St Benedict’s Church, Drumchapel, Glasgow. Gillespie Kidd & Coia, architects; completed 1970; demolished 1991

Dennis Rodwell

The Celebration and Protection of Scotland’s Twentieth Century Heritage

In 1707, the year in which the Act of Union between the Scottish and English crowns formally constituted the kingdom of Great Britain, the population of Scotland stood at around one million, a sixth of the whole. By then, driven initially by the post-Reformation Calvinist church, Scotland’s renowned education system was already established. Allied to Scots’ innate sense of democracy, initiative and self-discipline, it inspired a wellspring of intellectual inquiry and creativity that positioned Scotland as a major contributor to the Age of Enlightenment and the notion of modernity. In 1723, a commentator wrote that ‘The Scots have made a greater Figure Abroad than any other Nation in Europe’ and attributed this as ‘entirely owing to the Fineness of their Education’. In 1750, an English visitor remarked: ‘Here I stand at what is called the Cross of Edinburgh, and can, in a few minutes, take fifty men of genius by the hand’. And in the mid-1940s, Winston Churchill – whose parliamentary career included the years 1908 – 1922 as member of parliament for Dundee – averred that: ‘No nation of its size since Ancient Greece has made a comparable impact upon the world’. Notable Scots from the eighteenth century onwards, in diverse fields, include: the philosopher David Hume; the political economist Adam Smith (author of The Wealth of Nations); the inventors James Watt (steam engine) and Alexander Graham Bell (telephone); the factory owner David Dale (founder, together with his social-reformist son-in-law Robert Owen, of New Lanark); the civil engineer Thomas Telford (canals, roads and bridges); the poet and lyricist Robert Burns; the novelists Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle; the explorers Mungo Park and David Livingstone (both in Africa); the naturalist Charles Darwin (author of On the Origin of Species); the medical pioneers Alexander Fleming (penicillin) and Joseph Lister (antiseptic surgery); the physicists Lord Kelvin (electricity and thermodynamics) and James Clerk Maxwell (electromagnetic theory); and the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894), travel writer as well as novelist, became the most famous member of a dynasty of pioneering engineers who, from the 1780s onwards, effectively monopolised the design and construction of lighthouses around the hazardous coastline of Scotland….

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