It is always a pleasant surprise to come across a reference to someone or something in one text that one has read about in another completely different source. My page titled "Scottish Geology: Observations both Amateur and Professional" has one or two examples of what I mean. Sarah Murray, for example, at Loch Katrine, coming across "three active pedestrians, skipping amongst the rocks, with hammers in their hands, striking here and there for curiosities." The three turned out to be John Leyden and his two German companions, and the meeting is confirmed in Leyden's account of his Tour in the Highlands and Western Islands 1800: "Mrs Murray of Kensington," he writes "...we were fortunate enough to meet just as we came in sight of the lake [Loch Katrine]. She conducted us to Murray
Point, named from herself, the discoverer; whence we had an enchanting view of part of the Trossachs and of the greater part of the lake, the precipice of the Den of the Ghost and the Peak of Rutting, or Stuic-a-chron." The meeting provided a personal coincidence for Mrs Murray, who realised that she had met the brother of one of the two German companions at Glen Croe in 1796! All this in what was then a rarely visited part of the Highlands.
Another example concerns Charles Lessingham Smith, who on Arran in 1836, comes across an Innkeeper with memories of the visit of Murchison and Sedgwick some ten years earlier: 'Oh then,' says he [the Innkeeper], 'ye'll know Mr Sedgwick: awful bothers I've had wi' him. He was in Arran for three weeks, examining the island. But about a fortnight ago, here were two Germans, one of them practical engineer to the King of Prussia, indefatigable fellows. They found out two veins that neither Sedgwick, nor Murchison , nor Jameson, nor any of them had noticed. They didna care what they had to eat or drink a' the day, if they could but get a good supper; just gie them a bellyfu' before they went to bed, and it was a' they cared about.' Such passages can give new insights into accounts from other sources.
Den of the Ghost, Loch Katrine, an anonymous sketch c.1815.
Here are some more cross references:
In Chapter 5 of my book, The Immeasurable Wilds (pages 68 - 70), I write of the tour to the Western Islands by James Anderson. In a small booklet published in 1931, titled Old Inverness-shire: Notes by a Highland Chief in 1784 (Inverness; Robert Carruthers), this Highland Chief writes:
"At this time a Doctor Anderson, [was] employed by Parliament to inspect the lakes, creeks and bays in the West Coast and Islands of Scotland in order to make a report of the proper method of encouraging the fisheries on them. He had also directions to view the ground from Fort Augustus to Fort William to know at what expense a canal might be made betwixt the East and West Coast. It is said £60,000 would be sufficient for that purpose, there being only a clear cut of 7 or 8 miles, and a widening of Lochs and Rivers for 17 miles."
The proposed canal became, of course, the Caledonian Canal some 40 years later, the cost greatly exceeding the £60,000 suggested here!
Captain Colby and the Ordnance Survey:
Pages 33 - 40 in my book deals with the survey of Captain Colby for the Ordnance Survey. The redoubtable judge Lord Cockburn quotes a letter from Professor Playfair dated July 1818 in his Letters Chiefly Concerned with the Affairs of Scotland (Ridgway 1874):
My Dear Sir,
I wish that I could give you some more satisfactory information on the subject of which you write than I possess at present. There can be no doubt that an accurate knowledge of the lines measured, and of the angles observed in the trigonometrical survey may be of the greatest use in all the surveys of particular districts that may afterwards be required. How far Captain Colby's operations have yet extended into Ayrshire, I do not know, nor whether, supposing them to have so extended, the distances have yet been computed. Captain Colby himself is at present somewhere in this country, but encamped as he is sometimes on the top of a mountain, I have no means of communicating with him, til I am exactly informed of his place. Besides all this as the trigonometrical survey, like everything that is under the care of the Board of Ordnance, has a little of an exclusive spirit that may sometimes be observed, I am not sure if Captain Colby may think himself at liberty to comminicate any of his measurements till they appear in print, which as far as I know, the triangles on the west of Scotland have not yet done. Indeed, as I have said before, I am not sure that they have been computed.
Of all this, however I hope I shall be able to inform you in a week or ten days. Jardine is now on a visit, I understand, to Colby, and I expect to see him here on his return. I will then know the exact point to which my letter must be directed, and I will let you know immediately what answer I receive. I am most glad, you may be assured, to contribute anything I can to the accuracy of a county map, and especially of such as my friends have a particular interest in......
I am ever yours,
With the most sincere esteem,
Unfortuately the letter from Lord Cockburn to Playfair is not quoted, but this reply gives a lovely little insight into the workings of the Board of Ordnance at that time, as well as the survey of Captain Colby. It is not clear what Cockburn's interest was in regard to this matter. Maps of Ayrshire were published in 1827 (by Lothian), 1828 (by Thomson), and 1829 (Aitken), and a number of Ayrshire roads were surveyed 1825 - 1827, the manuscript maps now residing in the House of Lords Record Office. Given his status as an important lawyer and, later, Solicitor General of Scotland, could it perhaps have been the latter road surveys that had caught his attention? As far as I know he had no vested interest in Ayrshire, his country house being at Bonaly on the edge of Edinburgh.