The thin Red Line
Famous Scots

Scotland is a very small country and with a very small population of around 6 million people. For it's size it's brave and gentle people have quietly changed the world. From the economic thinking of Adam Smith, to the technology of John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell the inventor of the television and the telephone. The Scots have had a impact on the way we now live. For the size of the nation the Scots punch away above their weight. People Like Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin to John Boyd Dunlop the inventor of the pneumatic tyre without doubt enhanced the way we live. Scots have made an impact abroad. Andrew Carnegie who created a vast empire in America and gave away a fortune, to John Paul Jones the founder of the United States Navy and John Muir who founded the American National Parks their influence across the world is second to none. This page is purely academic and for interest only. It will however give you an insight of the calibre of the people who's capital you are for whatever reason are visiting. The list of famous Scots is vast and the contents will change on a rotating basis.

John Logie Baird

John Logie baird John Logie Born was born in Helensburgh, Argyll on the the 18th August 1888 and was educated at Larchfield School, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, now the University of Glasgow. His education was interrupted by the onset of hostilities of the Fist World War and he never returned to graduate. He became an engineer. He suffered from ill health. In 1926 Baird invented the television and later patented what we now know as radar. He set up the Baird Television Company. Baird was instrumental in the setting up of the British Broadcasting Corporation known as the BBC, the first public television service in 1932. Baird's television invention was of electromechanical design. In the 30's Baird's Television Company lost out to a new design by Marconi-EMI. His company was finished. Baird did not stand idly by and with the aid of two assistants he developed the worlds first colour television system. On the onset of hostilities of the Second World War most of Baird's work was diverted to Radar to help the war effort. Baird died on the 14th June 1946.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham BellAlexander Graham Bell  was was born in Edinburgh on the 3rd of March 1847 and educated at Edinburgh High School and the University of Edinburgh. Both his mother and his wife were deaf. His father Alexander Melville Bell was the founder of the science of phonetics. This influenced his life's work on hearing from which in 1875 he invented the telephone. In 1877 he founded the Bell Telephone Company. Bell was not the type of man to sit on his laurels.In 1881 he set up the Volta Laborites in Washington DC. His experiments improved Thomas Edison's phonograph to the extent it was made commercially viable. In 1885 Bell set up another laboratory at his estate Beinn Bhreagh in Nova Scotia. There he invented the photophone. This allowed sound to be transmitted on a beam of light. This was the principal of which laser and fibre optic communication was based. But would take modern day technology to realise it's potential. On the death of his new born son from respitory problems he devised a vacuum metal jacket that could help breathing. This was the fore runner to the iron lung. In 1888 he founded the National Geographic Society. He died at Baddek, Nova Scotia on the 2nd of August 1922. Upon his death all telephones in the United States stilled the ring tone for a minute in tribute to the genius of the man.

Adam Smith

Adam SmithAdam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in 1723, the exact date of his birth is unknown but he was baptized on June 5th 1723. His father was the controller of customs.At the age of 14 Smith began University Education at Glasgow University where he studied mathematics, physics and philosophy. During his studies Smith developed a strong feeling for liberty, reason and above all free speech. In 1751 he was appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow University. In 1759 he published the book Theory of Moral Sentiments covering the standards that held society together. In 1776 Smith published his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations covering such aspects as economic freedom, labour and labour markets. Smith is still regarded as the father of economics and although his works is over 200 years old the theory of the free market and Wealth of Nations still hold true today. It is rumoured that the late former SBritish Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher carried a copy of the work of Smith around  with her.The Adam Smith Institute is one of the world's leading think tanks, recognised as the best domestic and international economic policy think-tank in the UK and ranked 2nd in the world among Independent Think Tanks by the University of Pennsylvania. Smith died in Edinburgh on the 17th July 1790 and was buried in the Canongate Kirk, at the foot or the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones the founder of the US NavyJohn Paul Jones the founder of the United States Navy was born John Paul on 6th July 1747 in Arbigland, Kirkbean Kircubrightshire the forth child of John Paul a gardener and Jean Duff. At the age of 12 he went to sea and for about 10 years he served on ships mainly involved in the slave trade.This acquired him many skills on seamanship but he had a fiery temper and became a fugitive from British justice. In 1774 he settled in Virginia USA and changed his name to John Paul Jones and supported the cause of the American Revolution. In 1775 he hoisted the Continental flag of the first naval ship acquired by Congress. That ship was named Alfred and after a series of bold achievements he was considered by the Americans as a patriot. But seen through the eyes of the British he was a pirate. Jones was posted to France. From France Jones sailed into the Irish sea, attacked Whitehaven and made a plan to abduct the Earl of Selkirk who had vowed to bring him to justice. The Earl was not at home and Jones decided the silver in the Earl's home needed removing. Exploit after exploit followed and he died in Paris in 1792. The Americans did not forget him. In 1905 President Roosevelt ordered his body be found. His body was brought back to the United states aboard the USS Brooklyn escorted by three cruisers. In 1913 he was finally interred in the chapel of the Annopolis Naval Academy.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew CarnegieAndrew Carnegie who was destined to become the richest man in the world was born on November 25th 1835 in Dunfermline. His father was a hand loom weaver and although poor his upbringing was in a cultured politically motivated household. But the decline in hand loom weaving forced the family to emigrate to America in 1848. The family settled in Pennsylvania and at the age of 13 he started work as a bobbin boy in textile mill. Over the next few years he had several jobs and by 1853 he was the personal secretary to a Superintendent of a railway company. and through good investment he started to make money. He then started the Carnegie Steel Company making Pittsburgh the centre of steel making. On selling his mill he became the richest man in the world. Carnegie held the belief that the rich had a duty to give away their wealth for the benefit of the community. Carnegie never forgot his roots and was proud of his Scottish identity. He donated a fortune to his beloved Dunfermline which he described "as the most sacred spot on earth to me". He holidayed frequently in Scotland and purchased the Highland estate at Skibo in Sutherland. He set about disposing of his wealth and before his death on August 11th 1919 Carnegie donated over $350 million to charity.

John Muir

John MurJohn Muir was born in Dunbar on the 21st April 1838 and he was destined to become the founder of the American National Parks. At the age of 11 his family emigrated to America and settled in Wisconsin where he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On leaving University Muir took on many jobs and he walked for thousands of miles. Muir arrived in San Francisco in 1868. From there he visited the Yosemite which he described as "The grandest of all special temples of nature". In 1869 he was offered a job looking after sheep in the Yosemite. Later Muir threw himself into the area of preservation. In June of that year Muir camped with Robert Underwood Johnson the influential editor of Century magazine who agreed to lobby Congress on article's Muir had written about preservation. On 30th September 1890 Congress passed a bill following recommendations that Muir had made in the Century magazine. However the Yosemite Valley remained under state control. In later years Muir influenced Theodore Roosevelt in creating other National Parks and became know to millions of Americans as the Father of Our National Parks. Although Scottish he was voted the Most famous Californian of all time, appeared on two postage stamps and has dozens of places name after him. Muir died in Los Angles on the 24th December 1914

Sir Alexander Fleming

Sir Alexander FlemingSir Alexander Fleming was born on the 6th August 1881 at Lochfield Farm, Darvel Ayrshire and was educated at Darvel School and Klmarnock Academy. In 1901 he enrolled at St Mary's Hospital, London and qualified with distinction with the option of becoming a surgeon. Fleming had been a active member of the Territorial Army. He served with distinction as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps through the First World war and was mentioned in dispatches. He returned to St Mary's in 1918. It was a teaching hospital and Fleming was elected Professor of Bacteriology in 1928. He was the most famous scientist during that time and held in esteem. In 1922 amongst other findings, Fleming discovered lysozyme. That being the bodies own defence system. In 1928 a careless lab technician had left cultures that Fleming had been working on. On return from holiday Fleming noticed that on a zone around the fungus where the bacteria would not grow. Fleming isolated an extract from the mould and identified it to be from the Penicillium Genus. He named the extract Penicillin. After months of research and by the outbreak of World War II penicillin had been stabilised and enough produced to treat wounded allied soldiers. Fleming's discovery has saved countless millions of life, and still does.. He was knighted in 1944 and won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945. Fleming died on March 11th 1955 and was interred in St Paul's Cathedral. His lab is now a museum.

Sir Colin Campbell

Sir Colin CampbellA British Soldier of the finest quality, Sir Colin Campbell was typical of what made the British Army one of the finest and most professional army the world has seen.. He was born in Glasgow on the 20th October 1792 and educated at Glasgow High School. At the age of 16 he enlisted into the army. His first encounter of active service was in the Peninsular wars, followed by service in Spain. His gallantry at the battle of San Sebastion brought him a Captaincy in the 60th Rifles. In 1854 Campbell by then CO of the 93rd Regiment of Foot, known later as the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders arrived in the Crimea. On the 25th October 1854 at Balaclava facing a Russian force of some 25,000 strong Campbell and his men repelled a charge by Russian massed cavalry. As the Russian Cavalry charged Campbell rode up and down the line and said to his men..There is no retreat from here, you must die where you stand. To a man they replied Aye Sir Colin an needs be we will do that... A testimony to the faith his men had in him. A Times correspondent W.H. Russell was standing on a hill above the battle field and saw the Russian Cavalry Charge and could clearly see that nothing stood between the 93rd and the defenceless British base apart from what he reported as the thin red streak tipped with a line of steel, and was condensed into the Thin Red Line. The phrase survives to this day. The header photograph and the one on the left is a painting of that day. It hangs in the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle.  Clicke here to read the details. Sir Colin later became Commander in Chief of the British Army in India. He is interred in Westminster Abbey.

Sir William Wallace

Sir William WallceRegarded by many as the greatest Scot of all time and without doubt Scotland's National hero William Wallace is the stuff that legends are made of. Wallace was born in Ayrshire about 1270, his father was Sir Malcolm Wallace. Some academics hold the view his family roots were from what is now Shropshire. At the time of his birth the Scottish King was Alexander III. Who through out his reign and married to Margaret of England, the daughter of King Henry 111 of England, peace and stability between Scotland and England was at a all time high. Both nations for once living at peace with one another. On the untimely death of Alexander and his wife, Scotland was left without a king, as none of Alexander's offspring's survived him.

The Scottish lords declared that his grand daughter Margaret, Maid of Norway be declared Queen. But she was living in Norway and only 4 years old. An interim government known as the Guardians was set up to look after the interests of Scotland until Margaret was old enough to take the throne. By this time Edward 1 was on the English throne and agreement was reached that Margaret should marry his son Edward of Caernarvon, later Edward the 11 of England.However Margaret died in the Orkney's before that could happen.In the absence of a clear winner to the Scottish throne the claimants asked Edward 1 to choose. Edward chose John Balliol (empty coat) as the Scottish King. The choice and the motive being Edward had in place north of the border, a puppet who would dance to his tune. Real life is not as simple as that, and Edward sorely under estimated the Scottish mentality when he ordered Balliol to raise an army to help him fight the French.

The Scottish Lords made Balliol refuse. This infuriated Edward and he marched north and occupied Scotland. It is known around this time that Wallace's father was murdered by English soldiers. Some say it was his wife, In the South West of Scotland disorder was dangerous and defiance against the presence of English troops was rife. During one of those skirmishes Wallace killed several English soldiers before he was overpowered and thrown into a dungeon where he was left to starve to death. He was rescued by sympathizers. On being nursed back to health Wallace formed a band of men and made attack after attack against English interest north of the Border. In 1297 Wallace avenged his father's or wife's murderer by tracking down the Knight responsible, killing him and his men. That knight was William Heselrig the High Sheriff of Lanark, who was appointed by Edward I.By 1297 most of the English had been pushed out of Scotland but Wallace managed to gather a band of commoners and small land owners to push the English out from the garrison between the River Forth and the Tay.

The English Commander, John De Warenne the Earl of Surrey took the view that he would attack and kill this upstart Scot. On the 11th September 1297 at Stirling Bridge the Earl of Surrey greatly out numbering the Scots, and with superior troops, attacked. It soon became very clear that knowing your opponent was not one of the English Commanders strong point. The English army was slaughtered. Wallace was later betrayed by the Scottish nobles and was executed in England on the 23rd August 1305. It was probably one of the most stupid things the English Monarchy did during the Wars of Independence, but what was even more stupid was the brutal savagery of the execution. The effect still rumbles on to this day. The Wallace Monument erected in his memory overlooks Stirling Castle. His life and times was made into the film Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

Robert The Bruce

Statue of King Robrt the BruceRobert Bruce was the first son of of the 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie the 1st Countess of Carrick and was born in Turnberry Castle, Ayrshire on the 11th July 1274. The struggle for Scotland began in 1286 when Alexander III died leaving his grand daughter Margaret the six year old daughter of the King of Norway as the heir to the Scottish throne. Margaret died on her way to Scotland. In 1292 the mother of Bruce died elevating him to the Earldom of Carrick and a claim to the Scottish crown. In November of that year Bruce saw Edward I of England award the vacant crown of Scotland on behalf of the Guardians of Scotland to John Balliol his grandfathers cousin once removed. Edward rightly concluded that between the two, Balliol was the weaker for exploitation. In 1294 Bruce married his first wife Isabella the daughter of the Earl of Mar. In August 1296 Bruce and his father swore fealty to Edward. who as a trophy of war had removed the stone of Destiny to London. The timing was ironic because it was in that year Balliol finally had the guts to renounce his fealty to Edward, and was removed from the equation. 

The Wars of Independence were about to start. In 1297 Bruce was ordered to support Edwards commander John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey. But instead of complying Bruce supported a revolt against Edward. After the battle of Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297, where William Wallace completely destroyed and annihilated a well trained and equipped English army, Bruce laid waste to Annandale and destroyed the English held garrison at Ayr.. On July 22nd 1298 Wallace was defeated at Falkirk by Edward and resigned as the Guardian of Scotland. The joint vacancy fell to Bruce and John Comyn. Both were claimants to the Scottish throne,but both men could never see eye to eye. In 1297 the Bishop of St Andrew was appointed as a third Guardian, but the following year Bruce resigned. The photograph on the left shows the statue of Bruce at Stirling.

In July 1301 Edward I launched his sixth campaign into Scotland. He captured the castles of Bothwell and Turneberry , but did little to damage the Scots' fighting ability. In January 1302 he agreed to a nine-month truce. It was around this time that Robert the Bruce submitted to Edward, along with other nobles, even though he had been on the side of the patriots until then. During this period Edward attempted direct rule by placing his men in key positions. He greatly under estimated the hatred the Scots had for him. On the 24th February 1303 Henry St Claire under the Command of Sir Symon Fraser destroyed a massive English army at Roslin. The other commander at this battle was John Comyn. By this time the father of Bruce moved to his lands in England. That left Bruce with a decision. to follow, stay in Scotland and fight for the throne. Or what? Fate chose the decision for him. Bruce had a violent temper. On 10th February 1306 his hatred for Coymn took the better of him. On the High alter of Greyfriars Kirk, Bruce stabbed him to death. Bruce ran out of the Kirk telling his friend Roger Kirkpatrick that he thought he had killed Coymn.

Kirkpatrick drew his dagger and said as he went into the Kirk.."you thought..I will make sure" To avoid a charge of murder Bruce fled to Scone and on the 25th March 1306 crowned himself King. This infuriated Edward and the following year he was deposed by Edwards army, his wife and daughter taken hostage and hung in a cage for four years, and three of his brothers executed. Bruce fled. Following years of English terror that had been let loose in Scotland, Bruce reappeared. It is rumoured that when he was in hiding he saw a spider trying to swing from one place to another and fall six times. On the 7th attempt the spider made it. This influenced Bruce with the message... if at first you do not succeed.. try and try again. A story that is known to every Scottish schoolchild. Bruce came out of hiding and the clans along with Sir James Douglas (The Black Douglas) answered his call to drive the English out of Scotland.. Bruce and his followers carried out several skirmishes with English troops which they won.

On the 24th June 1314 on the fields of Bannockburn on the outskirts of Stirling, the most most famous battle in Scottish history unfolded.The armies of Bruce heavily outnumbered by the English faced one another. It would in present day terms be like the British Army taking on the might of the United States Army. The army of Bruce using tactics which prevented the English from using their superior power, destroyed the English once and for all, and forced them to flee. The defeat for the English was complete. They were forced to sue for peace., and a treaty was signed in Northampton by Edward II declaring that Scotland was a independent nation and that Bruce was the King. There is no doubt that Bruce was a giant amongst Kings and Scotland was the first nation state in Europe to have a territorial unit under one King. The drawing on the left depicts Bruce reviewing his troops prior to the Battle of Bannockburn. In 1320 the Declaration of Arbroath. was a open letter sent to the Pope. The Pope had excommunicated Bruce and Scotland because the Church of Rome saw Edward II as the true King of Scotland. It is one of the most important documents of Scottish history and contained the words:-

"as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

Some 456 years later, on July 4th 1776 these words influenced the Declaration of independence by the United States from George III. Bruce died on 7th June 1329 and his body interred in Dunfermline Abbey. Before he died Bruce requested that his heart be removed and carried in battle against Gods foes. Then buried in Melrose Abbey. This task was allocated to Sir James Douglas, who was one of Bruce's most loyal friends. He carried the preserved heart in a silver casket around his neck. Douglas was killed at the battle of Teba, Spain in August 1330. It is thought that the casket containing the heart of Bruce was recovered by Sir William Keith who returned it to Scotland and buried it in Melrose Abbey. That was the wish of Bruce. In 1920 the heart was discovered and reburied but the position was not marked. I found that deeply offensive and shocking. For a hero and true patriot of his stature his heart should have been reburied with full military honours and in a manner fitting of a real King. In 1996 a casket was discovered during work in Melrose Abbey. It was carbon dated from the time of Bruce and reburied again. A photograph of the final burial place of his heart in Melrose Abbey is shown on the left.