing at his Petrof piano with Towser, his concert-going Spaniel, at his feet.

Sir Arnold Bax called Erik Chisholm “the most progressive composer that Scotland has ever produced.” After 19 years at the South African College of Music, Dr. Chisholm composed an additional twelve operas drawing inspiration from “sources as varied as Hindustan, the Outer Hebrides, the neo-classical and baroque, pibroch, astrology and literature”.

Chisholm died of a heart attack at age 61 and left all his music to the University of Cape Town. Although he composed over 100 works, only 17 were published in his lifetime, of which 14 were issued in printed score. After his death performances of his music, especially in Britain, fell into neglect but admirers have continued to press for his music to be heard more regularly. His style was called varied, eclectic, and challenging, and his modernism was sometimes considered difficult for audiences. However, in recent years through the efforts of the Erik Chisholm Trust, founded by Chisholm’s daughter Morag, there has been a revival of interest in his music and several works, including orchestral, piano and vocal pieces, have been revived and recorded. Also, many of his unpublished works, formerly in manuscript, have been typeset and are available through the Erik Chisholm Trust.

He had a lifelong interest in Scottish music and published a collection of Celtic folk-songs in 1964. He was also interested in Czech music, and completed his book The Operas of Leoš Janáček shortly before his death. His services to Czech music were formally recognized in 1956, when he became one of the few non-Czech musicians to be awarded the Dvořák medal. The Manuscripts and Archives Library at the University of Cape Town holds the Chisholm collection of papers and manuscripts; his published scores are in the College of Music library and many copies are in the Scottish Music Centre in Glasgow. In addition, an important collection of manuscripts, letters and other memorabilia left to Chisholm’s daughter Morag (including his extensive correspondence with Sorabji) is now housed in the Archive of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. In his memory, the South African College of Music offers a memorial scholarship in his name and the Scottish International Piano Competition awards an Erik Chisholm Memorial Prize.

The biography of Erik Chisholm, written by John Purser with the foreword by Sir Charles MackerrasChasing A Restless Muse: Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist (1904–1965), was published on 19 June 2009. An official launch was held at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University on 22 October 2009 which was attended by his widow, his daughter Morag, two of his granddaughters and great-grandsons. His widow, Lillias, married the clarinettist John Forbes.


See also: List of compositions by Erik Chisholm

Erik Chisholm wrote well over 100 works, including 35 orchestral works, 7 concertante works (including a violin concerto and two piano concertos), 7 works for orchestra and voice or chorus, 54 piano works, 3 organ works, 43 songs, 8 choral part-songs, 7 ballets, and 9 operas including one on Robert Burns. He also made several interesting arrangements by composers such as Handel and Mozart. He arranged a string orchestra version of the Symphony for Solo Piano, Op. 39 Nos. 4–7 by Charles-Valentin Alkan, a composer still largely unknown at that time, the original of which has been said to surpass even the Transcendental Études of Franz Liszt in scale and difficulty.

Pianist Murray McLachlan divided Chisholm’s works into four periods: the Early Period, the “Scottish” Period, the Neoclassical Period and the “Hindustani” Period. The “Early Period” is extremely large, beginning with teenage efforts including a Sonatina in G minor, written at 18, and clearly showing something of the influence of John Blackwood McEwen.

The “Scottish” Period began in the early 1930s where his works were tinged with a distinct Scottish colouring influenced by folk music, indicating most persuasively the ambitions of composers like Chisholm’s contemporary Béla Bartók, to create a style based on the music of his ancestors and countrymen. Chisholm’s Sonatine Ecossaise, 4 Elegies, Scottish Airs, Piano Concerto no. 1 “Piobaireachd” and Dance Suite display a percussive bite and energy influenced by Bartók and Prokofiev with much use of dissonances and note clusters along with material derived from Scottish folksong, bagpipe music and dance figurations. The folk elements are so deeply integrated in this style that some have referred to Chisholm as “MacBartók”.

Chisholm’s Neoclassical Period refers to several of his works which were inspired by ancient and obscure motifs from the pre-Classical era. His Sonatina no. 3, evidently based on several ricercare motifs originally written by Dalza, fuses Brittenesque harmonies and gentle dissonances in quintessentially pianistic textures.

The music of his “Hindustani” period in the late 1940s and early 1950s reflects Chisholm’s wartime travels in the East, his interest in the occult and perhaps his friendship with Sorabji. Important examples of this period are his 2nd “Hindustani” Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, the one-act opera Simoon and the Six Nocturnes, Night Song of the Bards. These compositions display luscious textures, transcendental technical demands and intensity that are comparable to works by Szymanowski and Sorabji and to some extent an atonality reminiscent of Alban Berg.

Chisholm’s complete piano music has been recorded on 7 CDs on the Divine Art label by Murray McLachlan. His two piano concertos and his Dance Suite were recorded by Danny Driver, and the Violin Concerto by Matthew Trusler, all on Hyperion Records. The live premiere (2015) of the full score of his opera Simoon was recorded by Delphian Records, and a video produced by Music Co-operative Scotland was due to be premiered on 8 July 2020.

Chisholm’s interest in Scottish song stemmed from a gift he received, aged 10, of Patrick MacDonald’s A Collection of Scottish Airs, published in 1784. His songs include the Seven Poems of Love (setting words by his wife Lillias Scott) and settings of William Soutar, including A Dirge for Summer.

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Famous Scots. Thomas Reid.

Thomas Reid FRSE (/riːd/; 7 May (O.S. 26 April) 1710 – 7 October 1796) was a religiously trained Scottish philosopher. He was the founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense and played an integral role in the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1783 he was a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. A contemporary of David Hume, Reid was also “Hume’s earliest and fiercest critic”.


Reid was born in the manse at Strachan, Aberdeenshire, on 26 April 1710 O.S., the son of Lewis Reid (1676–1762) and his wife Margaret Gregory, first cousin to James Gregory. He was educated at Kincardine Parish School then the O’Neil Grammar School in Kincardine.

He went to the University of Aberdeen in 1723 and graduated MA in 1726. He was licensed to preach by the Church of Scotland in 1731 when he came of age. He began his career as a minister of the Church of Scotland but ceased to be a minister when he was given a professorship at King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1752. He obtained his doctorate and wrote An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (published in 1764). He and his colleagues founded the ‘Aberdeen Philosophical Society, popularly known as the ‘Wise Club’ (a literary-philosophical association). Shortly after the publication of his first book, he was given the prestigious Professorship of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow when he was called to replace Adam Smith. He resigned from this position in 1781, after which he prepared his university lectures for publication in two books: Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785) and Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind (1788). However, in 1787 he is still listed as “Professor of Moral Philosophy” at the university, but his classes were being taught by Archibald Arthur.

In 1740 Thomas Reid married his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of the London physician George Reid. His wife and “numerous” children predeceased him, except for a daughter who married Patrick Carmichael. Reid died of palsy, in Glasgow. He was buried at Blackfriars Church in the grounds of Glasgow College and when the university moved to Gilmorehill in the west of Glasgow, his tombstone was inserted in the main building.

Philosophical work


Reid believed that common sense (in a special philosophical sense of sensus communis) is, or at least should be, at the foundation of all philosophical inquiry. He disagreed with Hume, who asserted that we can never know what an external world consists of as our knowledge is limited to the ideas in the mind, and George Berkeley, who asserted that the external world is merely ideas in the mind. By contrast, Reid claimed that the foundations upon which our sensus communis are built justify our belief that there is an external world.

In his day and for some years into the 19th century, he was regarded as more important than Hume. He advocated direct realism, or common sense realism, and argued strongly against the Theory of Ideas advocated by John LockeRené Descartes, and (in varying forms) nearly all Early Modern philosophers who came after them. He had a great admiration for Hume and had a mutual friend send Hume an early manuscript of Reid’s Inquiry. Hume responded that the work “is wrote in a lively entertaining manner,” although he found “there seems to be some Defect in Method”, and he criticized Reid’s doctrine for implying the presence of innate ideas. (pp. 256–257)

Thomas Reid’s theory of common sense

Reid’s theory of knowledge had a strong influence on his theory of morals. He thought epistemology was an introductory part to practical ethics: When we are confirmed in our common beliefs by philosophy, all we have to do is to act according to them, because we know what is right. His moral philosophy is reminiscent of Roman stoicism in its emphasis on the agency of the subject and self-control. He often quotes Cicero, from whom he adopted the term “sensus communis”. Reid’s answer to Hume’s sceptical and naturalist arguments was to enumerate a set of principles of common sense (sensus communis) which constitute the foundations of rational thought. Anyone who undertakes a philosophical argument, for example, must implicitly presuppose certain beliefs like, “I am talking to a real person,” and “There is an external world whose laws do not change,” among many other positive, substantive claims. For Reid, the belief in the truth of these principles is not rational; rather, reason itself demands these principles as prerequisites, as does the innate “constitution” of the human mind. It is for this reason (and possibly a mocking attitude toward Hume and Berkeley) that Reid sees belief in the principles of common sense as a litmus test for sanity. For example, in The Intellectual Powers of Man he states, “For, before men can reason together, they must agree in first principles; and it is impossible to reason with a man who has no principles in common with you.” One of the first principles he goes on to list is that “qualities must necessarily be in something that is figured, coloured, hard or soft, that moves or resists. It is not to these qualities, but to that which is the subject of them, that we give the name body. If any man should think fit to deny that these things are qualities, or that they require any subject, I leave him to enjoy his opinion as a man who denies first principles, and is not fit to be reasoned with.”

Reid also made positive arguments based in phenomenological insight to put forth a novel mixture of direct realism and ordinary language philosophy. In a typical passage in The Intellectual Powers of Man he asserts that when he has a conception of a centaur, the thing he conceives is an animal, and no idea is an animal; therefore, the thing he conceives is not an idea, but a centaur. This point relies both on an account of the subjective experience of conceiving an object and also on an account of what we mean when we use words. Because Reid saw his philosophy as publicly accessible knowledge, available both through introspection and through the proper understanding of how language is used, he saw it as the philosophy of common sense.

Exploring sense and language

Reid started out with a ‘common sense’ based on a direct experience of an external reality but then proceeded to explore in two directions—external to the senses, and internal to human language—to account more effectively for the role of rationality.

Reid saw language as based on an innate capacity pre-dating human consciousness, and acting as an instrument for that consciousness. (In Reid’s terms: it is an ‘artificial’ instrument based on a ‘natural’ capacity.) On this view, language becomes a means of examining the original form of human cognition. Reid notes that current human language contains two distinct elements: first, the acoustic element, the sounds; and secondly the meanings—which seem to have nothing to do with the sounds as such. This state of the language, which he calls ‘artificial’, cannot be the primeval one, which he terms ‘natural’, wherein sound was not an abstract sign, but a concrete gesture or natural sign. Reid looks to the way a child learns language, by imitating sounds, becoming aware of them long before it understands the meaning accorded to the various groups of sounds in the artificial state of contemporary adult speech. If, says Reid, the child needed to understand immediately the conceptual content of the words it hears, it would never learn to speak at all. Here Reid distinguishes between natural and artificial signs:”It is by natural signs chiefly that we give force and energy to language; and the less language has of them, it is the less expressive and persuasive. … Artificial signs signify, but they do not express; they speak to the intellect, as algebraic characters may do, but the passions and the affections and the will hear them not: these continue dormant and inactive, till we speak to them in the language of nature, to which they are all attention and obedience.” (p. 52)[13]

His external exploration, regarding the senses, led Reid to his critical distinction between ‘sensation‘ and ‘perception‘. While we become aware of an object through the senses, the content of that perception is not identical with the sum total of the sensations caused in our consciousness. Thus, while we tend to focus on the object perceived, we pay no attention to the process leading from sensation to perception, which contains the knowledge of the thing as real. How, then, do we receive the conviction of the latter’s existence? Reid’s answer is, by entering into an immediate intuitive relationship with it, as a child does. In the case of the adult, the focus is on perceiving, but with the child, it is on receiving of the sensations in their living nature. For Reid, the perception of the child is different from the adult, and he states that man must become like a child to get past the artificial perception of the adult, which leads to Hume’s view that what we perceive is an illusion. Also, the artist provides a key to the true content of sense experience, as he engages the ‘language of nature’:”It were easy to show, that the fine arts of the musician, the painter, the actor, and the orator, so far as they are expressive .. are nothing else but the language of nature, which we brought into the world with us, but have unlearned by disuse and so find the greatest difficulty in recovering it.” (p. 53)”That without a natural knowledge of the connection between these [natural] signs and the things signified by them, the language could never have been invented and established among men; and, That the fine arts are all founded upon this connection, which we may call the natural language of mankind.” (p. 59)

Thus, for Reid, common sense was based on the innate capacity of man in an earlier epoch to directly participate in nature, and one we find to some extent in the child and artist, but one that from a philosophical and scientific perspective, we must re-awaken at a higher level in the human mind above nature. Why does Reid believe that perception is the way to recognize? Well, to him “an experience is purely subjective and purely negative. It supports the validity of a proposition, only on the fact that I find that it is impossible for me not to hold it for true, to suppose it therefore not true” (Reid, 753). To understand this better, it is important to know that Reid divides his definition of perception into two categories: conception, and belief. “Conception is Reid’s way of saying to visualize an object, so then we can affirm or deny qualities about that thing. Reid believes that beliefs are our direct thoughts of an object, and what that object is” (Buras, The Functions of Sensations to Reid). So, to Reid, what we see, what we visualize, what we believe of an object, is that object’s true reality. Reid believes in direct objectivity, our senses guide us to what is right since we cannot trust our own thoughts. “The worlds of common sense and of philosophy are reciprocally the converse of each other” (Reid, 841). Reid believes that Philosophy overcomplicates the question of what is real. So, what does Common Sense actually mean then? Well, “common sense is the senses being pulled all together to form one idea” (Cambridge Companion to Thomas Reid, 164). Common sense (all the senses combined) is how we truly identify the reality of an object; since all that can be perceived about an object, are all pulled into one perception. How do people reach the point of accessing common sense? That’s the trick, everyone is born with the ability to access common sense, that is why it is called common sense. “The principles of common sense are common to all of humanity,” (Nichols, Ryan, Yaffe, and Gideon, Thomas Reid).

Common sense works as such: If all men observe an item and believe the same qualities about that item, then the knowledge of that item is universally true. It is common knowledge, which without explanation is held true by other people; so, what is universally seen is universally believed. “The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a community, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase of knowledge,” (Reid, 155). The combination of the same ideas, of a thing, by multiple people, is what confirms the reality of an object. Reid also believes that the philosophers of his time exaggerated what is truly real. Where most philosophers believe that what we see is not fully what that thing is, for example, Descartes, Reid counters this argument simply by stating that “such a hypothesis is no more likely to be true than the common-sensical belief that the world is much the way we perceive it to be,” (Nichols, Ryan, Yaffe, and Gideon, Thomas Reid). Reality is what we make it out to be, nothing more.

Reid also claimed that this discovery of the link between the natural sign and the thing signified was the basis of natural philosophy and science, as proposed by Bacon in his radical method of discovery of the innate laws of nature:The great Lord Verulam had a perfect comprehension of this, when he called it an interpretation of nature. No man ever more distinctly understood, or happily expressed the nature and foundation of the philosophic art. What is all we know of mechanics, astronomy, and optics, but connections established by nature and discovered by experience or observation, and consequences deduced from them? (..) What we commonly call natural causes might, with more propriety, be called natural signs, and what we call effects, the things signified. The causes have no proper efficiency or causality, as far as we know; and all we can certainly affirm, is, that nature hath established a constant conjunction between them and the things called their effects; (..). (p. 59)


It has been claimed that Reid’s reputation waned after attacks on the Scottish School of Common Sense by Immanuel Kant (although Kant, only 14 years Reid’s junior, also bestowed much praise on Scottish philosophy—Kant attacked the work of Reid, but admitted he had never actually read his works) and by John Stuart Mill. But Reid’s was the philosophy taught in the colleges of North America during the 19th century and was championed by Victor Cousin, a French philosopher. Justus Buchler has shown that Reid was an important influence on the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who shared Reid’s concern to revalue common sense and whose work links Reid to pragmatism. To Peirce, conceptions of truth and the real involve the notion of a community without definite limits (and thus potentially self-correcting as far as needed), and capable of a definite increase of knowledge. Common sense is socially evolved, open to verification much like scientific method, and constantly evolving, as evidence, perception, and practice warrant, albeit with a slowness that Peirce came only in later years to see, at which point he owned his “adhesion, under inevitable modification, to the opinion of…Thomas Reid, in the matter of Common Sense”.[15] (Peirce called his version “critical common-sensism”). By contrast, on Reid’s concept, the sensus communis is not a social evolutionary product but rather a precondition of the possibility that humans could reason with each other. The work of Thomas Reid influenced the work of Noah Porter and James McCosh in the 19th century United States and is based upon the claim of universal principles of objective truth. Pragmatism is not the development of the work of the Scottish “Common Sense” School—it is the negation of it. There are clear links between the work of the Scottish Common Sense School and the work of the Oxford Realist philosophers Harold Prichard and Sir William David Ross in the 20th century.

Reid’s reputation has revived in the wake of the advocacy of common sense as a philosophical method or criterion by G. E. Moore early in the 20th century, and more recently because of the attention given to Reid by contemporary philosophers, in particular philosophers of religion in the school of Reformed epistemology such as William AlstonAlvin Plantinga, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, seeking to rebut charges that theistic belief is irrational where it has no doxastic foundations (that is, where that belief is not inferred from other adequately grounded beliefs).

He wrote a number of important philosophical works, including Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764, Glasgow & London), Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785) and Essays on the Active Powers of Man (1788). In 1844, Schopenhauer praised Reid for explaining that the perception of external objects does not result from the raw data that is received through the five senses:

Thomas Reid’s excellent book, Inquiry into the Human Mind… affords us a very thorough conviction of the inadequacy of the senses for producing the objective perception of things, and also of the non-empirical origin of the intuition of space and time. Reid refutes Locke’s teaching that perception is a product of the senses. This he does by a thorough and acute demonstration that the collective sensations of the senses do not bear the least resemblance to the world known through perception, and in particular by showing that Locke’s five primary qualities (extension, figure, solidity, movement, number) cannot possibly be supplied to us by any sensation of the senses…

— The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Ch. 2

Other philosophical positions

Though known mainly for his epistemology, Reid is also noted for his views in the theory of action and the metaphysics of personal identity. Reid held an incompatibilist or libertarian notion of freedom, holding that we are capable of free actions of which we are the cause, and for which we are morally appraisable. Regarding personal identity, he rejected Locke’s account that self-consciousness in the form of memory of one’s experiences was the basis of a person’s being identical with their self over time. Reid held that continuity of memory was neither necessary nor sufficient to make one numerically the same person at different times. Reid also argued that the operation of our mind connecting sensations with belief in an external world is accounted for only by an intentional Creator. In his natural religion lectures, Reid provides five arguments for the existence of God, focusing on two mainly, the cosmological and design. Reid loves and frequently uses Samuel Clarke’s cosmological argument, which says, in short that the universe either has always been, or began to exist, so there must be a cause (or first principle) for both (Cuneo and Woudenberg 242). As everything is either necessary or contingent, an Independent being is required for contingency (Cuneo and Woudenberg 242). Reid spends even more time on his design argument, but is unclear exactly what he wanted his argument to be, as his lectures only went as far as his students needed. Though there is no perfect interpretation, Reid states that “there are in fact the clearest marks of design and wisdom in the works of nature” (Cuneo and Woudenberg 291) If something carries marks of design (regularity or variety of structure), there must be an intelligent being behind it (Reid EIP 66). This can’t be known by experience, fitting with the casual excellence principle, but the cause can be seen in works of nature (Cuneo and Woudenberg 241).

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Famous Scots. Kenneth Grahame.

Kenneth Grahame was a Scottish writer famous for his stories ‘The Wind in the Willows‘ (1908) and the ‘Reluctant Dragon’.

Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 8 March. As a young child, his mother died of Scarlet fever. His father was also an alcoholic so he was sent away to be looked after by elderly relatives.

He excelled as a student at St Edward’s School in Oxford. However, his uncle didn’t want to pay his fees for going to Oxford University. Therefore, Kenneth Grahame moved to the Bank of England where he gained employment as a clerk. He later rose to be secretary and spent all his working life in the Bank of England.

In his spare time, he began writing articles and light stories. They were published in London Periodicals, they were mostly low key. Though a later book, The Reluctant Dragon became more widely known.

In 1899, he married Elspeth Thomson, who was considerably older than Kenneth. The marriage was not particularly close. Kenneth was not gregarious and was content in his own company. They had one son, Alistair, who suffered from various psychological conditions. Alistair later committed suicide whilst studying at Oxford University, aged 20.

Kenneth began writing stories for his son. The primary purpose was to be educational. For example, one of the main characters in The Wind in the Willows is the rather head-strong and arrogant Toad of Toad Hole. His arrogance leads to his downfall:

“’Glorious, stirring sight!’ murmured Toad, never offering to move. ‘The poetry of motion! The REAL way to travel! The ONLY way to travel!”

Though we end up developing sympathy for the character as he learns from his misdeeds.

The book was first published in 1908 in England with illustrations by E.H.Shepard. The book gradually became a best-seller and captured the imagination of many children and adults. In 1929, A.A. Milne dramatised the book as Toad of Toad Hall and over the Twentieth Century became a key part of children’s literature.

The Wind in the Willows is partly an expression of the author’s desire to create a fantasy world free of some of the uncomfortable aspects of modern life. In discussing the work with Theodore Roosevelt, he mentioned the idyllic world he created was “Clean of the clash of sex.”

However, despite its success, Grahame was never inspired to try a sequel. This was despite his early retirement in 1908. His early retirement was partly due to poor health and also disagreements with some of his employees.

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Famous Scots. Jack Buchanan.

Walter John Buchanan (2 April 1891 – 20 October 1957) was a Scottish theatre and film actor, singer, dancer, producer and director. He was known for three decades as the embodiment of the debonair man-about-town in the tradition of George Grossmith Jr., and was described by The Times as “the last of the knuts.” He is best known in America for his role in the classic Hollywood musical The Band Wagon in 1953.


Buchanan was born in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, the son of Walter John Buchanan Sr (1865–1902), auctioneer, and his wife, Patricia, née  McWatt (1860–1936). He was educated at the Glasgow Academy.

Early career

After a brief attempt to follow his late father’s profession and a failure at acting in Glasgow, he became a music hall comedian under the name of Chump Buchanan and appeared on the variety stage in Scotland. Moving to London and adopting the name “Jack Buchanan”, he first appeared on the West End in September 1912 in the comic opera The Grass Widow  at the Apollo Theatre. Hardship dogged him for a while before he became famous whilst on tour in 1915 in Tonight’s the Night. He produced and acted in his own plays both in London and New York City.

Buchanan’s health was not robust, and, to his bitter regret, he was declared unfit when he attempted to enlist for military service in the First World War. He appeared with some success in West End shows during the war, attracting favourable notices as a “knut” in the mould of George Grossmith Jr, and achieved front rank stardom in André Charlot‘s 1921 revue A to Z, appearing with Gertrude Lawrence. Among his numbers in the show was Ivor Novello‘s “And Her Mother Came Too”, which became Buchanan’s signature song. The show transferred successfully to Broadway in 1924. For the rest of the 1920s and 1930s he was famous for “the seemingly lazy but most accomplished grace with which he sang, danced, flirted and joked his way through musical shows…. The tall figure, the elegant gestures, the friendly drawling voice, the general air of having a good time.” During the Second World War he starred in his own musical production It’s Time to Dance, whose cast included Fred Emney. The musical show was based on a book by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose, and was staged at the Lyric TheatreShaftesbury Avenue, London.

Film career and later years

He made his film debut in the silent cinema, in 1917 and appeared in about three dozen films in his career. In 1938, Buchanan achieved the unusual feat of starring in the London stage musical This’ll Make You Whistle while concurrently filming a film version. The film was released while the stage version was still running; thus the two productions competed with each other. Other starring roles included Monte Carlo (1930), Smash and Grab (1937) and The Gang’s All Here (1939). He also produced several films including Happidrome (1943) and The Sky’s the Limit (1938), which he also directed. He continued to work on Broadway and the West End and took roles in several Hollywood musicals, including The Band Wagon (1953), his best-known film, in which he plays camp theatre director Jeffrey Cordova opposite Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. He suffered from spinal arthritis, though this did not stop him from performing several dance numbers with Astaire in The Band Wagon.

British stage career

Buchanan’s British stage appearances included A to ZBattling ButlerToniSunnyThat’s a Good GirlStand up and SingMr. WhittingtonThis’ll Make You WhistleTop Hat and TailsThe Last of Mrs CheyneyFine FeathersCanaries Sometimes SingDon’t Listen, Ladies!Castle in the AirKing’s Rhapsody and As Long as They’re Happy. His first pantomime appearance (Christmas, 1940) was as “Buttons” in Cinderella.

His productions included The WomenThe Body was Well NourishedWaltz Without EndIt’s Time to DanceA Murder for a ValentineTreble Trouble and The Lady Asks for Help.

American stage career

Buchanan’s American stage appearances included: André Charlot‘s Revues, Charles B. Cochran‘s Wake Up and DreamPardon My EnglishBetween the Devil and Harvey (1948).

Film career

Buchanan’s Hollywood films included ParisThe Show of Shows (1929), Monte Carlo (1930) and The Band Wagon (1953).[1]

His British films included Yes, Mr Brown (1933), Goodnight, Vienna (1932), That’s a Good Girl (1933), Brewster’s Millions (1935), Come Out of the Pantry (1935), When Knights Were Bold (1936), This’ll Make You Whistle (1936), Smash and Grab (1937), The Sky’s the Limit (1938), Break the News (1938), The Gang’s All Here (1939), The Middle Watch (1940), Bulldog Sees It Through (1940), As Long as They’re Happy (1955) and Josephine and Men (1955).[1] He made one French film (bilingual), The Diary of Major Thompson (1955).

Radio and television

Buchanan was a frequent broadcaster on British radio, especially during the Second World War. Programs included The Jack Buchanan Show and, in 1955, the hugely popular eight-part series Man About Town.

On 12 June 1928, Buchanan participated in the first-ever transatlantic television broadcast. It was conducted by Scottish engineer John Logie Baird, an important figure in the technological development of television. At the time, the few television sets that existed had been custom-built by engineers and were not available for purchase by the general public in the United Kingdom or the United States.

American television shows on which Buchanan appeared during the era of stores selling television sets included Max Liebman’s Spotlight in 1954 and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Business interests

In a British tradition of actor-management, Buchanan frequently produced his own shows, many of which were premiered in the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow. He was also heavily involved in the more commercial side of British show business. He was responsible, with partners, for the building and ownership of the Leicester Square Theatre, London, and the Imperial in Brighton. He also controlled the Garrick Theatre in the West End of London and the King’s Theatre in Hammersmith. Jack Buchanan Productions (in which his partners were J. Arthur Rank and Charles Woolf) owned Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

He had been at school with the pioneer of television John Logie Baird and with him co-owned Television Limited, which manufactured and rented televisions.

Not all his business ventures were profitable, and at his death his estate was valued for probate (in 1958) at £24,489 (equivalent to £609,000 today).


Buchanan’s image was that of the raffish eternal bachelor, but he was, unknown to most, married to Saffo Arnau in 1915. She was a singer. This marriage was annulled in 1920.

Later in life, he married Susan Bassett, an American, in 1947; he was her second husband. Through her he had a stepdaughter, Theo, who lived with him and his wife. He had no children of his own.

He had previously had a relationship with Australian actress Coral Browne, and during her meeting in Moscow with Soviet spy Guy Burgess in the late 1950s she informed Burgess, on mentioning Buchanan, that “we almost got married’. “And…?” “He jilted me.” Burgess, previously at the British Foreign Office, had defected to Moscow a few years earlier, and one of the few mementoes of his earlier life that he had been able to keep was one 78rpm Jack Buchanan record—”Who?“—which, when Browne visited his Moscow flat, he played repeatedly. This event is portrayed in Alan Bennett‘s play An Englishman Abroad.


Buchanan was noted for his portrayals of the quintessential English gentleman, despite being a Scot. He was known for his financial generosity to less prosperous actors and chorus performers. Sandy Wilson recalled that each year during the running of the annual Grand National horse race, Buchanan would cancel that day’s performance of his current musical and charter an excursion train to the racecourse and back, supplying meals for the entire cast and crew of his show, in addition to giving them £5 each for a “flutter” on the horse of their choice.

Buchanan died in London in 1957 from spinal cancer at age 66.

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Famous Scots. Alexander Grant.

Alexander Grant – founder of National Library of Scotland

  • Name  : Grant
  • Born  : 1864
  • Died  : 1937
  • Category  : Other
  • Finest Moment : Helping the formation of the National Library of Scotland, 1925

Born the son of a railway guard in Forres, 1864. Grant began working in an office, but the crucial event was being apprenticed to a local baker. Immersed in the heady aromas of yeast and rising dough, he moved to Edinburgh, gaining employment with Robert McVitie. Here he had found his niche, and his rapid rise saw him managing the new factory built in Gorgie Road then establishing another plant in London.

McVitie’s partner, Price retired, then McVitie himself died in 1910, Grant then acquiring control of the company. It grew to feed the urban population, hungry for variety and convenient snacks to take in the tea parlours springing up everywhere. With Grant as Chairman and Managing Director, McVitie & Price became a world leader.

Probably aware of his modest beginnings, Grant initiated charitable funding for many projects. A sum of £100,000 helped in no way found the National Library for Scotland for example. He was awarded a baronetcy in 1924. There were some awkward questions asked about this, as the newly-elected Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, had been given a present from Grant of £30,000 worth of shares in the company and a new Daimler. Let it be known that the baronetcy had already been put in motion by the previous government. He also provided a further grant of £100,000 towards the new Library.

In the 1980s the company established the McVitie Prize for the Scottish Writer of the Year, Scotland’s foremost literary award. Alexander Grant died in 1937, the same year as his close friend Ramsay MacDonald.

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Famous Scots. Alexander Aikman.

Alexander Aikman (23 June 1755 – 6 July 1838) was a Scottish printer, newspaper publisher, planter, and member of Jamaica’s House of Assembly. From 1805 to 1825, he was a member of the House of Assembly as the representative of Saint George parish.

Early life.

He was born on 23 June 1755 at Barrowstounness (Bo’ness), County of Linlithgow (now part of Falkirk Council), Scotland. His parents Andrew Aikman (1723-1785) and Ann Hunter (1730-1759). Ann was the only child of William Hunter and Margaret Aynsley.

His older brother was William Aikman (1751-1784). William immigrated to the British Colony of Jamaica in 1775. There, he became involved in the printing business with David Douglass. William died childless at the age of 33.

His older sister was Marion Aikman (1753- ). Marion married Alexander Henderson in 1782 and raised their family in Scotland.

After his mother passed, his father married Janet Nimmo in 1766. Together they had three sons: (John, Andrew, and James) and two daughters (Janet and Mary), all of whom remained in Scotland.

In 1771, at the age of sixteen, Alexander left Scotland for British South Carolina, He settled in Charleston and apprenticed himself to Robert Wells (1728-1794), a Loyalist and fellow Scotsman.

In British America, Robert Wells was a major book-trading, printer, and newspaper publisher. By 1764, Wells ran his own newspaper, the South Carolina and American General Gazette. By 1775, Wells claimed to have the largest stock of books for sale in America. While in Charleston, Wells wrote and published his version of “Travestie of Virgil.” Wells was a “fervent Loyalist.” Consequently, at the opening of the American Revolutionary War, Wells left the colonies and relocated to London.

Robert Wells married Mary Rowand. Together, they had six children, including Louisa Susannah WellsWilliam Charles Wells, and Helena Wells. While apprenticing for Wells, Alexander Aikman clerked alongside Wells’ daughter, Louisa Susannah Wells, for about four years.


Kingston, & Port Royal. From Windsor Farm by James Hakewill

At the American Revolutionary War, Alexander, in common with several other Loyalists, left British America and immigrated to the British Colony of Jamaica. He arrived in Saint George Parish, about 1777, at the age of 22. Soon after his arrival, he purchased the printing business of Robert Sherlock of Spanish-Town. In 1779 he founded The Jamaica Mercury and Kingston Weekly Advertiser with David Douglass (d. 1786). In 1780 it became The Royal Gazette. It was published weekly in Port Royal Street, but soon afterward in Harbour Street. Alexander’s older brother William operated a book and stationery store on King Street.

In 1780 Douglass and Aikman became printers to the House of Assembly and the King’s Printer. In addition, they printed “Almanac and Register,” “Observations on the Dysentery of the West Indies,” “A Brief History of the Late Expedition against Fort San Juan,” and other books. After Douglass died in 1786, Alexander Aikman became the printer. In 1803 Alexander Aikman & Son were the printers. In 1809 it was Alexander Aikman Jr. After his son’s death in 1831, Alexander, for a short time, resumed his printing and publishing businesses before retiring.

From 1805 to 1825, Alexander represented the old parish of Saint George as a member of British Jamaica’s House of Assembly. During that period, he owned three properties, two of which were in Saint George Parish.

Aikman visited England in 1796 to hire a pressman (in which voyage he was taken by a privateer, and had to repurchase his property at Philadelphia). He visited again in 1801, in 1803, and in 1814, but from that time had remained at home.

En route to his 1796 London visit, it appears Alexander experienced another incident. His daughter’s gravestone describes surviving a shipwreck off Isle of Wight’s coast. Others confirm the passage of a significant storm in the English Channel, which caused significant damage, injuries, and death. From Susannah Aikman’s altar tomb (see: Louisa Susanna Wells’ page for detail):

In the memorable Storm of Novr. 17th and 18th 1795, she escaped shipwreck, together with her Father, Mother, and infant Sister when above 2000 of their fellow creatures met a watery grave near the back of this Island.

Alexander was a wealthy man. He owned four properties, each of which initially relied on slaves. Those properties were “Birnam Wood” in Saint George (257 enslaved), “Wallenford” in Saint George (58 enslaved), “Prospect Pen” in Saint Andrew (39 enslaved), and his printing office in Kingston (3 enslaved). In 1831, approximately 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 slaves initiated a strike, which escalated and became the Baptist War. In 1834, slavery was abolished throughout Jamaica, British West Indies, and the British Empire. In Jamaica, former slaves transitioned to an apprenticeship program, with full freedom in 1838.

Prospect Pen was also known as Prospect Park, which subsequently became Vale Royal. Later, Vale Royal became the official residence of the Colonial Secretary.


He married at Kingston, Jamaica, on 14 January 1782, Louisa Susannah Wells (1755-1831), second daughter of his former master Robert Wells. She joined him from England after no little peril, having twice attempted the voyage: on the first attempt, she was captured by the French, by whom she was detained for three months in France, and on the second by a King’s ship, in consequence of taking her passage in a slave vessel. By this lady who died on 29 November 1831 (and of whom a brief memoir will be found in the Gentleman’s Magazine vol. CI pt. ii, p. 571), Aikman had two sons and eight daughters. Of their ten children, six died as infants. All six infants are buried near his brother, Andrew, at The Strangers’ Burial Ground in Kingston.

His three surviving daughters were Mary Ann (1782-1844), the wife of James Smith of Saint Andrews, Jamaica, Ann Hunter (1788-1841), the widow of John Enright, Surgeon R.N (1795-1817), and Susanna (1791-1818).

His only surviving son and successor in business was Alexander Aikman Jr. (1783-1831). In 1805, Alexander Aikman Jr. married Charlotte Cory (1781-1810). Together, they had two children: Alexander Wells Aikman (1808-1869) and Amelia Ann Aikman (1809-1818). After Charlotte’s passing, Alexander’s two children were raised by his mother, Louisa Susannah Aikman. Four years later, in 1814, Alexander Aikman Jr. married Mary Bryan (1787-1850) and had seven more children: four daughters and three sons. Alexander Aikman Jr. died on April 1831 at the age of 47, leaving several young children. After his son’s death, Alexander Aikman Sr. returned to the family printing business.

Alexander’s wife, Louisa, removed to CowesIsle of Wight, presumably to be with her daughter, Susannah. It was in Cowes where she raised her grandchildren Alexander Wells and Amelia Ann. In 1831, Louisa died in Isle of Wight, thirteen years after her daughter.


Aikman died on 6 July 1838 at Prospect Park, Saint Andrew, Jamaica, aged 83. He is buried at St. Andrew’s Parish Church, commonly called “Half-Way-Tree Church.” His son and daughter-in-law Charlotte Cory Aikman is buried in the same cemetery. In an obituary notice, published in Gentleman’s Magazine, it was said that “he was a truly honorable, worthy and charitable man, and his death is much lamented.”

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Famous Scots. Andy Stewart.

Andrew Stewart MBE (30 December 1933 – 11 October 1993) was a Scottish singer entertainer and songwriter. He presented the BBC TV variety show The White Heather Club throughout the 1960s, and his song “Donald Where’s Your Troosers?” was a hit in both 1960 and 1989. Internationally, the song most closely associated with Stewart is “A Scottish Soldier“.

Early life and education.

Stewart was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1933, the son of a teacher. When he was five years old, the family moved to Perth and then, six years later, to Arbroath. Even in early childhood, he loved imitating people and amazed his parents with impersonations of famous singers and actors. He attended Arbroath High School, where his father taught science.

In 1950, at the age of 16, he participated in the Arbroath Abbey Pageant, taking the part of “A Knight in Shining Armour”. Up until this time, he had not thought seriously about a career in entertainment, as he had aspirations of becoming a veterinary surgeon. He then decided to train as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, where he studied until 1954. During his first year at the college, he obtained First Prize for Comedy; he also excelled in fencing, particularly at the foil.


Stewart’s patriotic wearing of tartan and his use of stereotypical Scottish humour throughout the 1960s, echoed the music hall style and songs of fellow Scot Sir Harry Lauder.

Stewart himself attributed his “breakthrough” onto the international stage to the success of his “A Scottish Soldier” recording, which became a no. 1 hit in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, spent 36 weeks in the UK singles charts (1961), reached no. 69 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and also achieved hit status in South Africa and India. His other international hit singles included “Come in-Come in”, “Donald Where’s Your Troosers?“, “Campbeltown Loch“, “The Muckin’ O’ Geordie’s Byre”, “The Road to Dundee“, “The Battle’s O’er” (No. 1 on the Australian charts in July 1961), “Take Me Back”, “Tunes of Glory”, and “Dr. Finlay” (1965). He is also remembered for being the compere of The White Heather Club. This was a BBC Scotland television programme that existed as an annual New Year’s Eve party (1957–1968), and also as a weekly early-evening series (1960–1968). At the height of its popularity, the show had a viewership of 10 million.

“Donald Where’s Your Troosers?” was a hit in late 1960 and again when reissued in 1989. Stewart is said to have written the song in 10 minutes as he sat, minus trousers, in the lavatory of a recording studio.[1] It was also featured in the US TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, sung by one of the Terminators, played by Garret Dillahunt. Stewart included an Elvis Presley impersonation halfway through the song. On the strength of this comedy hit, Stewart toured Australia and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1968, doing impersonations of Dean Martin. His skill with different accents is also evident on “The Rumour”, where the rumour moves across Scotland and into Ireland, with Stewart speaking in a different accent for each place. Stewart’s stage shows often included his impersonations of other famous singers, including Tom JonesBilly EckstineLouis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Johnnie Ray, Elvis Presley, Petula Clark and Johnny Cash.

His albums, such as Scottish SoldierThe Best of Andy Stewart and Andy Stewart’s Scotland, were also popular internationally. In 1973 he recorded a “live” album in Johannesburg, South Africa, entitled Andy Stewart in South Africa – White Heather Concert, which also featured accordionist Jimmy Blue, singers Alexander Morrison and Anna Desti and pianist Mark Simpson.

His international appeal was well-illustrated by his appearance at the World Fair, New York in 1964, attended by many thousands of people. From the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, he frequently and successfully toured Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. He appeared in concert throughout South Africa in 1968, 1971 and 1973. He also performed in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as well as in Singapore and Hong Kong. Coming out of retirement in 1991, he began tours at home and abroad once again.

A prolific lyricist, he penned words to many traditional Scottish tunes, e.g. “Green Hills of Tyrol” (which he called “A Scottish Soldier”), “The Black Bear” (“Tunes of Glory”), and “The Battle is Over”(“The Battle’s O’er”) etc. He wrote his first lyric at the age of 14 (to a tune composed by his father) and called the song “My Hameland”, which in 1969 (21 years later) became the title track of one of his albums.

Stewart took part in the 1961, 1962 and 1978 Royal Variety Performances and also appeared for the Royal Family at a Christmas party at Windsor Castle.

Scotch Corner, a Scottish television series (1972–1976) featured Andy Stewart and various guest singers and musicians. Some of the artists included in these broadcasts accompanied Stewart on his international White Heather concert tours during the 1970s. Andy’s Party was another popular TV series on Grampian Television in the late 1970s.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1975 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.

From 1973 onward, recurrent ill-health took its toll on his voice and stage vitality. Frequently hospitalised in the 1970s and 1980s, he underwent several heart and stomach operations, including triple heart bypass surgery in 1976 and again in 1991.

Retirement and death.

In retirement, he moved back to Arbroath. “Donald Where’s Your Troosers” was a surprise hit when reissued in late 1989. Marketed as a novelty song ideal for Christmas parties, it was actively promoted by BBC Radio One DJ Simon Mayo and reached number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. In response, Stewart provided a jingle for Mayo, “Simon, where’s your troosers?”.

Coming out of retirement in 1991, he began touring once again and recorded two CDs on the Scotdisc label. In 1993 a summer season at the Capitol Moat House Hotel in Edinburgh was cut short because of a back injury. A further long season for the following year was planned at the same venue. Shortly before he died in 1993, he gave a small concert at Arbroath High School for the pupils. He was also due to appear in The “Pride of the Clyde” at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre and other tours and concerts were planned. A sheltered housing scheme in Arbroath, ‘Andy Stewart Court’, was named in his memory.

Stewart died the day after a performance at a Gala Benefit Concert for Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) at Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Stewart suffered a fatal heart attack at his home. Stewart’s funeral took place at St Andrew’s Church (Church of Scotland) in Arbroath on Friday 15 October. His family were joined by many stars and friends from the entertainment world. A large crowd gathered outside the church to pay their respects to “The Tartan Trooper”, while a piper played “A Scottish Soldier” and “The Battle’s O’er”.

Awards and family.

Stewart was awarded an MBE in 1976. He received the Freedom of Angus in 1987.

His son Ewan Stewart is an actor, whose film and television credits include Rob RoyTitanicValhalla RisingOnly Fools and Horses and River City.

Stewart’s grandson Harris Beattie played the title role of Billy Elliot in the eponymous West End production. In 2017 Harris won the prestigious Royal Academy of Dance Gold medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition and currently is a dancer with Northern Ballet based in Leeds. Another grandson, Alistair Beattie, currently tours internationally as a dancer in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (2018-2020).

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Famous Scots. Mary Queen of Scots.

Henry the VIII of England and Henry the second of France acknowledged the rights of the Scottish throne and tried to get Mary to marry one of their sons when she was of age at that time it was believed to be 13 upwards a girl was able to marry.

Mary sailed to France from her retreat at Dumbarton Castle, England had invaded Scotland just for a change, the King of France at the time offered Mary a safe haven and also offered troops to oppose the English. The condition was that Mary married his son Francois in France.

Francois and Mary were married in 1558 at Notre Dame Cathedral Mary was 15 her husband was 14. Part of the contract was that Mary would sign the crown over to her husband if she dies without a successor.
Mary indeed became the Queen of France, her husband passed away at an early age leaving her a widow at 18! And because of no successors, she was stripped of her crown and without choice had to return to Scotland.

Mary arrived back to a very different Scotland she had left at the age of 5, the country was in the middle of reformation, Mary was Protestant and caused a bit of a stir amongst both religions on her return.
At this time Elizabeth, the first was Queen of England, she tried in vain to have Mary married off to various suitors however Mary had other plans to perhaps marry a European to again establish rights to the throne.

In 1566 Mary gave Birth to James IV after marrying Lord Darnley.
After the murder of her friend Rizzio in front of her, Mary knew her time was short, her husband had murdered her friend and had many women even during their short marriage.

A plot was taken against Darnley a bomb was set in his residence and although he escaped the explosion he was found strangled in the grounds.
After an uprising in Scotland, Mary managed to get away and was sheltered in Dunbar castle with her then-lover the Earl of Bothwell.

The execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

At 24 Mary was taken prisoner and held in Loch Leven castle she was given the choice to either abdicate or face death so her son James IV could reign in her place, but she managed to escape and raised an army, but she was defeated by the Earl of Moray.

Against all advice she decided to seek refuge in England with her cousin Elizabeth the first, even knowing how her cousin Elizabeth feared her for her rights to the English throne, Mary was imprisoned in various Castles for over 19 years. She never saw Scotland on her son again.

A plot was made up which meant that Mary had intentions of Plotting for the death of Elizabeth, this was manufactured by Elizabeth’s advisors.
Mary was beheaded in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle.


  1. Despite many movies depicting otherwise Mary and Elizabeth NEVER met in person.
  2. If either Mary or Elizabeth had been a man there would have been no issue regarding the crown as they could have married and settled all differences.
  3. In 1603 when Elizabeth died “the virgin queen” Marys son James IV took over the English throne, and United the Scottish and English under one rule.
  4. Elizabeth was buried in Westminster Abbey, Mary in Peterborough grounds, After his succession James had his Mother exhumed and placed in Westminster Abbey not far away from Elizabeth but in much better surroundings!
  5. ps the new movie is fantastic.
Thank you for Sharing me.

Famous Scots. Alexander Graham Bell.

Alexander Graham Bell (/ˈɡreɪ.əm/; March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a Scottish-born[N 2] inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885.

Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work. His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone, on March 7, 1876.[N 3] Bell considered his invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.[N 4]

Many other inventions marked Bell’s later life, including groundbreaking work in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils, and aeronautics. Although Bell was not one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society, he had a strong influence on the magazine while serving as the second president from January 7, 1898, until 1903.

Beyond his scientific work, Bell was an advocate of compulsory sterilization and served as chairman or president of several eugenics organizations.

First invention

As a child, young Bell displayed a curiosity about his world; he gathered botanical specimens and ran experiments at an early age. His best friend was Ben Herdman, a neighbour whose family operated a flour mill. At the age of 12, Bell built a homemade device that combined rotating paddles with sets of nail brushes, creating a simple dehusking machine that was put into operation at the mill and used steadily for a number of years. In return, Ben’s father John Herdman gave both boys the run of a small workshop in which to “invent”.

From his early years, Bell showed a sensitive nature and a talent for art, poetry, and music that was encouraged by his mother. With no formal training, he mastered the piano and became the family’s pianist. Despite being normally quiet and introspective, he revelled in mimicry and “voice tricks” akin to ventriloquism that continually entertained family guests during their occasional visits. Bell was also deeply affected by his mother’s gradual deafness (she began to lose her hearing when he was 12), and learned a manual finger language so he could sit at her side and tap out silently the conversations swirling around the family parlour. He also developed a technique of speaking in clear, modulated tones directly into his mother’s forehead wherein she would hear him with reasonable clarity. Bell’s preoccupation with his mother’s deafness led him to study acoustics.

His family was long associated with the teaching of elocution: his grandfather, Alexander Bell, in London, his uncle in Dublin, and his father, in Edinburgh, were all elocutionists. His father published a variety of works on the subject, several of which are still well known, especially his The Standard Elocutionist (1860), which appeared in Edinburgh in 1868. The Standard Elocutionist appeared in 168 British editions and sold over a quarter of a million copies in the United States alone. In this treatise, his father explains his methods of how to instruct deaf-mutes (as they were then known) to articulate words and read other people’s lip movements to decipher meaning. Bell’s father taught him and his brothers not only to write Visible Speech but to identify any symbol and its accompanying sound. Bell became so proficient that he became a part of his father’s public demonstrations and astounded audiences with his abilities. He could decipher Visible Speech representing virtually every language, including Latin, Scottish Gaelic, and even Sanskrit, accurately reciting written tracts without any prior knowledge of their pronunciation.


As a young child, Bell, like his brothers, received his early schooling at home from his father. At an early age, he was enrolled at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, Scotland, which he left at the age of 15, having completed only the first four forms. His school record was undistinguished, marked by absenteeism and lacklustre grades. His main interest remained in the sciences, especially biology, while he treated other school subjects with indifference, to the dismay of his father. Upon leaving school, Bell travelled to London to live with his grandfather, Alexander Bell, on Harrington Square. During the year he spent with his grandfather, a love of learning was born, with long hours spent in serious discussion and study. The elder Bell took great efforts to have his young pupil learn to speak clearly and with conviction, the attributes that his pupil would need to become a teacher himself. At the age of 16, Bell secured a position as a “pupil-teacher” of elocution and music, in Weston House Academy at Elgin, Moray, Scotland. Although he was enrolled as a student in Latin and Greek, he instructed classes himself in return for board and £10 per session. The following year, he attended the University of Edinburgh; joining his older brother Melville who had enrolled there the previous year. In 1868, not long before he departed for Canada with his family, Bell completed his matriculation exams and was accepted for admission to University College London.

First experiments with sound

His father encouraged Bell’s interest in speech and, in 1863, took his sons to see a unique automaton developed by Sir Charles Wheatstone based on the earlier work of Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen. The rudimentary “mechanical man” simulated a human voice. Bell was fascinated by the machine and after he obtained a copy of von Kempelen’s book, published in German, and had laboriously translated it, he and his older brother Melville built their own automaton head. Their father, highly interested in their project, offered to pay for any supplies and spurred the boys on with the enticement of a “big prize” if they were successful. While his brother constructed the throat and larynx, Bell tackled the more difficult task of recreating a realistic skull. His efforts resulted in a remarkably lifelike head that could “speak”, albeit only a few words. The boys would carefully adjust the “lips” and when a bellows forced air through the windpipe, a very recognizable “Mama” ensued, to the delight of neighbours who came to see the Bell invention.

Intrigued by the results of the automaton, Bell continued to experiment with a live subject, the family’s Skye Terrier, “Trouve”. After he taught it to growl continuously, Bell would reach into its mouth and manipulate the dog’s lips and vocal cords to produce a crude-sounding “Ow ah oo ga ma ma”. With little convincing, visitors believed his dog could articulate “How are you, grandmama?” Indicative of his playful nature, his experiments convinced onlookers that they saw a “talking dog”. These initial forays into experimentation with sound led Bell to undertake his first serious work on the transmission of sound, using tuning forks to explore resonance.

At age 19, Bell wrote a report on his work and sent it to philologist Alexander Ellis, a colleague of his father (who would later be portrayed as Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion). Ellis immediately wrote back indicating that the experiments were similar to existing work in Germany, and also lent Bell a copy of Hermann von Helmholtz’s work, The Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music.

Dismayed to find that groundbreaking work had already been undertaken by Helmholtz who had conveyed vowel sounds by means of a similar tuning fork “contraption”, Bell pored over the German scientist’s book. Working from his own erroneous mistranslation of a French edition, Bell fortuitously then made a deduction that would be the underpinning of all his future work on transmitting sound, reporting: “Without knowing much about the subject, it seemed to me that if vowel sounds could be produced by electrical means, so could consonants, so could articulate speech.” He also later remarked: “I thought that Helmholtz had done it … and that my failure was due only to my ignorance of electricity. It was a valuable blunder … If I had been able to read German in those days, I might never have commenced my experiments!”[N 6]

Family tragedy

In 1865, when the Bell family moved to London, Bell returned to Weston House as an assistant master and, in his spare hours, continued experiments on sound using a minimum of laboratory equipment. Bell concentrated on experimenting with electricity to convey sound and later installed a telegraph wire from his room in Somerset College to that of a friend. Throughout late 1867, his health faltered mainly through exhaustion. His younger brother, Edward “Ted,” was similarly bed-ridden, suffering from tuberculosis. While Bell recovered (by then referring to himself in correspondence as “A. G. Bell”) and served the next year as an instructor at Somerset College, Bath, England, his brother’s condition deteriorated. Edward would never recover. Upon his brother’s death, Bell returned home in 1867. His older brother Melville had married and moved out. With aspirations to obtain a degree at University College London, Bell considered his next years as preparation for the degree examinations, devoting his spare time at his family’s residence to studying.

Helping his father in Visible Speech demonstrations and lectures brought Bell to Susanna E. Hull’s private school for the deaf in South Kensington, London. His first two pupils were deaf-mute girls who made remarkable progress under his tutelage. While his older brother seemed to achieve success on many fronts including opening his own elocution school, applying for a patent on an invention, and starting a family, Bell continued as a teacher. However, in May 1870, Melville died from complications due to tuberculosis, causing a family crisis. His father had also suffered a debilitating illness earlier in life and had been restored to health by a convalescence in Newfoundland. Bell’s parents embarked upon a long-planned move when they realized that their remaining son was also sickly. Acting decisively, Alexander Melville Bell asked Bell to arrange for the sale of all the family property,[N 7] conclude all of his brother’s affairs (Bell took over his last student, curing a pronounced lisp), and join his father and mother in setting out for the “New World”. Reluctantly, Bell also had to conclude a relationship with Marie Eccleston, who, as he had surmised, was not prepared to leave England with him.

Main article: Bell Homestead National Historic Site

Melville House, the Bells’ first home in North America, now a National Historic Site of Canada
In 1870, 23-year-old Bell travelled with his parents and his brother’s widow, Caroline Margaret Ottaway, to Paris, Ontario, to stay with Thomas Henderson, a Baptist minister and family friend. The Bell family soon purchased a farm of 10.5 acres (42,000 m2) at Tutelo Heights (now called Tutela Heights), near Brantford, Ontario. The property consisted of an orchard, large farmhouse, stable, pigsty, hen-house, and a carriage house, which bordered the Grand River.[N 8]

At the homestead, Bell set up his own workshop in the converted carriage house near to what he called his “dreaming place”, a large hollow nestled in trees at the back of the property above the river. Despite his frail condition upon arriving in Canada, Bell found the climate and environs to his liking, and rapidly improved.[N 9] He continued his interest in the study of the human voice and when he discovered the Six Nations Reserve across the river at Onondaga, he learned the Mohawk language and translated its unwritten vocabulary into Visible Speech symbols. For his work, Bell was awarded the title of Honorary Chief and participated in a ceremony where he donned a Mohawk headdress and danced traditional dances.[N 10]

After setting up his workshop, Bell continued experiments based on Helmholtz’s work with electricity and sound. He also modified a melodeon (a type of pump organ) so that it could transmit its music electrically over a distance. Once the family was settled in, both Bell and his father made plans to establish a teaching practice and in 1871, he accompanied his father to Montreal, where Melville was offered a position to teach his System of Visible Speech.

Work with the deaf

Bell, top right, providing pedagogical instruction to teachers at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes, 1871. Throughout his life, he referred to himself as “a teacher of the deaf”.
Bell’s father was invited by Sarah Fuller, principal of the Boston School for Deaf Mutes (which continues today as the public Horace Mann School for the Deaf), in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, to introduce the Visible Speech System by providing training for Fuller’s instructors, but he declined the post in favour of his son. Travelling to Boston in April 1871, Bell proved successful in training the school’s instructors. He was subsequently asked to repeat the programme at the American Asylum for Deaf-mutes in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Returning home to Brantford after six months abroad, Bell continued his experiments with his “harmonic telegraph”.[N 11] The basic concept behind his device was that messages could be sent through a single wire if each message was transmitted at a different pitch, but work on both the transmitter and receiver was needed.

Unsure of his future, he first contemplated returning to London to complete his studies, but decided to return to Boston as a teacher. His father helped him set up his private practice by contacting Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the president of the Clarke School for the Deaf for a recommendation. Teaching his father’s system, in October 1872, Alexander Bell opened his “School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech” in Boston, which attracted a large number of deaf pupils, with his first class numbering 30 students. While he was working as a private tutor, one of his pupils was Helen Keller, who came to him as a young child unable to see, hear, or speak. She was later to say that Bell dedicated his life to the penetration of that “inhuman silence which separates and estranges”. In 1893, Keller performed the sod-breaking ceremony for the construction of Bell’s new Volta Bureau, dedicated to “the increase and diffusion of knowledge relating to the deaf”.

Several influential people of the time, including Bell, viewed deafness as something that should be eradicated, and also believed that with resources and effort, they could teach the deaf to read lips and speak (known as oralism)) and not use sign language, thus enabling their integration within the wider society from which many were often being excluded. Owing to his efforts to suppress the teaching of sign language, Bell is often viewed negatively by those embracing Deaf culture.

Continuing experimentation

In 1872, Bell became professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at the Boston University School of Oratory. During this period, he alternated between Boston and Brantford, spending summers in his Canadian home. At Boston University, Bell was “swept up” by the excitement engendered by the many scientists and inventors residing in the city. He continued his research in sound and endeavored to find a way to transmit musical notes and articulate speech, but although absorbed by his experiments, he found it difficult to devote enough time to experimentation. While days and evenings were occupied by his teaching and private classes, Bell began to stay awake late into the night, running experiment after experiment in rented facilities at his boarding house. Keeping “night owl” hours, he worried that his work would be discovered and took great pains to lock up his notebooks and laboratory equipment. Bell had a specially made table where he could place his notes and equipment inside a locking cover. Worse still, his health deteriorated as he suffered severe headaches. Returning to Boston in fall 1873, Bell made a far-reaching decision to concentrate on his experiments in sound.

Deciding to give up his lucrative private Boston practice, Bell retained only two students, six-year-old “Georgie” Sanders, deaf from birth, and 15-year-old Mabel Hubbard. Each pupil would play an important role in the next developments. George’s father, Thomas Sanders, a wealthy businessman, offered Bell a place to stay in nearby Salem with Georgie’s grandmother, complete with a room to “experiment”. Although the offer was made by George’s mother and followed the year-long arrangement in 1872 where her son and his nurse had moved to quarters next to Bell’s boarding house, it was clear that Mr. Sanders was backing the proposal. The arrangement was for teacher and student to continue their work together, with free room and board thrown in. Mabel was a bright, attractive girl who was ten years Bell’s junior but became the object of his affection. Having lost her hearing after a near-fatal bout of scarlet fever close to her fifth birthday,[N 12] she had learned to read lips but her father, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell’s benefactor and personal friend, wanted her to work directly with her teacher.

By 1874, Bell’s initial work on the harmonic telegraph had entered a formative stage, with progress made both at his new Boston “laboratory” (a rented facility) and at his family home in Canada a big success.[N 13] While working that summer in Brantford, Bell experimented with a “phonautograph”, a pen-like machine that could draw shapes of sound waves on smoked glass by tracing their vibrations. Bell thought it might be possible to generate undulating electrical currents that corresponded to sound waves. Bell also thought that multiple metal reeds tuned to different frequencies like a harp would be able to convert the undulating currents back into sound. But he had no working model to demonstrate the feasibility of these ideas.

In 1874, telegraph message traffic was rapidly expanding and in the words of Western Union President William Orton, had become “the nervous system of commerce”. Antonio Meucci sent a telephone model and technical details to the Western Union telegraph company but failed to win a meeting with executives. When he asked for his materials to be returned, in 1874, he was told they had been lost. Two years later Bell, who shared a laboratory with Meucci, filed a patent for a telephone, became a celebrity and made a lucrative deal with Western Union. Meucci sued and was nearing victory—the supreme court agreed to hear the case and fraud charges were initiated against Bell—when the Florentine died in 1889. The legal action died with him. Orton had contracted with inventors Thomas Edison and Elisha Gray to find a way to send multiple telegraph messages on each telegraph line to avoid the great cost of constructing new lines. When Bell mentioned to Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders that he was working on a method of sending multiple tones on a telegraph wire using a multi-reed device, the two wealthy patrons began to financially support Bell’s experiments. Patent matters would be handled by Hubbard’s patent attorney, Anthony Pollok.

In March 1875, Bell and Pollok visited the scientist Joseph Henry, who was then director of the Smithsonian Institution, and asked Henry’s advice on the electrical multi-reed apparatus that Bell hoped would transmit the human voice by telegraph. Henry replied that Bell had “the germ of a great invention”. When Bell said that he did not have the necessary knowledge, Henry replied, “Get it!” That declaration greatly encouraged Bell to keep trying, even though he did not have the equipment needed to continue his experiments, nor the ability to create a working model of his ideas. However, a chance meeting in 1874 between Bell and Thomas A. Watson, an experienced electrical designer and mechanic at the electrical machine shop of Charles Williams, changed all that.

With financial support from Sanders and Hubbard, Bell hired Thomas Watson as his assistant,[N 14] and the two of them experimented with acoustic telegraphy. On June 2, 1875, Watson accidentally plucked one of the reeds and Bell, at the receiving end of the wire, heard the overtones of the reed; overtones that would be necessary for transmitting speech. That demonstrated to Bell that only one reed or armature was necessary, not multiple reeds. This led to the “gallows” sound-powered telephone, which could transmit indistinct, voice-like sounds, but not clear speech.

The race to the patent office.

Main article: Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy
In 1875, Bell developed an acoustic telegraph and drew up a patent application for it. Since he had agreed to share U.S. profits with his investors Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders, Bell requested that an associate in Ontario, George Brown, attempt to patent it in Britain, instructing his lawyers to apply for a patent in the U.S. only after they received word from Britain (Britain would issue patents only for discoveries not previously patented elsewhere).

Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent drawing, March 7, 1876
Meanwhile, Elisha Gray was also experimenting with acoustic telegraphy and thought of a way to transmit speech using a water transmitter. On February 14, 1876, Gray filed a caveat with the U.S. Patent Office for a telephone design that used a water transmitter. That same morning, Bell’s lawyer filed Bell’s application with the patent office. There is considerable debate about who arrived first and Gray later challenged the primacy of Bell’s patent. Bell was in Boston on February 14 and did not arrive in Washington until February 26.

The master telephone patent, 174465, March 7, 1876
Bell’s patent 174,465, was issued to Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. Bell’s patent covered “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically … by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound”[N 15] Bell returned to Boston the same day and the next day resumed work, drawing in his notebook a diagram similar to that in Gray’s patent caveat.

On March 10, 1876, three days after his patent was issued, Bell succeeded in getting his telephone to work, using a liquid transmitter similar to Gray’s design. Vibration of the diaphragm caused a needle to vibrate in the water, varying the electrical resistance in the circuit. When Bell spoke the sentence “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you” into the liquid transmitter, Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.

Although Bell was, and still is, accused of stealing the telephone from Gray, Bell used Gray’s water transmitter design only after Bell’s patent had been granted, and only as a proof of concept scientific experiment, to prove to his own satisfaction that intelligible “articulate speech” (Bell’s words) could be electrically transmitted. After March 1876, Bell focused on improving the electromagnetic telephone and never used Gray’s liquid transmitter in public demonstrations or commercial use.

The question of priority for the variable resistance feature of the telephone was raised by the examiner before he approved Bell’s patent application. He told Bell that his claim for the variable resistance feature was also described in Gray’s caveat. Bell pointed to a variable resistance device in his previous application in which he described a cup of mercury, not water. He had filed the mercury application at the patent office a year earlier on February 25, 1875, long before Elisha Gray described the water device. In addition, Gray abandoned his caveat, and because he did not contest Bell’s priority, the examiner approved Bell’s patent on March 3, 1876. Gray had reinvented the variable resistance telephone, but Bell was the first to write down the idea and the first to test it in a telephone.

The patent examiner, Zenas Fisk Wilber, later stated in an affidavit that he was an alcoholic who was much in debt to Bell’s lawyer, Marcellus Bailey, with whom he had served in the Civil War. He claimed he showed Gray’s patent caveat to Bailey. Wilber also claimed (after Bell arrived in Washington D.C. from Boston) that he showed Gray’s caveat to Bell and that Bell paid him $100 (equivalent to $2,300 in 2019). Bell claimed they discussed the patent only in general terms, although in a letter to Gray, Bell admitted that he learned some of the technical details. Bell denied in an affidavit that he ever gave Wilber any money.

Later developments.

An actor playing Bell in a 1926 film holds Bell’s first telephone transmitter
On March 10, 1876 Bell used “the instrument” in Boston to call Thomas Watson who was in another room but out of earshot. He said, “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you” and Watson soon appeared at his side.

Continuing his experiments in Brantford, Bell brought home a working model of his telephone. On August 3, 1876, from the telegraph office in Brantford, Ontario, Bell sent a tentative telegram to the village of Mount Pleasant four miles (six kilometres) distant, indicating that he was ready. He made a telephone call via telegraph wires and faint voices were heard replying. The following night, he amazed guests as well as his family with a call between the Bell Homestead and the office of the Dominion Telegraph Company in Brantford along an improvised wire strung up along telegraph lines and fences, and laid through a tunnel. This time, guests at the household distinctly heard people in Brantford reading and singing. The third test on August 10, 1876, was made via the telegraph line between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, eight miles (thirteen kilometres) distant. This test was said by many sources to be the “world’s first long-distance call”. The final test certainly proved that the telephone could work over long distances, at least as a one-way call.

The first two-way (reciprocal) conversation over a line occurred between Cambridge and Boston (roughly 2.5 miles) on October 9, 1876. During that conversation, Bell was on Kilby Street in Boston and Watson was at the offices of the Walworth Manufacturing Company.

Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago in 1892
Bell and his partners, Hubbard and Sanders, offered to sell the patent outright to Western Union for $100,000. The president of Western Union balked, countering that the telephone was nothing but a toy. Two years later, he told colleagues that if he could get the patent for $25 million he would consider it a bargain. By then, the Bell company no longer wanted to sell the patent. Bell’s investors would become millionaires while he fared well from residuals and at one point had assets of nearly one million dollars.

Bell began a series of public demonstrations and lectures to introduce the new invention to the scientific community as well as the general public. A short time later, his demonstration of an early telephone prototype at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia brought the telephone to international attention. Influential visitors to the exhibition included Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. One of the judges at the Exhibition, Sir William Thomson (later, Lord Kelvin), a renowned Scottish scientist, described the telephone as “the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph”.

On January 14, 1878, at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, Bell demonstrated the device to Queen Victoria, placing calls to Cowes, Southampton and London. These were the first publicly witnessed long-distance telephone calls in the UK. The queen considered the process to be “quite extraordinary” although the sound was “rather faint”. She later asked to buy the equipment that was used, but Bell offered to make “a set of telephones” specifically for her.

The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, and by 1886, more than 150,000 people in the U.S. owned telephones. Bell Company engineers made numerous other improvements to the telephone, which emerged as one of the most successful products ever. In 1879, the Bell company acquired Edison’s patents for the carbon microphone from Western Union. This made the telephone practical for longer distances, and it was no longer necessary to shout to be heard at the receiving telephone.

Emperor Pedro II of Brazil was the first person to buy stock in Bell’s company, the Bell Telephone Company. One of the first telephones in a private residence was installed in his palace in Petrópolis, his summer retreat forty miles (sixty-four kilometres) from Rio de Janeiro.

In January 1915, Bell made the first ceremonial transcontinental telephone call. Calling from the AT&T head office at 15 Dey Street in New York City, Bell was heard by Thomas Watson at 333 Grant Avenue in San Francisco. The New York Times reported:

On October 9, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson talked by telephone to each other over a two-mile wire stretched between Cambridge and Boston. It was the first wire conversation ever held. Yesterday afternoon [on January 25, 1915], the same two men talked by telephone to each other over a 3,400-mile wire between New York and San Francisco. Dr. Bell, the veteran inventor of the telephone, was in New York, and Mr. Watson, his former associate, was on the other side of the continent.


As is sometimes common in scientific discoveries, simultaneous developments can occur, as evidenced by a number of inventors who were at work on the telephone. Over a period of 18 years, the Bell Telephone Company faced 587 court challenges to its patents, including five that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but none was successful in establishing priority over the original Bell patent and the Bell Telephone Company never lost a case that had proceeded to a final trial stage. Bell’s laboratory notes and family letters were the key to establishing a long lineage to his experiments. The Bell company lawyers successfully fought off myriad lawsuits generated initially around the challenges by Elisha Gray and Amos Dolbear. In personal correspondence to Bell, both Gray and Dolbear had acknowledged his prior work, which considerably weakened their later claims.

On January 13, 1887, the U.S. Government moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation. After a series of decisions and reversals, the Bell company won a decision in the Supreme Court, though a couple of the original claims from the lower court cases were left undecided. By the time that the trial wound its way through nine years of legal battles, the U.S. prosecuting attorney had died and the two Bell patents (No. 174,465 dated March 7, 1876, and No. 186,787 dated January 30, 1877) were no longer in effect, although the presiding judges agreed to continue the proceedings due to the case’s importance as a precedent. With a change in administration and charges of conflict of interest (on both sides) arising from the original trial, the US Attorney General dropped the lawsuit on November 30, 1897, leaving several issues undecided on the merits.

During a deposition filed for the 1887 trial, Italian inventor Antonio Meucci also claimed to have created the first working model of a telephone in Italy in 1834. In 1886, in the first of three cases in which he was involved,[N 16] Meucci took the stand as a witness in the hope of establishing his invention’s priority. Meucci’s testimony in this case was disputed due to a lack of material evidence for his inventions, as his working models were purportedly lost at the laboratory of American District Telegraph (ADT) of New York, which was later incorporated as a subsidiary of Western Union in 1901. Meucci’s work, like many other inventors of the period, was based on earlier acoustic principles and despite evidence of earlier experiments, the final case involving Meucci was eventually dropped upon Meucci’s death. However, due to the efforts of Congressman Vito Fossella, the U.S. House of Representatives on June 11, 2002, stated that Meucci’s “work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged”. This did not put an end to the still-contentious issue. Some modern scholars do not agree with the claims that Bell’s work on the telephone was influenced by Meucci’s inventions.[N 17]

The value of the Bell patent was acknowledged throughout the world, and patent applications were made in most major countries, but when Bell delayed the German patent application, the electrical firm of Siemens & Halske (S&H) set up a rival manufacturer of Bell telephones under their own patent. The Siemens company produced near-identical copies of the Bell telephone without having to pay royalties. The establishment of the International Bell Telephone Company in Brussels, Belgium in 1880, as well as a series of agreements in other countries eventually consolidated a global telephone operation. The strain put on Bell by his constant appearances in court, necessitated by the legal battles, eventually resulted in his resignation from the company.[N 18]

Further information: The Telephone Cases
Family life

Further information: Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia
A distinguished bearded man, his young elegant wife next to him and their two young daughters poise for a formal portrait
Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, and their daughters Elsie (left) and Marian ca. 1885
A three-story gray mansion, with a covered front entrance
The Brodhead–Bell mansion, the Bell family residence in Washington, D.C., from 1882 to 1889
On July 11, 1877, a few days after the Bell Telephone Company was established, Bell married Mabel Hubbard (1857–1923) at the Hubbard estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His wedding present to his bride was to turn over 1,487 of his 1,497 shares in the newly formed Bell Telephone Company. Shortly thereafter, the newlyweds embarked on a year-long honeymoon in Europe. During that excursion, Bell took a handmade model of his telephone with him, making it a “working holiday”. The courtship had begun years earlier; however, Bell waited until he was more financially secure before marrying. Although the telephone appeared to be an “instant” success, it was not initially a profitable venture and Bell’s main sources of income were from lectures until after 1897. One unusual request exacted by his fiancée was that he use “Alec” rather than the family’s earlier familiar name of “Aleck”. From 1876, he would sign his name “Alec Bell”. They had four children:

Elsie May Bell (1878–1964) who married Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor of National Geographic fame.
Marian Hubbard Bell (1880–1962) who was referred to as “Daisy”. Married David Fairchild.[N 19]
Two sons who died in infancy (Edward in 1881 and Robert in 1883).
The Bell family home was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until 1880 when Bell’s father-in-law bought a house in Washington, D.C.; in 1882 he bought a home in the same city for Bell’s family, so they could be with him while he attended to the numerous court cases involving patent disputes.

Bell was a British subject throughout his early life in Scotland and later in Canada until 1882 when he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1915, he characterized his status as: “I am not one of those hyphenated Americans who claim allegiance to two countries.” Despite this declaration, Bell has been proudly claimed as a “native son” by all three countries he resided in: the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

By 1885, a new summer retreat was contemplated. That summer, the Bells had a vacation on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, spending time at the small village of Baddeck. Returning in 1886, Bell started building an estate on a point across from Baddeck, overlooking Bras d’Or Lake. By 1889, a large house, christened The Lodge was completed and two years later, a larger complex of buildings, including a new laboratory, were begun that the Bells would name Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic: Beautiful Mountain) after Bell’s ancestral Scottish highlands.[N 20] Bell also built the Bell Boatyard on the estate, employing up to 40 people building experimental craft as well as wartime lifeboats and workboats for the Royal Canadian Navy and pleasure craft for the Bell family. He was an enthusiastic boater, and Bell and his family sailed or rowed a long series of vessels on Bras d’Or Lake, ordering additional vessels from the H.W. Embree and Sons boatyard in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. In his final, and some of his most productive years, Bell split his residency between Washington, D.C., where he and his family initially resided for most of the year, and Beinn Bhreagh, where they spent increasing amounts of time.

Until the end of his life, Bell and his family would alternate between the two homes, but Beinn Bhreagh would, over the next 30 years, become more than a summer home as Bell became so absorbed in his experiments that his annual stays lengthened. Both Mabel and Bell became immersed in the Baddeck community and were accepted by the villagers as “their own”.[N 21] The Bells were still in residence at Beinn Bhreagh when the Halifax Explosion occurred on December 6, 1917. Mabel and Bell mobilized the community to help victims in Halifax.

Later inventions

Alexander Graham Bell in his later years
Although Alexander Graham Bell is most often associated with the invention of the telephone, his interests were extremely varied. According to one of his biographers, Charlotte Gray, Bell’s work ranged “unfettered across the scientific landscape” and he often went to bed voraciously reading the Encyclopædia Britannica, scouring it for new areas of interest. The range of Bell’s inventive genius is represented only in part by the 18 patents granted in his name alone and the 12 he shared with his collaborators. These included 14 for the telephone and telegraph, four for the photophone, one for the phonograph, five for aerial vehicles, four for “hydroairplanes”, and two for selenium cells. Bell’s inventions spanned a wide range of interests and included a metal jacket to assist in breathing, the audiometer to detect minor hearing problems, a device to locate icebergs, investigations on how to separate salt from seawater, and work on finding alternative fuels.

Bell worked extensively in medical research and invented techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. During his Volta Laboratory period, Bell and his associates considered impressing a magnetic field on a record as a means of reproducing sound. Although the trio briefly experimented with the concept, they could not develop a workable prototype. They abandoned the idea, never realizing they had glimpsed a basic principle which would one day find its application in the tape recorder, the hard disc and floppy disc drive, and other magnetic media.

Bell’s own home used a primitive form of air conditioning, in which fans blew currents of air across great blocks of ice. He also anticipated modern concerns with fuel shortages and industrial pollution. Methane gas, he reasoned, could be produced from the waste of farms and factories. At his Canadian estate in Nova Scotia, he experimented with composting toilets and devices to capture water from the atmosphere. In a magazine interview published shortly before his death, he reflected on the possibility of using solar panels to heat houses.

Main article: Photophone

Photophone receiver, one half of Bell’s wireless optical communication system, ca. 1880
Bell and his assistant Charles Sumner Tainter jointly invented a wireless telephone, named a photophone, which allowed for the transmission of both sounds and normal human conversations on a beam of light. Both men later became full associates in the Volta Laboratory Association.

On June 21, 1880, Bell’s assistant transmitted a wireless voice telephone message a considerable distance, from the roof of the Franklin School in Washington, D.C., to Bell at the window of his laboratory, some 700 feet (213 m) away, 19 years before the first voice radio transmissions.

Bell believed the photophone’s principles were his life’s “greatest achievement”, telling a reporter shortly before his death that the photophone was “the greatest invention [I have] ever made, greater than the telephone”. The photophone was a precursor to the fiber-optic communication systems which achieved popular worldwide usage in the 1980s. Its master patent was issued in December 1880, many decades before the photophone’s principles came into popular use.

Metal detector

File:Telephone Inventor’s Voice Heard in Restored Recording « Science World.theora.ogv
Bell’s voice, from a Volta Laboratory recording in 1885. Restored by the Smithsonian in 2013.
Bell is also credited with developing one of the early versions of a metal detector through the use of an induction balance, after the shooting of U.S. President James A. Garfield in 1881. According to some accounts, the metal detector worked flawlessly in tests but did not find Guiteau’s bullet, partly because the metal bed frame on which the President was lying disturbed the instrument, resulting in static. Garfield’s surgeons, led by self-appointed chief physician Doctor Willard Bliss, were skeptical of the device, and ignored Bell’s requests to move the President to a bed not fitted with metal springs. Alternatively, although Bell had detected a slight sound on his first test, the bullet may have been lodged too deeply to be detected by the crude apparatus.

Bell’s own detailed account, presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1882, differs in several particulars from most of the many and varied versions now in circulation, by concluding that extraneous metal was not to blame for failure to locate the bullet. Perplexed by the peculiar results he had obtained during an examination of Garfield, Bell “proceeded to the Executive Mansion the next morning … to ascertain from the surgeons whether they were perfectly sure that all metal had been removed from the neighborhood of the bed. It was then recollected that underneath the horse-hair mattress on which the President lay was another mattress composed of steel wires. Upon obtaining a duplicate, the mattress was found to consist of a sort of net of woven steel wires, with large meshes. The extent of the [area that produced a response from the detector] having been so small, as compared with the area of the bed, it seemed reasonable to conclude that the steel mattress had produced no detrimental effect.” In a footnote, Bell adds, “The death of President Garfield and the subsequent post-mortem examination, however, proved that the bullet was at too great a distance from the surface to have affected our apparatus.”

Main article: HD-4

Bell HD-4 on a test run ca. 1919
The March 1906 Scientific American article by American pioneer William E. Meacham explained the basic principle of hydrofoils and hydroplanes. Bell considered the invention of the hydroplane as a very significant achievement. Based on information gained from that article, he began to sketch concepts of what is now called a hydrofoil boat. Bell and assistant Frederick W. “Casey” Baldwin began hydrofoil experimentation in the summer of 1908 as a possible aid to airplane takeoff from water. Baldwin studied the work of the Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini and began testing models. This led him and Bell to the development of practical hydrofoil watercraft.

During his world tour of 1910–11, Bell and Baldwin met with Forlanini in France. They had rides in the Forlanini hydrofoil boat over Lake Maggiore. Baldwin described it as being as smooth as flying. On returning to Baddeck, a number of initial concepts were built as experimental models, including the Dhonnas Beag (Scottish Gaelic for little devil), the first self-propelled Bell-Baldwin hydrofoil. The experimental boats were essentially proof-of-concept prototypes that culminated in the more substantial HD-4, powered by Renault engines. A top speed of 54 miles per hour (87 km/h) was achieved, with the hydrofoil exhibiting rapid acceleration, good stability, and steering, along with the ability to take waves without difficulty. In 1913, Dr. Bell hired Walter Pinaud, a Sydney yacht designer and builder as well as the proprietor of Pinaud’s Yacht Yard in Westmount, Nova Scotia, to work on the pontoons of the HD-4. Pinaud soon took over the boatyard at Bell Laboratories on Beinn Bhreagh, Bell’s estate near Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Pinaud’s experience in boat-building enabled him to make useful design changes to the HD-4. After the First World War, work began again on the HD-4. Bell’s report to the U.S. Navy permitted him to obtain two 350 horsepower (260 kilowatts) engines in July 1919. On September 9, 1919, the HD-4 set a world marine speed record of 70.86 miles per hour (114.04 kilometres per hour), a record which stood for ten years.

Main articles: Aerial Experiment Association and AEA Silver Dart

AEA Silver Dart ca. 1909
In 1891, Bell had begun experiments to develop motor-powered heavier-than-air aircraft. The AEA was first formed as Bell shared the vision to fly with his wife, who advised him to seek “young” help as Bell was at the age of 60.

In 1898, Bell experimented with tetrahedral box kites and wings constructed of multiple compound tetrahedral kites covered in maroon silk.[N 22] The tetrahedral wings were named Cygnet I, II, and III, and were flown both unmanned and manned (Cygnet I crashed during a flight carrying Selfridge) in the period from 1907 to 1912. Some of Bell’s kites are on display at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.

Bell was a supporter of aerospace engineering research through the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), officially formed at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, in October 1907 at the suggestion of his wife Mabel and with her financial support after the sale of some of her real estate. The AEA was headed by Bell and the founding members were four young men: American Glenn H. Curtiss, a motorcycle manufacturer at the time and who held the title “world’s fastest man”, having ridden his self-constructed motor bicycle around in the shortest time, and who was later awarded the Scientific American Trophy for the first official one-kilometre flight in the Western hemisphere, and who later became a world-renowned airplane manufacturer; Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, an official observer from the U.S. Federal government and one of the few people in the army who believed that aviation was the future; Frederick W. Baldwin, the first Canadian and first British subject to pilot a public flight in Hammondsport, New York; and J. A. D. McCurdy–Baldwin and McCurdy being new engineering graduates from the University of Toronto.

The AEA’s work progressed to heavier-than-air machines, applying their knowledge of kites to gliders. Moving to Hammondsport, the group then designed and built the Red Wing, framed in bamboo and covered in red silk and powered by a small air-cooled engine. On March 12, 1908, over Keuka Lake, the biplane lifted off on the first public flight in North America.[N 23][N 24] The innovations that were incorporated into this design included a cockpit enclosure and tail rudder (later variations on the original design would add ailerons as a means of control). One of the AEA’s inventions, a practical wingtip form of the aileron, was to become a standard component on all aircraft.[N 25] The White Wing and June Bug were to follow and by the end of 1908, over 150 flights without mishap had been accomplished. However, the AEA had depleted its initial reserves and only a $15,000 grant from Mrs. Bell allowed it to continue with experiments. Lt. Selfridge had also become the first person killed in a powered heavier-than-air flight in a crash of the Wright Flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia, on September 17, 1908.

Their final aircraft design, the Silver Dart, embodied all of the advancements found in the earlier machines. On February 23, 1909, Bell was present as the Silver Dart flown by J. A. D. McCurdy from the frozen ice of Bras d’Or made the first aircraft flight in Canada. Bell had worried that the flight was too dangerous and had arranged for a doctor to be on hand. With the successful flight, the AEA disbanded and the Silver Dart would revert to Baldwin and McCurdy, who began the Canadian Aerodrome Company and would later demonstrate the aircraft to the Canadian Army.


Bell was connected with the eugenics movement in the United States. In his lecture Memoir upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human race presented to the National Academy of Sciences on November 13, 1883 (the year of his election as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences), he noted that congenitally deaf parents were more likely to produce deaf children and tentatively suggested that couples where both parties were deaf should not marry. However, it was his hobby of livestock breeding which led to his appointment to biologist David Starr Jordan’s Committee on Eugenics, under the auspices of the American Breeders’ Association. The committee unequivocally extended the principle to humans. From 1912 until 1918, he was the chairman of the board of scientific advisers to the Eugenics Record Office associated with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and regularly attended meetings. In 1921, he was the honorary president of the Second International Congress of Eugenics held under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.[citation needed]

Legacy and honors
Main articles: Volta Laboratory and Bureau and Alexander Graham Bell honors and tributes

Bell statue by A. E. Cleeve Horne in front of the Bell Telephone Building of Brantford, Ontario, The Telephone City.[N 26] (Brantford Heritage Inventory, City of Brantford)
Honors and tributes flowed to Bell in increasing numbers as his invention became ubiquitous and his personal fame grew. Bell received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities to the point that the requests almost became burdensome. During his life, he also received dozens of major awards, medals, and other tributes. These included statuary monuments to both him and the new form of communication his telephone created, including the Bell Telephone Memorial erected in his honor in Alexander Graham Bell Gardens in Brantford, Ontario, in 1917.

A quote by Alexander Graham Bell engraved in the stone wall within the Peace Chapel of the International Peace Garden (in Manitoba Canada and North Dakota, USA).
A large number of Bell’s writings, personal correspondence, notebooks, papers, and other documents reside in both the United States Library of Congress Manuscript Division (as the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers), and at the Alexander Graham Bell Institute, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia; major portions of which are available for online viewing.

A number of historic sites and other marks commemorate Bell in North America and Europe, including the first telephone companies in the United States and Canada. Among the major sites are:

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, maintained by Parks Canada, which incorporates the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, close to the Bell estate Beinn Bhreagh
The Bell Homestead National Historic Site, includes the Bell family home, “Melville House”, and farm overlooking Brantford, Ontario and the Grand River. It was their first home in North America;
Canada’s first telephone company building, the “Henderson Home” of the late 1870s, a predecessor of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada (officially chartered in 1880). In 1969, the building was carefully moved to the historic Bell Homestead National Historic Site in Brantford, Ontario, and was refurbished to become a telephone museum. The Bell Homestead, the Henderson Home telephone museum, and the National Historic Site’s reception centre are all maintained by the Bell Homestead Society;
The Alexander Graham Bell Memorial Park, which features a broad neoclassical monument built in 1917 by public subscription. The monument depicts mankind’s ability to span the globe through telecommunications;
The Alexander Graham Bell Museum (opened in 1956), part of the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site which was completed in 1978 in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Many of the museum’s artifacts were donated by Bell’s daughters;

The Bell Museum, Cape Breton, part of the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
In 1880, Bell received the Volta Prize with a purse of 50,000 French francs (approximately US$270,000 in today’s dollars) for the invention of the telephone from the French government. Among the luminaries who judged were Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, fils.[better source needed] The Volta Prize was conceived by Napoleon III in 1852, and named in honor of Alessandro Volta, with Bell becoming the second recipient of the grand prize in its history. Since Bell was becoming increasingly affluent, he used his prize money to create endowment funds (the ‘Volta Fund’) and institutions in and around the United States capital of Washington, D.C.. These included the prestigious ‘Volta Laboratory Association’ (1880), also known as the Volta Laboratory and as the ‘Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory’, and which eventually led to the Volta Bureau (1887) as a center for studies on deafness which is still in operation in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The Volta Laboratory became an experimental facility devoted to scientific discovery, and the very next year it improved Edison’s phonograph by substituting wax for tinfoil as the recording medium and incising the recording rather than indenting it, key upgrades that Edison himself later adopted. The laboratory was also the site where he and his associate invented his “proudest achievement”, “the photophone”, the “optical telephone” which presaged fibre optical telecommunications while the Volta Bureau would later evolve into the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the AG Bell), a leading center for the research and pedagogy of deafness.

In partnership with Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell helped establish the publication Science during the early 1880s. In 1898, Bell was elected as the second president of the National Geographic Society, serving until 1903, and was primarily responsible for the extensive use of illustrations, including photography, in the magazine. He also served for many years as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution (1898–1922). The French government conferred on him the decoration of the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor); the Royal Society of Arts in London awarded him the Albert Medal in 1902; the University of Würzburg, Bavaria, granted him a PhD, and he was awarded the Franklin Institute’s Elliott Cresson Medal in 1912. He was one of the founders of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1884 and served as its president from 1891 to 1892. Bell was later awarded the AIEE’s Edison Medal in 1914 “For meritorious achievement in the invention of the telephone”.

The bel (B) and the smaller decibel (dB) are units of measurement of sound pressure level (SPL) invented by Bell Labs and named after him. [N 27] Since 1976, the IEEE’s Alexander Graham Bell Medal has been awarded to honor outstanding contributions in the field of telecommunications.

A.G. Bell issue of 1940
In 1936, the US Patent Office declared Bell first on its list of the country’s greatest inventors, leading to the US Post Office issuing a commemorative stamp honoring Bell in 1940 as part of its ‘Famous Americans Series’. The First Day of Issue ceremony was held on October 28 in Boston, Massachusetts, the city where Bell spent considerable time on research and working with the deaf. The Bell stamp became very popular and sold out in little time. The stamp became, and remains to this day, the most valuable one of the series.

The 150th anniversary of Bell’s birth in 1997 was marked by a special issue of commemorative £1 banknotes from the Royal Bank of Scotland. The illustrations on the reverse of the note include Bell’s face in profile, his signature, and objects from Bell’s life and career: users of the telephone over the ages; an audio wave signal; a diagram of a telephone receiver; geometric shapes from engineering structures; representations of sign language and the phonetic alphabet; the geese which helped him to understand flight; and the sheep which he studied to understand genetics. Additionally, the Government of Canada honored Bell in 1997 with a C$100 gold coin, in tribute also to the 150th anniversary of his birth, and with a silver dollar coin in 2009 in honor of the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada. That first flight was made by an airplane designed under Dr. Bell’s tutelage, named the Silver Dart. Bell’s image, and also those of his many inventions have graced paper money, coinage, and postal stamps in numerous countries worldwide for many dozens of years.

Alexander Graham Bell was ranked 57th among the 100 Greatest Britons (2002) in an official BBC nationwide poll, and among the Top Ten Greatest Canadians (2004), and the 100 Greatest Americans (2005). In 2006, Bell was also named as one of the 10 greatest Scottish scientists in history after having been listed in the National Library of Scotland’s ‘Scottish Science Hall of Fame’. Bell’s name is still widely known and used as part of the names of dozens of educational institutes, corporate namesakes, street and place names around the world.

Bell, an alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LL.D.) at the university in 1906
See also: Bell Telephone Memorial
Honorary degrees
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items with reliable sources.
Alexander Graham Bell, who could not complete the university program of his youth, received at least a dozen honorary degrees from academic institutions, including eight honorary LL.D.s (Doctorate of Laws), two Ph.D.s, a D.Sc., and an M.D.:

Gallaudet College (then named National Deaf-Mute College) in Washington, D.C. (Ph.D.) in 1880
University of Würzburg in Würzburg, Bavaria (Ph.D.) in 1882
Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany (M.D.) in 1886
Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts (LL.D.) in 1896
Illinois College, in Jacksonville, Illinois (LL.D.) in 1896, possibly 1881
Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts (LL.D.) in 1901
St. Andrew’s University in St Andrews, Scotland (LL.D) in 1902
University of Oxford in Oxford, England (D.Sc.) in 1906
University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland (LL.D.) in 1906
George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (LL.D.) in 1913
Queen’s University at Kingston in Kingston, Ontario, Canada (LL.D.) in 1908
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire (LL.D.) in 1913, possibly 1914
Portrayal in film and television
The 1939 film The Story of Alexander Graham Bell was based on his life and works.
The 1992 film The Sound and the Silence was a TV film.
Biography aired an episode Alexander Graham Bell: Voice of Invention on August 6, 1996.
Eyewitness No. 90 A Great Inventor Is Remembered, a 1957 NFB short about Bell.


Bell died of complications arising from diabetes on August 2, 1922, at his private estate in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, at age 75. Bell had also been afflicted with pernicious anemia. His last view of the land he had inhabited was by moonlight on his mountain estate at 2:00 a.m.[N 28][N 29] While tending to him after his long illness, Mabel, his wife, whispered, “Don’t leave me.” By way of reply, Bell signed “no…”, lost consciousness, and died shortly after.

On learning of Bell’s death, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, cabled Mrs. Bell, saying:

My colleagues in the Government join with me in expressing to you our sense of the world’s loss in the death of your distinguished husband. It will ever be a source of pride to our country that the great invention, with which his name is immortally associated, is a part of its history. On the behalf of the citizens of Canada, may I extend to you an expression of our combined gratitude and sympathy.

Bell’s coffin was constructed of Beinn Bhreagh pine by his laboratory staff, lined with the same red silk fabric used in his tetrahedral kite experiments. To help celebrate his life, his wife asked guests not to wear black (the traditional funeral color) while attending his service, during which soloist Jean MacDonald sang a verse of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem”:

Under a wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.

Upon the conclusion of Bell’s funeral, “every phone on the continent of North America was silenced in honor of the man who had given to mankind the means for direct communication at a distance”.

Alexander Graham Bell was buried atop Beinn Bhreagh mountain, on his estate where he had resided increasingly for the last 35 years of his life, overlooking Bras d’Or Lake. He was survived by his wife Mabel, his two daughters, Elsie May and Marian, and nine of his grandchildren.

Thank you for Sharing me.

Famous Scots. Brian Cox CBE.

Brian Denis Cox CBE (born 1 June 1946) is a Scottish actor. He has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear. He played supporting roles in Rob Roy (1995) and Mel Gibson’s Academy Award-winning Braveheart (1995). He was the first actor to portray Hannibal Lecter on film in the cult classic Manhunter (1986). A winner of two Olivier Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe Award, Cox has also been nominated for a British Academy Television Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Cox won the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series for his portrayal of Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering in Nuremberg and received nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Cox’s performance in L.I.E. earned him an AFI Award nomination and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. His guest-starring role on the hit series Frasier earned him his second Emmy nomination in 2002, in which year he also appeared in seven films grossing $347 million at the box office. In 2003, Cox was appointed a Commander of the British Empire. He received his second SAG Award nomination as part of the ensemble cast of Adaptation, in which he plays Hollywood’s screenwriting guru Robert McKee.


He was also praised for his portrayal of non-mutant villain General William Stryker in the blockbuster X-Men 2. He currently stars as media magnate Logan Roy on HBO’s critically lauded series Succession, for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series. His other notable film credits include In Celebration (1975), Hidden Agenda (1990), Prince of Jutland (1994), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), The Boxer (1997), Rushmore (1998), The Minus Man (1999), Super Troopers (2001), The Bourne Identity (2002), The Ring (2002), The Reckoning (2003), Troy (2004), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Red Eye (2005), Zodiac (2007), The Escapist (2008), RED (2010), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), RED 2 (2013), Churchill (2017), The Pretenders (2018), Remember Me (2019), The Bay of Silence (2020) and Separation (2021).

Cox is a seasoned veteran of the London stage, having won two Olivier Awards for Best Actor for his performances in Titus Andronicus for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Rat in the Skull for the Royal Court, and two more Olivier Award nominations for Misalliance and Fashion. New York theatre credits include St. Nicholas which earned him the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Actor, and Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle nominations.

Cox is the author of three books, Salem to Moscow: An Actor’s Odyssey, The Lear Diaries, and his autobiography Putting the Rabbit in the Hat. He was honored at the 2004 BAFTA Scotland Awards with an Outstanding Achievement Award, and at the 2004 Great Scot Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Empire Magazine awarded him the Empire Icon Award for his film achievements in 2006, and the UK Film Council named him one of the Top 10 powerful British film stars in Hollywood in 2007.

Early life.

Cox was born in Dundee in June 1, 1946 as the youngest of five children.He is from a working-class Roman Catholic family of Irish and Scottish descent. His mother, Mary Ann Guillerline (née McCann), was a spinner who worked in the jute mills and suffered several nervous breakdowns during Cox’s childhood. His father, Charles McArdle Campbell Cox, was a police officer and later a shopkeeper, and died when Cox was eight years old. Cox was brought up by his three elder sisters, including Betty with whom Cox has remained close.

In Dundee, Cox attended St Mary’s Forebank Primary School and St Michael’s Junior Secondary School which he left at the age of 15. After working at Dundee Repertory Theatre for a few years, he began his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art at age 17 and graduated in 1965.

Acting career


1961-1979: Early work

Brian Cox began his acting career at age 14 at Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1961 and then as one of the founding members of the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, performing in its first show, The Servant O’ Twa Maisters, in October 1965. From 1966, he worked at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre for two years, where he played the title role in Peer Gynt (1967) and made his West End debut in June 1967 as Orlando in As You Like It at the Vaudeville Theatre.

1980s: Rat in the Skull, Misalliance, Fashion, Titus Adronicus

Cox is an accomplished Shakespearean actor, spending seasons with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1983, he portrayed the Duke of Burgundy opposite Laurence Olivier who played title role of King Lear. In 1984, he played the Royal Ulster Constabulary officer Inspector Nelson in the Royal Court’s production of Rat in the Skull. He was subsequently awarded that year’s Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a New Play. He made his Broadway debut in February 1985 as Edmund Darrell in Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude at the Nederlander Theatre for which he received his first British Theatre Association Drama Award for Best Actor. In May that year, he made his off-Broadway debut, reprising his role as Inspector Nelson, in Rat in the Skull at the Public Theater. He received two additional Laurence Olivier nominations for Misalliance (1984) and for Fashion (1988).

He won his second Laurence Olivier Award, this time as Best Actor in a Revival, for his performance as the title character in Titus Andronicus (1988). Cox later said that he considers his performance in Titus Andronicus the greatest he has ever given on stage. His performance as Petruchio in The Taming of The Shrew (1987) also garnered positive reviews and won him another British Theatre Association Drama Award for Best Actor.

1990s: King Lear and St. Nicholas.

Cox returned from some years teaching and directing at the Moscow Arts Theatre School to tour with the Royal National Theatre worldwide, delivering a highly acclaimed performance as the title role in King Lear (1990-1991). His account of the emotional and physical difficulties that came with playing King Lear’s all-consuming role was detailed in The Lear Diaries (1995) which he authored. King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult roles, and Cox’s portrayal broke new ground in the understanding of this most enigmatic figure.

In 1995, he directed Open Air Theatre’s chilling adaptation of Richard III which was well received by critics. During the same season, he also appeared in one of the theatre’s productions, The Music Man, as Professor Harold Hill.

In 1997, he starred in Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas at the Bush Theatre in London, and in 1998 returned to the off-Broadway stage reprising his role for Primary Stages, where he won a Lucille Lortel Award and earned a Drama Desk and an Outer Critics Circle nomination for his New York performance. In the same year, he played Marc in the Broadway production of Art.


In 2000, Cox reunited with award-winning playwright Conor McPherson on The Royal Court Theatre’s production of Dublin Carol in which he starred as grim alcoholic undertaker John Plunkett. In 2004, he played the title character in Uncle Varick for the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. In 2005, he starred in The Ride Down Mt. Morgan in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Theatre Works.

From 2006 to 2007, he starred as Max at London’s West End production of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n Roll, a role he reprised on Broadway until 2008. In 2011, Cox appeared on Broadway opposite in a revival of Jason Miller’s That Championship Season. His portrayal of Jack in The Weir at the Donmar Theatre in April 2013 is reprised at Wyndham’s Theatre in January 2014. In Fall 2015, Cox starred in a new production of Waiting for Godot, for  Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh’s 50th anniversary. In 2016, he became co-artistic director of the Mirror Theater Ltd Cox returned to the Broadway stage in 2019 to star as Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Shenkkan’s The Great Society at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. In 2020, he directed the UK premiere of Joshua Sobol’s Sinners — The English Professor. Cox has also previously directed I Love My Life, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, The Philanderer, The Master Builder, The Crucible, and Julius Caesar on stage.

Film and television.

1965-1989: Early work and breakthrough.

Cox made his first television appearance as Nelson in an episode of The Wednesday Play in 1965 and made one-off appearances in RedcapITV Playhouse, and The Gamblers before taking a lead role in The Year of the Sex Olympics in 1968. His first film appearance was as Leon Trotsky in Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971. In 1978 he played King Henry II of England in the acclaimed BBC2 drama serial The Devil’s Crown, then starred in many other television dramas.

In 1986, he portrayed Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter, the character’s first appearance on film.

1990-1999: Rob RoyBraveheartRushmore.

In 1990, Cox portrayed Andrew Neil in Secret Weapon based on Mordechai Vanunu’s life story. In the same year, he guest-starred as Father Amedy in the comedy series Perfect Scoundrels and starred as police investigator Kerrigan in the political thriller Hidden Agenda. In 1991, he played the role of Owen Benjamin, the closeted father of a gay man, in the BBC production of David Leavitt’s novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, which is set in the 1980s. For his performance, he was nominated as Best Actor at the 1993 BAFTA TV Awards He also played Geoffrey Harrison in the ITV thriller Red Fox based on Gerald Seymour’s international bestseller. In 1992, he appeared in another ITV adaptation as Carl May in The Cloning of Joanna May based on Fay Weldon’s sci-fi novel. He also appeared as Stefan Szabo in the first episode of the fifth season of Van der Valk. He played the title role in the short film The Cutter and “The Director” in BBC’s anthology series of classic and contemporary plays Performance. He also starred as Carlton Heard in Deceptions and as Edward Hoyland in The Big Battalions, a series about three religious families of differing faith.

In 1993, he appeared as spymaster Major Hogan in two episodes of Sharpe, and as Brother Shaw in Sean’s Show.  He played P.O. Garvey in BBC’s anthology series Scene featuring plays and documentaries originally broadcast for educational purposes. In the same year, he was seen in an episode of Inspector Morse, where he portrayed Michael Steppings, a retired bookmaker whose daughter is in a permanent coma. In 1994, he appeared alongside Kevin Spacey as Angus Mcleague in Iron Will. He portrayed Aethelwine alongside Christian Bale and Hellen Mirren in Royal Deceit, an adaptation of the Danish legend of Prince Amleth. He also played the role of Colonel Grushko, ‘a policeman who sees greed and rapacity in Russia’s new mood’, in Grushko, a British-made crime drama set in Russia. He then starred in The Negotiator as Charlie King, a “street copper” who had a heart attack.

He shot to superstardom in the mid-1990s thanks to roles in the likes of Rob Roy as Killearn and Braveheart as Argyle Wallace in 1995. His performance in the former earned him a BAFTA Scotland Award nomination for Best Actor.  In 1996, he starred with Helen McRory as Judge Freisler in Witness Against Hitler which tells the true story of a Prussian intelligence officer and aristocrat who, with his fellow devout Christians, plotted to assassinate Hitler. In the same year he played Lyman Earl Collier, a murderous CEO in Chain Reaction. He also appeared with Steven Seagal in The Glimmer Man as the CIA superior Mr. Smith, and with Samuel L. Jackson in The Long Kiss Goodnight as Dr. Nathan Waldman.

Cox made a guest appearance in the 1997 Red Dwarf episode “Stoke Me a Clipper”, as a medieval king in a virtual reality game. In the same year, he appeared alongside Morgan Freeman in the neo-noir psychological thriller Kiss the Girls based on James Patterson’s bestselling novel. He also played Nye Bevan in the drama Food for Ravens and ranking IRA member Joe Hamill in the Irish sports drama The Boxer alongside Daniel Day-Lewis.[49] In 1998, he appeared as police captain Jeremiah Cassidy in Desperate Measures, Uncle Vladimir in the romantic comedy Merchants of Venus, Clayton Blackstone in HBO’s neo-noir film Poodle Springs, and in the drama Family Brood. In the same year, he appeared alongside Bill Murray in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore as the school headmaster Dr. Nelson Guggenheim. The film is preserved by the Library of Congress in 2016 due to its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. In 1999, he appeared opposite Owen Wilson as postal worker Doug Durwin in the thriller The Minus Man. He also played Sean Wallace in The Corruptor alongside Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg and appeared as Gary Wheeler in the sports drama For Love of the Game.

2000-2005: Nuremberg, L.I.E., Bourne series, The Ring, Adaptation, X-Men 2, Troy.

In 2000, Cox portrayed Lord Morton in Longitude, a dramatization of Dava Sobel’s book. He starred as the title character in The Invention of Dr. Morel, who invents a VR machine as a duplicate of the woman he loved. He also starred opposite Johnny Lee Miller as Inspector McDunn in Complicity, and as Sidney McLoughlin in the romantic comedy Mad About Mambo. He won an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor for his portrayal of Hermann Göring in Nuremberg. He appeared in the Irish drama Saltwater as George Beneventi, a chip-shop-owning father troubled by loan sharks.

In 2001, he played the fatherly police Captain O’Hagan in Super Troopers. In the same year, he received critical acclaim for his performance as the pedophile Big John Harrigan in Michael Cuesta’s L.I.E., winning a Satellite Award for Best Actor in Motion Picture Drama, and receiving nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Actor and the AFI Award for Featured Male Actor of the Year. In Strictly Sinatra, he played mob enforcer Chisolm who helps an aspiring musician passionate on Frank Sinatra. He also portrayed Baron de Breteuil in The Affair of the Necklace based on the diamond necklace incident that fueled dissent against the French monarchy and led to the French Revolution.

In 2002, Cox appeared in A Shot at Glory as Rangers manager Martin Smith. He starred as Cyr in Bug in which a diverse group is propelled to a common fate by a series of cause-and-effect chain reactions. He played Jim Morris, Sr. in the sports drama The Rookie, based on the true story of Jim Morris. In the same year, he guest-starred as Harry Moon in two episodes of the critically acclaimed series Frasier for which he would receive an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. He then starred as corrupt CIA official Ward Abbott in the blockbuster film The Bourne Identity, opposite Matt Damon. He appeared as Michael O’Mara in The Biographer, and also starred as Richard Morgan in the supernatural horror thriller The Ring, a remake of the 1998 Japanese film. It was one of the highest-grossing horror remakes, paving the way for other English-version horror remakes. He played Edward Norton’s father James Brogan in 25th Hour, and also appeared in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation as the real-life screenwriting teacher, Robert McKee, giving advice to Nicolas Cage in both his roles as Charlie Kaufman and Charlie’s fictional twin brother, Donald. He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of the ensemble cast of the latter.

In 2003, he played Tobias in The Reckoning, a murder mystery drama set in the medieval period. He also played the villain William Stryker in X2: X-Men United and Captain Oakes in the direct-to-video crime thriller Sin. In 2004, Cox played an alternate, villainous version of King Agamemnon opposite Brad Pitt in Troy. He also reprised his role as Ward Abbott in The Bourne Supremacy, the second installment of the Bourne franchise. In the short film Get the Picture, he played Harry Sondheim, a journalist who doubts the guilt of four suspected terrorists. He portrayed King Lear in episode 4 of season 6 of French and Saunders, BBC’s sketch comedy series as satire to popular culture. He was honored at the 2004 BAFTA Scotland Awards with an Outstanding Achievement Award, and at the 2004 Great Scot Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2005, Cox starred as Dr. Robert Smith in Blue/Orange, a BBC film adaptation of Joe Penhall’s play exploring race, mental illness, and modern British life. He played Alec Hewett, patriarch of the wealthy family in Woody Allen’s psychological thriller Match Point. He also played Rachel McAdams’ father Joe Reisert in Red Eye. In the biographical drama The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, he portrayed Doyle’s mentor Dr. Joseph Bell. The television film explored how Doyle created Holmes and how he applied his Bell’s techniques in his novels. In the sports comedy The Ringer, he played Gary Barker who suggests to his nephew to enter and fix a Special Olympics to solve their financial woes.

2006-2010: ZodiacThe EscapistRED.

In 2006, Cox played Dr. Hunt in A Woman in Winter which explores the nature of obsessive love. In The Flying Scotsman, based on the life of Scottish amateur cyclist Graeme Obree, he portrayed Douglas Baxter, a boatyard owner and minister who befriends the atheist cyclist. He appeared as Jack Langrishe in the HBO series Deadwood. In ITV’s The Outsiders, he played Gabriel, the head of the spy agency. In the comedy-drama Running with Scissors, based on Augusten Burroughs’ bestselling memoir about his childhood, he portrayed Dr. Finch, the psychiatrist of Burrough’s mother and patriarch of an eccentric family to whom Burrough was sent to live with.

In 2007, Cox portrayed prominent US lawyer Melvin Belli in David Fincher’s mystery thriller Zodiac, based on Robert Graysmith’s book which follows the manhunt for the Zodiac Killer. He also played old Angus in the fantasy drama The Water Horse, Mr. Kreeg in the anthology horror Trick ‘r Treat, Daniel Tennant in Shoot on Sight based on Operation Kratos, and Drosselmeyer in The Secret of the Nutcracker.

In 2008 Cox starred as Avery Ludlow in Red, and also played institutionalized convict Frank Perry, the protagonist in Rupert Wyatt’s film, The Escapist (2008), appearing alongside Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, and Damian Lewis. For the latter, he won that year’s BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Acting Performance. In 2009, he appeared as Lewis Serrocold in the ITV series Marple loosely based on Agatha Christie’s books and short stories. He starred as Philip Van Doren in the Ridley Scott produced Tell-Tale, a film based on the short story The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. He starred as the legendary criminal godfather Ozzy in The Take and portrayed King Vesper Abaddon, the former king of Carmel in Kings loosely based on the biblical King David and set in a modern absolute monarchy. He also starred as the short-tempered bartender Jacques in the Icelandic film The Good Heart, and as Burt Macey in the crime drama Lost & Found. He also appeared as Dennis in The Day of the Triffids based on John Wyndham’s best-selling post-apocalyptic novel.

In 2010, he played Reverend Kalahan, cult leader and pastor whose death is the backdrop of the story in the crime thriller As Good as Dead. He portrayed former Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin in the television film On Expenses. He also starred as Wally, an old rogue who fulfills his old friend’s dying wish for a sea burial in the black comedy All at Sea. In the same year, Cox played Laura Linney’s father in the Showtime series The Big C, and appeared as Ivan Simonov in RED.

2011-2017: Rise of the Planet of the ApesBob ServantRED 2Churchill.

In 2011, he starred as Captain Rudolph Sharp in The Sinking of the Laconia, BBC Two’s television film about the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Laconia during World War II. He co-starred with Gerald Butler and Ralph Fiennes as a quietly reasonable senator in Coriolanus, a modern British film adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy. He portrayed Baron William d’Aubigny, a lordly wool merchant against King John’s tyranny in Ironclad, a war film set after the ratification of the Magna Carta. In the American thriller The Key Man, he shared the screen with Hugo Weaving as Irving, a sociopathic con man, and a Shakespearian actor. He then starred in The Veteran as a British intelligence officer who recruits a war veteran to track a female contact infiltrating a group of suspected terrorists. He also starred as John Landon in the science-fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He appeared as Glover Boyd, the retired policeman father of the protagonist in the Canadian biographical drama Citizen Gangster.

In 2012, Cox appeared in the Australian drama The Straits as the patriarch of the Montebello family crime syndicate, Harry Montebello. He appeared as Raymond Huggins, an associate of two corrupt businessmen brothers, in the political satire film The Campaign, and as Bill Ball in A Touch of Cloth, a parody of British police procedural dramas He starred in Blood as Lenny Fairburn, a retired cop, and father of two fraternal detectives played by Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham. He also appeared as an old man in the short film I Missed My Mother’s Funeral.

In January 2013, Cox played the title character in the series Bob Servant. He said he played Servant, the creation of Dundonian author Neil Forsyth, based on memories of his late brother Charlie. He played Ivan Simonov in RED 2, reprising his role from the 2010 original film. In Blumenthal, he played the title role as the legendary playwright Harold Blumenthal who made a career out of parodying his family and died laughing at his own joke. He starred in Believe as the legendary Scottish football manager Sir Matt Busby who returns from retirement to coach a group of young working-class boys. He also starred in the psychological thriller Mindscape (original title Anna) as Sebastian, a superior in top memory detective agency Mindscape, which employs psychics to assist in solving criminal cases. He portrayed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in The Curse of Edgar, an original docudrama based on the bestselling novel by Marc Dugain about Hoover’s battle to keep power away from the Kennedys. In November 2013, he starred in the BBC television docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time, about the creation of the British science-fiction series Doctor Who. Cox portrayed Canadian television executive Sydney Newman, the driving force behind the creation of the iconic program. He appeared in Tooned, an animated cartoon about Formula One racing, as an old mechanic, and as Magnus Bain in the crime drama series Shetland (2013-2014) which was initially based on Ann Cleeves’ novels.

In 2014, Cox appeared in The Anomaly as Lloyd Langham, Ian Somerhalder’s father in the sci-fi thriller, who conducted nightmarish experiments on the protagonist. He also appeared in the documentary The Great War: The People’s Story as Reverend Andrew Clark, and in BBC’s Cold War spy thriller series The Game as an MI5 superior codenamed “Daddy”. He also reprised his role in the second series of Bob Servant.

In 2015, he starred in The Slap, an American adaptation of the Australian series based on Christos Tsiolka’s novel, as Manolis Apostolou, the father of the main character played by Peter Sarsgaard. He appeared in the sci-fi comedy Pixels as a military heavyweight starring alongside Adam Sandler, and in the Canadian revisionist western film Forsaken as a local gang leader. He also starred in the short film Killing Thyme as a grumpy old man with a squandered allotment and a death wish.

In 2016, he starred in the British-Hungarian comedy The Carer as Sir Michael Gifford, an aging Shakespearian actor, and in BBC’s historical drama series adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel War & Peace as General Mikhail Kutuzov. He was nominated at the BAFTA Scotland Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal in the former. He also received a Career Achievement Award at the Stony Brook Film Festival for the same role. He appeared in season 3 of the horror drama series Penny Dreadful as Jared Talbot, a ruthless, powerful American rancher and the estranged father of Josh Hartnett’s character. He also appeared in the sci-fi thriller Morgan as Jim Bryce, and starred alongside Emile Hirsch in The Autopsy of Jane Doe as Tommy. In the first series of the Italian-British historical drama series Medici, he portrayed Bernardo Guadagni, an officer of the Signoria.

In 2017, he appeared as Marlon Brando in Urban Myths, a biographical comedy-drama series in which each episode features a story about popular culture icons. In June, Cox starred in the critically acclaimed historical war drama Churchill, playing the title role as Winston Churchill.

2018-present: Succession.

In April 2018, Cox reprised his role of Captain John O’Hagen in Super Troopers 2. Early drafts of the script excluded Cox’s character from the movie, with reservations on whether Cox would want to return or not for the sequel. It was later announced he would return, Cox himself joking that it was on the condition that he receive a “big action scene with rockets and explosions”. In May, he starred in The Etruscan Smile as Rory MacNeil, a dying man who reunites with his estranged son. He starred in the first season of Succession, HBO’s satirical drama which premiered in June to positive reviews, as Logan Roy, the patriarch of the dysfunctional Roy family and the billionaire founder of the global media and entertainment conglomerate Waystar RoyCo. In November, he starred as Henry in James Franco’s drama The Pretenders.

In June 2019, he played William “Bill” Erwin in Strange But True, a thriller adaptation of John Searles’ novel. In August, he starred as Shane in the romantic comedy Remember Me. In the same month, the second series of Successions premiered in which Cox reprised his role, earning him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama and a nomination for the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The series garnered critical acclaim receiving numerous awards and nominations, winning the British Academy Television Award for Best International Programme, the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. In the same year, he played Father Reilly in the comedy-drama The Last Right.

In 2020, Cox starred as Gilles in the American neo-noir thriller Last Moment of Clarity In The Bay of Silence, he played Milton Hunter, a powerful art dealer and stepfather to a celebrated artist. In 2021, he played Paul Rivers in the horror film Separation.

Upcoming projects.

In November 2020, it was announced that Cox is joining the cast of the “audio movie series” Unsinkable told in 11 20-minute episodes following the story of a WW2 freight tanker whose crew re-boards after being hit by gunfire to try to save the burning ship. He will also appear in the revenge thriller The Jesuit set in the backdrop of the Mexican underworld, in Wittgenstein’s Poker as Bertrand Russell, and in Skelly. In July 2021, it was announced that Cox would join the cast of the family drama Prisoner’s Daughter which tells the story of an ex-con trying to reconnect with his daughter and grandson. In August, he signed on to executive produce Mending the Line and star as a Vietnam veteran who teaches a young injured soldier how to fly fish hoping it would help him cope with his physical and emotional trauma. In September, it was announced that he will star in the political thriller The Independent which centers on a young journalist who teams up with her idol (Cox) to uncover a major conspiracy.

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Famous Scots. William Murdoch.

William Murdoch (sometimes spelled Murdock) (21 August 1754 – 15 November 1839) was a Scottish engineer and inventor.

Murdoch was employed by the firm of Boulton & Watt and worked for them in Cornwall, as a steam engine erector for ten years, spending most of the rest of his life in Birmingham, England.

Murdoch was the inventor of the oscillating cylinder steam engine, and gas lighting is attributed to him in the early 1790s, also the term “gasometer”. However, Archibald Cochrane, ninth Earl of Dundonald, had already in 1789 used gas for lighting his family estate.  Murdoch also made innovations to the steam engine, including the sun and planet gear and D slide valve. He invented the steam gun and the pneumatic tube message system, and worked on one of the first British paddle steamers to cross the English Channel. Murdoch built a prototype steam locomotive in 1784 and made a number of discoveries in chemistry.

Murdoch remained an employee and later a partner of Boulton & Watt until the 1830s, and his reputation as an inventor has been obscured by the reputations of Matthew Boulton and James Watt and the firm they founded.

Early life

William Murdoch was born in Lugar near Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, the third of seven children and the first son to survive beyond infancy. A son of John Murdoch, a former Hanoverian artillery gunner and a Millwright and tenant of Bello Mill on the estate of James Boswell in Auchinleck, he was educated until the age of ten at the Old Cumnock Kirk School before attending Auchinleck school under William Halbert, author of a highly regarded arithmetic textbook. Murdoch excelled in mathematics. Murdoch also learned the principles of mechanics, practical experimentation and working in metal and wood by assisting in his father’s work. Together with his father, he built a “wooden horse” about 1763. His “Wooden Horse on Wheels” was a tricycle propelled by hand cranks. There are reports that in his youth Murdoch was responsible for the construction of one of the bridges over the River Nith; this possibly derives from his father’s work in building the Craikston Bridge over Lugar Water in 1774, which William would have been involved in. He is also said to have carried out experiments in coal gas, using coal heated in a copper kettle in a small cave near his father’s mill. However, there is no contemporary documentation.


In 1777, at age 23, Murdoch walked to Birmingham, a distance of over 300 miles (480 km), to ask for a job with James Watt, the steam engine manufacturer. Both Watt and Murdoch were probably aware of each other because of their connections with James Boswell, who had made several visits to Watt’s workshop at Soho. Watt’s partner Matthew Boulton was so impressed by Murdoch’s wooden hat, made on a lathe of his own design, that he hired him. Murdoch began his career with Boulton and Watt in the pattern workshop of their Soho Foundry, making patterns for the casting of machine parts. By 1778 Watt wrote:

if William Murdoch is not at home he should be sent for immediately as he understands the patterns and care must be taken to avoid mistakes of which our engine shop has been too guilty.

He Anglicised his name to “Murdock” when he settled in England. Murdoch progressed to work in fitting and erecting steam engines and was often sent from Soho for this purpose.

By 1779 Boulton was writing to Watt:

I think Wm. Murdock a valuable man and deserves every civility and encouragement.

On his first solo job erecting an engine at Wanlockhead Mine, Murdoch made the first of many improvements to the standard Boulton and Watt engine by rearranging the gears to enable the steam valve to be worked automatically by the action of the exhaust shaft.


In September 1779 Murdoch was sent to Redruth in Cornwall as a senior engine erector, responsible for the erection, maintenance & repair of Boulton & Watt engines. These were used for pumping water out of the Cornish Tin mines, and therefore the efficiency and efficacy of the engines was an important factor in the amount of tin, and money, which could be extracted from a mine. At that time steam engines were not simply sold to customers but operated, and maintained by the builders for groups or individuals known as ‘adventurers’ (shareholders). The engine manufacturers were paid not for a completed engine but through a complex formula calculated on the basis of that engine’s performance, as Watt described:

Our profits arise not from making the engine, but from a certain proportion of the savings in fuel which we make over any common engine, that raises the same quantity of water to the same height.

Therefore, Murdoch’s skill in getting the most out of his engines directly impacted upon Boulton and Watts profits. This he did so successfully that by 1782 Boulton was writing:

We want more Murdocks, for of all others he is the most active man and best engine erector I ever saw…When I look at the work done it astonishes me & is entirely owing to the spirit and activity of Murdoch who hath not gone to bed 3 of the nights.

Due to the frequent problems which could occur with steam engines Murdoch was kept busy travelling around the area repairing and attempting to improve the performance of the engines under his care.

Industrial espionage

In Cornwall at that time there were a number of engine erectors competing with each other, each with different technical methods of achieving the same ends. As a result, a great deal of copying of mechanical innovations and violation of patents went on, often through the reporting of casual conversations between engineers and practical observations of engine modifications. The risk of his patents being infringed was something which particularly exercised Watt, and so Murdoch was, in addition to his other activities, called upon to make reports and swear out affidavits for legal actions against Boulton & Watt’s competitors. In the close knit and clannish Cornwall of the time this was sometimes at his own risk. As one of his colleagues stated to Watt:

If he makes an Affidavit against Carpenter or Penandrea, there will be no safety for him in Redruth.

This early industrial espionage did not operate all in one direction and Murdoch was often required to undertake inspections of competitors’ engines, either to determine whether patents had been infringed or to assess the effectiveness of those engines.

Mechanical improvements and inventions

While based in Cornwall, Murdoch had to deal with a wide range of mechanical problems related to steam engines, and this led him to make practical improvements to the basic steam engine designs used by Boulton and Watt. From 1782 there is evidence that Murdoch was discussing and collaborating with Watt on a number of inventions and improvements. There is, however, a dearth of letters from Murdoch to Watt from 1780 until 1797 in the Watt archive, possibly, as argued by John Griffiths, due to an attempt by Watt’s son, James Watt Junior, to uphold his father’s reputation by removing any evidence of the origin of some of the inventions he patented. It is almost certain that Murdoch’s contract of employment, in common with those for other employees of Boulton and Watt, specified that anything he invented would be the intellectual property of his employers, and frequently it was they who filed, and benefited from, patents on these inventions.

One of Murdoch’s most significant inventions, for which evidence exists to attribute it to him, was the sun and planet gear which allowed steam power to be used to “produce a continued Rotative or Circular Motion round an Axis or Centre, and thereby to give Motion to the Wheels of Mills or other Machines”. This gear converted the vertical motion of a beam, driven by a steam engine, into circular motion using a ‘planet’, a cogwheel fixed at the end of a rod connected to the beam of the engine. With the motion of the beam this revolved around, and turned, the ‘sun’ a second rotating cog fixed to and which turned the drive shaft. This system of achieving rotary motion was patented in his own name by James Watt in October 1781 although Samuel Smiles, biographer of Boulton and Watt, attributes this to Murdoch and there also exists a drawing of the sun and planet system in Murdoch’s hand dated August 1781. Other evidence attributing this invention to William Murdoch takes the form of a letter from Boulton to a colleague concerning Watt’s forthcoming October patents in which he writes:

He has another rotative scheme to add, which I could have told him of long ago when first invented by William Murdock but I do not think it a matter of much consequence.

Another innovation of Murdoch’s was his 1799 invention of a much simplified and more efficient steam wheel than those in use at the time. A precursor of the steam turbine, the steam wheel allowed the wheel to be directly turned by the pressure of the steam moving through it. By this time Murdoch’s contract had been amended and he was able to patent this device in his own name.

Murdoch also carried out a number of experiments with compressed air and developed the first pneumatic message system which worked by using compressed air to propel a message in a cylinder through a tube to its intended destination. This system was developed by the London Pneumatic Despatch Company and became widely used; Harrods in particular used this system until at least the 1960s. Murdoch also used compressed air to ring a bell at his home to announce visitors.

Some of Murdoch’s other minor inventions and experiments were: a machine developed in 1784 or 1785 in Cornwall for drilling wooden pipes, (in 1810 this was further developed and patented for stone pipes), a steam cannon which he attempted to use in 1803 to knock down a wall at Soho, a steam gun in the same year which fired 3 cm lead bullets, and machinery to grind and compress peat moss under great pressure to produce a material with “the appearance of the finest Jet”.

Steam powered locomotion

Murdoch’s model steam carriage.

An important invention for which William Murdoch’s name is little known is Britain’s first working model of a steam carriage, or road locomotive, in 1784. French engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot had already demonstrated the utility of such a device by building (from 1769) two full-sized working steam vehicles, one of which was designed to carry 4–5 tonnes. All that was needed was a more effective design.

The earliest mention of Murdoch’s thoughts and plans for this method of transport was in March 1784 when his colleague in Cornwall, Thomas Wilson, wrote to Watt on Murdoch’s “new scheme”:

It is no less than drawing carriages upon the road with steam engines…he says that what he proposes, is different from anything you ever thought of, and that he is positively certain of its answering and that there is a great deal of money to be made by it.

Replies from Watt made it clear that he thought there was no future in such an idea and, fearful of losing Murdoch’s services in Cornwall, attempted to dissuade him from the scheme.

A later letter from Boulton disclosed more details of Murdoch’s ideas:

He proposes to catch most of the condensed Steam by making it strike against broad Copper plates & the condensed part trickling down may be caught and returned into its Boiler or other reservoir. This may do some good in rain or frosty weather & he proposes to have different sized revolvers to apply at every hill & every vale according to their angle with ye Horizon… I verely believe he would sooner give up all his cornish business & interest than be deprived of carrying the thing into execution.

In the same letter Boulton also secretly urged Watt to include a scheme for a steam-powered carriage in his patent application, which Watt did shortly thereafter.

I have given such descriptions of engines for wheel carriages as I could do in the time and space I could allow myself; but it is very defective and can only serve to keep other people from similar patents.

Murdoch’s steam locomotive model.

By this time Murdoch had already built a working model of his steam carriage (now in Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum); accounts exist from witnesses who “saw the model steam carriage run around Murdoch’s living room in Redruth in 1784”. This is the first recorded example in Great Britain of a man-made machine moving around completely under its own power.

Murdoch’s working model was a three-wheeled vehicle about a foot in height with the engine and boiler placed between the two larger back wheels with a spirit lamp underneath to heat the water and a tiller at the front turning the smaller front wheel. The mechanics of the model locomotive incorporated a number of innovations, such as a boiler safety valve, having the cylinder partly immersed in the boiler and using a new valve system on the lines of the D-slide valve.

This model was not the only one made by Murdoch as he continued experimenting with the design and by August 1786 had made at least one other model, of a different size, which we know of. Apart from this Murdoch does not appear to have worked much on his ideas from 1784 to 1786, because of the continuing high volume of work for Boulton and Watt, his marriage in 1785, and the birth of his and his wife’s twins in the same year. Shortly after this birth, and with a second model already built, Murdoch took steps to patent his steam locomotive. However, at Exeter on the way to London he was met by Boulton who persuaded him to return to Cornwall without registering the patent. As Boulton wrote to Watt on 2 September 1795:

He said He was going to London to get Men but I soon found he was going there with his Steam Carg to shew it & to take out a patent. He having been told by Mr W. Wilkn what Sadler had said & he had likewise read in the news paper Simmingtons puff which had rekindled all Wms fire & impations to make Steam Carriages. However, I prevailed upon him readily to return to Cornwall by the next days diligence & he accordingly arivd here this day at noon, since which he hath unpacked his Carg & made Travil a Mile or two in Rivers’s great room in a Circle making it carry the fire Shovel, poker & tongs.

This demonstration of his steam carriage in Rivers Great Room, at the King’s Head hotel, Truro, was the first public demonstration in Britain given of steam locomotion in action.

Although after 1786 there is no further mention of Murdoch’s work on Steam Carriages in Watt’s or Boulton’s correspondence, a volume of evidence exists that he continued to work on it without his employers’ support, and some argue that a full size version was built.

One story often told, both in respect of a full size carriage and one of his models, is that one night Murdoch decided to test his carriage outside on the open road and it soon outpaced him, leaving him to chase after it. Whilst chasing it he encountered a local clergyman in a state of considerable distress who had mistaken his carriage, with its billowing smoke and fire burning under the boiler, for the devil. This story may be accurate; however, is more likely to relate to a model than to a full-size steam carriage.

Another story often told, this one almost certainly apocryphal, is of Murdoch travelling from “mine to mine in a steam chaise lit by gas”. Given the state of the roads at that time this can be discounted. However, it is argued by John Griffiths that Murdoch may have built a full-size steam carriage some time in the 1790s, which could be the source of this story.

A fact important to the later development of the steam locomotive by others was that, in 1797 and 1798, Richard Trevithick came to live in Redruth next door to the house where William Murdoch lived (1782 to 1798). Trevithick would have seen and been influenced by Murdoch’s experiments, and would certainly have been aware of his work in this area. There is also a story told by Murdoch’s son John of a visit by Trevithick and Andrew Vivian to see a model engine in 1794:

The model of the wheel carriage engine was made in the summer of 1792 and was then shown to many of the inhabitants of Redruth – about two years after Trevithick and A. Vivian called at my father’s house in Redruth… My father mentions that… on that day they asked him to show his model of the wheel carriage engine which worked with strong steam and no vacuum. This was immediately shown to them in a working state.

In any event without the support of Boulton and Watt, who appear to have opposed Murdoch’s work due to the need to use high pressure steam which Watt distrusted, Murdoch was unable to develop or gain publicity for his invention and it was left to Trevithick and others to develop it commercially later.

Chemistry discoveries

In addition to his mechanical work Murdoch also experimented in the field of chemistry and made a number of discoveries. One such was the discovery, first recorded in 1784, of iron cement made from sal ammoniac, or ammonium chloride and iron filings, apparently discovered when Murdoch observed that these two components had accidentally mixed in his tool bag and formed a solid mass. This iron cement was used to fix and harden the joints of steam engines, thus creating a hard durable seal.

Another discovery, and the first for which Murdoch took out a patent, was that of

The art or method of making from the same materials and by the same processes entirely new copperas, vitriol, and different sorts of dye or dying stuff, paints and colours, and also a composition for preserving the bottoms of all kinds of vessels and all wood required to be immersed in water, from worms, weeds, barnacles, and every other foulness which usually does or may adhere thereto.

This patent was filed in 1791 and although it was not developed at the time this can be seen as the first step in the development of aniline dyes and coatings.

British isinglass

In 1795 Murdoch developed a replacement for isinglass, a precipitate made from sturgeon used in the clarifying of beer to remove impurities, which had to be imported from Russia at great expense. Murdoch’s replacement was made from dried Cod and was much cheaper than the 25 shillings a pound which isinglass cost. This cost saving was so attractive that the Committee of London Brewers paid £2000 for the right to use his invention.

Murdoch’s isinglass replacement was so effective that in a court case brought by the British Customs and Excise Authorities, the noted chemist, Sir Humphry Davy in answer to a question on whether it was “proper to be used for the purpose of fineing beer” testified that:

I believe it is if properly prepared – it is the same substance as Isinglass.

Use of Murdoch’s “Isinglass made of British fish” continued and played an important role in reducing British brewers’ reliance on imported raw materials.

Gas lighting

The key invention for which Murdoch is best known is the application of gas lighting as a replacement for oil and tallow produced light. It was in 1792 that he first began experimenting with the use of gas, derived from the heating of coal and other materials, for lighting. Many believe this experimenting took place in a cave. There is some uncertainty as to when he first demonstrated this process in practice; however, most sources identify this as between 1792 and 1794.

To use gas for practical purposes it was first necessary to develop a working method for the production and capture of the gas. There is considerable doubt as to the date by which this process was perfected. However, numerous accounts exist that by 1794 Murdoch was producing coal gas from a small retort containing heated coals with a three or four-foot iron tube attached, through which he piped the gas before sending it through an old gun barrel and igniting it to produce light.

Close up of plaque on wall of Murdoch House.

Murdoch House in Redruth.

Murdoch’s house at Redruth was the first domestic residence to be lit by gas.

Over the next few years Murdoch performed “a series of experiments upon the quantity and quality of the gasses contained in different substances” and upon the best way of transporting, storing, purifying and lighting these. It is known, by the account of William Fairbairn that Murdoch occasionally used his gas as a portable lantern:

“It was a dark winter’s night and how to reach the house over such bad roads was a question not easily solved. Mr Murdoch, however, fruitful in resource, went to the gasworks where he filled a bladder which he had with him, and, placing it under his arm like a bagpipe, he discharged through the stem of an old tobacco pipe a stream of gas which enabled us to walk in safety to Medlock Bank.”

In 1798 Murdoch returned to Birmingham to work in the Soho foundry and continued his experiments with gas, as part of which he lit the interior of the Soho main building, although it is likely that it was lit only in part and not (at this time) permanently. In 1802 as part of the public celebrations of the Peace of Amiens he made a public exhibition of his lighting by illuminating the exterior of the Soho Foundry. The first industrial factory to be illuminated by gas was the Philips and Lee cotton mill in Manchester which was fully lit by Murdoch in 1805, four years after the idea was first broached. Initially this mill contained 50 gas lights, although this soon grew to 904. The length of time taken to complete this project was partly due to experimentations and improvements in the process developed by Murdoch to make the lighting of a large factory by gas practicable and cost effective – such as purifying the gas with lime to remove the smell and determining the best temperature to heat coal to obtain the maximum quantity of gas – although Murdoch continued to be involved in other engine work for Boulton and Watt, which took up much of his time.

Despite his pioneering work with gas Murdoch never made any money from this invention due to his failure to obtain a patent. This may have been partly a result of the advice of James Watt, Junior, that the discovery was not patentable, and partly a result of the commercial failure of his earlier patent of 1791 for an early form of aniline dye. This failure to apply for a patent, despite the commercial participation of Boulton and Watt in this field, left the fledgling industry of gas production and lighting open for exploitation by other commercial interests, such as his former assistant Samuel Clegg and Frederick Albert Winsor. In large part this was due to the failure of Boulton and Watt to make sufficient effort to expand from the factory and mill lighting market which they dominated by 1809 into the street and domestic lighting market. This reason for this lassitude is unknown but can be attributed to lack of interest, a failure to appreciate the size of the potential market, and a lack of desire to be involved in smaller, less prestigious projects. By May 1809 Boulton and Watt faced little competition in any gas market due to their success in lobbying Parliament to block the granting of a charter for the National Heat and Light Company, their only real competitor in this field. However, despite blocking the charter until 1812 this advantage was squandered as Boulton and Watt did not develop the gas market, or technology, and in 1814 abandoned the gas business. A few decades later most towns in Britain were lit by gas and most had their own gasworks.

Apart from the benefits of gas lighting and heating, the process for producing coal gas yielded a number of other substances which were subsequently successfully exploited. Among these were coke; ammonia; phenol (carbolic acid), a disinfectant and one of the components of bakelite, the first synthetic plastic invented in 1910; and coal tar, which contained a number of organic chemicals. Coal tar was subsequently used to produce the first synthetic dye, mauve, by William Henry Perkin in 1856 and in 1853 was found, by Charles Gerhardt to contain the chemical acetylsalicylic acid, now known as aspirin.

The Caledonia paddle steamer

Boulton and Watt had been involved in a minor way with attempts to apply steam power to boats, providing in 1807 for Robert Fulton the engine for North River Steamboat, the first steamboat to run on the Hudson River, (the boat later referred to as the Clermont). Murdoch was primarily responsible for designing and building this engine and for agreeing technical details and designs with Fulton, who also worked on the design of the engine. Boulton and Watt also provided engines for a number of other marine vessels. However, it was not until the purchase of The Caledonia by James Watt Jr. in 1817 that they became seriously involved in the marine engineering business. The task of refitting The Caledonia, building and installing new engines and boilers and making her seaworthy and efficient in fuel consumption was a difficult process and Murdoch, although frequently suffering from fever and rheumatism, directed this. By August the vessel was able to be tested on its intended route, from Surrey Commercial Docks, London to Gravesend and at first made 8 miles per hour (mph). During its sea trials Murdoch carried out experiments on The Caledonia to measure the effect on fuel consumption and speed of changes in the depth of the paddles and whether one or both engines were used. This resulted in an increase of speed to 12 mph (19 km/h).

While carrying out trials The Caledonia was challenged to a race by their competitors for the London to Gravesend route, the Sons of Commerce. Actually there were two races to Gravesend, both of which were won by the Boulton and Watt vessel, by a greater margin on the second attempt. The result was that the proprietors of the Sons of Commerce placed an order with Boulton and Watt for a new steamboat engine. There were also a number of other orders for steamboat engines, both for commercial customers and the Royal Navy, and Murdoch was in effect the head of this branch of the business, being referred to and deferred to on all aspects of their marine business. It is estimated that from 1813 until 1825, marine engines of over 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) were made by Boulton and Watt, and used in some 40 to 60 vessels.

Shortly after the trials were completed The Caledonia carried out a crossing of the English Channel when Watt Jr. took it to Rotterdam and up the Rhine to Koblenz.

Later years.

Murdoch wrote a paper, “Account of the Application of Gas from Coal to Economical Purposes” which was presented to the Royal Society in 1808. In that year he was awarded their Rumford Gold Medal for “both the first idea of applying, and the first actual application of gas to economical purposes”.

In 1817 Murdoch moved into a large new house he had built outside Birmingham. The house incorporated a number of curiosities and innovations he has designed including gas lighting, a doorbell worked by compressed air and an air conditioning system: described by Joshua Field as “He has a good stove for heating the rooms with hot air which enters the rooms and staircases at convenient places.”

In 1815 he designed and installed the first gravity-fed, piped hot water system since classical times at the Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa.

In September 1830, in declining health at age 76, Murdoch’s partnership with Boulton & Watt which began in 1810 came to an end, at which point he was receiving £1,000 per year. The reasons for this appear to be both the increasing unprofitability of Boulton and Watt and Murdoch’s increasing ill health.

Murdoch died in 1839, aged 85. He was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Handsworth.

Honours and awards

At the celebration of the centenary of gas lighting in 1892, a bust of Murdoch was unveiled by Lord Kelvin in the Wallace Monument, Stirling, and there is also a bust of him by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey at St. Mary’s Church.

His life and works are commemorated by the Moonstones; a statue of him, Boulton and Watt, by William Bloye; and Murdock Road, all in Birmingham. There is also a Murdoch House in Rotherhithe, London and “Murdoch, Watt, Martineu and Sturge Residencies” as student accommodation.

The town of Redruth has an Annual Murdoch Day in June. The 2007 event included a parade of schoolchildren with banners on the theme “Earth, Wind, Fire and Water” and the first public journey of a full-size, working reproduction of Murdoch’s Steam Carriage.

In 2019, he was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

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Famous Scots. Albert Armitage.

Albert Borlase Armitage (2 July 1864 – 31 October 1943) was a Scottish polar explorer and officer in the Merchant Navy.

Early life.

Armitage was born in Balquhidder, near Loch Lubnaig in Perthshire on 2 July 1864. He was one of eight children to Samuel Harris Tatham Armitage, a Yorkshire doctor, and Alice (Lees) Armitage.

In 1878 Armitage enlisted as a cadet aboard the Royal Navy’s training ship, HMS Worcester, which was moored at the time in the River Thames near Greenhithe. At the conclusion of basic training he attempted to resign from the Navy and seek a position with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), but was prevented from doing so by his father. Instead, Armitage was signed on as an apprentice aboard the former Indian Navy frigate Punjaub, now owned by the East India Company. He sailed with Punjaub to Calcutta, where he transferred to another Company vessel, the Lucknow, as Third Mate

After seven years as a Company sailor, Armitage again sought parental consent to join P&O. Approval was received and in 1886 Armitage was appointed Fifth Officer aboard the P&O passenger ship Bokhara.

Polar exploration.

Between 1884 and 1897, he was second-in-command, of the Jackson–Harmsworth expedition to Franz Josef Land, and was involved in the 1895 rescue of explorer Fridtjof Nansen and his men.

Armitage was then Robert Falcon Scott’s navigator and second-in-command on the Discovery Expedition to Antarctica. The other members were Ernest Shackleton, George Mulock, Edward Adrian Wilson, Charles Royds, Frank Wild, Koettlitz, Skelton, Heald, Barne, Plumley, Quartley, Weller, Hare, Allen, Evans, Ferrar, Hodgson, Louis Bernacchi, Vince. On this expedition, he became the first person to walk on the polar plateau

Armitage got on very well with Scott during the preparations for the voyage and his RNR rank of lieutenant ensured that he was made second in command of the Discovery expedition. However, he later fell out with Scott and claimed that he and Markham failed to honour a number of promises they had made and on his return to Britain Armitage was paid off by the expedition and it took him nearly nine months to find an appointment with P & O.

Post Antarctic

On his return to the UK he filled in his time by writing “Two Years in the Antarctic” (Edward Arnold, 1905). A row followed with Scott’s publishers because Scott’s “Discovery Expedition” didn’t come out until after Armitage’s book. However, according to Armitage, he was at sea when this happened and he and Scott later met up for lunch “and all was sunshine.” They never met again.

Eventually he was given his own command, the Royal Mail Steamer “Isis”, carrying mails between Brindisi and Port Said. This was the story of his life until retirement, carrying passengers and mails on “little ferry boats” across the Mediterranean and later, in command of the “Salsette” between Bombay and Aden, living for many years away from England with his family in Brindisi and Malta. Toward the end of the First World War the “Salsette” was torpedoed in the English Channel with a loss of 14 crew. Armitage was then given command of the “Karmala” which was used to transporting cargo and U.S and Canadian troops across the Atlantic and, later, for repatriating Australian soldiers.

His last command was the 11,000 ton mail steamer the “Mantua” on the Bombay to China run. After over 40 years at sea he was appointed Commodore of P & O and, by the company rules, required to retire at the age of 60 years, just one year later. In 1928 he published “Cadet To Commodore” (Cassell & Co 1928) – an autobiography with only a few passing references to the Scott Expedition.

Armitage was married with a single daughter who married a naval lieutenant. His wife died, possibly in Malta, before World War I after a period of ill-health. He died in Surrey on 31st October 1943 aged 79.

Armitage’s diaries of his time in the Antarctic were sold at auction for £36,000 in 2004 in two lots to a single buyer.

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Famous Scots. William Cunninghame.

William Cunninghame of Lainshaw (1731–1799) was a leading Tobacco Lord who headed one of the major Glasgow syndicates that came to dominate the transatlantic tobacco trade.  Most of the tobacco shipped from American slave plantations was sold to France. He later also made a further fortune stockpiling tobacco bought at keen prices shortly before the American Revolution, assuming that Great Britain would not be able to retain control over her rebellious colonies, and then selling at high prices. Cunninghame’s (much altered and expanded) neo-classical house on Glasgow’s Queen Street today houses the collection of the Gallery of Modern Art.

Early life.

Cunninghame was born in 1715  in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, into a prosperous merchant family. He was a blood relative of Andrew Cochrane of Brighouse (1693–1777), who was one of Glasgow’s most respected Lord Provosts. Family ties were of great importance in helping to build Cunninghame’s growing fortune.


William Cunninghame’s neo-classical mansion on Queens St, Glasgow, built in 1780 at a cost of £10,000

Cunninghame first sailed to America in 1746 as a young apprentice in the firm of Cochrane, Murdoch & Company. After four years of training he was promoted to become a manager and in 1752 he came to oversee all the company business in Virginia.

In 1762 he returned to Scotland, where he became the principal partner in the firm of Cochrane, Murdoch & Co. By the early 1770s he changed the company name to William Cunninghame & Company, and it grew to become one of the city’s five largest importers.

Twice a year his flagship – named The Cunninghame – arrived in the Chesapeake Bay, loaded with European luxury goods such as silverware and furniture, and ready to collect Tobacco for export back to Europe. Cunninghame, like the other Glasgow merchants, extended credit to the growers enabling them to buy goods from the company store before their tobacco was sold at market. However, many growers found themselves deeply in debt and thereby forced to accept low prices for their crop. Cunninghame was known to offer prices as much as 10% below market value to distressed growers.

American Revolution.

Cunninghame made an even greater fortune from the tobacco scarcity caused by the American War of Independence. On the outbreak of war, Cunningham’s business partners found themselves in possession of substantial stocks of tobacco which they had purchased for around three pence per pound. As war began to disrupt the trade the price rose, and Cunningham’s partners, confident that the rebellious colonists would soon be defeated, sold out their stock at sixpence per pound. Cunningham took the opposite view and he personally purchased their entire stock. Eventually, as the long war disrupted supplies, the price of tobacco rose to a staggering 3 shillings and sixpence, making a huge fortune for Cunninghame.

Like many wealthy Glasgow merchants, Cunninghame used some of his profits to buy a country estate. In 1778 he purchased for £26,200 for the estate of Lainshaw, in Ayrshire. He also purchased a property in the Cow Loan in Glasgow, which he renamed Queen Street after the wife of George III, and in 1780 he built there a large mansion in the neo-classical style at a cost of £10,000, an immense sum at the time.

In 1779 he completed his rise to the wealthy landed gentry by registering his family coat-of-arms at the office of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In 1780 Cunninghame retired from the tobacco business, although he was not yet fifty years old.

Family life.

Cunninghame married three times and had fourteen children. He disinherited his eldest sons Thomas and Alexander and it was his third son William Cunninghame who eventually inherited the estate in 1799.


Today Cunninghame’s neo classical palace on Glasgow’s Queen Street houses the collection of the Gallery of Modern Art.

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Famous Scots. Robert Aitken.

Robert Aitken (1734–1802) was a Philadelphia printer and the first to publish an English language Bible in the newly formed United States. He was born in Dalkeith, Scotland.

He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1769, where he published the Pennsylvania Magazine, or American Monthly Museum in 1775–76.

Starting in Philadelphia as a bookseller in 1769 and 1771, Aitken started publication of The Pennsylvania Magazine in 1775, continuing through 1776. He also printed copies of the New Testament in 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1781. He died in Philadelphia in 1802.

The Aitken Bible of 1782 was reviewed, approved and authorised by the Congress of the Confederation. The Bible was reviewed first for accuracy by the Congressional Chaplains White and Duffield and they reported on its accuracy. Then the Journals of Congress for September 1782 records on page 469, “Resolved. That the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitkin, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country and being satisfied from the above report (by the congressional chaplains), they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorise him to publish this recommendation.” (Spelling has been modernised).

In 1781 Aitken undertook to print the first complete English Bible produced in America and sought the official sanction of Congress for his edition. Congress passed a resolution officially authorising the edition in September 1782. Known as the “Aitken Bible,” this was the first and only edition of the Bible ever authorised by Congress. As Aitken reported to George Washington, the venture was a financial failure.

Background and the need for an American printed Bible
The war with Britain had cut off the supply of Bibles, and, on September 11, 1777, the Continental Congress reviewed a committee report, informing them that a locally produced Bible may not be a viable option, due to the risk and cost of procuring the materials necessary. The committee noted, “…the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great, that the committee refer the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, your committee recommend that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the states in the Union.” Congress favored the idea of importing 20,000 Bibles, in order to address the short supply. Library of Congress

On Thursday, September 12, 1782, Congress reviewed a report dated September 1, 1782, from their Congressional committee, and signed by the committee Chairman, James Duane. The committee had been, “…referred a memorial of Robert Aitkin, dated January 21st, 1781, respecting an edition of the holy scriptures.” This committee had, from time to time, checked on the progress of Aitken’s work, and their report stated, “Our knowledge of your piety and public spirit leads us without apology to recommend to your particular attention the edition of the holy scriptures publishing by Mr. Aitkin.” Library of Congress Next Congress reviewed a report dated September 10, 1782, from the committee, and signed by the Chaplains of the United States in Congress assembled, William White and George Duffield. This report stated they had reviewed the printing and it was found to be, “…with as few grammatical and typographical errors as could be expected in an undertaking of such magnitude.” Library of Congress The outcome is listed as, “Resolved. That the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitkin, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country and being satisfied from the above report (by the congressional chaplains), they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation.”

In 1783, after Aitken’s Bible had begun to be distributed, Dr. John Rodgers of the First Presbyterian Church of New York suggested to General George Washington that every discharged soldier be given a copy of Aitken’s Bible. Since the war was coming to a close and Congress had already ordered the discharge of two-thirds of the army, the suggestion came too late. However, Washington said, “It would have pleased me well, if Congress had been pleased to make such an important present to the brave fellows who have done so much for the security of their country’s rights and establishment.”

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Famous Scots Sir Matt Busby.

Sir Alexander Matthew Busby, CBE KCSG (26 May 1909 – 20 January 1994) was a Scottish football player and manager, who managed Manchester United between 1945 and 1969 and again for the second half of the 1970–71 season. He was the first manager of an English team to win the European Cup and is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time.

Before going into management, Busby was a player for two of Manchester United’s greatest rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool. During his time at City, Busby played in two FA Cup Finals, winning one of them. After his playing career was interrupted by the Second World War, Busby was offered the job of assistant coach at Liverpool, but they were unwilling to give him the control over the first team that he wanted. As a result, he took the vacant manager’s job at Manchester United instead, where he built the famous Busby Babes team. Eight of these players died in the Munich air disaster, but Busby rebuilt the side and United won the European Cup a decade later. In a total of 25 years with the club, he won 13 trophies.

Early life

Busby was born to Alexander and Helen “Nellie” Busby (née Greer) in a two-roomed pitman’s cottage in the mining village of Orbiston, Bellshill, Lanarkshire. When he was born, Busby’s mother was told by the doctor, “A footballer has come into this house today”. Busby’s father was a miner, but was called up to serve in the First World War, being killed by a sniper’s bullet on 23 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras. Three of his uncles were killed in France with the Cameron Highlanders. Busby’s mother was left to raise Matt and his three sisters alone until her marriage to a man called Harry Matthie in 1919.

Busby would often accompany his father down into the coal pits, but his true aspiration was to become a professional footballer. In his 1973 autobiography Busby described himself as being as football mad as any other boy in Bellshill citing in particular the impression made on him by Alex James and Hughie Gallacher.

His mother might have quashed those dreams when she applied to emigrate with Matt to the United States in the late 1920s, but he was granted a reprieve by the nine-month processing time.

In the meantime, Busby got a full-time job as a collier and played football part-time for Stirlingshire Junior side Denny Hibernian. He had played only a few matches for Denny Hibs, but it was not long before he was signed up by a Manchester City side that was a couple of games away from regaining promotion to the First Division.

Playing career

Club career

Aged 18, Busby signed for Manchester City on a one-year contract worth £5 per week on 11 February 1928, with the provision for him to leave at the end of the deal if he still wished to emigrate to the United States with his mother. He decided to stay and made his debut for City on 2 November 1929, more than 18 months after first signing for the Blues, when he played at inside left in a 3–1 win at home to Middlesbrough in the First Division. He made 11 more appearances for City that season, all at inside forward, scoring five goals in the process.

During the 1930–31 season, City manager Peter Hodge decided that Busby’s talents could be better exploited from the half-back line, with Busby playing the right-half role. In his new position, Busby built up a reputation as an intelligent player and a finer passer of the ball. In 1930, Manchester United made an enquiry about signing Busby from their cross-town rivals, but they were unable to afford the £150 fee that City demanded. By the 1931–32 season, Busby was firmly established in the first team, missing just one match that season. Indeed, Busby and Jackie Bray became such fixtures at wing-half that club captain Jimmy McMullan had to move to forward to keep his place in the team. In the 1930s Manchester City performed strongly in the FA Cup. They reached the semi-finals in 1932, and the final in 1933 before finally winning the tournament in 1934. However, from the second half of the 1934–35 season, Busby’s number 4 jersey was worn by Jack Percival with increasing regularity, and Busby was sold to Liverpool for £8,000 on 12 March 1936, having made more than 200 appearances for Manchester City.

He made his debut for the Reds just two days later, on 14 March, away to Huddersfield Town; the match ended in a 1–0 Liverpool defeat. Busby opened his goalscoring account a month later – his 47th-minute strike helped his team to a 2–2 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Busby soon made the number 4 shirt his own, ousting Ted Savage in the process. He rarely missed a game over the following three seasons. This consistency earned Busby the Liverpool captaincy and he led the club with great distinction. Along with Jimmy McDougall and Tom Bradshaw, Busby made up what is considered by many to be the best half-back line Liverpool had ever had.

Bob Paisley joined Liverpool from Bishop Auckland in 1939, and it was Busby who took him under his wing and showed him the ropes at Anfield. This led to a lifelong friendship between two of the most successful managers in English football history. The Second World War arrived soon after, and with it came an end to Busby’s playing days. Like many of the Liverpool playing staff, he signed on for national service in the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Busby carried on playing football during the war, making three appearances for Chelsea. He also turned out for Middlesbrough, Reading, Brentford, Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic and Hibernian.

International career.

Busby made only one official international appearance for Scotland; he played in a 3–2 British Home Championship defeat to Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff, on 4 October 1933. Playing opposite Busby in the Welsh half-back line was his future assistant Jimmy Murphy. Busby also made seven appearances for Scotland against England during the Second World War, winning just one of them, but these are considered unofficial. He represented the Scottish League XI in an inter-league match in 1941, while he was a guest player of Hibernian.

Managerial career.

Arrival and early days at Manchester United

During the Second World War, Busby served as a football coach in the Army Physical Training Corps, and the experience resulted in Liverpool offering him the job of assistant to their then-manager George Kay. However, the experience had also forged Busby’s opinions about how football should be played and governed, and when it became clear that they differed from those of the Liverpool board, their chairman Billy McConnell allowed Busby to pursue alternative employment.

After Manchester United had tried to sign Busby from Manchester City in 1930, he became good friends with United’s fixer, Louis Rocca; their relationship was helped by the fact that both were members of the Manchester Catholic Sportsman’s Club. United were in desperate need of a manager to take over from club secretary Walter Crickmer after the war and a board meeting was called in December 1944 so as to ascertain who that new manager might be. Knowing that Liverpool had already offered Busby a job, Rocca convinced the United board to “leave it to [him]” and immediately wrote a letter to Busby, addressed to his army regiment. The letter was vague, referring only to “a job”, just in case it fell into the wrong hands, namely the Liverpool officials.

In February 1945, still in uniform, Busby turned up at Cornbrook Cold Storage, one of the United chairman James W. Gibson’s businesses at Trafford Park to discuss the contents of Rocca’s letter with the chairman. Busby requested that he be directly involved in training, pick the team on matchdays and even choose the players to be bought and sold without interference from the club directors, who, he believed, did not know the game as well as he did. Such a level of control over the team was unprecedented in the English game, but the United chairman was in no position to argue. Busby was originally offered a three-year contract but managed to secure himself a five-year deal after explaining that it would take at least that long for his revolution to have a tangible effect.

The contract was signed that day – 19 February 1945 – but it was not until 1 October that Busby officially took over the reins at Manchester United. In the interim, he returned to the Army Physical Training Corps, whose football team he took to Bari, Italy, in the spring of 1945. There, he took in a training session for a football team made up of non-commissioned officers led by West Bromwich Albion’s former half-back Jimmy Murphy. Impressed by the Welshman’s oratory skills, Busby engaged him in conversation and offered him the job of chief coach at Manchester United, which Murphy accepted verbally there and then, before joining the club officially in early 1946.

The two men immediately put their mark on the side, leading them to the runners-up spot in the league, behind Busby’s former employers Liverpool, by the end of the 1946–47 season. Manchester United were runners-up in the league in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951, and won the FA Cup in 1948, before winning the league championship in 1952. This was a welcome success for a club which had last won a major trophy in 1911 and had spent the interwar years bouncing between the First and Second Divisions.

By 1952, however, the side captained by Johnny Carey, was beginning to show its age, and a new set of players had to be found. Busby, who had achieved a great deal of success in spite of his lack of previous managerial experience, was expected to spend large sums of money on high-profile players. Instead, he gradually replaced the older players with players as young as 16 and 17. These included right-back Bill Foulkes, centre-halves Mark Jones and Jackie Blanchflower, wingers Albert Scanlon and David Pegg and forward Liam Whelan. Among them was Duncan Edwards, judged by many to be England’s finest player of his era, and capped by England at 17 – setting a record for the youngest-ever full international that remained unbroken for more than 40 years. He made relatively few signings from other clubs between 1951 and 1957, rare examples being winger Johnny Berry, forward Tommy Taylor and goalkeeper Harry Gregg.

Busby managed the Great Britain team at the 1948 Summer Olympics. The team reached the semi-finals, but lost 3–1 to the eventual runners-up, Yugoslavia.

In 1956, just after United won another league title, Busby was offered the Real Madrid managerial role. The Real Madrid president at the time, Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, told him that the role was “like managing paradise”. Busby responded by declining the job and adding “Manchester is my heaven”.

The Busby Babes and the Munich tragedy

Main article: Munich air disaster

During this period, the team picked up the affectionate nickname the Busby Babes, because of the youthfulness of many of the players he fielded. They won the league in both 1956 and 1957, and were runners-up to Aston Villa in the 1957 FA Cup Final. The young side was so successful that centre-forward Tommy Taylor and goalkeeper Harry Gregg were United’s only major signings over a spell of almost five years.

Busby and his team began the 1957–58 season full of ambition for an assault on the Football League title, FA Cup and European Cup. On the way home from a European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade on 6 February 1958, their plane crashed on the runway at Munich-Riem Airport. Seven players and three club officials were among the 20 people who were killed at the scene; Duncan Edwards died from his injuries two weeks later as the final death toll reached 23, while two other players were injured to such an extent that they never played football again. Busby’s old friend from Manchester City, the goalkeeper Frank Swift, who had travelled to Munich in his post-playing career as a journalist, also perished. Busby suffered multiple injuries and twice received the last rites, but he recovered from his injuries and left the hospital after nine weeks.

He was not aware of the extent of the Munich tragedy until some three weeks after the crash, as doctors felt he was not strong enough to know the truth until then. Sometime around the end of February, he asked a Franciscan friar at the hospital how Duncan Edwards was faring; the friar was unaware that the news of Edwards’s death had been kept from him and felt that it was his duty to inform Busby that Edwards was dead. His wife Jean then had to tell him of all the other players and officials who had lost their lives.

He reportedly told his wife that he felt like quitting the manager’s job, as he had feelings of guilt over the disaster. Busby had gone against the wishes of Football League officials by pressing for Manchester United’s participation in the European Cup and had not felt able to challenge the aircraft’s pilot about taking off in heavy snow. Jean urged him to carry on with his duties in honour of the players who had died. Busby also had to face the torment of player Johnny Berry – who suffered career-ending injuries in the crash – complaining that Tommy Taylor was a poor friend for not visiting him in hospital; unaware that Taylor had been killed, while Busby had been urged to keep the news from Berry at this stage, which he found particularly difficult.

In the meantime, the team was managed by Jimmy Murphy, who had been taking charge of the Wales team at the time of the crash, and so was not present. Busby was present at a new-look United side’s FA Cup final defeat against Bolton Wanderers at Wembley three months later, and resumed full managerial duties for the following season.

Busby had been appointed the manager of Scotland before the Munich disaster. Dawson Walker took charge of the team during the 1958 World Cup instead. After recovering from his injuries, Busby managed Scotland in two games later that year against Wales and Northern Ireland. Busby gave an 18-year-old Denis Law, then with Huddersfield Town, his first Scotland cap. He had already expressed an interest in signing Law for United by this stage, although he had yet to be successful in doing so.

The post-Munich side

After the crash, Busby built a new side around Munich survivors including Harry Gregg, Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. He also brought in players from other clubs – these included David Herd, Albert Quixall and Denis Law. Northern Irish forward George Best was scouted for Manchester United by Bob Bishop and signed to the club’s playing staff by chief scout Joe Armstrong.

Busby successfully rebuilt United, as he guided them to a 3–1 victory over Leicester City in the 1963 FA Cup Final. They were league champions in 1965 and again in 1967, with a defeat on the final day of the 1967–68 season seeing rivals Manchester City snatch the title away

European glory and retirement

The biggest success of his career came on 29 May 1968 when the team won the European Cup. He retired as manager at the end of the following season, having announced his intention to do so on 14 January 1969, but remained at the club as a director, handing over managerial duties to trainer and former player Wilf McGuinness. When McGuinness was sacked in December 1970, Busby briefly returned to his managerial duties, but there was never any question of his returning as manager permanently. The job went to Frank O’Farrell in June 1971 after United were unsuccessful in approaching Jock Stein and Don Revie.

He carried on as a club director for 11 years, before being made president in 1980.

Busby was awarded the CBE in 1958 and was knighted following the European Cup victory in 1968, before being made a Knight Commander of St Gregory by the Pope in 1972.

Later years and death

Matt Busby suffered a mild stroke in July 1980 at the age of 71 but made a full recovery. Soon afterwards, however, his wife Jean became ill with Alzheimer’s disease. She died, aged 80, in December 1988 in a Manchester nursing home. They had been married for 58 years.

His testimonial was held at Old Trafford in August 1991. A Manchester United side featuring a new generation of star players including Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce took on a Republic of Ireland XI. The result was a 1–1 draw.

Matt Busby was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions, in January 1958 (a month before the Munich tragedy) when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Studios in Manchester, and in May 1971, when he became the first This Is Your Life subject to be honoured for the second time. On this occasion, Andrews surprised him just ahead of his final game as interim manager, leading Manchester United in a derby match with Manchester City at Maine Road.

Busby was mentioned, along with B.B. King and Doris Day, in the Beatles song, “Dig It”, on the album Let It Be, released in 1970.

Grave of Sir Matt Busby and his wife, Southern Cemetery, Manchester.

He died, aged 84, on 20 January 1994 at The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, Greater Manchester. He had been admitted to the hospital earlier that month to have a blood clot removed from his leg, and had appeared to be making a good recovery until his condition deteriorated after several days. He was buried in Southern Cemetery, Manchester, alongside his wife Jean. His racecourse owner friend Willie Satinoff, who died in the Munich air crash, is buried in the same cemetery. Two days after Busby’s death, a minute’s silence was held at the start of United’s home game against Everton in the Premier League. United finished that season as double winners, lifting the league title and FA Cup.

In 1999, in securing the treble of Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup, Manchester United won the European Cup on what would have been Sir Matt’s 90th birthday – the first time they had won the trophy since Sir Matt’s 1968 triumph. Then, in 2008, Manchester United won the Champions League again, 50 years after the Munich tragedy, and 40 years since his own triumph in Europe in 1968 where Busby’s United defeated Benfica. The day after the 100th anniversary of Busby’s birth, Manchester United played Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League final and lost to the Spanish side 2–0. Busby was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his impact on the English game.

The sports centre in Bellshill, his place of birth, was named after him shortly after his death. This opened to the public in 1995.

On 6 September 2009, the Sir Matt Busby shield was contested between Manchester United Reserves and Motherwell. This was held at Fir Park, two miles from Busby’s place of birth, to mark 100 years since his birth. Motherwell won the match 1–0.

His son Sandy died on 15 September 2014, followed nearly nine months later by his daughter Sheena, who had been married to former Manchester United player Don Gibson for 59 years. He had a total of seven grandchildren, all female.

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Famous Scots Charles Kennedy.

Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2006, and a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2015.

Kennedy was elected to the House of Commons in 1983, and after the Alliance parties merged, became President of the Liberal Democrats and, following the resignation of Paddy Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He led the party through two general elections, increasing its number of seats in the House of Commons to their highest level since 1923, and led his party’s opposition to the Iraq War. A charismatic and affable speaker in public, he appeared extensively on television during his leadership.

During the latter stages of Kennedy’s leadership, there was concern about both his leadership and his health. From December 2005, some within the party were openly questioning his position and calling for a leadership election. On 5 January 2006, he was informed that ITN would be reporting that he had received treatment for alcoholism; he pre-empted the broadcast by admitting that he had had treatment, and called a leadership election in which he intended to stand. After Menzies Campbell succeeded him as leader, Kennedy remained in office as a backbench MP, where he voted against the formation of the Cameron–Clegg coalition, before his death less than a month after being unseated from the House of Commons in 2015.

Early life

Fort William, Highland

Kennedy was born on 25 November 1959 in the Scottish Highlands town of Inverness, the son of Mary and Ian Kennedy.  He had a Roman Catholic upbringing, and was educated at Lochaber High School in Fort William. He went on to study for a Master of Arts degree in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Kennedy first became politically active at university, where he joined the SDP as well as the Dialectic Society.[3] Between 1980 and 1981, Kennedy was President of the Glasgow University Union. He won the Observer Mace debating competition in 1982, speaking with Clark McGinn.

Upon graduation in 1982, Kennedy went to work for BBC Scotland as a journalist.  He later received a Fulbright Fellowship which allowed him to carry out research at Indiana University in the United States.

Early political career.

At the age of 15 he joined the Labour Party,  followed in 1981 by the newly formed Social Democratic Party. Two years later, Kennedy received the SDP nomination to stand for the Scottish seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye—then held by the Conservative Hamish Gray—at the 1983 general election.[8] Kennedy won the seat with 13,528 votes (38.5%) and a majority of 1,704, unseating the incumbent Gray.  He was, at the age of 23, the youngest sitting Member of Parliament at the time he was elected to the House of Commons. He served on the Social Services select committee from 1985 to 1987, retained his seat at the 1987 general election, and served on the Televising of Proceedings of the House select committee from 1987 to 1989.

He was the first of the five SDP MPs to support its merger with the Liberal Party (with which the SDP was co-operating in the SDP–Liberal Alliance) because of pressure from Liberal activists in his constituency. The parties merged in 1988, forming the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, later renamed the Liberal Democrats; Kennedy was a proponent of the merge.

Kennedy moved into frontbench politics in 1989, becoming the party’s spokesperson for Health. After retaining his seat in the 1992 general election he served as the spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during the 1992–97 parliament. He retained his seat in the 1997 general election and served on the Standards and Privileges select committee from 1997 to 1999.

He was Liberal Democrat Party President from 1990 to 1994, and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the office of the Leader of the House of Commons from 1997 to 1999.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Kennedy was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats on 9 August 1999, after the retirement of Paddy Ashdown. He won 57% of the transferred vote under the Alternative Vote system, beating the runner-up Simon Hughes (43% of the transferred vote), Malcolm Bruce, Jackie Ballard and David Rendel. In October of the same year he was sworn in as a Member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

Kennedy’s style of leadership was regarded as “conversational and companionable”. He was labelled “Chatshow Charlie” by some observers as a result of his appearances on the satirical panel game Have I Got News for You.

In Kennedy’s first campaign as Leader, the 2001 general election, the Liberal Democrats won 52 seats with an 18.3% share of the vote; this was a 1.5% improvement in vote share (and an improvement of six seats) over the 1997 election, but smaller than the 25.4% vote share the SDP/Liberal Alliance had achieved in 1983, which won it 23 seats. Kennedy led his party’s opposition to the Iraq War, with all Liberal Democrats voting against or abstaining in the vote for the invasion of Iraq—the largest British party to do so.

Health concerns

In July 2002, Jeremy Paxman publicly apologised after asking Kennedy about his drinking in a television interview. Reports emerged of Kennedy’s ill-health in 2003 at the time of crucial debates on the Iraq War and after the 2004 Budget along with linked rumours of a drinking problem which were strenuously denied at the time by both Kennedy and his party. The Times published an apology over a report it had made stating Kennedy had not taken part in that year’s Budget debate because of excessive drinking.

In April 2005, the launch of his party’s manifesto for the 2005 general election was delayed because of the birth of his first child, with Menzies Campbell taking temporary charge as acting leader and covering Kennedy’s campaign duties. At the manifesto launch, on his first day back on the campaign trail after the birth, Kennedy struggled to remember the details of a key policy (replacing the council tax with a local income tax) at an early morning press conference, which he later blamed on a lack of sleep due to his new child.

2005 general election

Kennedy during the 2005 election campaign

In his last general election as leader, in May 2005, he extended his strategy from the 2001 election of targeting the seats held by the most senior and/or highly regarded Conservative MPs, dubbed a “decapitation” strategy. The Liberal Democrats also hoped to capture marginal Labour seats, attracting (particularly Muslim) Labour voters who were dissatisfied because of the invasion of Iraq, which Kennedy’s party had opposed.

Just before the election, it had been anticipated by the media and opinion polls that the Liberal Democrats could win up to 100 seats and place themselves close to the Conservatives in terms of seats as well as votes. They won 62 seats and 22.1% of the vote, their greatest number of seats since their Liberal Party predecessor won 158 seats in 1923.

The Liberal Democrats made a net loss of five seats to the Conservatives, only managing to win three seats from them. While they were able to unseat Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins, they failed to unseat leading Conservatives such as the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Oliver Letwin, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, Shadow Secretary of State for the Family (later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) Theresa May and the Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard. The “decapitation” strategy was widely seen to have failed.  They won twelve seats from Labour, but lost Leicester South.  They succeeded in regaining the seat of Ceredigion, their first gain from the Welsh party Plaid Cymru.

Kennedy heralded the Liberal Democrats, who now had a total of 62 seats, as the “national party of the future”, but in the wake of the general election, Kennedy’s leadership came under increased criticism from those who felt that the Liberal Democrats could have surged forward, with the official opposition Conservative Party having been relatively weak. Many pointed the finger of blame at Kennedy for failing to widen the party’s appeal. Others, like the former Deputy Chairman of the Federal Liberal Democrat Party, Donnachadh McCarthy, resigned, citing the party’s shift to the right of the political spectrum under Kennedy in pursuit of Conservative votes.

Leadership concerns.

After the election of David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005, it was widely reported that senior members of the Liberal Democrats had told Kennedy that he must either “raise his game” or resign.  Speculation surrounding the leadership of the Liberal Democrats was widespread in late 2005, with the journalist Andrew Neil claiming to speak “on good authority” that Kennedy would announce his resignation at the 2006 spring conference of the Liberal Democrats. Kennedy’s spokeswoman denied the report and complained against the BBC, which had broadcast it.

A “Kennedy Must Go” petition was started by The Liberal magazine (a publication with no affiliation to the Liberal Democrats); this allegedly had been signed by over 3,300 party members including 386 local councillors and two MPs by the end of 2005. A round-robin letter signed by Liberal Democrat MPs rejecting his leadership received 23 signatures.


Kennedy in October 2007.

On 6 January 2006, Kennedy was informed that ITN would be reporting that he had received treatment for a drinking problem. He decided to pre-empt the broadcast, called a sudden news conference, and made a personal statement that over the past eighteen months he had been coming to terms with a drinking problem, but had sought professional help. He told reporters that recent questions among his colleagues about his suitability as a leader were partly as a result of the drinking problem but stated that he had been dry for the past two months and would be calling a leadership contest, in which he would stand, to resolve the issues surrounding his authority once and for all. It was later claimed that the source for ITN’s story was his former press secretary turned ITV News correspondent, Daisy McAndrew.

The admission of a drinking problem seriously damaged his standing, and 25 MPs signed a statement urging him to resign immediately. It was later claimed in a biography of Kennedy by the journalist Greg Hurst that senior Liberal Democrats had known about Kennedy’s drinking problem when he was elected as leader in 1999 and had subsequently kept it hidden from the public.

On 7 January 2006, Kennedy called another press conference, at which he announced that while he was buoyed by the supportive messages he had received from grass root members, he felt that he could not continue as a leader because of the lack of confidence from the parliamentary party. He said he would not be a candidate in the leadership election and was standing down as leader “with immediate effect”, with Menzies Campbell to act as interim leader until a new leader was elected. He also confirmed in his resignation statement that he did not expect to remain on the Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team. He pledged his loyalty to a new leader as a backbencher and said he wished to remain active in the party and in politics. Campbell went on to win the resulting leadership election, and Kennedy subsequently gave his successor full public support. His leadership had lasted slightly less than six years and five months.

Later political career


Charles Kennedy attending a debate at the Glasgow University Union on 10 February 2009

After resigning as party leader, Kennedy remained in office as a backbench MP. His first major political activity was to campaign in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, which the Liberal Democrats went on to win, taking the seat from Labour.

On 22 June 2006, Kennedy made his first appearance in the national media after stepping down as party leader when he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time. One of the questions on the show was about his possible return as leader, which he declined to rule out.

On 4 August 2006, he hosted a documentary on Channel 4 about what he saw as the increasing disenchantment felt by voters towards the main parties in British politics because of their hesitation to discuss the big issues, especially at election time, and the ruthless targeting of swing-voters in key constituencies at the expense of the majority. He also contributed an article covering the same issues to The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free section.

After Campbell resigned as Liberal Democrat leader on 15 October 2007, Kennedy said that it was “highly unlikely” that he would try to return as party leader, but he did not rule it out completely.

Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition (2010–2015)

At the 2010 general election, Kennedy was re-elected to parliament with a majority of 13,070.

Kennedy voted against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in May 2010, explaining in an article for The Observer that he “did not subscribe to the view that remaining in opposition ourselves, while extending responsible ‘Confidence and supply’ requirements to a minority Conservative administration, was tantamount to a ‘do nothing’ response”. Finally, Kennedy warned of the risks of “subsequent assimilation within the Conservative fold”, adding: “David Cameron has been here often before: from the early days of his leadership he was happy to describe himself as a ‘liberal Conservative’. And we know he dislikes the term Tory. These ongoing efforts at appropriation are going to have to be watched”.

The media reported on 21 August 2010 that Kennedy was about to defect from the Liberal Democrats to Labour in protest against his party’s role in the coalition government’s public spending cuts, but the Liberal Democrats were swift to deny these reports.

Kennedy played a role in the cross-party Better Together campaign, which was the pro-union campaign for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. In March 2014, the Sunday Post reported that Kennedy had criticised Labour’s strategy in the referendum campaign and said that Better Together needed to consider its legacy.

Rector of University of Glasgow

In February 2008, Kennedy was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow and was officially installed, succeeding Mordechai Vanunu, on 10 April 2008. He won the election with a 46% share of the vote, supported by not only his own Glasgow University Union but also the Queen Margaret Union and Glasgow University Sports Association. He was re-elected in February 2011, defeating one other candidate, the writer A. L. Kennedy, by a clear margin. He served six years as rector until Edward Snowden was elected in February 2014.


Kennedy lost his seat at the 2015 United Kingdom general election to Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party,  amid a nationwide loss of forty-nine seats for the Liberal Democrats.  Kennedy died on the evening of 1 June 2015 at his home in Fort William at the age of 55.  Kennedy’s death was announced in the early hours of the following day.  The police described his death as “sudden and non-suspicious”. Following a post-mortem, his family announced that Kennedy had died of a major haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism.

A funeral mass was held on 12 June at his parish church, St John’s Roman Catholic Church, in Caol near Fort William, and his body was buried at his family’s cemetery at Clunes. A service of thanksgiving was held at the University of Glasgow on 18 June and it was announced that the university would be fund-raising to name a teaching area in memory of him. A memorial service was held in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, London, on 3 November.

Personal life

In July 2002, Kennedy married Sarah Gurling, the sister of his friend James Gurling. They had a son, Donald, who was born in 2005. On 9 August 2010, it was announced that Kennedy and his wife were to separate, and their divorce was granted on 9 December 2010.

In July 2007, Kennedy was informally spoken to by the British Transport Police after he breached the English smoking ban on a train a few days after it came into force.

Kennedy’s father Ian, to whom he was close, died in April 2015; just two months before his son’s death. He had been a brewery worker but a lifelong teetotaller. Kennedy had chosen a recording of his father’s fiddle playing when he appeared on Desert Island Discs.

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Famous Scots Tom Weir.

Tom Weir was born in Glasgow in 1914. He served in the Royal Artillery during World War 2, followed by work for the Ordnance Survey. Tom’s love of Scotland – in particular, its outdoors, led to a career as a climber, writer, photographer and broadcaster.

Weir’s Way began in 1976 on Scottish Television (now stv) and Tom travelled the country meeting the Scottish people and exploring the landscape and natural history of Scotland. In 1978, Tom won the Scottish Television Personality of the Year Award for his work on the Weir’s Way series. Tom was also a keen environmentalist, which can be seen throughout his programmes.

Tom Weir lived to the age of 91 and is buried in Kilmaronock Parish Church graveyard, West Dunbartonshire.

A special interview with one of Scotland’s leading TV personalities, Tom Weir, to celebrate 10 years of Weir’s Way and his 70th birthday. Now a leading author, President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, he has an MBE and was Scottish TV Personality of the year 1978. This intimate interview reveals the real Weir and what brought a wee boy from the Springburn tenements to have such a passion for the mountains and beautiful scenery of Scotland.

With over 50 years of travel around Scotland, Weir shows us some of his favourite parts of the country looking at their best. These selections take us from the North East to South East as he guides us through the beautiful landscapes rich in history and culture and talks to the local people about how these areas have changed. Starting in the stunning Glen Affric, moving to Moidart, the Ballochbuie forest, the island of Mingulay and Loch Tayside amongst others.

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Famous Scots. Andrew. Bonar-Law

“If I am a great man, then a good many great men of history are frauds.”

Andrew Bonar Law was the Canadian-born son of a Scottish clergyman. He worked as a boy on his father’s smallholding and then, at age 12, he went to live with his late mother’s cousins, who were rich Glaswegian merchant bankers in Scotland.

He later worked for the family bank while attending university night classes, which gave him an interest in politics and debating. At 27 he was making his fortune as an iron merchant but did not live extravagantly, having simple tastes.

With an inheritance that gave him financial independence, Bonar Law entered politics. In 1900 he was elected Conservative MP for Glasgow Blackfriars. He had a reputation for honesty and fearlessness, and was well regarded as an effective speaker. These qualities promoted him to Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in 1902.

He lost his seat in the 1906 Liberal landslide General Election, but he returned to represent Dulwich following a by-election later in the same year. Though hit hard by the death of his wife, he continued his political career and won the Conservative party leadership in 1911 as a compromise candidate.

At the outbreak of war, he offered the government the support of the Conservatives in the coalition. Working closely with the Liberals caused Bonar Law to admire David Lloyd George to such a degree that he even declined the premiership in favour of Lloyd George’s appointment.

He was given senior positions in Lloyd George’s new war cabinet. His promotion reflected the great mutual trust between both leaders and made for a well-coordinated political partnership. Their coalition was re-elected by a landslide following the Armistice.

Bonar Law had lost his 2 eldest sons in the war and his health deteriorated. To recover he resigned as Leader of the House and leader of his party. At the time many leading Conservatives were so charmed by Lloyd George that they were considering leaving the Conservatives to join a new party Lloyd George was planning. Law made a decisive and stimulating speech at the Conservative Carlton Club which changed their minds and saved the Conservative party. He persuaded the Conservatives to end the coalition and work as an independent party.

Conservative withdrawal forced Lloyd George to resign and the King then invited Bonar Law to form a new administration in 1922.

Law’s ‘Tranquility Manifesto’ was an attempt to allow Britain to recover from war damage. Though elected, he lasted just 209 days in office. He resigned in May 1923 due to ill health and died of throat cancer 6 months later.

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Famous Scots. John Boyd Dunlop.

John Boyd Dunlop (born Feb. 5 1840, Dreghorn, Ayrshire, Scot.—died Oct. 23 1921, Dublin), inventor who developed the pneumatic rubber tire. In 1867 he settled in Belfast as a veterinary surgeon. In 1887 he constructed there a pneumatic tire for his son’s tricycle. Patented the following year, the tire went into commercial production in 1890, with Dunlop holding 1,500 shares of the Belfast manufacturing company that developed into the Dunlop Company.

It was later discovered that the principle of the pneumatic tire had already been patented in 1846. The company held various accessory patents, however, that enabled it to establish its position.

Though invented as an improvement on the bicycle, the pneumatic tire arrived on the scene just in time to contribute to the success of the automobile.

Dunlop Holdings PLC, subsidiary company of BTR PLC, and the major British manufacturer of tires and other rubber products. It is headquartered in London.

The company has been involved in rubber-tire manufacture since the late 19th century. Dunlop’s founder, John Boyd Dunlop (1840–1921), who had constructed the first pneumatic (air-filled) tire, received a patent for the tire in 1888. The following year he formed a company to manufacture pneumatic bicycle tires. In 1896 Dunlop registered the company in Great Britain as Byrne Brothers India Rubber Company, Ltd. The name was changed to Dunlop Rubber Company, Ltd., in 1900, and the company began making automobile tires six years later. To ensure that the company would have an uninterrupted supply of raw rubber, Dunlop started buying rubber plantations on the Malay Peninsula, and by 1926 the company held the largest acreage under one ownership anywhere in the British Empire. In 1981, however, the company sold its holdings there to Malaysian investors. That same year the company converted to a public limited company and assumed its current name.

In 1982 Dunlop sold a large portion of its European tire operations to Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Inc., of Japan—an associate company and former Dunlop subsidiary. BTR PLC, an industrial holding company, acquired Dunlop in 1985, selling off Dunlop’s American tire company.

Types of tires.

There are two main types of tires, those made of metal and those made of rubber. Railroad cars, which run on smooth steel rails, use iron or steel tires for low rolling resistance. The metal tire is basically a flat hoop fitted tightly over the exterior of the wheel. Besides low rolling resistance, its other attributes are strength, durability, and resistance to wear.

Free-moving vehicles such as automobiles, trucks, buses, bicycles, and airplanes need more friction to turn, climb, accelerate, and brake, so these vehicles use rubber tires, which provide both high friction and some cushioning ability. Rubber tires are of two types: (1) solid, or cushion, tires, in which the rubber portion functions to carry the load, absorb shocks, and resist cutting and abrasion; and (2) pneumatic tires, in which the load is carried and the shocks are absorbed mainly by the compressed air that fills the tire. Pneumatic tires are now used for almost all free-moving vehicles because of their greater cushioning ability and other advantages. Solid rubber tires are now used only on industrial and farm carts and on military vehicles, applications where tires are liable to be cut or pierced.

Solid tires

Solid rubber tires were introduced in 1881 on the wheels of hansom cabs in London. They were formerly used for many types of road vehicles, but they have now disappeared from highways owing to legislation that discouraged their use because they were hard on roads. The large sizes were supplanted by large pneumatic tires (truck and bus casings), but small solid tires came to be used extensively on industrial trucks and tractors and on carts. Solid tires are often adhered directly to the wheel or to a metal band applied to the periphery of the wheel.

Pneumatic tires

The pneumatic tire is designed to provide a flexible cover with an impermeable lining to contain and restrain the compressed air. This cover is provided with a rubber tread portion that is designed to withstand the cutting and abrasive wear of road contact and to protect the tire against puncture and loss of air. Such a structure has, as distinct from a solid rubber or cushion tire, no capacity in itself either to carry load or absorb shocks. It is entirely dependent on the contained compressed air to enable it to function.

The first patent for a pneumatic tire was issued to Robert William Thomson in England in 1845 for a hollow leather tire filled with air. Although a set of Thomson’s “Aerial Wheels” ran for 1,200 miles on an English brougham, the same inventor’s solid-rubber tires were more popular; and thus, for almost half a century, air-filled tires were forgotten. The growing popularity of the bicycle in the late 19th century revived interest in tire design, and in 1888 John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon of Belfast, obtained patents on a pneumatic tire for bicycles. Pneumatic tires were first applied to motor vehicles by the French rubber manufacturer Michelin & Cie. For more than 60 years, pneumatic tires had inner tubes to contain the compressed air and outer casings to protect the inner tubes and provide traction. In the 1950s, however, tubeless tires reinforced by alternating plies, or layers, of cord became standard equipment on new automobiles. In that decade Michelin introduced the radial-ply tire, which is now standard for all automobiles in developed countries.

Pneumatic tires are usually retained on the wheel through the use of beads (hoops of wire) that are molded into the tire edges. The tire edges are placed in a shaped channel on the wheel rim’s circumference and are held firmly against the channel’s edges by the pressure exerted once the tire is inflated with air. Pressures range from about 30 pounds per square inch (200 kilopascals) for large, soft tires to approximately 100 pounds per square inch (700 kilopascals) for high-pressure, high-load applications. The pressure is carried by layers of cords embedded in a rubber cover that in turn serves to contain the air, protect the cords, and give high friction with the ground. This felicitous combination is the reason why pneumatic tires are so widely used for transportation. More than 200 million of them are manufactured for motor vehicles alone each year, 90 percent for automobiles and 10 percent for trucks.

Pneumatic tires are designed to meet five main goals: low rolling resistance, low vertical stiffness (to cushion the ride), high sliding friction in both wet and dry conditions, high longitudinal and lateral stiffness (to minimize sliding motions in the “contact patch” where the tread meets the road), and resistance to wear and damage such as cutting, puncturing, and abrasion. In order to achieve these goals, tire designers must choose appropriate combinations of materials and structures, such as those described below.

Tire materials

A pneumatic tire is reinforced by layers of relatively inextensible cords that hold the air pressure and restrict deformation and growth of the tire during use. To this end cord materials must have high stiffness, resistance to repeated flexing, high strength-to-weight ratio, and good adhesion to rubber. Tire cords have been made of cotton, rayon, nylon, polyester, and glass, but steel and polyaramid (an extremely hard and stiff synthetic fibre) are currently the dominant materials in use.

Various rubber compounds are used in different parts of the tire. The liner, which is intended to minimize the loss of air, is usually made of butyl rubber because that material has a low permeability to gas. Sidewalls, on the other hand, must resist scraping, flexing, and attack by ozone in the air. A typical formulation for sidewalls (measured in parts by weight of each ingredient) would be 50 parts natural rubber (for resistance to heat buildup), 50 parts butadiene rubber (for abrasion resistance), and 50 parts carbon black (for reinforcement), along with small amounts of processing oil, antioxidant, and protective wax. A tire’s treads must be especially resistant to abrasion. A tread compound might have no natural rubber at all but rather 65 parts styrene-butadiene rubber (for hardness and abrasion resistance), 35 parts butadiene rubber, and as much as 65 parts carbon black.

Tire specifications

Tires made to North American and European standards carry a code that shows their size and expected performance. In the American “P-metric” system, tire size is indicated, for example, by the code P215/70R15, where the letter P denotes a passenger-vehicle tire; 215 denotes the tire width in millimetres; 70 denotes the aspect ratio, i.e., the ratio of the tire’s height from rim to tread, relative to its width; R denotes radial construction; and 15 is the wheel rim diameter in inches. In addition to size, a speed rating is given using a letter code: S for a maximum speed of 112 miles per hour (180 km/h); T for 118 mph; H for 130 mph; V for 149 mph; and Z for more than 149 mph. A tread wear rating is given for expected tread life as a percentage of that for a standard tire. For example, a rating of 300 would imply a tread life three times as long as that of the reference tire.

Snow tires

Snow tires have an extra-deep tread for better traction on snow and ice. They are reputed to have 50 percent more pulling ability than regular tires on loosely packed snow and nearly 30 percent more on glare ice. In stopping on glare ice, however, snow tires have no advantage over regular tires; tire chains or studded tires are best for ice surfaces. Studded tires usually have about 100 studs tipped with tungsten carbide which contact the road as the tire rotates. Because of the damage they are said to cause road surfaces, they are prohibited in certain localities.

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Famous Scots. Sir Ralph Cochrane.

Air chief marshal (Air Chf Mshl or ACM) GBE, KCB, AFC (24 February 1895 – 17 December 1977) was a British aviator and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise, the famous “Dambusters” raid.

Early RAF career.

Ralph Cochrane was born on 24 February 1895, the youngest son of Thomas Cochrane, 1st Baron Cochrane of Cults, in the Scottish village of Springfield, Fife. To qualify as a naval officer, he must have joined the Royal Naval College, Osborne, in 1908, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, two years later. On 15 September 1912, he was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a midshipman.

During the First World War, Cochrane served in the Royal Naval Air Service piloting airships. He also completed a tour as a staff officer in the Admiralty’s Airship Department.

In January 1920, he was removed from the Navy List and granted a commission in the Royal Air Force. Between the wars, Cochrane served in various staff positions and commanded No. 3 Squadron from 1924 before attending the RAF Staff College and commanding No. 8 Squadron from 1929. He attended the Imperial Defence College in 1935.

At the request of Group Captain T. M. Wilkes, New Zealand Director of Air Services, in 1936 Cochrane was sent to New Zealand to assist with the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an independent service from the army. On 1 April 1937, Cochrane was appointed Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, King George VI and Group Captain John Whitworth discussing the Dambusters Raid in May 1943.

Second World War and the post-war years.

During the Second World War, Cochrane commanded No. 7 Group from July 1940, No. 3 Group from September 1942 and No. 5 Group from February 1943; all these Groups were in RAF Bomber Command. 5 Group became the most efficient and elite Main Force bomber group undertaking spectacular raids. Cochrane commanded the Dam-Busters raid. There was intense, sometimes openly hostile, rivalry between Cochrane and Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett, who saw Cochrane’s experimentation with low-level target marking through 617 Squadron in 1944 as a direct threat to his own specialist squadrons’ reputation.

In February 1945, Cochrane became Air Officer Commanding at RAF Transport Command, a position he held until 1947 when he became Air Officer Commanding at RAF Flying Training Command. During this time he managed the Berlin Airlift. In 1950 Cochrane was appointed Vice-Chief of the Air Staff. Ralph Cochrane retired from the service in 1952. Following his retirement, Cochrane entered the business world notably as director of Rolls-Royce. He was also chairman of RJM exports which manufactured scientific models and is now known as Cochranes of Oxford.

Honours and awards.

In the 1939 New Year Honours, Cochrane was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division). In the New Year Honours 1943 Cochrane was invested as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (Military Division). In the 1945 New Years Honour list he was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In the 1948 King’s Birthday Honours he was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. In the 1950 King’s Birthday Honours, he was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.

Dates of rank.

Wing commander1933

Acting group captain1937On secondment to RNZAF
Group captain1938

Air commodore (temporary)1940

Air marshal (acting)1945

Air marshal1946

Air chief marshal1949

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Famous Scots. Tony Blair.

Famous Scots. Tony Blair.

Tony Blair is a British politician who served as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. He was the leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. After being elected Labour leader, he set the party on a path of modernisation, ditching left-wing policies and making the party more electable. He was elected Prime Minister in 1997 on a tide of optimism – ending 18 years of Conservative rule. However, after a successful first term, his leadership became increasingly controversial as he supported the American led invasion of Iraq. Opposition to the Iraq war was a big factor in Blair later retiring from Parliament and handing over the Prime Minister’s job to Gordon Brown. Since his retirement from politics, he has served as a special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the EU, US and Russia.

Short Bio Tony Blair.

Tony Blair was educated at St John’s College, Oxford University where he studied Law. It is said at University he took little interest in politics and did not get involved in the Labour Party. However, it was at university he became influenced by Peter Thomson a left-wing Christian. These views shaped Tony Blair’s political views throughout his career.

Tony Blair was elected MP in the 1983 general election, despite a Conservative landslide. The Conservatives under Mrs Thatcher had just won the Falklands War, and many felt the Labour Party, under Michael Foot, were too left-wing. The policy of Labour in 1983 included:

  • Leaving the EEC
  • Nationalisation of key industries
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Redistribution of income and wealth.

In his maiden speech to the House of Commons, Tony Blair expressed his commitment to Socialism saying:

“I am a socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality”.

After Labour’s loss in 1983, Neil Kinnock became the leader, and he fought a long campaign to move the Labour party towards the centre. However, despite modernisation and centralisation, Labour still lost the 1992 election, despite the fact the Conservative party had led the country into a recession.

After the election, Neil Kinnock resigned to be replaced by John Smith. However, John Smith died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1994. Making a pact with Gordon Brown, Tony Blair successfully became the leader of the Labour party and led them to victory in 1997.

“We must transform Labour from a party of protest to a party of government.” (1994)

The 1997 election was a landslide for the Labour party and represented an important shift in British politics. The Conservatives had lost after 18 years in power. But, Labour had also changed,  successfully rebranding itself as New Labour. Tony Blair had changed the constitution of the Labour party – ditching the Clause IV commitment to nationalisation. It was a highly symbolic change and meant the New Labour party of 1997 was virtually unrecognisable to the Labour party of 1983.

As Prime Minister, he introduced many social reforms. These included increased spending on the National Health Service, a National Minimum Wage and Civil Partnerships for gay couples. He also sought to raise the issue of global warming – arguing the issue could not be ignored and more needed to be done.

The late 1990s were a good time for Britain, the economy did well, and New Labour became associated with ‘cool Britannia’ – the idea of rebirth in British politics and society. With a strong economy, Labour easily regained power in the 2001 election.

Tony Blair and the Iraq War

Following the 9/11 attacks in the US, Tony Blair made a strong commitment to Britain’s alliance with the US. When George Bush was pushing for the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair remained steadfast in his support. This was in contrast to many European leaders who were reluctant to engage in a pre-emptive invasion of a country that seemed to pose little threat.

The invasion of Iraq was very divisive within the UK, large rallies were held against the war and many in the Labour party rebelled. However, Blair led Britain into the war. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated, Tony Blair became increasingly unpopular and isolated. His unwavering support for George Bush meant he became associated with American policies in Guantanamo Bay and alleged uses of torture. With his popularity plummeting he announced his retirement, allowing Gordon Brown to take over leadership of the Labour party and become PM. Tony Blair formally resigned on 27 June 2007.

While criticised for the war in Iraq, Tony Blair has received many acknowledgements for his role in helping move Northern Ireland to a peaceful resolution after three decades of conflict.

In 2016, Tony Blair made a partial return to British politics to speak against Britain leaving the EU, in the EU referendum. However, his widespread unpopularity meant he had little influence in preventing a Vote to Leave. Shortly after the EU referendum, the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War was highly critical of Blair’s decision to go to war in 2003. It stated the legal basis for war was “far from satisfactory”, and that a war in 2003 was unnecessary. Furthermore, the United Kingdom and the United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council.

After the 2019 election, where Labour lost for a third consecutive election, he was very critical of Jeremy Corbyn and the leftward shift of the Labour Party. He argued if the Labour Party is to survive and become electable, it needs to moderate its left-wing policies and elect a leader who has the credibility and competence to appeal to a broad church of voters.

Personal life

Prime Minister Tony Blair poses May 2, 1997 with his family, wife Cherie, and children (l to r) Nicky, Kathryn and Euan, before taking up residence at No10 Downing Street, following Labour’s landslide victory in the General Election.

Tony Blair married Cherie Blair in 1980; the couple has four children. Tony Blair has stated his Christian faith is important to his values and way of life. In recent years, he has moved towards the Catholic Church, the same religion as his wife. On 30 May 2008, Tony Blair launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a vehicle for encouraging different faiths to join together in promoting respect and understanding.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan.  “Tony Blair Biography”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net. Published 11th Feb 2010. Updated 3 January 2020.

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Famous Scots. Eric Liddell.

Eric Liddell Biography.

Eric Liddell (1902 –  1945) was a Scottish Olympic champion at 400 m and a famous Christian missionary; his inspirational life was captured in the film ‘Chariots of Fire

Although his parents were Scottish, Eric Liddell was both born and died in China. He was born on 16 January 1902 in the city of Tientsin (now Tianjin) in north-eastern China.

He was sent to Eltham College, a Christian boarding school for 12 years. In 1921, he moved to Edinburgh University where he studied Pure Science. From his school days, he was an outstanding sportsman excelling in short distance running, rugby union and cricket. In 1922 and 1923 he played rugby union for Scotland in the Five Nations. However, it was at running that he really excelled, and after setting a new British record in the 1923 100 yards sprint, he was considered a great prospect for the Olympics in 1924.

Eric Liddell was a committed Protestant Christian. During the Paris Olympics – because the heats of the 100m sprint were held on Sunday, he withdrew from the race – a race considered to be his strongest. Instead, he concentrated on the 400 metres as the race schedule didn’t involve a Sunday.

Liddell was considered to be a strong favourite for the race. Before the final, the US Olympic masseur slipped a piece of paper into his hand. It included the words from the Bible 1 Samuel 2:30 “Those who honour me I will honour”.

Sprinting from the start, Liddell created a significant gap to the other runners and held onto win gold and set a new Olympic record time of 47.6 seconds. He described his race plan:

“The secret of my success over the 400m is that I run the first 200m as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200m, with God’s help I run faster.”  (BBC link)

He also won bronze in the 200m. In this race, he also beat Harold Abrahams a British rival and team-mate.

Liddell’s running style was unorthodox. Towards the end of the race, he would fling his head back, with mouth wide open appearing to gasp for breath.

Life as a Christian Missionary

In 1925, Liddell returned to northern China to serve as a missionary like his parents. In China, he remained fit but only competed sporadically.

Liddell married Florence Mackenzie a Canadian missionary. They had three daughters Patricia, Heather and Maureen.

In 1941, the advancing Japanese army pressed Liddell and his family to flee to a rural mission station. Liddell was kept very busy dealing with the stream of locals who came to the station for medical treatment and food.

In 1943, the Japanese reached the mission statement and Liddell was interned. Aggravated by the shortage of food and medical treatment, Liddell developed a brain tumour and suffered severe ill-health.

Many camp internees attest to the strong moral character of Liddell. He was seen as a great unifying force and helped to ease tensions through his selflessness and impartiality.

In “The Courtyard of the Happy Way“, Norman Cliff, wrote Liddell:

“the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody”.

A fellow internee, Stephen Metcalfe, later wrote of Liddell: “He gave me two things. One was his worn out running shoes, but the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them.”

Eric Liddell died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation. He died from his inoperable brain tumour – through overwork and malnutrition undoubtedly hastened his death. It was revealed after the war that Liddell had turned down an opportunity to leave the camp (as part of a prisoner exchange program), preferring instead to give his place to a pregnant woman. His death left a profound vacuum within the camp – such was the strength of his personality and character.

The 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire chronicled and contrasted the lives of Eric Liddell and British-Jewish athlete Harold Abrahams.

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Famous Scots Isabella (McDuff)

Isabella MacDuff Countess of Buchan (probably died c. 1314) was a significant figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. After Robert the Bruce killed John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.

According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a MacDuff.

Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions: “Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”


She was imprisoned in this cage for four years, then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce’s female relatives returned to Scotland in early 1315, when they were exchanged for English noblemen captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.

Mary Bruce was treated in a similar fashion at Roxburgh Castle.

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Famous Scots. David Tennant.

David John Tennant ( McDonald; born 18 April 1971) is a Scottish actor. He rose to fame for his role as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who (2005–2010). His other notable roles include Giacomo Casanova in the BBC comedy-drama serial Casanova (2005), Barty Crouch Jr. in the fantasy film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Peter Vincent in the horror remake Fright Night (2011), DI Alec Hardy in the ITV crime drama series Broadchurch (2013–2017), Kilgrave in the Netflix superhero series Jessica Jones (2015–2019), and Crowley in the Amazon Prime fantasy series Good Omens (2019-present).

Tennant has also worked extensively on stage, including a portrayal of the title character in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, later filmed for television. He is also an accomplished voice actor, appearing in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2011), Ferdinand (2017), Final Space (2018-2021), gen:LOCK (2019-present), the How to Train Your Dragon films (2010-2019), and as Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales (2017–2021), amongst others. In 2015, he received the National Television Award for Special Recognition.

Early life.

Tennant was born David John McDonald in Bathgate, West Lothian on 18 April 1971, the son of Helen (née McLeod; 1940–2007) and Alexander “Sandy” McDonald (1937–2016), a minister who served as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He grew up with his brother Blair and sister Karen in Ralston, Renfrewshire, where his father was the local minister. Two of his maternal great-grandparents, William and Agnes Blair, were Northern Irish Protestants from County Londonderry who were among the signatories of the Ulster Covenant in 1912. William was also a member of the Orange Order. Tennant’s maternal grandfather, footballer Archie McLeod, met William and Agnes’ daughter Nellie while playing for Derry City FC. McLeod was descended from tenant farmers from the Isle of Mull.

At the age of three, Tennant told his parents that he wanted to become an actor because he was a fan of Doctor Who, but they encouraged him to aim for more conventional work. He later said that he was “absurdly single-minded” in pursuing an acting career. He watched almost every Doctor Who episode for years and once spoke to Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker at a book-signing event in Glasgow. He was educated at Ralston Primary School and Paisley Grammar School, and acted in various school productions. His talent was noticed by actress Edith MacArthur, who told his parents that she believed he would become a successful theatre actor after she saw him perform when he was 10 years old.

Tennant attended Saturday classes at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which was then known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. At age 16, he passed an audition for the Academy, becoming one of their youngest students and studying there between the ages of 17 and 20. After discovering that there was another David McDonald already represented by the actor’s union Equity, he took his stage name from Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant after reading a copy of Smash Hits magazine. He later had to legally change his surname to meet Screen Actors Guild rules.

Acting career

Early work

Tennant made his professional acting debut while still in secondary school. When he was 16, he acted in an anti-smoking film made by the Glasgow Health Board which aired on television and was also screened in schools. The following year, he played a role in an episode of Dramarama. Tennant’s first professional role upon graduating from drama school was in a staging of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui co-starring Ashley Jensen; one of a few plays in which he performed as part of the agitprop 7:84 Theatre Company. He also made an early television appearance in the Scottish TV sitcom Rab C Nesbitt as a transgender barmaid called Davina. In the 1990s, he appeared in several plays at the Dundee Repertory Theatre.

Tennant was awarded his first major TV role as Campbell Bain in the BBC Scotland drama series Takin’ Over the Asylum (1994), after impressing director David Blair during filming of another drama – Strathblair (1992). As Tennant recalled from the audition, “they needed someone who could believably act 19 and bonkers”. During filming of Takin’ Over the Asylum he met comic actress and writer Arabella Weir. When he moved to London shortly afterwards, he lodged with Weir for five years and became godfather to her youngest child. He has subsequently appeared with Weir in many productions: as a guest in her spoof television series Posh Nosh, in the Doctor Who audio drama Exile (during which Weir played an alternative version of the Doctor), and as panellists on the West Wing Ultimate Quiz on More4 (Weir later guest-starred on Doctor Who itself after Tennant left the series). One of his earliest big-screen roles was in Jude (1996), in which he shared a scene with Christopher Eccleston, playing a drunken undergraduate who challenges Eccleston’s Jude to prove his intellect. Eccleston later portrayed the ninth regeneration of The Doctor, immediately preceding Tennant’s iteration of the role.

Tennant developed his career in the British theatre, frequently performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first Shakespearean role for the RSC was in As You Like It (1996); having auditioned for the role of Orlando, the romantic lead, he was instead cast as the jester Touchstone, which he played in his natural Scottish accent. He subsequently specialised in comic roles, playing Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals, although he also played the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He also starred in the 2003 London production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.

Tennant contributed to several audio dramatisations of Shakespeare for the Arkangel Shakespeare series (1998). His roles include a reprisal of his Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, as well as Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Edgar in King Lear, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, all of which he performs in his natural accent. In 1995, Tennant appeared at the Royal National Theatre, London, playing the role of Nicholas Beckett in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw. In television, he appeared in the first episode of Reeves and Mortimer’s revamped Randall and Hopkirk in 2000, playing an eccentric artist. During the Christmas season of 2002, he starred in a series of television advertisements for Boots the Chemists. In 2003 Tennant appeared in the film Bright Young Things. He was nominated for Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero. The UK première was staged at the Donmar Warehouse, in previews on April 4, opening April 10 and closing on May 4, 2002. The cast also included Charlotte Randle (Dawn), with Dominic Rowan (Bill), and Gary McDonald (William), and was again directed by Mark Brokaw. This production transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre from June 26 (opening July 1) to August 10, 2002. He began to appear on television more prominently in 2004 and 2005, when he appeared in a dramatisation of He Knew He Was Right (2004), Blackpool (2004), Casanova (2005), and The Quatermass Experiment (2005). Later that same year, he appeared as Barty Crouch Jr. in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Doctor Who

See also: Tenth Doctor

Tennant with Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies (left), regular director Euros Lyn (centre right), and executive producer Julie Gardner (right) at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2009

Doctor Who returned to British screens in March 2005, with Christopher Eccleston playing the role of the Ninth Doctor in the first series. Tennant replaced him as of the second series, making his first, brief appearance as the Tenth Doctor in the episode “The Parting of the Ways” (2005) at the end of the regeneration scene, and also appeared in a special 7-minute mini-episode shown as part of the 2005 Children in Need appeal, broadcast on 18 November 2005. He began filming the new series of Doctor Who in late July 2005. His first full-length outing as the Doctor was a 60-minute special, “The Christmas Invasion”, first broadcast on Christmas Day 2005. Tennant had been formally offered the role of the Doctor during rehearsals for The Quatermass Experiment. Although the casting was not officially announced until later in April, both castmates and crew became aware of the speculation surrounding Tennant; in the live broadcast Jason Flemyng (Quatermass) changed his first line to Tennant’s Dr. Briscoe from “Good to have you back, Gordon” to “Good to have you back, Doctor” as a deliberate reference.

Tennant has expressed enthusiasm about fulfilling his childhood dream. He remarked in a radio interview: “Who wouldn’t want to be the Doctor? I’ve even got my own TARDIS!” In 2006, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted Tennant “Best Doctor” over perennial favourite Tom Baker. Writer Russell T Davies made the decision not to use Tennant’s own Scottish accent for the character as he did not want the Doctor’s accent “touring the regions”, using Estuary English instead. Tennant has gone on record as saying that, contrary to tabloids reports, he was not upset at not being able to play the role in his own accent and in fact had never wanted to. However, he was pleased to be able to use his own accent in one episode, when the Doctor briefly masquerades as “Dr. James McCrimmon” of Edinburgh in Tooth and Claw – a nod to the Second Doctor’s companion Jamie McCrimmon.

He previously had a small role in the BBC’s animated Doctor Who webcast Scream of the Shalka. Not originally cast in the production, Tennant was recording a radio play in a neighbouring studio, and when he discovered what was being recorded next door convinced the director to give him a small role. This personal enthusiasm for the series had also been expressed by his participation in several audio plays based on the Doctor Who television series which had been produced by Big Finish Productions, although he did not play the Doctor in any of these productions. His first such role was in the Seventh Doctor audio Colditz, where he played a Nazi lieutenant guard at Colditz Castle. In 2004 Tennant played a lead role in the Big Finish audio play series Dalek Empire III as Galanar, a young man who is given an assignment to discover the secrets of the Daleks. In 2005, he starred in UNIT: The Wasting for Big Finish, recreating his role of Brimmicombe-Wood from a Doctor Who Unbound play, Sympathy for the Devil. In both audio productions, he worked alongside Nicholas Courtney, who reprised the character of Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. He also played an unnamed Time Lord in another Doctor Who Unbound play ExileUNIT: The Wasting, was recorded between Tennant getting the role of the Doctor and it being announced. He played the title role in Big Finish’s adaptation of Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (2005). In 2006, he recorded abridged audio books of The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner, The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole and The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards, for BBC Worldwide.

He made his directorial debut on the Doctor Who Confidential episode that accompanies Steven Moffat’s episode “Blink”, entitled “Do You Remember The First Time?”, which aired on 9 June 2007. In 2007, Tennant’s Tenth Doctor appeared with Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need, written by Steven Moffat and entitled “Time Crash”. He later performed alongside Davison’s daughter, Georgia Moffett (as “Jenny”) in the 2008 episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”. Georgia Moffett later became David Tennant’s wife.

Tennant featured as the Doctor in an animated version of Doctor Who for Totally Doctor WhoThe Infinite Quest, which aired on CBBC. He also starred as the Doctor in another animated six-part Doctor Who series, Dreamland. Tennant guest starred as the Doctor in a two-part story in Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, broadcast in October 2009. He continued to play the Tenth Doctor into the revived programme’s fourth series in 2008. However, on 29 October 2008, he announced that he would be stepping down from the role after three full series. He played the Doctor in four special episodes in 2009, before his final episode aired on 1 January 2010, where he was replaced by the Eleventh Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith.

Tennant and Billie Piper returned to Doctor Who for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” broadcast on 23 November 2013, with then-stars Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman and guest star John Hurt. The same month, he also appeared in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot directed by Peter Davison.

In October 2015, Big Finish Productions announced that Tennant would return to the role of the Tenth Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as his former companion Donna Noble in three new stories from Big Finish. The stories feature current and previous Doctor Who actors, including Strax actor Dan Starkey, former Davros actor Terry Molloy, and many veterans of Big Finish, including Niky Wardley, who portrayed Eighth Doctor companion Tamsin. The three stories were released in May 2016.

In November 2017, three new audio dramas were released by Big Finish Productions with Tennant once again starring as the Tenth Doctor, alongside Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. Tennant also returned to the role on 13 and 14 July 2018, as part of the live Muppets show The Muppets Take the O2 in London (in which the Tenth Doctor appeared onstage as part of a live Pigs in Space sketch).

In May 2022, in relation to the show’s 60th anniversary, it was announced that Tennant would once again return to the show as the Tenth Doctor, reuniting him with the also returning Tate who will reprise her role as Donna Noble.

Theatre work

Despite much of his work being television work, Tennant has described theatre work as his “default way of being”. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), to play Hamlet with Patrick Stewart and Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost in 2008. From August to November 2008 he appeared at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as Hamlet, playing that role in repertory with Berowne that October and November. Hamlet transferred to the Novello Theatre in London’s West End in December 2008, but Tennant suffered a prolapsed disc during previews and was unable to perform from 8 December 2008 until 2 January 2009, during which time the role was played by his understudy Edward Bennett. He returned to his role in the production on 3 January 2009, and appeared until the run ended on 10 January. Tennant’s performance of Hamlet was critically acclaimed. In 2009, he worked on a TV film version of the RSC’s 2008 Hamlet for BBC Two. On 12 April 2011, a photograph of Tennant as Hamlet featured on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail to mark the RSC’s fiftieth anniversary.

In January 2012, Tennant was appointed to the Royal Shakespeare Company board, to be on the selection committee interviewing and choosing the new artistic director. It was announced on 23 January 2013 that Tennant would return to the RSC for the company’s 2013 winter season, playing the title role in Richard II at Stratford-upon-Avon (from 10 October to 16 November) and transferring to the Barbican Centre in London (from 9 December to 25 January 2014). Tennant repeated his performance as Richard II in the RSC’s ‘King and Country’ cycle in 2016, starting at the Barbican Theatre in London before transferring to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

In April 2022, he starred for the first time in the title role of a BBC Radio 4 production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Other work


While playing the Doctor, Tennant was also in the early December 2005 ITV drama Secret Smile. His performance as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, was recorded by the National Video Archive of Performance for the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection. He revived this performance for the anniversary of the Royal Court Theatre in a rehearsed reading. In January 2006, he took a one-day break from shooting Doctor Who to play Richard Hoggart in a dramatisation of the 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, The Chatterley Affair. The play was written by Andrew Davies and directed by Doctor Who‘s James Hawes for the digital television channel BBC Four. Hoggart’s son, Simon, praised Tennant’s performance in The Guardian newspaper.

On 25 February 2007, Tennant starred in Recovery, a 90-minute BBC One drama written by Tony Marchant. He played Alan, a self-made building site manager who attempted to rebuild his life after suffering a debilitating brain injury. His costar in the drama was friend Sarah Parish, with whom he had previously appeared in Blackpool and an episode of Doctor Who. She joked that “we’re like George and Mildred – in 20 years’ time we’ll probably be doing a ropey old sitcom in a terraced house in Preston”. Later that same year he starred in Learners, a BBC comedy drama written by and starring Jessica Hynes (another Doctor Who costar, in the episodes “Human Nature”, “The Family of Blood” and “The End of Time”), in which he played a Christian driving instructor who became the object of a student’s affection. Learners was broadcast on BBC One on 11 November 2007. Tennant had a cameo appearance as the Doctor in the 2007 finale episode of the BBC/HBO comedy series Extras with Ricky Gervais. In November 2008, Tennant played Sir Arthur Eddington in the BBC and HBO biographical film Einstein and Eddington, which was filmed in Cambridge and Hungary. Tennant was the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” on Top Gear in December 2007, where he claimed to have unsuccessfully auditioned for a role on Taggart 26 times. Tennant is the voice behind the 2007 advertising campaign for catalogue retailer Argos, and appeared in adverts for The Proclaimers’ 2007 album and learndirect in June 2008. Tennant also lent his voice to adverts for Tesco Mobile, Nintendo Wii, and American Express.

Tennant at San Diego Comic Con 2009

Tennant featured in an episode of Trick or Treat on Channel 4 in May 2008. The episode showed Tennant apparently predicting future events correctly by using automatic writing. In TV & Satellite Week (26 April – 2 May issue), the host of the show, Derren Brown, is quoted as saying: “One of the appeals of Doctor Who for David is time travel, so I wanted to give him that experience. He was open and up for it, and I got a good reaction. He’s a real screamer!”. Tennant also returned for the final episode of the series with the rest of the participants from the other episodes in the series to take part in one final experiment. Tennant appeared in the 2008 episode “Holofile 703: Us and Phlegm” of the radio series Nebulous (a parody of Doctor Who) in the role of Doctor Beep, using his Lothian accent. Also in 2008, he voiced the character of Hamish the Hunter in the 2008 English language DVD re-release of the 2006 animated Norwegian film, Free Jimmy, alongside Woody Harrelson. The English-language version of the film has dialogue written by Simon Pegg, who also starred in it as a main voice actor.

In early 2009, Tennant narrated the digital planetarium space dome film “We Are Astronomers” commissioned by the UK’s National Space Centre. On 13 March 2009, he presented Red Nose Day 2009 with Davina McCall. He joined Franz Ferdinand onstage to play the guitar on their song “No You Girls” on a special Comic Relief edition of Top of the Pops. In summer 2009, Tennant filmed St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. The film was released in December 2009. From October 2009, he hosted the Masterpiece Contemporary programming strand on the American Public Broadcasting Service. In December 2009, he filmed the lead in an NBC pilot, Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, playing Rex, a Chicago lawyer who starts to coach clients to represent themselves when he starts suffering panic attacks. The pilot was not picked up and the project was shelved. In November 2009, he co-hosted the Absolute Radio Breakfast Show with Christian O’Connell for three consecutive days He returned to cohost the show for one day in October 2010. On 7 March 2010, he also appeared as George in a one-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Of Mice and Men in the Classic Serial strand. In October 2010 he starred as Dave, a man struggling to raise five children after the death of his partner, in the British drama Single Father. For this role he was nominated as Best Actor at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2010.


Tennant with Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter in 2015

In 2011, he starred in United, about the Manchester United “Busby Babes” team and the 1958 Munich air disaster, playing coach and assistant manager Jimmy Murphy. In September 2011, he appeared in a guest role in one episode of the comedy series This is Jinsy, and also started filming True Love, a semi-improvised BBC One drama series, on location in Margate, Kent; the series aired in June 2012. Later in September 2011, it was announced that Tennant would voice a character in the movie adaptation of Postman Pat named You Know You’re the One with a planned 3D theatrical release for spring 2013. In October 2011, Tennant started shooting the semi-improvised comedy film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger in Coventry. He played dual roles: the main character, put-upon teacher Mr. Peterson, and his “golden boy” twin brother and rival.

In April 2012, Tennant played lead in a one-off drama The Minor Character for Sky Arts. Between April and June, he filmed Spies of Warsaw for BBC Four, in the lead role of Jean-François Mercier. This drama series shot in Poland is an adaptation of Alan Furst’s novel The Spies of Warsaw. Tennant auditioned for the role of Hannibal Lecter in NBC’s Hannibal; he was narrowly beaten for the part by Mads Mikkelsen. On 9 June 2012, he started filming the 3-part political drama series The Politician’s Husband for BBC Two, playing an ambitious cabinet minister who takes drastic action when his wife’s career starts to outshine his.Tennant also presented the new comedy quiz show Comedy World Cup, in 2012 which ran on Saturday nights for seven episodes.

Tennant at the 2017 Wizard World Columbus Comic Con

Tennant starred in the ITV detective series Broadchurch as DI Alec Hardy between 2013 and 2017. The first series was filmed in Clevedon, North Somerset, and Bridport, Dorset, between August and November 2012, and aired in March 2013. Tennant filmed the second series of Broadchurch during mid-2014, and the third between May and October 2016. Between January and May 2014, Tennant also filmed the US remake of Broadchurch, re-titled Gracepoint.

Between late January and March 2013, Tennant filmed The Escape Artist for BBC One in which he played a talented junior barrister who had yet to lose a case. The three-part series aired on BBC One in October and November 2013. Tennant starred opposite Rosamund Pike and Billy Connolly in What We Did on Our Holiday, a semi-improvised comedy film; shooting took place from 17 June to 30 July 2013 in Scotland. The film was released in September 2014.

In 2012 he appeared in a multi-million-pound campaign for Virgin Media, starring in three adverts. One advert was voluntarily withdrawn after a complaint lodged by BBC Worldwide, which believed that the advert broke the corporation’s guidelines by featuring references to Doctor Who that appeared to be a commercial endorsement of the service. He is the narrator on Xbox One video game Kinect Sports Rivals, released in 2014.

Tennant also portrayed the villainous Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, a television series from Marvel and Netflix. All 13 episodes were released on 20 November 2015.

On 9 February 2015, Tennant appeared on the Radio 4 panel show Just a Minute, becoming the show’s most successful debut contestant. He also voiced the Propaganda Minister in the 2015 Square Enix video game Just Cause 3. In autumn 2015, Tennant’s name was announced for Scottish feature film I Feel Fine, a thriller set in Glasgow in the 1980s. However, as of January 2016, the film has been postponed indefinitely. In February 2016, he began filming Mad to Be Normal (previously titled Metanoia), a biopic of the renowned Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing, produced by Gizmo Films.

Tennant at a Good Omens panel at New York Comic Con 2018


In 2017, Tennant appeared in writer/director Daisy Aitkens’ first feature film, You, Me and Him. The film is co-produced by Tennant’s wife, Georgia, and had originally been due to co-star his father-in-law, Peter Davison; however, Davison withdrew from the film in October 2016 due to a scheduling clash. Between March and June 2017 Tennant appeared in Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Also in 2017, he became the voice of Scrooge McDuck for Disney XD’s DuckTales reboot, replacing the character’s longtime voice actor Alan Young, who died in May 2016.

Tennant plays psychopathic villain Cale Erendreich in the thriller film Bad Samaritan (2018), written by Brandon Boyce and directed by Dean Devlin. Tennant also plays Crowley in the miniseries Good Omens, which was released in full on Amazon Prime Video on 31 May 2019 and was released on BBC Two on 15 January 2020.

In February 2019, Tennant launched his own podcast, titled David Tennant Does a Podcast With… The podcast’s episodes feature Olivia Colman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jodie Whittaker, Ian McKellen, Jon Hamm, Gordon Brown, Jennifer Garner, Catherine Tate, Krysten Ritter, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Tina Fey, and Michael Sheen.

Tennant stars as a doctor suspected of murdering his family in Deadwater Fell, a Scottish true crime miniseries, which premiered in January 2020 on Channel 4. He also received his first credit as an executive producer for the series.

In September 2020, he portrayed Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen in Des, a three-part miniseries on ITV. For his performance, he won the International Emmy Award for Best Actor.

In 2020 and 2021 he starred in the TV series Staged, with Michael Sheen. Joel Golby of the Guardian described it: “David Tennant and Michael Sheen squabbled over Zoom as exaggerated, frustrated, hyper-thespian versions of themselves, in an actors-playing-actors miniseries with the exact same energy of a late-night Comic Relief sketch; 15-minute episodes where you got to see familiar actors with their off-duty haircuts saying words that seemed real. It was good, and it was smart, and it played perfectly with the boundaries of the format it was in.”

Public image

Tennant was named “Coolest Man on TV” of 2007 in a Radio Times survey. He won the National Television Awards award for Most Popular Actor in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. He was voted 16th Sexiest Man in the World by a 2008 Cosmopolitan survey.

In 2008, Tennant was voted “Greenest Star on the Planet” in an online vote held by Playhouse Disney as part of the Playing for the Planet Awards.

Tennant was ranked the 24th most influential person in the British media on 9 July 2007, according to MediaGuardian. He appeared in the paper’s annual media rankings in 2006. In December 2008, he was named as one of the most influential people in show business by British theatre and entertainment magazine The Stage, making him the fifth actor to achieve a ranking in the top 20 (in a list typically dominated by producers and directors). He was voted the third best dressed man in Britain in GQ reader’s poll for 2013. Tennant’s popularity has led to impersonations of him on various social networking sites, leading the BBC to issue a statement making it clear that Tennant does not use any of these sites and any account or message purporting to be from him is fake. In the expansion EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction for the game EverQuest, a character was introduced called Tavid Dennant, named after David Tennant. The character when interacted with makes a number of references to Doctor Who.

In December 2005, The Stage placed Tennant at No. 6 in its “Top Ten” list of the most influential British television artists of the year, citing his roles in BlackpoolCasanovaSecret Smile, and Doctor Who. In January 2006, readers of the British gay and lesbian newspaper The Pink Paper voted him the “Sexiest Man in the Universe”. In October 2006, he was named “Scotland’s most stylish male” in the Scottish Style Awards.

Tennant is an ambassador for Worldwide Cancer Research.


Tennant is a supporter of the Labour Party and appeared in a party political broadcast for them in 2005. He declared his support for then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010, and labelled David Cameron a “terrifying prospect”. In April 2010, he lent his voice to a Labour election broadcast. In 2012, he introduced Labour Party leader Ed Miliband onstage at the Labour Party Conference. In 2015, he also lent his voice to a Labour Party General Election broadcast.

Tennant remained neutral on the issue of Scottish independence in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, stating that it was not his business as he no longer lived in Scotland. However, in the wake of Brexit, which he called “depressing”, he stated in 2017 that he would support an independent Scotland in the event of a second referendum.

Personal life

Tennant rarely discusses his private life in interviews, citing his belief that “relationships are hard enough with the people you’re having them with, let alone talking about them in public”. He has said that he believes religion “must have” shaped his character, and revealed that he is an occasional churchgoer.

Tennant is married to actress Georgia Moffett, making him the son-in-law of actress Sandra Dickinson and Fifth Doctor actor Peter Davison. The couple met in 2008 during the filming of the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”, in which she played the genetically engineered daughter of Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. They married on 30 December 2011, and live in the Chiswick district of London. They have five children, including Ty, Moffett’s child from a previous relationship whom Tennant adopted. Ty has acted in the film Tolkien and the 2019 television adaptation of War of the Worlds. The couple’s daughter Olive was born on 29 March 2011. At the age of two, Olive had a cameo as John Barrowman’s daughter in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Later, at 10 years old, she made her film debut in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. On 2 May 2013, Tennant and Moffett had a son named Wilfred. On 9 November 2015, Tennant announced that they had recently had a daughter named Doris. On 13 October 2019, they had another daughter named Birdie.

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Famous Scots. J.M BARRIE.

James Matthew Barrie (later Sir James Matthew Barrie) was born on 9 May 1860 at 9 Brechin Road, Kirriemuir. He was the ninth child of ten to be born to David Barrie and Margaret Ogilvy.

James was only 6 years old when his older brother David died at the age of 13. This shattered the close-knit family and was particularly devastating for James’s mother, as David was the apple of her eye. James tried to replace his late brother in his mother’s affections by dressing as him and attempting to replicate David’s special whistle. His brother’s death was to have a deep influence on Barrie’s life and work.

Even as a child, James devised and produced plays for himself and his friends, staging them in the wash-house opposite the family home. The wash-house would later become a model for the Wendy House in Peter Pan. As his mother began to recover from the grief of losing David, she began to tell James stories about her childhood as well as tales from the locality of Kirriemuir. These would feature in many of his later works.

In 1868, at the age of 8, James was sent to attend Glasgow Academy, where he stayed for three years before going to Dumfries Academy, in both places staying with his older brother Alexander, a schoolteacher, and his sister Mary. James wrote his first play while he was at Dumfries – Bandolero the Bandit, which was performed at the Dumfries Theatre Royal.

In 1878, Barrie moved to Edinburgh to attend university, where he began to write articles and reviews for local newspapers. After graduating, he accepted a post to write for the Nottingham Journal

Barrie wrote many articles about his life in Kirriemuir and sent them to editors of London newspapers; some were published, which consequently persuaded him to move to London in 1884. Eventually these stories would find their way into his first books – Auld Licht Idylls and When a Man’s Single (both 1888), A Window in Thrums (1889) and the novel The Little Minister (1891).

As well as books, Barrie began to write for the stage. While watching a production of his third play, Walker London, James fell in love with the lead actress, Mary Ansell. They married in 1894. 

In 1895, further tragedy struck the Barrie household when James’s sister Hannah Ann and his mother Margaret died. Barrie paid affectionate tribute to his mother in his work, Margaret Ogilvy (1896).

James and Mary lived in Kensington. While walking his dog Porthos in the park, James befriended the three children of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, entertaining them with stories. The stories and games that James devised were acted out in Kensington Gardens by the two eldest Llewelyn Davies boys, George and Jack. Soon, they began to make their way as ‘Peter Pan’ stories into Barrie’s works, The Little White Bird (1902) and later the play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. This was first produced and staged in 1904 at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London. 

James and his wife grew very close to the Llewelyn Davies family and were near neighbours. However, the family suffered a blow when Arthur died in 1907 and then Sylvia passed away in 1910. Barrie and the family’s nurse became guardians to the now five Llewelyn Davies boys – George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nicholas.

Other plays produced by Barrie, such as Quality Street (1901) and The Admirable Crichton (1902), achieved great success and his popularity and fortune increased further. More works followed, including: What Every Woman Knows (1908); Dear Brutus (1917); Mary Rose (1920); Farewell Miss Logan (1932) and The Boy David (1936).

Barrie was granted several honours including being made a baronet in 1913 and being given the Order of Merit in 1922. He also became President of the Society of Authors in 1928, was made Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in 1930 and was afforded the Freedom of his home town Kirriemuir, also in 1930. A great fan of cricket, Barrie offered to fund the building of a new pavilion for the Kirriemuir cricket team, which he officially opened in 1930.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s Barrie regularly corresponded with his childhood friend James Robb, who continued to live in Kirriemuir, and we’re very fortunate to have some of these letters in our archive collection. Much of their content revolves around past times, and mutual friends and acquaintances in Kirriemuir. Before his death, James Barrie gave the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, which continues to benefit to this day. In increasingly ill health, Barrie died of pneumonia in a London nursing home in 1937 at the age of 77. He was buried in Kirriemuir cemetery next to his parents.

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Famous Scots. Charles Rennie MacKintosh.

Arguably Scotland’s most famous architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was known to control every aspect of an architectural project, from light fittings to clocks and cutlery. The Hill House in Helensburgh has been restored by the Trust to look exactly as it did in 1904. It is a masterful mixture of Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau, with Japanese touches, showing how Mackintosh and his wife, artist Margaret Macdonald, could bring all kinds of styles together in perfect harmony.

Mackintosh and the Hill House

The architecture and designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh are loved throughout the world, and the Hill House is celebrated as his ‘domestic masterpiece’. Before you visit, here’s a brief history of ‘Toshie’ and this iconic property.

Mackintosh’s early life and career

Born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one of eleven children. All of his brothers either died in infancy or left to live overseas, so Charles grew up alongside his five sisters as the only boy in his family. Even as a student and young adult, he would spend most of his time around women. His close-knit group of friends at art school, known as ‘The Immortals’, were almost entirely female. One of these artists, Margaret Macdonald, would marry Charles in 1900.

Charles was born with club foot that left him with a limp for the rest of his life. As a boy he was self-conscious and sometimes hot-tempered; he often spent whole days drawing flowers and vegetables on his father’s allotment, which he thought of as the ‘Garden of Eden’. The family home was always filled with flowers, especially roses. It’s clear from the iconic rose motif used throughout the Hill House that Charles was greatly inspired by nature.

Mackintosh enrolled at Glasgow School of Art at the age of 15, at his father’s suggestion. He then joined the architectural practice of Honeyman & Keppie as a draughtsman six years later. During his first private commission the clients were so horrified by the initial designs that Mackintosh had to draw up a second, duller set that would be more acceptable. As a parting ‘gift’, he had all of the house’s interior doors painted in the brightest colours he could find.

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Famous Scots. Sir Walter Scott.

Sir Walter Scott in full Sir Walter Scott 1st Baronet, (born August 15, 1771  Edinburgh Scotland—died September 21, 1832, AbbotsfordRoxburgh, Scotland), Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and biographer who is often considered both the inventor and the greatest practitioner of the historical novel.

Scott’s father was a lawyer, and his mother was the daughter of a physician. From his earliest years, Scott was fond of listening to his elderly relatives’ accounts and stories of the Scottish Border, and he soon became a voracious reader of poetry, history, drama, and fairy tales and romances. He had a remarkably retentive memory and astonished visitors by his eager reciting of poetry. His explorations of the neighbouring countryside developed in him both a love of natural beauty and a deep appreciation of the historic struggles of his Scottish forebears.

Walter Scott

Scott was educated at the high school at Edinburgh and also for a time at the grammar school at Kelso. In 1786 he was apprenticed to his father as writer to the signet, a Scots equivalent of the English solicitor (attorney). His study and practice of law were somewhat desultory, for his immense youthful energy was diverted into social activities and into miscellaneous readings in Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Latin. After a very deeply felt early disappointment in love, he married, in December 1797, Charlotte Carpenter, of a French royalist family, with whom he lived happily until her death in 1826.

In the mid-1790s Scott became interested in German Romanticism, Gothic novels, and Scottish border ballads. His first published work, The Chase, and William and Helen (1796), was a translation of two ballads by the German Romantic balladeer G.A. Bürger. A poor translation of Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen followed in 1799. Scott’s interest in border ballads finally bore fruit in his collection of them entitled Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 3 vol. (1802–03). His attempts to “restore” the orally corrupted versions back to their original compositions sometimes resulted in powerful poems that show a sophisticated Romantic flavour. The work made Scott’s name known to a wide public, and he followed up his first success with a full-length narrative poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), which ran into many editions. The poem’s clear and vigorous storytelling, Scottish regionalist elements, honest pathos, and vivid evocations of landscape were repeated in further poetic romances, including Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810), which was the most successful of these pieces, Rokeby (1813), and The Lord of the rings.

Scott led a highly active literary and social life during these years. In 1808 his 18-volume edition of the works of John Dryden appeared, followed by his 19-volume edition of Jonathan Swift (1814) and other works. But his finances now took the first of several disastrous turns that were to partly determine the course of his future career. His appointment as sheriff depute of the county of Selkirk in 1799 (a position he was to keep all his life) was a welcome supplement to his income, as was his appointment in 1806 as clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. But he had also become a partner in a printing (and later publishing) firm owned by James Ballantyne and his irresponsible brother John. By 1813 this firm was hovering on the brink of financial disaster, and although Scott saved the company from bankruptcy, from that time onward everything he wrote was done partly in order to make money and pay off the lasting debts he had incurred. Another ruinous expenditure was the country house he was having built at Abbotsford, which he stocked with enormous quantities of antiquarian objects.

By 1813 Scott had begun to tire of narrative poetry, and the greater depth and verve of Lord Byron’s narrative poems threatened to oust him from his position as supreme purveyor of this kind of literary entertainment. In 1813 Scott rediscovered the unfinished manuscript of a novel he had started in 1805, and in the early summer of 1814 he wrote with extraordinary speed almost the whole of his novel, which he titled Waverley. It was one of the rare and happy cases in literary history when something original and powerful was immediately recognized and enjoyed by a large public. A story of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, it reinterpreted and presented with living force the manners and loyalties of a vanished Scottish Highland society. The book was published anonymously, as were all of the many novels he wrote down to 1827.

In Waverley and succeeding novels Scott’s particular literary gifts could be utilized to their fullest extent. First and foremost, he was a born storyteller who could place a large cast of vivid and varied characters in an exciting and turbulent historical setting. He was also a master of dialogue who felt equally at home with expressive Scottish regional speech and the polished courtesies of knights and aristocrats. His deep knowledge of Scottish history and society and his acute observation of its mores and attitudes enabled him to play the part of a social historian in insightful depictions of the whole range of Scottish society, from beggars and rustics to the middle classes and the professions and on up to the landowning nobility. The attention Scott gave to ordinary people was indeed a marked departure from previous historical novels’ concentration on royalty. His flair for picturesque incidents enabled him to describe with equal vigour both eccentric Highland personalities and the fierce political and religious conflicts that agitated Scotland during the 17th and 18th centuries. Finally, Scott was the master of a rich, ornate, seemingly effortless literary style that blended energy with decorum, lyric beauty with clarity of description.

Scott followed up Waverley with a whole series of historical novels set in Scotland that are now known as the “Waverley” novels. Guy Mannering (1815) and The Antiquary (1816) completed a sort of trilogy covering the period from the 1740s to just after 1800. The first of four series of novels published under the title Tales of My Landlord was composed of The Black Dwarf and the masterpiece Old Mortality (1816). These were followed by the masterpieces Rob Roy (1817) and The Heart of Midlothian (1818), and then by The Bride of Lammermoor and A Legend of Montrose (both 1819). It was only after writing these novels of Scottish history that Scott, driven by the state of his finances and the need to satisfy the public appetite for historical fiction that he himself had created, turned to themes from English history and elsewhere. He thus wrote Ivanhoe (1819), a novel set in 12th-century England and one that remains his most popular book. The Monastery and The Abbot followed in 1820, and The Pirate and The Fortunes of Nigel appeared in 1822. Two more masterpieces were Kenilworth (1821), set in Elizabethan England, and the highly successful Quentin Durward (1823), set in 15th-century France. The best of his later novels are Redgauntlet (1824) and The Talisman (1825), the latter being set in Palestine during the Crusades.

In dealing with the recent past of his native country, Scott was able to find a fictional form in which to express the deep ambiguities of his own feeling for Scotland. On the one hand he welcomed Scotland’s union with England and the commercial progress and modernization that it promised to bring, but on the other he bitterly regretted the loss of Scotland’s independence and the steady decline of its national consciousness and traditions. Novel after novel in the “Waverley” series makes clear that the older, heroic tradition of the Scottish Jacobite clans (supporters of the exiled Stuart king James II and his descendants) had no place in the modern world; the true heroes of Scott’s novels are thus not fighting knights-at-arms but the lawyers, farmers, merchants, and simple people who go about their business oblivious to the claims and emotional ties of a heroic past. Scott became a novelist by bringing his antiquarian and romantic feeling for Scotland’s past into relation with his sense that Scotland’s interests lay with a prudently commercial British future. He welcomed civilization, but he also longed for individual heroic action. It is this ambivalence that gives vigour, tension, and complexity of viewpoint to his best novels.

Scott’s immense earnings in those years contributed to his financial downfall. Eager to own an estate and to act the part of a bountiful laird, he anticipated his income and involved himself in exceedingly complicated and ultimately disastrous financial agreements with his publisher, Archibald Constable, and his agents, the Ballantynes. He and they met almost every new expense with bills discounted on work still to be done; these bills were basically just written promises to pay at a future date. This form of payment was an accepted practice, but the great financial collapse of 1825 caused the four men’s creditors to demand actual and immediate payment in cash. Constable was unable to meet his liabilities and went bankrupt, and he in turn dragged down the Ballantynes and Scott in his wake because their financial interests were inextricably intermingled. Scott assumed personal responsibility for both his and the Ballantynes’ liabilities and thus courageously dedicated himself for the rest of his life to paying off debts amounting to about £120,000.

Everyone paid tribute to the selfless honesty with which he set himself to work to pay all his huge debts. Unfortunately, though, the corollary was reckless haste in the production of all his later books and compulsive work whose strain shortened his life. After the notable re-creation of the end of the Jacobite era in Redgauntlet, he produced nothing equal to his best early work, though his rapidity and ease of writing remained largely unimpaired, as did his popularity. Scott’s creditors were not hard with him during this period, however, and he was generally revered as the grand old man of English letters. In 1827 Scott’s authorship of the “Waverley” novels was finally made public. In 1831 his health deteriorated sharply, and he tried a continental tour with a long stay at Naples to aid recovery. He was taken home and died in 1832.

Scott gathered the disparate strands of contemporary novel-writing techniques into his own hands and harnessed them to his deep interest in Scottish history and his knowledge of antiquarian lore. The technique of the omniscient narrator and the use of regional speech, localized settings, sophisticated character delineation, and romantic themes treated in a realistic manner were all combined by him into virtually a new literary form, the historical novel. His influence on other European and American novelists was immediate and profound, and though interest in some of his books declined somewhat in the 20th century, his reputation remains secure. Scott wrote articles on “Chivalry,” “Romance,” and “Drama” for Encyclopædia Britannica’s fourth edition (1801–09).

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Famous Scots. Henry Bell. Scottish Engineer.

Henry Bell (7 April 1767 – 14 March 1830) was a Scottish engineer known for introducing the first successful passenger steamboat service in Europe.

Early career

Bell was born at Torphichen, near Bathgate, West Lothian in 1767 and pioneered the development of the steamship. He was the fifth son of Patrick Bell and Margaret Easton, themselves members of a family well known at the time as millwrights, builders and engineers. Their work included the design and construction of harbours, bridges, etc., in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom. Henry Bell was educated at the local parish school and was apprenticed to a stonemason in 1780. Three years later, he was apprenticed to his uncle, a millwright. He later learned ship modelling in Borrowstounness and in 1787, pursued his interest in ship mechanics in Bell’s Hill with the engineer Mr James Inglis. This was followed by several years in London.

He returned to Scotland around 1790, and moved to Glasgow, where he worked as a house-carpenter. His ambition was to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors and become a civil engineer, and to this end, he joined the Glasgow corporation of wrights on 20 October 1797. He was unsuccessful, apparently due to either lack of money, or lack of application or skill on his part. According to one contemporary:

“Bell had many of the features of the enthusiastic projector; never calculated means to ends, or looked much farther than the first stages or movements of any scheme. His mind was a chaos of extraordinary projects, the most of which, from his want of accurate scientific calculation, he never could carry into practice. Owing to an imperfection in even his mechanical skill, he scarcely ever made one part of a model suit the rest, so that many designs, after a great deal of pains and expense, were successively abandoned. He was, in short, the hero of a thousand blunders and one success.”

Interest in steam power for shipping

The idea of propelling vessels by means of steam early took possession of his mind. “In 1800 (he writes) I applied to Lord Melville, on purpose to show his lordship and the other members of the Admiralty, the practicability and great utility of applying steam to the propelling of vessels against winds and tides, and every obstruction on rivers and seas, where there was depth of water.” Disappointed in this application, he repeated the attempt in 1803, with the same result, notwithstanding the emphatic declaration of the celebrated Lord Nelson, who, addressing their lord-ships on the occasion, said, “My Lords, if you do not adopt Mr Bell’s scheme, other nations will, and in the end vex every vein of this empire. It will succeed (he added), and you should encourage Mr Bell.” Having obtained no support in this country, Bell forwarded copies of the prospectus of his scheme to the different nations of Europe, and to the United States of America. “The Americans,” he writes, “were the first who put my plan into practice, and were quickly followed by other nations.” The various attempts which preceded that of Bell are briefly noticed in the “Fifth Report of the Select committee of the House of Commons on Steam-Boats, June, 1822, Sir Henry Parnell, chairman.” Mentioning the following as experimenters, namely, Mr Jonathan Hulls, in 1736; the Duke of Bridgewater, on the Manchester and Runcorn canal; Mr Miller of Dalswinton; the Marquis de Jouffroy (a French nobleman), in 1781; Lord Stanhope, in 1795; and Mr Symington and Mr Taylor, on the Forth and Clyde Canal, in 1801-2; the Report proceeds—”These ingenious men made valuable experiments, and tested well the mighty power of steam. Still no practical uses resulted from any of these attempts. It was not till the year 1807 when the Americans began to use steamboats on their rivers, that their safety and utility were first proved. But the merit of constructing these boats is due to natives of Great Britain. Mr Henry Bell of Glasgow gave the first model of them to the late Mr Fulton of America and corresponded regularly with Fulton on the subject. Mr Bell continued to turn his talents to the improving of steam apparatus, and its application to various manufactures about Glasgow; and in 1811, constructed the Comet steam-boat.”

In 1808, Bell moved to the modern town of Helensburgh, on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde, where his wife undertook the superintendence of the public baths, and at the same time kept the principal inn, whilst he continued to prosecute his favourite scheme, without much regard to the ordinary affairs of the world. In 1809 Henry Bell was elected as the first Provost of Helensburgh.

In 1812 he and John Robertson built the steam-boat the PS Comet, of 30 tons burthen, with an engine of three horsepower. The Comet, named after a great comet which had been visible for several months in 1811–12, was built by Messrs John Wood and Co., at Port Glasgow which lies 3 miles to the east of Greenock, as adjacent towns on the south bank of the River Clyde as it widens into the Firth of Clyde. The Comet made a delivery voyage from Port Glasgow 21 miles upriver to the Broomielaw, Glasgow, then sailed from Glasgow the 24 miles down to Greenock, making five miles an hour against a head-wind. (some sources give a date of 18 January 1812 for a trial trip, McCrorie gives 6 August 1812 for the delivery, with the historic trip a day or so later.) In August Bell advertised a passenger service on the Comet between Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh three times a week, returning on alternate days, “to ply upon the River Clyde from Glasgow, to sail by the power of air, wind, and steam.”

Bell briefly tried a service on the Firth of Forth. Then he had the Comet lengthened and re-engined and from September 1819 ran a service to Oban and Fort William (via the Crinan Canal) a trip which took four days, but on 13 December 1820 the Comet was shipwrecked in strong currents at Craignish Point, near Oban. Bell built another vessel, Comet II, but, on 21 October 1825, she collided with the steamer Ayr off Kempock Point, Gourock. Comet II sank very quickly, killing 62 of the 80 passengers on board. After the loss of his second ship, Bell abandoned his work on steam navigation.

Later life

Bell lived to see his invention universally adopted. The Clyde, which first enjoyed the advantages of steam navigation, became the principal seat of this description of ship-building. Bell reaped no personal advantage from the widespread adoption of steam-powered ships and spent many of his later years in abject poverty.

Touched by his condition, the late Dr Cleland, and a number of other benevolent individuals, commenced a subscription on his behalf, by which a considerable sum was raised. The trustees on the river Clyde granted him an annuity of £100, which was continued to his widow. This was but a becoming acknowledgement of the value of his great invention on the part of the trustees of a river whose annual revenue was greatly increased by it.


Bell died at Helensburgh in 1830, aged 62. He was interred in the Rhu churchyard. An obelisk to his memory was erected on the rock of Dunglass, a promontory on the Clyde, about 2½ miles above Dumbarton. There is a memorial stone and obelisk on the seafront at Helensburgh.

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