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Scottish Geographical Magazine
Volume 1


“Scottish energy and enterprise have sent Scotsmen to all countries of the world as pioneers of discovery, as founders of thriving colonies, as successful merchants and traders, and as useful missionaries and philanthropists.”

“Scotland has produced many world-famed scientific men, travellers, geographers, and cartographers.”

These sentences are quoted from the Prospectus of the Scottish Geographicid Society. The statements are strong, even boastful, in their character. Can they be made good?

Their accuracy has not been called in question; but an inference has been drawn from them, in some quarters, directly the reverse of the conclusion which they were intended to support. It has been said that as Scotland has done so much for exploration, colonisation, and the science of geography without a Geographical Society, a Scottish Geographical Society is wholly unnecessary.

That the objection has not had much force may be held to have been proved by the remarkable success which the new Society has already achieved. It is not yet three months old, and already its membership numbers 800, and includes all grades of society—noblemen and country gentlemen, men of science and men of letters, professors and schoolmasters, merchants and shippers, clergymen, lawyers, and physicians; and women as well as men. Nothing else, surely, is needed in order to prove that the Society has met a felt want, and that the opportunity of wiping out a reproach to Scotland has been eagerly seized by all classes of the community.

The objection, however, admits of another answer. If the voluntary, unaided, and undirected efforts of Scotsmen have done so much in the past, much greater achievements may surely be expected in the future from exertions which will be well regulated and judiciously encouraged. The truth is that Scottish explorers and Scottish geographers have hitherto been working under tremendous disadvantages. They have received no properly organised assistance from their own country, and they have had to contend with the greatest discouragements, the chief of which have sprung from the ignorance and consequent indifference of their fellow-countrymen. It is not too much to hope that, with the formation of the Scottish Geographical Society these natural hindrances will disappear, and that henceforth the efforts of Scots abroad will be materially aided and encouraged by the support of Scots at home.

It is worth while, nevertheless, to answer the question: What have Scotsmen done for geographical exploration, and for scientific geography?

The maritime adventure of the Scottish nation dates from the close of the fifteenth century, when King James the Fourth laid the foundation of the Scottish navy, and sent forth stout Sir Andrew Barton in the Great Michael, the largest ship then known in the world, to scour the northern seas. Another famous Scottish admiral of those days was Sir Andrew Wood of Largo, in whose ships, the Flower and the Yellow Carvel, King James himself often made adventurous voyages. The Scottish navy of those days was quite a match for that of England, and a stiff sea-fight in the Downs, in which Barton was killed, and his flag-ship, the Lion, was captured, was one of the causes of the quarrel which ended so disastrously for Scotland on the field of Flodden.

The record of successful Scottish colonisation begins with the early part of the seventeenth century. In 1624 King James the Sixth and First granted to the Right Hon. Sir William Alexander, gentleman-usher to his son Prince Charles, a concession of Cape Breton and the adjoining peninsula of Acadia, and all the lands between the Bay of Fundy and the river St. Lawrence. Sir William was a Scottish knight, and ultimately became Earl of Stirling and Viscount Canada, in the peerage of Scotland. He was an intimate friend of Drummond of Hawthornden, and was himself a bit of a poet. His lively imagination, coming to the help of his patriotism, suggested the idea of founding a new fatherland on the other side of the Atlantic. He had heard of a New England, a New France, and a New Spain. Why should there not also be a New Scotland? Hence Nova Scotia was the name which the new settlement was to Bear. Alexander sent out a squadron freighted with Scotsmen to take possession of the country. He divided it into two provinces—Caledonia and Alexandria. The river forming part of the boundary between New Scotland and New England—it was only four years after the migration of the Pilgrim Fathers—was called St. Croix by the French, but Alexander must needs call it the Tweed. The river St. Jean in like manner became in his fancy the Clyde, and the Gaspé Peninsula appeared as Argyll. It was no wonder, surely, that King Charles, in the year of his accession, confirmed his father’s grant to this patriotic Scot, and established the order of Knights-baronets of Nova Scotia as a means of inducing capitalists at home to send out settlers to the new country.

We hear very little more of Scottish maritime enterprise till we come to the records of the ill-starred Darien Scheme, at the close of the seventeenth century. It was not the fault of the Scotsmen who took part in that adventure that it resulted in abject failure. Even in the face of disaster, brought about by the jealousy of the English and Dutch trading companies, the Darien expedition affords splendid testimony to the enterprise and courage and endurance of Scotsmen, who sacrificed hundreds of lives and half a million of money before they would admit their discomfiture.

Towards the close of the next century we find another Scotsman stamping his name on the far north of the American continent. This was Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the first European who ever crossed North America from ocean to ocean. In 17S9 he made his way from Fort Chipewayan along the shores of the Great Slave Lake, discovered by John Hearn eighteen years before, to the great river, since known as the Mackenzie River, which flows into the Arctic Sea. Three years later he undertook his memorable overland journey. Pushing his way up the Peace River and across the Rocky Mountains, he emerged on the tableland of British Columbia and the valley of the river Fraser, and at length reached the Pacific coast at a point opposite Vancouver Island, where, on a stupendous rock facing the Georgian Gulf, he inscribed in bright vermilion the record of his exploit in these modest words:—“A. Mackenzie, arrived from Canada, 22d July 1792.” The record soon disappeared, but the fame of the intrepid pioneer will last as long as the continent which he explored.

In 1808 the chief river of British Columbia was explored through the greater part of its course by another Scot, Simon Fraser, whose name it now bears. Its basin has become famous as a gold-bearing region, and that is another triumph which must be put to the credit of Scottish explorers.

The earliest settlement in the great North-West was on the Red River, in the very heart of the continent, in the middle of what is now the Prairie Province of Manitoba. Here also a Scotsman was the pioneer. In 1811 the Earl of Selkirk purchased from the Hudson Bay Company a large tract of country along the courses of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. He sent out a party of Scotsmen as pioneers, who were afterwards joined by some Norwegians and French Canadians. The colony was known sometimes as Red River, sometimes as Selkirk, Settlement. The failure of their first crops exposed the settlers to great privations, and the attacks of prowling Indians increased their peril; but, being for the most part robust and active Highlanders, they persevered and endured; and, the soil proving wonderfully fertile, they triumphed in the end. Manitoba is now one of the most prosperous provinces in the Dominion. It is a favourite resort of Scottish emigrants, and especially of Hebridean Highlanders, few of whom probably are aware of the historic ground on which it may be claimed as a Scottish colony.

We pass, by an easy and natural transition, from the exploration of the continent of North America to that of the Arctic regions. There also we find Scotsmen taking a foremost place. Sir John Richardson, the friend and companion of Franklin in his early voyages, was a native of Dumfries, and an Edinburgh medical student. He began his career as an assistant surgeon in the navy. He accompanied Franklin in his Arctic voyages of 1819 and 1825, in the latter of which he explored the coast between the mouths of the Coppermine and Mackenzie Rivers; and his last voyage was made in a search expedition for Franklin in 1848. Sir John Ross was a son of the parish minister of Inch in Wigtownshire. He spent four winters (1829-33) in the Arctic regions, and made in the course of them important discoveries; and his last service was in connection with a Franklin search expedition in 1850. His nephew, Sir James Clark Ross, who also took part in the search for Franklin, was of Scottish family, though born in London. His most valuable contributions to geographical and physical science were made in the course of his memorable expedition to the Antarctic Ocean with the Erebus and the Terror (1839-43), when he discovered Victoria Land and the great volcano to which the name Mount Erebus was given.

No account of the physical aspect of the American continent would be complete which did not recognise the value of the labours of Alexander Wilson, the ornithologist; and Wilson was a native of Paisley.

If we turn now to Africa, we find that Scotsmen have borne the greatest and the foremost share in the work of letting in light on “the dark continent.” First in the long list of explorers and philanthropists comes the name of James Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller; and James Bruce was a Scottish laird. He was born at Kinnaird House, Stirlingshire, in 1730, and he died at the same place in 1794, and was buried in Larbert Churchyard. From 1762 till 1765 he was British Consul at Algiers, and during these years he explored the interior of Barbary. In 1767 and 1768 he was located in Syria, when he penetrated the Syrian desert, and succeeded in reaching Palmyra and Baalbec. Then followed his travels in Egypt and Abyssinia, on which his fame chiefly rests, though, as has been the case with other travellers, at first his account of his achievements was received with distrust, and even with ridicule.

In the Travels in the Footsteps of Bruce of Lieut.-Col. Playfair, British Consul-General at Algiers, many of the traveller’s statements were verified, and some of his original drawings were reproduced. Colonel Playfair is himself a Scotsman who has added materially to our knowledge of Algeria and its people.

Next in order of time comes Mungo Park, the discoverer of the Niger; and he too was a thorough-bred Scot. He was born at Foulshiels near Selkirk, and in that Border town his statue testifies to this day to the pride of his countrymen in his short but eventful career. Like Richardson, he began life as a naval surgeon. He was but twenty-four years of age when he first explored the basin of the Upper Niger; and he was only thirty-four when, in his second expedition, he forfeited his life to his geographical zeal at Bussa.

Bruce and Park had worthy successors in Major Dixon Denham and Captain Hugh Clapperton, who together crossed the Sahara in 1822 from Tripoli to Bornu. Clapperton, who afterwards penetrated as far as Sokoto, was a Scotsman, having been born at Annan. The brothers Lander, who explored the course of the Lower Niger, were not Scotsmen, but Macgregor Laird, who, along with Mr. Oldfield, published the narrative of Richard Lander’s unfortunate expedition, and who helped to explore the mouth of the great river, was certainly a Scot, as both parts of his name sufficiently testify. Hope Waddell, a Scottish missionary, spent nearly the whole of a long and useful life at Old Calabar, in the neighbourhood of the Cameroons Mountain, and made valuable additions to our knowledge of the country and the people in that little-known region.

If we pass to South Africa we find that we are indebted to Scotsmen for our earliest knowledge of the interior of the country north of the Orange River. One was an Edinburgh man, the Rev. John Campbell of Kingsland, London. He was sent out in 1812, by the London Missionary Society, to visit their stations in South Africa, and on his return in 1814 he published his Travels, of which there was a second edition in 1815. He was sent on a similar mission in 1818-21, and published again in 1822. Another was Sir James Alexander, whose narrative of a year’s journeyings in the interior of South Africa was published in 1838. In 1816, the year after Campbell published his first book, Robert Moffat, the hero of the desert, had taken up his abode in the same region, which was for fifty years the scene of his missionary and philanthropic labours. He published his Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa in 1840, and he summed up his life work in a memorable speech in the Free Church Assembly of 1877.

It was at Kuruman, Dr. Moffat’s station, that David Livingstone, the prince of African travellers, served his apprenticeship as a missionary and explorer. Livingstone became Moffat’s son-in-law, and thus served himself heir to his fame, which he was destined to transcend even during the lifetime of the patriarch. It was from Kuruman that Livingstone started on his first expeditions, when he crossed the Kalahari Desert and discovered first Lake Ngami, and afterwards the Upper Zambesi and the Victoria Falls. Livingstone’s title to be considered the greatest of African travellers rests on the wonderful extent of ground that he covered, and on the practical value of his discoveries. He explored the Zambesi almost from its source to its mouth. He discovered Lake Nyassa, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Bangweolo, and the Lualaba River, which proves to be the Upper Congo; and thus he led the way to the discoveries of Cameron and Stanley, which have promoted the Congo to the first rank among the great rivers of Africa. Any one who desires to know what David Livingstone did for geographical exploration in Africa has only to compare a map of 1840, the year in which he began his labours, with a map of 1873, the year in which he died at Ilala. In place of a desert there is a fruitful field; in place of a wide tract labelled “Unknown,” there is an array of lakes, rivers, and fertile valleys which it is marvellous to contemplate.

Among the direct successors of Livingstone, Scotsmen take high rank. Young Keith Johnston, the son of the famous Scottish cartographer, deserves a foremost place, because he sacrificed his life in the work of exploration. Next to him comes his companion-in-arms, Joseph Thomson, a native of Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, who scaled the heights of Kilima-Njaro, and brought to proof the pretensions of the fabulous Mountains of the Moon. The flourishing colony of Livingstonia, at the south end of Lake Nyassa, is distinctly a Scottish colony; and the leading spirits in that adventure have been Scotsmen—the brothers Moir, sons of Dr. Moir of Edinburgh, who have not only connected the Lake Nyassa basin with the Zambesi, but have also established a practicable trade route between Lake Nyassa and Lake Tanganyika.

Blantyre, another missionary colony in the same region, between Lake Shirwa and the river Shiré, is also a Scottish settlement, as is testified in the fact that it was named after the birthplace of David Livingstone. The Blantyre Mission is directly under the charge of the Church of Scotland. The mission of the English Universities, carried on in the same region during Livingstone’s lifetime, was organised by Bishop Mackenzie, and Bishop Mackenzie was a Scotsman. The Free Church of Scotland has a similar missionary settlement at Lovedale in Kaffirland, which was organised and is carried on by Scotsmen.

Scotsmen have also had their share in solving the perennial problem of the Nile. James Augustus Grant, who, along with Speke, discovered the Victoria Njmnza in 1864, was born at Nairn.

If we turn to Australia, we encounter another array of Scotsmen. John M‘Douall Stuart, who was the first man to cross the Australian continent from south to north, was a Scotsman. Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, who explored Australia Felix, and traced the course of the Red River and the Darling River, was a native of Stirlingshire. Captain Grant who explored the coast of Victoria in 1800, Lieutenant Murray who discovered Port Philip in 1802, and Mr. Cunningham, the botanist, who accompanied Oxley and Evans in their expedition down the Lachlan River in 1816, were all Scotsmen. Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, who, as Governor of New South Wales, did so much to encourage exploration and scientific research, especially in the departments of botany and astronomy, was a native of Ayrshire, and an Ayrshire landlord. The influence of Scotsmen in Australia is further indicated by the occurrence of such names as Perth, Brisbane, and Murray.

In the same way, Scotsmen have left their mark on the geography of New Zealand. Otago was first colonised by emigrants belonging to the Free Church of Scotland. Even if this were not a well-known fact, the Scottish origin of the province might be inferred from its oldest settlement being Invercargill, and from its capital being called Dunedin, which has its High Street, its Princes Street, and its Queen’s Drive, just as Edinburgh, its prototype, has.

In like manner, we may trace the guiding hand of Scotsmen in Tasmania in the geographical nomenclature, in its Ben Lomond, its river Forth, and its North and South Esk.

If we pass now to the wide and varied field of exploration in Asia, we meet with a similar result. One of the earliest adventurers in this field was John Bell of Antermony, a Scottish physician, who was for many years attached to the court of the Czar of Russia. Between 1715 and 1722 he accompanied Russian expeditions to Persia and to China, the latter by way of Siberia and the deserts of Tartary. He also went with Peter the Great on his expedition to the Pass of Derbent in the east of the Caucasus, and he wrote Travels in Asia, abounding with interesting and amusing information. In 1815, Mountstuart Elphinstone, another Scot, a son of the eleventh Baron Elphinstone, and a native of Edinburgh, published his account of the Cabool kingdom. James Baillie Fraser, of Rulick, explored the snowy range of the Himalayas in 1825-26. Ten years later he made a winter journey on horseback from the eastern shore of the Bosporus to Teheran. Another Scotsman, whose name is indelibly written on the record of exploration in Persia and Afghanistan, is Sir Alexander Burnes, who was born in Montrose. In 1831 he was sent on a peaceful mission to Lahore, in the course of which he made extensive and important investigations. In subsequent years Burnes travelled in Afghanistan, and crossed the Hindu-Kush Mountains to Persia and Bokhara, The account of his explorations was given to the world in 1834. His great work on Cabool was published in 1842, the year after his perfidious murder at the Afghan capital. One of the earliest explorers of Tibet was George Bogle, a Scotsman, sent there on a special mission by Warren Hastings in 1774. John Wilson, of Bombay, the famous missionary, the friend of Livingstone, and author of Cave Temples of India, and Religious Excavations of Western India, was a Scotsman, a native of Lauder. His son, Andrew Wilson, made a long and perilous journey through the Upper Himalayas, an account of which he wrote, under the title of The Abode of Snow.

Turning to the east of Asia, we find there also traces of Scottish footsteps in Lieutenant Alexander Murray’s Doings in China; in the Wanderings in China of Robert Fortune, the botanist, a book abounding with valuable information regarding the social state and habits of the Chinese; in J. F. Campbell’s Circular Notes about Japan and the Japanese; and, most famous of all, in Captain Basil Hall’s Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea and the Creat Loo Choo Islands. Basil Hall came of a well-known Scottish family, being a son of Sir James Hall of Dunglass. Another account of the same voyage was written by Mr. Macleod, surgeon of the Alccste; and he also was a Scot. Excellent work has also been done in Burmah by Scotsmen, among whom may be mentioned Colonel Yule, one of the Vice-Presidents of the Scottish Geographical Society, and Dr. Anderson, author of Mandalay to Moulmem. Mr. A. H. Colquhoun has shown in Across Chryse—a record of travel in the border lands of China, Burmah, and Tonqnin, how largely the spirit of adventure and of inquisitiveness survives in Scotsmen of the present day.

The list of Scotsmen who have increased our knowledge of European countries would occupy too much space. Brief mention may, however, be made of Joseph Forsyth, whose Italy is still a standard work; of Henry David Inglis (Derwent Conway), who travelled in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as in the south of Europe, early in the present century; of Robert Bremner’s Excursicms in the interior of Russia and in Scandinavia; of Samuel Laing’s Residence in Norway: of the famous works on Greece, partly historical, partly descriptive, by George Finlay and Colonel Mure of Caldwell. It has been pointed out, as a remarkable circumstance, that the best description of the topography of the Plain of Troy was written by a man who never visited the scene. That was Charles Maclaren, a well-known Scottish geologist and political economist, and an Edinburgh journalist.

The most important contributions to our knowledge of the physical geography of the sea have also been made by Scotsmen in more recent times. The man who worked hardest, and who achieved the greatest results, in this interesting region was Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, of Edinburgh University; and he was a native of Linlithgowshire. His researches in the Lightning and the Porcupine strengthened his belief that animal life existed at great depths; but that and other matters of interest were put beyond reach of doubt by the results of the famous Challenger voyage, of which he was the chief. That expedition, in which other Scotsmen took a prominent part, not only revealed forms of animal life previously unknown, but added immensely to our knowledge of the physical character of the great oceans.

A brief reference must suffice to what Scotland has done for geographical literature and cartography. The Physical Geography of Mrs. Mary Somerville was the earliest systematic exposition of the subject in the English language, and the authoress was a Scotchwoman, a native of Roxburghshire, daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir William Fairfax, of Camperdown fame. The best modern works on the same subject have been written by Scotsmen Professor Archibald Geikie, Keith Johnston, junior, and Professor John Cleland, of Glasgow. Keith Johnston also found time, in the intervals of his active labours as an explorer, to produce an admirable historical, physical, descriptive, and political Geography of the World, and the volume on Africa, in Stanford’s series of Geographical Compendiums. Note must be taken, in this connection, of the valuable service done to geography, on its physical side, by Sir Roderick Murchison, not only by his geological researches and writings, and by the part he took in founding the Royal Geographical Society of London, but also by his endowment of the Chair of Geology in the University of Edinburgh. Nor should we forget the splendid geological work of Hugh Miller, in whose writings science and literature were wedded as they had never been before. The Edinburgh Cabinet Library, begun in 1830, is a valuable storehouse of geographical and historical knowledge. Many of the volumes were written by Scotsmen, James Baillie Fraser of Rulick contributing the accounts of Mesopotamia and Assyria. Hugh Murray, the historian of British India, which included an excellent sketch of the natural features of the county, was a native of North Berwick. He was also the author of an Encyclopedia of Geography. The most complete work of that kind, however, is Keith Johnston’s Gazetteer of Geography. Keith Johnston devoted a long and laborious life to the diffusion of geographical knowledge, and he made Edinburgh famous as a centre for the production of accurate and artistic maps and atlases. It is, I believe, a mere matter of fact, capable of statistical proof, that one-half of all the maps produced in the world at the present day are prepared and printed in Edinburgh, the houses of Johnston and Bartholomew taking the lead. The most valuable storehouses of fact in the region of geography are the standard encyclopaedias; and the standard encyclopaedias are Scottish productions. Foremost in the list is the Encyclopcedia Britannica, a work of world-wide repute, which is entirely the outcome of Scottish energy and enterprise. Next to it, and more popular in character, are Chambers’s Encyclopcedia, and The Globe Encyclopcedia, in both of which geography has a prominent place. Of older date are the Edinburgh Encyclopcedia and the Encyclopcedia Metro-politano—the latter the production of a Glasgow house. It is only necessary to add that Scotland has produced some of the best text-books of general geography in common use, in order to warrant the statement that there is no department of geographical work in which Scotsmen have not taken a prominent and honourable share.

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