Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
Scots Who Made A Difference

by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.
© 2007

In March 1802 the Charlotte Dundas pulled two 70-ton barges 19.5 miles in six hours on he Forth and Clyde Canal. This was the first test of the world's first steam-powered tugboat and heralded a new age in maritime transportation. Powered by a 10 horsepower Watt engine and a paddle wheel, the very success of the little boat (56 ft. by 18 ft.) delayed the coming of the age of steam tugs, for it was feared that its strong wash would damage the canal banks. But the way of the future was clearly pointed out by this sturdy little Scottish lady. Even the largest ships in the world could now be speedily and safely towed in and out of harbors.

CLARK, JAMES (1936-68)
Jim Clark died in a racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany. He had been one of the greatest race car drivers of all time. From Duns, Berwickshire, Jim earned the title of world driving champion in 1963, wining a record seven of ten title events. He repeated as champion two years later when he won six of ten titles as well as the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

Just as the United States has its "Old Man River" (the Mississippi) and England has its "Old Father Thames," Scotland has its River Clyde -- a river justly famed throughout the world. Beginning as a clear fishing stream in the Southern Uplands, the river flows to its estuary at the Firth of Clyde. For 20 miles of its journey, the banks of the mighty Clyde at Glasgow for over 100 years were home to the world's largest shipbuilding industry. It is to Scottish shipbuilding, more than to any other industry, that Scotland's identity, as an industrial nation is owed. In July 1990, the majestic Q.E. II returned to the Clyde to mark the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Cunard Steam Ship Company, many of whose great ocean liners saw birth on the river's banks.

In 1831, when pioneering enterprises in iron and steam engine construction first began in the Glasgow area, the Clyde provided for three percent of the men engaged in shipbuilding in Britain. By 1871 this had jumped to 21 percent and the Clyde represented the single largest concentration of shipbuilding in the world. The shipyards were producing an annual tonnage of 400,000 tons, almost 50 percent of the entire British output. The identification of Scottish achievement in shipbuilding engineering exemplifies the enormous success and reputation of the shipbuilders. Their names read like a roll of honor for the industry: Scott, MacMillan, Denny, Caird, Napier, Elder, Inglis, Henderson, Lamont, Lobnitz, Lithgow, Stephen, Robb, and Hall. Indeed, Scotts of Greenock is the world's oldest shipbuilding company, founded in 1711. Its Agamemnon of 1866 enabled the Blue Funnel Line to compete with sailing ships on long ocean voyages.

It was the natural advantages of the valley with its great sheltered estuary and great reserves of iron and coal that got the Clyde started as a shipbuilding river. In 1760, the launching of the Greenock moved the river into the league of big shipbuilding. During the American Civil War in the 1860's the demand for fast ships to beat the Yankee blockade of the Confederate ports led to a rapid increase in activities on the Clyde at the expense of the Thames and the London shipbuilding industries.

One of the last great sailing ships built here was the Kurt, now named Moshulu and still afloat on the Delaware River more than 90 years after being delivered to Philadelphia. The introduction of steel for shipbuilding in the 1860's gave world leadership to the mighty river. It was the Clyde that produced the great iron and steel ocean-going liners and cargo steamers (along with Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow in Lancashire).

No mention of the Clyde would be complete without referring to the John Brown Shipyard, founded in 1847 by James and George Thompson at Govan, but who moved to Dalmuir on the Clyde in 1871. One of the greatest shipbuilding firms in the world, it was taken over by the Sheffield steelmaker John Brown in 1899. From its yards were launched such world famous ships as the Caronia and Carmania ("the pretty sisters" 1904), the Mauretania and Lusitania (1913), the Aquitania (1913), the Queen Mary (1934), the Queen Elizabeth (1938) and the Q.E. II (1967). During this century, the Clyde produced 19 of Britain's greatest warships, including the Ramillies, Renown, Hood, Duke of York and the very last British battleship the Vanguard, completed in 1946.

At one time in its long history, intense labor conflict gave the name Red Clyde to the shipbuilding region. A series of episodes took place during Word War l that assumed legendary proportions, almost on the scale of the Jacobite rebellion. The conflicts, pitting management's use of semi- or unskilled labor against the militant unions, produced such well-known activists as James Maxton, John Wheatley, John MacLean and Emmanual Shinwell. The troubles culminated in the George Square riot in 1919 that practically ensured the Labour Party's national victory in the General Election of 1922. They have been regarded by many in the Labour Movement as forming part of the "glad, confident morning" of Scottish socialism.

The mighty Clyde saw the building of approximately 30,000 ships in less than 200 years. On its banks the story is told of a young lad arriving in Glasgow for the first time and asking a policeman, "Can I get from here to Kelvinsgrove?" The answer was "Laddie, ye can get from here to any place in the world." And that just about sums it up.

CONNOLLY, JAMES (1868-1916)
James Connolly, revered as one of the martyrs who gave their lives for an independent Ireland, was born in Edinburgh on June 6, 1868. Severely wounded, suffering from gangrene and unable to stand, he was propped up in a chair and shot by a British Army firing squad on May 12, 1916.

Connolly had arrived in Dublin in 1896, where he helped found the Irish Socialist Republican Party. Living in the United States from 1903 to 1910, he helped organize the "Wobblies," a union of industrial workers, and upon his return to Ireland, began the Irish Labour Party with James Larkin. He also assisted Larkin in organizing the Irish National Transport and General Workers' Union. When the union was brutally suppressed by the factory owners, Connolly commanded a unit of an irregular citizen army that opposed the allied war effort, seeing World War I as purely a capitalist conflict.

It was James Connolly who went ahead with the final details of the Easter Rising in Dublin that proclaimed the Irish Republic from the General Post Office on O'Connell Street, Dublin. The rising was quickly and savagely suppressed, but the execution of many of its leaders helped kindle the fires of total rebellion in Ireland.

During the so-called "Augustan Age" of Edinburgh, when the city developed its reputation as a leading intellectual center of Europe, the most prominent book-seller publisher was Archibald Constable. In 1802, after publishing theological and political pamphlets, Constable was chosen to publish the influential Edinburgh Review. In its pages the works of Walter Scott were made accessible to a large reading public. By 1814, Constable was sole proprietor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which reached its sixth edition under his guidance.

Not just in Scotland, but throughout the world, mathematicians are indebted to the work of Edward T. Copson, whose contributions to analysis and partial differential equations, especially as they apply to mathematical physics, have had considerable practical applications. From his positions as lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, then at St. Andrews, assistant professor at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, to the professorship of mathematics at University College, Dundee, Copson was able to publish the findings of his research in books that have become widely used as standard texts, including Introduction to the Theory of Functions of a Complex Variable (1935), The Mathematical Theory of Huygens' Principle (1939), Asympiotic Expansions, (1965) and Metric Spaces (1968).

Chemist Archibald Couper, born in Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, is not as well known as German chemist August Kekule for the revolutionary theory of the tetravalency of carbon and the ability of carbon atoms to bond with one another. Couper worked out the theory independently, but an unfortunate delay in publishing the paper gave the credit to Kekule. Though he never received the credit due him, Couper was also the first to use formulas that pictured structural relationships of organic modules by continuous or dotted lines, thus putting chemists everywhere in his debt.

CRAIG, JAMES (1744-95)
Visitors to Edinburgh are always impressed by the symmetry and general appearance of what is now known as the New Town. Its classical streets and squares, including his masterpiece the Physicians Hall, no longer standing but called a "chaste Grecian edifice." made the city truly the Athens of the North. From the Official Guidebook to Edinburgh we get the following:
Twenty-one years after Culloden, James Craig published his plans for Edinburgh's New Town, a clear manifestation of the change. It sprang from a feeling of optimism, of renewed national vigour and pride; a development not only of agriculture industry, and trade but of literature and the arts by which a moribund, quarrelsome and deserted capital suddenly became a centre of not merely British but European importance.
It is with a most fiendish glee that guides to Edinburgh point out the Georgian architecture of their so-called "new town" to visitors from Bath, England, whose famous terraces and squares are dwarfed by those of Edinburgh.

Dundee-born, Oxford Professor William Craigie, one of the foremost British philologists and lexicographers, for 32 years was joint editor of that outstanding work of scholarship The Oxford English Dictionary. He continued the pioneering work of Herbert Coleridge, Frederick James Fernivall, Thames A.H. Murray and Henry Bradley and was followed by Charles Talbot Onions.

Craigie was also chief editor of the four-volume Historical Dictionary of American English, which he first proposed in 1923 and was completed in 1944. He was also the author of many works that became definitive texts on the philology and literature of Scotland, England and Scandinavia. The Oxford English Dictionary is regarded as the world's supreme achievement in lexicography.

Though he died at aged 22, James Crichton had already established a reputation as the "Admirable Crichton," for his skills as orator, linguist, debater, man of letters and scholar, in short, the very model of the cultured Scottish gentleman. Crichton seems to have distinguished himself at the University of Paris in scholarship and at Venice in athletics, horsemanship and military skills, as well as mastery of 10 languages. At Padua, he honed his debating skills and was highly praised by the Duke of Mantua, into whose service he entered. His success caused jealousy at Court and his murder may have been instigated by a young prince. It was John Johnston's Heroes Scotici (1603) that first gave Crichton the name "admirable" though the improbable master of so many philosophic and linguistic skills had also received great praise in Sir Thomas Urquhart"s The Discovery of a Most Exquisite Jewel (1652).

CUNARD, SIRE SAMUEL, 1st Baronet (1787-1865)
As early as 1830, Nova Scotia-born Samuel Cunard had plans for a regular mail service from Britain to North America. In 1839, he established (with other partners) the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, generally known as the Cunard Line. Cunard introduced iron-hulled steamships onto the trans-Atlantic route in 1855 to try to break the domination of the packet trade by the Black Ball Line (who used sailing ships), and the monopoly by New York City. His ships ran from Liverpool to Halifax, N.S. and from there to Boston.

The Hibernia began its journeys in 1847. Later Cunard ships were the Aquitania, Lusitania, Mauretania, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary Servia (the world's first ocean liner made of steel), Q.E. II and many other world famous vessels. The Cunard Line merged with the White Star Line in 1934. The author himself emigrated to the United States on board the venerable Cunarder Scythia from Liverpool in 1957.

CUNNINGHAM, ALAN (1784-1842)
Allan Cunningham was born in Dumfriesshire. His father had been a neighbor of Robert Burns, whose work Allen edited in 1834 as The Works of Robert Burns. Cunningham's biographical preface added a great deal to the knowledge of the famous poet. In London, Allan worked as an editor and writer, collecting old ballads and stories and publishing The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors and Architects, in 6 volumes (1829-33). He became part of the brilliant circle of writers that included Thomas Hood, Thomas De Quincy, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, and John Keats all of whom were contributors to the London Magazine in the early 1820's.

For all those who have ever heard or used the expression "It's the economy, stupid." the name of William Cunningham should strike a chord, for he was largely responsible for having economic history accepted as a scholastic discipline in British (and later American) universities. Churchman and economist William was yet another son of Edinburgh; archdeacon at Ely, he was also Economics Professor at King's College, London. A standard reference work is his 3 volume The Growth of English Industry and Commerce (first published in 1862).

A most remarkable man, and one so difficult to pigeonhole, was Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, son of the Laird of Gartmore. Born in London, and brought up by a Spanish grandmother, Graham married a Chilean poetess in 1879. He entered the House of Commons as member for northwest Lanarkshire in 1892, describing his political career as enduring "the concentrated idiocy of the Asylum for imbeciles at Westminster."

Graham helped found the Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardy. For his part in the 1887 riots in Trafalgar Square, he went to prison for a short while. After a journey to Morocco in 1897, he began his career as a writer, producing several short stories and whetting his appetite for travel, especially to South America. His El Rio de la Plata was published in 1914. In 1928, he became President of the Scottish National Party, fighting for the rights of the common man and befriending many literary greats in their appeals to the government to help the underdog.

CURRIE, SIR DONALD (1825-1909)
One of the great names in the history of Scottish merchant shipping is Donald Currie, native of Greenock on the Clyde, ship owner and politician. After joining Cunard at Liverpool in 1844, Currie later set up the Castle Line of sailing ships between that port and Calcutta and ten years later the Castle Line of steamers to South Africa. After becoming head of the Union-Castle Line, Currie was valuable to the British government in negotiations in the Kimberley diamond fields in South Africa, also playing a major part in the restoration of the Transvaal to the Boers at the end of the war in that unfortunate country. He also served in Westminster as a Scottish MP.