Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

12 Mar 2009 - "Ayrshire Mapmaking" - Joint Ayshire FHS meeting

This year’s joint meeting of the four Ayrshire Family History Societies took place in Kilmarnock on Thursday 12th March, hosted by East Ayrshire FHS. After a warm welcome from the Chairman and brief reports from three of the societies, the speaker Mrs Barr from Carluke was introduced.

We were given a fascinating , well-illustrated presentation on general William Roy, engineer, antiquarian and map maker extraordinaire. Born in 1726 at Miltonhead near Carluke he showed great mathematical ability from an early age, eventually becoming an engineer. One aftermath of the 1745 Rebellion was the enforced pacification of the Highlands, a task for which the Duke of Cumberland needed the Highlands mapped. William Roy, brought in initially as an assistant, was the right man in the right place at the right time. It was a mammoth undertaking for which the skill of accurate measurement was essential. By 1755 Cumberland’s maps were completed. 

When the war with France broke out, Roy served with the 53rd Regiment of Foot and was involved in the creation of essential military maps, e.g. of Plymouth and Gibraltar. In 1767 for his unique achievements in linear measurement, William Roy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, a well deserved honour. Although many of his maps, plans, military and scientific reports and letters have been preserved, unfortunately no personal portraits remain apart from the appearance of a distant figure in a painting which it is very tempting to accept as a likeness of this gifted Scot.

It was disappointing that so few attended this jot meeting (only 3 of us were there to represent ASAFHS), and we hope for a better turnout when we take our turn to host a similar occasion in March 2010, in the Carnegie Library.

Sheila Dinwoodie

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