Last week the sign appeared. It looked innocuous until you read it. It announced the…
Thomas Telford was a civil engineer in the early 19th Century. He is well known for creating bridges and aqueducts many of which can be found in Shropshire. You can still see much of his work today on many canals across the country including the very impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I have seen pictures of canal boats going across it and it makes me dizzy just to think of crossing it. You have to remember that this was the time of the Industrial Revolution and canals were of major importance to transporting freight around the country.
There has been lots written about Thomas Telford, so I am not going to go into great details about him here. What you may not know is that he was born in Scotland in 1757. His birthplace was the hill farm of Glendinning, which is a hill farm in the parish of Westerkirk in Eskdale. It was actually very near where we were staying on our holiday in Dumfries and Galloway. One day we set out to see if we could actually find his birthplace.
First we took the wrong turning and ended up in the cemetery in the village of Bentpath. This was full of fascinating old gravestones in a very picturesque location.
I even spotted a couple of pheasants running across the path. We had a good look around and then set off for the correct road heading towards Thomas Telford’s birthplace.
The road was full of twists and turns as we headed into the wilds. The hills still had traces of snow on them and there was not much sign of civilisation at all. We passed a couple of farms but that was all.
The roads were full of sheep and we often had to wait for them to move out of the road before we could go on. Often they decided running in front of us was a much better idea than moving to the side.
It was nice to see the lambs in the fields and the odd pheasant at the side of the road. We did not see another car which was just as well as the road was narrow. You really got a sense for how isolated an area this was. In the days of Thomas Telford it would have been really hard to travel to your nearest town and you would have had to be really self sufficient to live out here. Thomas Telford’s father was a shepherd, but he died soon after Thomas was born and his mother had to move further down the valley. She brought Thomas up herself in poverty and it is quite an achievement that he got an education and became a well known engineer.
After driving what seemed like forever we finally reached the cairn the commemorates his birthplace. It is in the middle of a farm and you need to go though a couple of gates in the farmers fields to reach it.
We also had to cross a bridge labelled up to 2 tonnes only, which was a bit worrying as we had no idea how much our car weighed. Luckily we made it and I am glad we made the journey as it brought a famous person to life a little bit.
If you want to read a bit more about Thomas Telford there is a fascinating article here