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December 2019 

Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Fair Maid’s House, Perth. The oldest surviving secular house in Perth, the Fair Maid’s House, was the venue for CCS June visit to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. RSGS was founded in Edinburgh in 1884, later moving to Glasgow, then to Perth in 2008. The Fair Maid’s House, featured in Sir Walter Scott’s eponymous novel, dates back to 1475; it was restored and extended in 2011 to house RSGS library, exhibition space, geographical information and education centre and visitor centre. 

Margaret Wilkes and Andrew Cook, both RSGS volunteers and long-standing CCS members, hosted the visit and laid out a display of some of the treasures of the collection. These included the surveying equipment, desk and drawings belonging to John Mathieson (1855-1945), OS surveyor, later OS Division Superintendent and RSGS vice-president. Also on view was the 1:10,560 map of the remote island of St Kilda surveyed and paid for by Mathieson, published in 1928, shortly before the voluntary evacuation of the 48 residents. Other OS-related items displayed included the 1946 initial draft plan for the new town of East Kilbride, pencilled-in on a composite 1:10,560 sheet and German 1:100,000 reproductions of Half-inch OS maps of Edinburgh and Portsmouth areas. 

RSGS has a strong connection with Polar exploration; the collection includes a hand-written, self-composed poem ‘Antarctica’ by JG Bartholomew, founder of the map-makers and co-founder of RSGS, and items relating to explorers WS Bruce, Angus Erskine, Ernest Shackleton and the Scottish Arctic Club. CCS in Glasgow From Perth the CCS trip progressed to Glasgow, to visit the University Map Library and the Scottish Canal Archive. At the map library, retired librarian John Moore (another long-standing CCS member) laid out an extensive display comprising Glasgow maps through the ages and unusual Scottish OS items; the latter including One-inch Popular sheet 19 showing the summit of Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh erroneously as a flat plateau. The reason, John explained, was that the landowners, the Whitbread family, allowed the surveyors only a few days on their estate and the weather was poor. Rob Maclean, assistant librarian of the rare books collection, arranged an exhibition of unique historic maps and journals from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The Scottish Canal Archive occupies an attractive canal-side former warehouse near the city centre. Here records manager Angharad Stockwell showed original drawings and plans used in the construction, and still used for the maintenance, of the canal network. Canals being essentially linear and narrow, displaying the plans required a long table. One of the many items of interest was the 1839 detail drawing for the inclined plane at Blackhill on the Monklands canal, installed in 1849. The following month, 400 miles south, CCS visited Dennis Maps, printers of OS and many other maps, in Frome, Somerset. Here can be seen the processes in the production of printed maps, from blank paper and on-screen images, through 4- colour printing, cutting, folding, laminating, attaching map to cover and packaging. The whole process can be seen in miniature in the Custom Made department, where individual one-off sheets and their personalised covers, ordered online, are printed and despatched. Top row: The view north to the Campsie hills from the University library window, John Moore and Paul Bishop deep in concentration. Middle row: Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh as depicted on the Popular Edition and modern Landranger. Bottom row: Outside the Canal Archive, detail of the Monklands inclined plane.