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By: Walter Stephen

Twelve Great Scots and Their Roots

Pages: 202 Ratings:
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Twelve Great Scots and their Roots brings together People - the Great Scots, Place - where they were shaped and flourished, and Fame - their legacy.


None of the Great Scots was born great. There is no Robert the Bruce here, no Mary, Queen of Scots. (Although Robert III and James I get a mention). There are four knights in the list, but they all came from modest beginnings and made their way up the greasy pole by native genius and hard work. Two of the Great Scots are still alive, and it is particularly satisfying that Dr Jim Swire and Lockerbie are given close attention.


The Great Scots selected may be celebrated in their own fields and internationally, but some may be new to some. All are interesting in their own way, but one or two pose a puzzle. Who turned geology upside-down? What has number 38 in the Periodic Table of Elements to do with a little Highland village? What is a thrum? What do a great Canadian city and an obscure hamlet in Mull have in common?


Familiar or not we have twelve interesting places with twelve interesting – and sometimes unlikely – stories behind them.


A feature of the book is its emphasis on first-hand observation and thinking for oneself – based on evidence. Consequently, each chapter has a trail, so that the reader can check the veracity of the author’s stories and even be inspired to cover the ground.

Walter Stephen was educated at schools and universities in Edinburgh and Glasgow, acquiring at an early age a love of travel and mild exploration. In his career as an educational advisor, he was able to pass on his love of Scotland and of the environment, among his achievements being the first successful Urban Studies Centre in Britain.


Retiring early, he has generated a stream of interesting and well-received books on Scottish themes, mainly, but also on such as Darwin, The War Poets Owen and Sassoon, the polymath Sir Patrick Geddes, Frank Fraser Darling (the first ecologist?) and Willie Park Junior: The Man who took Golf to the World.


His writing is warm, informative about so many people and places, sympathetic but never sentimental.

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