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The Scottish Nation
Kemp


KEMP, a surname derived from the Saxon kemp, or cempa, a solider or warrior, especially one who engaged in single combat, also the combat itself; hence the Swedish name of Kempenfelt (battle-field), the well-known name of the British admiral who was lost in the Royal George at Spithead in 1782; hence, also, the English camp, and the Spanish Campeador. through the French, we have the words champion and campaign, from the same root. In some parts of Scotland the striving of reapers in the harvest field is still called kemping. In the ballad of ‘King Estmere’ in Percy’s Reliques, the words kempes and kemperye-men occur for soldiers or men-at arms:

                        “They had not ridden scant a myle
                              A myle forthe of the towne,
                        But in did come the kynge of Spayne,
                              With kempes many a one.

                        Up then rose the kemperye-men,
                              And loud they ‘gan to crye,
                        Ah! Traytors, you have slayne our kynge,
                              And therefore you shall die.”

KEMP, GEORGE MEIKLE, a self-taught architect, the designer of Scott’s monument at Edinburgh, was the son of a shepherd on the property of Mr. Brown of Newhall, on the southern slope of the Pentland hills, which are partly in Peebles-shire, but chiefly in Mid Lothian. He was born about the beginning of the present century, and his love for architecture was first developed by the following circumstance. In his tenth year, he was sent a message by Mr. Brown to Roslin, about six miles from his birthplace, and the romantic castle and elegant chapel of that secluded village struck him with wonder, admiration, and delight. After receiving but a common education, he was apprenticed to a joiner at the Red Scaur Head, near Eddlestone, Peebles-shire, and afterwards was employed as a journeyman with a millwright at Galashiels. He used to relate that, on first going to the latter place, as he was wearily pursuing his way on foot along the banks of the Tweed, a carriage came up behind him near Elibank tower, and drew up on the road beside him, when he observed that there was one gentleman inside. The coachman, acting no doubt by the orders of the latter, asked him if he had far to go, and on learning that he was on his way to Galashiels, he desired him to jump up beside him, as the carriage was going thither. The gentleman inside the carriage proved to be Sir Walter Scott, with whose name his own was afterwards brought into such remarkable association.

      While residing at Galashiels he had frequent opportunities of inspecting the ruined abbeys of Melrose and Jedburgh. Subsequently he went to England, and worked there as a joiner for several years, never losing an opportunity of seeing any remains of Gothic architecture. The writer of a short sketch of his life in Chambers’ Journal (for April 21, 1838), to which we are chiefly indebted for these details, says that on one occasion, when settled somewhere in Lancashire, he walked fifty miles to York, spent a week in examining the famed minister of that city, and returned, as he went, on foot. He afterwards removed to Glasgow, where he worked for four years, and spent much of his leisure in inspecting its fine old cathedral. A few years afterwards he executed, at his own expense, a model design for its restoration, which was placed in the Museum at Glasgow. A set of drawings, completed by him, were lithographed and privately circulated in a volume, with appropriate letterpress, at the expense of Mr. Archibald Maclellan, coach-builder, of Glasgow, who died in 1853, and who was remarkable for his taste in architecture, though not professionally connected with the art. With the view of seeing fresh specimens of architecture he went again to England, and amongst other structures, visited the cathedral of Canterbury.

      Having formed the design of travelling on the continent, for the purpose of examining the most celebrated Gothic erections in different countries; working at his trade, like the German craftsmen, as he went along, for his support; in 1824 he proceeded to Boulogne, and thence went, by Abbeville and Beauvais, to Paris, spending a few weeks in each place. His skill in mill-machinery, and the anxiety of the French to obtain English workmen in that peculiar department, secured him employment wherever he went. He began now, for the first time, to use the pencil, though he had never taken any lessons in drawing, but his enthusiasm overcame all difficulties, and he improved rapidly as he proceeded in his delineations.

      After about a year’s sojourn in France, he was recalled to Scotland, by intelligence of the commercial embarrassments of a near relative. He subsequently endeavoured to begin business for himself as a joiner in Edinburgh, but the effort not succeeding, he resolved to relinquish the business altogether, and support himself by architectural drawing. He had, in the meantime, studied drawing and perspective regularly and systematically, and about the year 1830 he proceeded to Melrose, and took three elaborate views, from various points, of its magnificent abbey, the architecture of which is the richest Gothic. These were purchased at a liberal price by Mr. Thomas Hamilton, architect. He was next employed by Mr. Burn, another eminent architect of Edinburgh, to execute a model, upon a pretty large scale, of a splendid palace which he had designed for the duke of Buccleuch. This occupied him about two years, and when completed, it was placed in the vestibule of the duke’s palace at Dalkeith. An engraver of Edinburgh, named Johnston, who had projected a work on Scottish Cathedral antiquities, afterwards employed him to take some of the requisite drawings of ground-plans, elevations, and details, a task in which he engaged with the utmost enthusiasm.

      In 1838 premiums were offered for the best design for a monument at Edinburgh to Sir Walter Scott, and Kemp, at that time engaged in taking drawings and plans of the abbey of Kilwinning in Ayrshire, was induced to become a competitor, attaching to his design the assumed name of ‘John Morvo,’ adopted from an ancient inscription on Melrose Abbey, apparently over the builder’s tomb.

                        “John Morvo sometime callit was I,
                        In Parysse born certainlie,
                        And had in kepyng al mason work
                        Santandroys, ye hie kirk
                        Of Glasgow, Melros, and Paslay,
                        Of Niddisdaill, and of Galway.”

Out of fifty-four designs received by the committee, Kemp’s was one of the three most approved of, to each of which a prize of fifty guineas was awarded. The committee subsequently advertised for additional competing designs, and Mr. Kemp having contributed a much improved edition of his first drawing, it was accordingly adopted by the committee. The foundation-stone of the monument was laid 15th August 1840. This picturesque structure, which stands in Princes Street, Edinburgh, is in the form of an open cross or spire, 180 feet in height, of beautiful proportions, in strict conformity with the purity in taste and style of Melrose Abbey, from which it is, in its details, derived. Under the lower groined arch, in an open chamber, a sitting statue by Steell of Sir Walter Scott, in his plaid, with his dog Maida crouched beside him, in grey Carrara marble, is enshrined. Kemp’s name, till then obscure, at once became extensively known, and he was rapidly rising into employment as an architect when he was suddenly deprived of life, before his great work, the Scott monument, was half finished. On the evening of Wednesday the 6th of March, 1844, he had proceeded along the Union canal, to meet some boats on their way with stones from the quarry for the monument, when, missing his footing in the darkness of the night, he fell into the canal, and was drowned. His body was not found till the following Monday. He was buried, on the 22d of the same month, in the West church burying-ground, Edinburgh, and his funeral was attended from his house at Morningside, by a very numerous and respectable portion of his fellow-citizens, including the magistracy of the city, several members of the presbytery of Edinburgh, the Celtic lodge of freemasons, and many of the members of the Scott monument committee. Upwards of a thousand gentlemen were present at his grave. He left a widow and four children, the eldest a boy of ten years of age.

      In his deportment Mr. Kemp was shy and unobtrusive, but among his personal friends he displayed a rich flow of conversation. In the ancient poetry of Scotland he was deeply versant, and occasionally wrote verses himself, which were said to evince considerable merit.

      The Scott monument was not completed till after his death. It cost £15,650, and combines the beauties of the most admired specimens of the great crosses of the middle ages. In the niches are sandstone statues of some of the more prominent personages in the works of the great novelist in honour of whose memory it has been erected. The four principal arches supporting the central tower resemble those of the transept of a Gothic cathedral; and the lowest arches in the diagonal abutments are copied from the narrow north aisle of Melrose abbey. The statue of Scott, fully appreciable for its beauty as a work of art, and for its correctly imaginal representation of Sir Walter, is canopied by a grove roof, copied from the compartment, still entire, of the roof of Melrose choir. In many of the details, capitals of pillars, canopies of niches, mouldings, and pinnacles, the celebrated abbey, so much frequented and so enthusiastically admired by Walter in his lounges around Abbotsford, have been freely followed as a model. Of all the numerous “monuments of fame” which Edinburgh contains, none is so highly ornamental or so appropriate to the city as this lofty and superb structure.

KEMP, KENNETH TREASURER, an expert practical chemist, was born in Edinburgh 7th April 1805. His father was a respectable clothier in that city, and he was named after his mother, whose family name was Treasurer. He early directed his attention to the study of chemistry, in the practical departments of which he proved himself an original and daring investigator. He became a lecturer on practical chemistry first in Surgeon’s Square, and afterwards in the university of Edinburgh, and in experiments on the theory of combustion and the liquefaction of the gases, he was eminently successful. Of these interesting preparations he made a brilliant display before the British association at its meetings in Edinburgh in 1836. He was the first chemist who, in this country, succeeded in solidifying carbonic acid gas. In his enthusiasm and firm faith in the yet undiscovered facts of chemical science, he was accustomed to set forth to his students that they might yet see him perambulating the streets of his native city, with a stick of hydrogen gas in his hand; in other words, that he would solidify the lightest gas in nature. This, however, he did not live to accomplish.

      Electricity and magnetism, in all their forms and combinations, constituted a favourite portion of his studies, and to him galvanic electricity is indebted for the introduction of the amalgamated zinc plates into galvanic batteries, an improvement by which the agency of that powerful fluid can be modified and sustained almost at pleasure, a discovery so important as to call forth the following testimony from Ma. Alfred Smee, the well-known electrician: “Let us never forget to whom we owe this discovery, which of itself enables galvanic batteries to be used in the arts. Ages to come will, perhaps, have to thank the inventor, whom we are too apt to forget, yet, still the obligation from the public to Mr. Kemp is the same.” He was also the discoverer of several new chemical compounds, the details of which were published in Jameson’s Journal of Science, and other scientific periodicals of the time. Energetic in the pursuit of his favourite studies, and acute, to an unusual degree, in his perception of the principles of science, he gave an impetus to chemical research in his native country, to which the great advancement then and after made in it, may be chiefly ascribed.

      Mr. Kemp died of an aneurism, on 28th November 1842, aged only 36, and was buried in the new Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh, where a tablet was erected to his memory. He was succeeded in the lecture-room by his brother, Mr. Alexander Kemp, who was lecturer on practical chemistry in the university of Edinburgh from Kenneth’s death, till his own, having died at Edinburgh, 30th April 1854, at the early age of 32. He, too, was distinguished by his extensive knowledge of chemistry, by his improving and inventing chemical apparatus, as well as by a thorough acquaintance with mechanical philosophy. He contributed numerous papers to the scientific journals of the day, and was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


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