"Dukes Road, Loch Inver. 13/6/1879"

Algerina Peckover (1841 - 1927) was one of eight children born into a wealthy Quaker family. Their money came from banking (the bank was merged into Barclays in 1896), and it allowed them to follow their interests without financial concerns. These interests included such Quaker interests as The Peace Movement. I am delighted to say that they also included travel. Alexandrina Peckover ( one of Algerina's siblings) travelled to and climbed in the Alps. Algerina may also have travelled abroad, but, judging by a large collection of watercolours she made that came onto the market recently, she certainly explored much of Great Britain over a number of years. Her father, Algernon, was a competent artist, so too her sister Priscilla Hannah, and it was a skill that, I suspect, was encouraged throughout the family. Algerina visited Scotland at least twice: in 1874, and again in 1879. I have purchased those paintings that record her visits to the far north-west, most of them executed in June 1879. This was the time when the railway north of Inverness was opened: the station at Lairg began to operate from 28th July, 1874, and its existence opened up relatively easy access to the remote area to the north and west.

Algerina clearly loved the mountains. Whilst paintings and prints of distinctive peaks like Suilven and Quinag do exist before this time, her images of Cul Mor and Ben More Assynt are the earliest I have seen. I suspect they were sketched by geologists who had been interested in the area from the 1840s, but it appears that few artists made it up to this stunning, but remote region until the 20th century. Algerina's paintings, all done in watercolour, are the work of a very competent Victorian artist, and they form a remarkable, early record of an undiscovered part of the British Isles.

Most of Algerina's watercolours are clearly titled and dated. The view above lacks both on the front, though on the back it is faintly pencilled "Nr. Balmacara". On the other hand, the image on the right seems to be titled "Gairloch, 17/6/74." The Torridon hills are seen in the distance. I think this sketch is dated 1874, and I wonder if the Balmacara image dates from this earlier trip.

However, dating these images is not entirely straightforward: her '4' and '9' is confusing. For example, the painting titled clearly on the back "Dukes Road Loch Inver 13/6/1879" (title cut out, presumably from the sketch book, and stuck on the back) looks more like 13/6/74 on the front, bottom right.

The date on the Gairloch painting above looks like 1874, but the similarity of the June dates on all these makes one wonder if there wasn't just one expedition in 1879.

The 'Duke's Road' referred to be Algerina is I think is the branch off the main road (the continuation of the A837) that leads to Lochinver. What is now the Culag Hotel was once a residence of the Duke of Sutherland. He also financed the main road (now the A894), which was completed c.1840.

There is, however, no doubting the date of this painting, which is labelled clearly on the back "Near Strathpeffer, 13/8.77". So there were at least two trips to the far north of Scotland.

Assuming the remaining watercolours are all from Algerina's 1879 trip, her schedule can be deduced from the dates on her artwork.

 

"Suilvein from Dukes Road, 13/6/1879" A view from the Lochinver road across Loch Culag.

Four sketches (including "The Duke's Road, Loch Inver" - see above) may be dated the 13th June 1879. That suggests that she followed the A837 (as it now is!) up past Cul Mor and round to Lochinver, via Inchnadamph in one day. The party then returned to the main road north, from where, at Skiag Bridge, she sketched her watercolour of Ben More Assynt. 

"Canisp from Loch Awe, 13/6/1879." There is a Loch Awe directly beside the A837. See below for a correction to this title.

Miss Peckover has got a little muddled here. The mountain shown is Cul Mor, not Canisp. Furthemore, the loch over which she was looking was probably Cam Loch, not Loch Awe. The peaks to the left form part of Ben More Coigach.

"The Loch Assynt from Inchnadamp & Quinag, 13/6/1879."

"Ben More Assynt, 14/6/1879." Chris MacNeill has pointed out that the mountain depicted is actually Conival, from which a ridge links up to Ben More Assynt.

"Quinaig from Kylescow Ferry, 14/6/1879."

Two days later, the party made a visit to Handa Island.

"Cliff of Handa, 16/6/1879."

The party then appears to have taken two days in which to return to Loch Maree - or did they? 

"Ben Sleoch, 18/6.79[?]" This could well be 1874.

"Loch Shin, near Lairg, 18/6/1879." Another very scarce, early view, this time of Loch Shin.

The Loch Shin painting raises a problem for two reasons. First, what is the mountain pictured? We (here, I really mean my friend Chris McNeill who has kindly spent hours over the past year or two helping me to identify views depicted in paintings and photographs) cannot identify it. The most likely candidate would be Ben More Assynt, but 'we' don't think it is visible from Loch Shin.

The other problem is the date. If there was only one trip to the north-west, in 1879, then Algerina would have had to be by Loch Shin and Loch Maree on the same day, 18/6/79. Possible now with a car, but unlikely back in the 19th century without motorised transport. So perhaps there were two trips: one in 1874 (taking in Gairloch (17/6/74) and Loch Maree on the next day), and the other, a trip north in 1879 via Inchnadamph to Kylesku (13 and 14/6/79), Handa (16/6/1879) and back to Lairg via Loch Shin on the 18/6/1879. Either way, Algerina Peckover was clearly an intrepid traveller exploring a region still rarely visited. One wonders if she came across any geologists who were descending on the area, particularly Inchnadamph and Loch Maree, in an effort to bring to an end the Highlands Controversy.  .