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Paul Mellon Centre | The making of ‘Old Ways New Roads: Travels in Scotland 1720–1832’
March 18, 2022 @ 8:00 am - 9:00 am
A research lunch with Anne Dulau Beveridge, Nigel Leask and John Bonehill.
In 1725, General George Wade, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North Britain, was tasked with overseeing a massive military road, fort and bridge-building programme that would transform the face of eighteenth-century Scotland. Designed to open some of the country’s more remote areas to the forces of modern progress as well as contain the Jacobite threat, Wade’s new roads were to replace ‘the old Ways’, as one observer called them, meaning traditional Scottish culture every bit as much as the ancient drove roads, horse tracks, old coal and salt routes that comprised the established transport network. Old Ways New Roads, a book written to accompany an online exhibition of the same name organised by The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, traces how these dramatic changes in the Scottish landscape were variously documented and evaluated, planned, and imagined, by contemporary travellers through close focus on a rich array of written, material, and pictorial sources.
In this talk, the curators of the exhibition and editors of the accompanying publication will reflect on the making of the project, on its aims and scope as well the practicalities of planning, including applying for funding. By way of an introduction to Old Ways New Roads, and more especially the collaborative, cross-disciplinary nature of the research and writing involved, the curators/editors will discuss a key motif running through much of the art, poetry and travel writing produced in the latter part of the eighteenth century in response to the Scottish landscape; that is, the taste for waterfalls.
To prompt discussion of this richly allusive and complex, but often strangely overlooked, phenomenon the paper will focus firstly on an ambitious and visually striking programme of pictures made for the dining room at Blair Castle, the historic Perthshire seat of the dukes of Atholl, by the now little-known artist Charles Steuart, which feature a series of falls on family lands. It will then move on to consider Robert Burns’ Humble Petition of Bruar Water, a poem of 1787 dedicated to the fourth duke and as likely to have been prompted by Steaurt’s paintings as the Falls of Bruar themselves.