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Scots Who Made A Difference

W & Y
WALLACE, SIR WILLIAM (1270-1305)
William Wallace, born near Pasiley, Renfrewshire, was hanged, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered in 1305. He thus suffered the same fate as Welsh leader Dafydd ap Gruffudd some 22 years before and for the same reasons: both had dared the might of the English crown; both had dared to raise armies against Edward I and both had fought for the independence of their nations. In order to understand Wallace's significance in his country's history, we have to look at the situation in Scotland that led to his arrival as leader of his people in the vacuum that Robert the Bruce was not ready to fill until he was perfectly sure of success.

A new struggle for control of Scotland had begun at the death of Alexander III in 1286, leaving as heir his grandchild Margaret, the infant daughter of the King of Norway. English King Edward, with his eye on the complete subjugation of Scotland suggested that Margaret should marry his son, a desire consummated at a treaty signed and sealed at Birgham. Under the terms, Scotland was to remain a separate and independent kingdom, though Edward was to keep English garrisons in a number of Scottish castles. When the young princess died, all plans changed: the succession was now open to many claimants, the strongest of whom were John Balliol and Robert Bruce.

After the decision had gone in favor of Balliol, he declared himself King of Scotland and declared that he would answer only to his own people; refusing to supply military service to Edward, who had supported his election. Overestimating his strength, he then concluded a treaty with France prior to planning an invasion of England.

Edward was ready. He went north to receive homage from a great number of Scottish nobles as their feudal lord, among them Robert Bruce, who owned estates in England. Balliol immediately punished this treachery by seizing Bruce's lands in Scotland and giving them to his own brother-in-law, John Comyn. Yet within a few months, the Scottish king was to disappear from the scene. His army was defeated by Edward at Dunbar in April 1296. Soon after at Brechin, on 10 July, he surrendered his Scottish throne to the English king, who took into his possession the stone of Scone, "the coronation stone" of the Scottish kings. At a Parliament, which he summoned at Berwick, the English king received homage and the oath of fealty from over 2,000 Scots. He seemed secure in Scotland.

It was an illusion. The rising tide of nationalist fervor in the face of the arrival of the English armies north of the border created the need for new Scottish leaders. With the killing of an English sheriff following a brawl with English soldiers in the market place at Lanark, young nobleman William Wallace, with his fierce hatred of foreign occupation, found himself at the head of a fast-spreading movement of national resistance. At Stirling Bridge, a Scottish force, led by Wallace, won an astonishing victory when it completely annihilated a large, lavishly-equipped English army under the command of Surrey, Edward I's viceroy.

Yet Wallace's great victory, successful because English cavalry were unable to maneuver on the marshy ground and their supporting troops had been trapped on a narrow bridge, proved to be a Pyrrhic one. Bringing a large army north in 1298, and goading Wallace to forgo his guerrilla campaign into fighting a second pitched battle, the English king's forces were more successful. At Falkirk, they crushed the over-confident Scots.

This time the English cavalry was able to maneuver and the archers (many of whom had been recruited in Wales following that country's virtual annexation by the Statute of Rhuddlan less than twenty years before) inflicted heavy damage on the massed ranks of the Scots. Falkirk was a grievous loss for Wallace who never again found himself in command of a large body of troops. After hiding out for a number of years, he was finally captured in 1305 and brought to London to die a traitor's death. At his trial, he declared that he was not a traitor to Edward, for Edward was not his king.

Much of the story of Wallace came to us in the late 15th century romance ascribed to Henry the Mistral (Blind Harry). In 1938, Sir James Ferguson published his William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland, and of course, the name of Wallace became known throughout the world after the release of the highly successful Hollywood movie Brave Heart in 1995. (Just in time for the 1997 referendum that restored Scotland's Parliament after an absence of more than 300 years).

Perhaps Wallace's main contribution to Scotland's history (apart from showing his people that English armies could be defeated) was that he brought forth Robert the Bruce, stirred out of his lethargy, ashamed of his homage to England and now ready to do his own bit to reassert the independence of Scotland.


WATT, JAMES (1736-1819)
James Watt was not the inventor of the steam engine, nor did he claim to be. When he was given a model of a Newcomen engine to repair in 1764, he quickly saw its inefficiencies and set out to provide remedies. Newcomen' engines had been around since their invention in 1705; they were inefficient, cooling down and losing their pressure far too rapidly. In addition, they were primarily used for pumping as attempts to convert them to rotary motion had failed.

Greenock-born Watt, a friend of the pioneering engineer John Smeaton, realised the necessity of removing the condensing of steam from the cylinder that had to be continually heated to hold steam for the power stroke and then cooled to condense the steam. In 1765, Watt proposed that the steam should be condensed in a condenser outside the cylinder; it was one of the greatest advances in the development of industry; it revolutionized the steam engine and it transformed the world.

Watt patented his idea in 1769 and after a period working with John Roebuck of the Caron Ironworks, went into partnership with Matthew Boulton to found the Boulton Watt Foundry at the Soho Works in Birmingham. In 1774, at Bersham in North Wales, John Wilkinson invented a way of boring cylinders (originally for the making of canons) and thus found a way to produce the Watt engine in copious numbers. Beginning with a steam engine to power a flour mill, the factory produced over 350 highly efficient steam engines that made their present felt in all branches of British industry and transformed the nation. It was also a Boulton and Watt engine that powered Robert Fulton's S.S. Clermont on its historic journey up the Hudson in 1807.

Watt made many improvements such as the air pump, steam-jacketed cylinders, double acting engines (in which the piston both pushed and pulled), the sun and planet rotary mechanism (thus adapting the steam engine for rotary motion), parallel motion and the governor for regulating an engine's speed. Truly a remarkable list of accomplishments. Many areas of Britain that had relied purely on water power could now use the Boulton and Watt engine; mills and foundries were now set up on or near the coalfields. It wasn't long before Richard Trevithick adapted the rotary engine to the idea of transporting men, goods, and machinery by rail. As a sideline, Watt was also responsible for introducing to Britain the use of chlorine as a bleaching agent, a French invention of tremendous benefit to the rapidly growing cotton industry.


WELCH, ADAM CLEGHORN (1864-1943)
Born in Goshen, Jamaica, into a Scottish family, Adam Welsh became one of Scotland's greatest Biblical scholars. As professor of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis at Edinburgh from 1913 to 1934, he had an enormous influence on subsequent Biblical scholarship. His theory of the growth of the Jewish religion was published in five books: The Code of Deuteronomy (1925), Deuteronomy, The Framework to the Code (1932), Post-Exile Judaism (1935), Prophet and Priest in Old Israel (1936) and The Work of the Chronicler (1939). His memoirs and a bibliography are contained in Kings and Prophets of Israel, published posthumously in 1952.


WHISKY (b. 1494)
Scotch whisky is sold wherever people gather to exchange conviviality and drink to their mutual health. The first reference to its distillation in Scotland was found in 1494, but it had been produced and enjoyed many long years before that. Made from barley, water, yeast and often peat smoke, Scotch whisky is pot-still whisky. It is matured in oak casks for at least three years before being drunk.

In the latter half of the 19th century, a great rise in the drinking (and therefore production) of Scotch whisky took place, especially when blended whisky became the standard drink of the British Empire (and often, American upper classes). Blended whisky mixes malt and grain whiskies, the higher the proportion of malt, the more expensive the blend. Through mass advertising, malt whisky has become increasing more popular since the late 1960's.


WILKIE, SIR DAVID (1785-1841)
Scots painters do not have as much direct impact upon our lives as do engineers and medical men, but they make important contributions to the quality of our lives as determined by the arts. An important painter was David Wilkie who came from Cults, Fife and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1811. Wilkie is credited with raising the level of genre painting in Great Britain to that usually accorded to historical painting. When his "Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo" was exhibited in 1822, the huge crowd that had gathered to view it had to be controlled by barriers. After he visited Palestine in 1840, Wilkie's religious paintings became a decisive influence on the work of pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt, whose "I am the Door" remains one of the most popular British paintings of all time.


WILLIAM I, THE LION (1143-1214)
King from 1165 to 1214, William obtained independence for Scotland.. At David's death in 1153, the kingdom of Scotland had been extended to include the modern English counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland, territories that were in future to be held by the kings of Scotland. Alas, the accession of Henry II to the English throne in 1154 changed everything.

David had been succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV, an 11 year-old boy. He was no match for the powerful new King of England. At the Treaty of Chester, 1157 Henry's strength, "the authority of his might," forced Malcolm to give up the northern counties solely in return for the confirmation of his rights as Earl of Huntingdon. The Scottish border was considerably shifted northwards. And there it remained until the rash adventures of William, Malcolms' brother and successor, got him captured at Alnwick, imprisoned at Falaise in Normandy and forced to acknowledge Henry's feudal superiority over himself and his Scottish kingdom. In addition, to add insult to injury, the strategic castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick were to be held by England with English garrisons at Scottish expense.

The situation was drastically altered when Henry died in 1189. He was succeeded by Richard I, whose main concern was the Third Crusade. Desperately needing money to finance his overseas adventures, Richard freed William from all "compacts" extorted by Henry and restored the castles of Berwick and Roxburgh for a sum of 10,00 merks of silver. Thus the humiliation of the Falaise agreement was canceled. Richard showed little interest in running his English kingdom, less interest in Scotland, and departed for the crusade in 1189. Once again, this time more by default than by any heroic efforts of William, Scotland was a free and independent country.


WILSON, ALEXANDER (1766-1813)
The founder of American ornithology and one of the foremost naturalists of his time was born in Paisley, Renfrew, emigrating to the US in 1794 after becoming quite well known in Scotland for his poetry and dramatic ballads. Trained as a weaver, his satirical writings on the plight of others in his profession led to fines and imprisonment. Upon arrival in the United States, where he first worked as a teacher, Wilson then took up the study of North American birds. He also served as assistant editor of Rees's Cyclopedia, publishing the first volume in 1808. It was the pioneering work of Wilson, expressed in his extensive collections of specimens that encouraged an acquaintance, John J. Audubon, to continue to paint bird life and to publish the results of his studies.


WILSON, CHARLES THOMSON REES (1869-1939)
In 1927, joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics was Glencorse, Midlothian-born meteorologist Charles Wilson, who had begun studying clouds in 1895. To aid his studies, Wilson had devised a way of allowing moist air to expand in a closed container, a cloud chamber that was later to prove indispensable in the study of nuclear physics and would lead to the development of the bubble chamber. When dust-free air was used, the air remained supersaturated and clouds did not form until a critical point of supersaturation was reached.

Further experiments, based on his knowledge of the newly discovered x-rays showed Wilson that radiation left a trail of condensed water droplets in the cloud chamber in an experiment which he then worked to perfect. Wilson's additional work on lightning led to a method of protecting barrage balloons (used in World War II to deflect German airplanes during their bombing runs on Britain). After the War, Wilson published his theory of thunderstorm electricity.


WILSON, JAMES (1742-98)
From Carskerdy, Fife, lawyer and political theorist James Wilson was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, 11 years after he had arrived in the New World. Wilson had taught Greek and rhetoric in the College of Philadelphia before studying law under the able guidance of Delaware's John Dickinson, "penman of the revolution" and delegate to the First Continental Congress.

In 1774, Wilson published his influential treatise Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament, in which he proposed a scheme to give the American colonies dominion status. It brought him fame and appointment as delegate to the Continental Congresses of 1774 and 1775-7. During the Revolutionary War, he was appointed advocate general for France in its alliance with the American colonies. During his term as member of the Federal Congress from 1783 to 1786 he pressed for an amendment to the Articles of Confederation to permit Congress to levy a general tax.

In 1787, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Wilson helped draft the US Constitution, leading the fight for ratification in the state of Pennsylvania. In 1790, he engineered the drafting of that state's new constitution. His lectures during that year are considered landmarks in the history of American jurisprudence.

In 1789-98, Wilson was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. His most notable decision was his affirmation that the people of the United States do form a nation (in the landmark Chisholm vs. Georgia). Despite his fame and influence, Wilson died in poverty and ill health following failures in land speculation.


WINGATE, SIR FRANCIS RAGINALD, 1st Baronet (1861-1953)
Of profound influence in Sudan during the early years of this century, Wingate joined the British Army in 1880 and was assigned to the Egyptian army (part of the forces defending the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan). He directed Egyptian military intelligence and fought against various nationalist movements, including one led by the Mahdi, whose successor he defeated and killed in battle.

Appointed Governor General of the Sudan and Commander-in- Chief of the Egyptian army, Port Glasgow-born Wingate then assisted Saudi Arabian forces in World War I in their successful fight against the Turkish rulers. In 1917, he became British High Commissioner for Egypt, but his great sympathy with the Egyptian Nationalist Party (no doubt brought about by his background as a Scot) led to his dismissal by the British government.


WISHART, GEORGE (1513-46)
George Wishart was born in Pitarrow and burned at the stake for heresy in St. Andrew's by Roman Catholic Bishop Cardinal Beaton, thus becoming one of Scotland's early Protestant martyrs. Wishart had been accused of heresy even as a teacher of Greek at Montrose, but his studies at Cambridge in 1538 strengthened his beliefs when he came under the influence of Hugh Latimer (later himself executed for heresy in 1555). After some time on the Continent, Wishart returned to preach the Reformation in Scotland where he soon attracted the attention of and had a great influence upon John Knox.

Betrayed by the Earl of Bothwell in 1546 and handed over to Beaton, Wishart was tried, found guilty and burned all within the space of a few hours. His martyrdom, however, inspired others, such as Knox, to take up the Holy cause. The young priest had accompanied Wishart upon his arrival from the continent to Scotland in 1544. In addition to his Bible, Knox managed to carry a huge, two-handed sword. The Protestants' revenge came two months later. The last words spoken by the Cardinal were "Fie, Fie, All is gone" as he was stabbed to death and his body thrown from a window of his castle at St. Andrews.


WYNTOUN, ANDREW (1350-1423)
A prime historical source for the later 14th and early 15th centuries, written in Middle Scots dialect, is the Orygynale Cronykil of Andrew Wyntoun, Canon of St. Andrew's. Drawn from ancient monastic records, Latin chronicles and other historical works, and written for Sir John Wemyss of Leuchars, Fife, the chronicle consists of nine books in octosyllabic couplets. It traces the history of mankind from the Creation up to the year 1420, dealing especially with Scotland. Not only is the Cronykil valuable for its account of the death of Robert the Bruce, but Shakespeare used it for his scenes involving MacBeth and the weird sisters.


YOUNG, DOUGLAS CUTHBERT COLQUHOUN (1913-73)
With the resurgence of Scottish nationalism in the 1990's and the affirmative vote for a return of the Parliament of Scotland, it is only fitting that this list of great Scots contains the name of Douglas Young. A committed and hard-working Scot, his distinguished academic career did not interfere with his political effectiveness. Douglas Young's first language was Urdu, learned at his nurse's knee in Bengal. During his classical education at St. Andrew's, where he later taught Greek (1938-41), he was nicknamed the Deity.

In 1933, Young supported the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), becoming a full member in 1938. His affable demeanor and impeccable academic credentials stood him in good stead even with those who opposed his politics. He refused to serve in the military during World War II on reasons that had to do with terms of the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707, he was imprisoned, but was elected to the chairmanship of the SNP. However, stayed with Labour when he was not allowed to be a member of more than one political party.

After a spell as a Professor of Classics at MacMaster University, Young went to the University of North Carolina where he died studying Homer. According to R.L.C. Lorimer (in Daiches), Young is to be remembered because his life and works demonstrated his commitment to the belief that without Hellenism there could be no Europeanism and that it was possible to be both Scottish and civilized.


YOUNG, JAMES (1811-83)
For over a hundred years, Scots who have shivered in the cold winters have blessed the name of James Young for his invention of paraffin. James "Paraffin" Young set up his first refinery at Bathgate in 1850 to extract paraffin from a distillation of coal and shale oil.

Glasgow-born, he had studied chemistry at night school before entering Anderson College, Glasgow. His classmate there was David Livingstone, later to achieve fame as a missionary and explorer in Africa. Young became Assistant to Thomas Graham at University College, London, where his experiments convinced him that paraffin could be obtained from shale and coal. He moved to the Lothians in 1850 to set up his successful factory and to lead the industry. That supplied paraffin, has only recently been superseded in many countries as the leading source of heating and cooking.

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