Stonehaven Guide
Stonehaven Guide
Stonehaven Guide
Stonehaven Guide
General > Famous People
Famous People

Robert William Thomson 

Robert William Thomson, was the son of a local Wool Mill Owner. He was sent to stay with relatives in Charleston in the United States of America when he was 14 years old. The purpose of this was to learn merchandising but he returned home after two years. He served an apprenticeship in engineering at a workshop in Aberdeen and Dundee. He also studied Civil Engineering in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He then set off for London with nine pounds in his pocket and become a railway engineer. 
His proposed railway line for the Eastern Counties was accepted by parliament and is still in existence. 
He invented the Pneumatic Tyre when he was 23, first in the United Kingdom and thereafter in France and the United States of America. 
The first set of 'Aerial Wheels' as they where termed, was fitted and one Bougham ran 1200 miles without symptoms of deterioration or decay. 
Robert William Thomson invented the Pneumatic Type on 10th December 1845, but also the inventor of road-going streamers with his invention of solid rubber tyres, also the following:-

  • ·         Steam Omnibuses 
  • ·         Steam Crane 
  • ·         Hydraulic Dry Dock 
  • ·         Self Filling Fountain Pen 
  • ·         Ribbon Saw 
  • ·         Tractor pulled Plough 
  • ·         Elliptic Rotary Engine 

He has fourteen registered patents to his name but leading the field is the Pneumatic Tyre which is number 10990. 

In 1976 at the instigation of the late A.K. Stevenson O.B.E, then Secretary of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, and the Stonehaven-based Scottish Clubman, which launched a campaign to get Robert William Thomson's name and his inventions more widely known. 
The gradual but steady success has been achieved whilst being assisted by the Garioch Vehicle Restoration Society of Aberdeenshire. 

The organisation of the annual June Rally is now in the hands of the locally founded Robert William Thomson Memorial Fellowship. 
In Stonehaven Library there is the Robert William Thomson local section which contains details of all his inventions and information on his earlier years. 

A bronze plaque marking the 100th anniversary of his birth rests on a building at the South side of the Stonehaven Town Centre, Market Square where each year in June, vintage vehicle owners and their machines gather for a Sunday rally in honour of the great man. 
On the preceding day another rally including classic vehicles from clubs and stationery engines is held at Baird Park in the town's North side. 
Robert William Thomson and his family latter on lived in Edinburgh where he became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He died at the age of 50. 

The picture on the right shows a selection of cars from the Rally held on 21st and 22nd June 2003 


Robert Burns 

The Mearns was the homeland of Burns' father and there are several places associated with his family. All the farms mentioned are private property but can be clearly seen from the road. Stonehaven was visited by Burns during his Highland tour in 1787 when he met a number of relatives. From Stonehaven take the A94 Laurencekirk road which is roughly the route followed by Burns. Three miles from the town you see Bruxie Hill on the left and a Criggie farm on either side of the road. Burns' grandmother came from Criggie, marrying Robert Burn's, around 1715. A little further on is Clochnahill farm, set up on the brae to your right. This was the birth place of the poet's father William Burn's in 1721. In a lay-by on the main road is a memorial cairn which was erected in 1968 to commemorate the Burns link with Clochnahill. 

The road then goes through the parishes of Dunnottar, Kinneff, Arbuthnott, Glenbervie and Fordoun, all of which are associated with the Burn's family. The old parish kiriss of Kinneff and Arbuthnott are worth a separate visit. We then come to the town of Laurencekirk with the Gardenston Arms Hotel on the left. On 11 September, 1787, Burns and his companion, William Nicol, spent the night there and a plaque above the door commemorates the visit. 

A mile south turn left on to the A937 to Montrose, again following Burns’ route. The next village is Marykirk, cross the imposing Marykirk Bridge over the North Esk River which marks the boundary of The Howe o' The Mearns. Probably fording the river here, Burns went on south to Montrose and Edinburgh. Note the attractive old toll house on the far side. 
Turn north again, re-crossing the river, and before reaching Marykirk turn right on an unclassified road. This route dips into the Den of Morphie and passes the ancient Stone of Morphie. Veer right at Y junction. Stop two miles further on when the road drops towards the river, on the opposite bank is the disused old Kirk of Logic (this area provides the setting for John o' Arnha, a poetic classic in dialect by George Beattie and inspired by Tam o.' Shanter.) 

As the mouth of the North Esk comes in view turn left on to the A92 through St Cyrus (the Nature Reserve and beach here are ideal for a day's visit) and left again onto the B9120. Four miles along this road you come on to the summit of Garvock Hill, an outstanding viewpoint, from where it is claimed that, Burns' father looked back for the last time at his home, Clochnahill, before turning south with his brother Robert to a new life in Ayrshire. This road brings you back to Laurencekirk. On reaching the main street turn right. 

Continue through Laurencekirk and beyond Fordoun turn left at the disused airfield on to the B966 signposted Fettercairn. On the right amongst trees two miles along this road is Monboddo House which should just be visible. Lord Monboddo met Burns during his Edinburgh visits. On the death in 1790 of the Judge's daughter, Burns wrote his Elegy on the late Miss Burnett of Monboddo. She is also mentioned in another poem and in correspondence. 

Turn right at the crossroads for Auchenblae, an attractive village which appeals to many visitors. Head north towards Glenbervie (Past the golf course and do not turn left along the road marked Stonehaven). The prominent Knock Hill comes in view and, three miles from Auchenblae, Glenbervie House (once a fortified Castle) is visible on the right as the road drops into the Bervie Valley. liawknill, a farm worked by the poet's great uncle is on the left. As Glenbervie West Kirk appears half a mile further on take the narrow road on the right (50 yds before Church) to Glenbervie Kirkyard. Here, restored by the Glenbervie Burns Memorial Association, are the gravestones of William and James Burn's, great-granduncle and great-grandfather of Robert Burns. 

On returning to the road turn right, then left at the Church. The road climbs past Inches, another flumes farm on the right. On this road you reach Brae School (now closed) at a road junction. Ahead on the slope is Bogjorgan (old spelling). Home of William Burn's whose gravestone is in Glenbervie Kirkyard. Strike left for a short distance until Brawliemuir, home of great-grandfather James, is visible on the brae face, a mile west of his brother's farm, Bogjorgan. Turn about and head north-east for Stonehaven. 
Three miles further on is another flumes farm, Elfhill, separated by Carmont Hill from Clochnahill, birthplace of Burns' father. 

The Barclay’s 

Although the New Town of Stonehaven had been springing up in the parish of Fetteresso from as early as 1774, it really owes its existence to the genius of Robert Barclay, fourth of his line, laird of Ury and a Heaven born improver. He it was who founded it in 1795 by buying in that year for £1500 the estate or Links of Arduthie on which the New Town stands, a waste piece of ground then largely moorland, with short heath, furze and broom. So is the new town of Stonehaven one of the youngest towns in Britain, all having been built since that date. The name, Arduthie, is perhaps Ard and Duthac, the plateau of Duthac, a missionary who may have visited the Mearns and about whose shirt some miracles are recorded. 

To encourage settlers on the north bank of the Carron , feus, each an eighth of an acre and generally rectangular, were offered by Robert Barclay in perpetuity. Thus, according to his obituary notice in The Howff, the family burial ground, he laid the foundation of the New Town of Stonehaven and lived to see it become a prosperous community. The Old Statistical Account tells us, He has laid down by a regular plan twelve acres of ground with streets 48' wide and a Square of two acres, part of which is feud and built. So the new Stonehaven or Links of Arduthie began in quite a modest way. But it was well designed for expansion. 
How orderly and pleasing Robert Barclay's plans were, can readily be appreciated by reference to a plan of the burgh,which consists of a pattern of several wide, regular, straight streets as a rule running parallel to or intersecting one another at right angles in the style of an American town. Well arranged, the streets are pleasant and delightful, often with trees. Thus is the Town given a prosperous, clean and airy appearance. 

House standards originally varied for, in addition to free standing dwellings within walled gardens for the more affluent, other houses were built at higher densities. There were, wrote the minister of Fetteresso, many excellent houses to which walled gardens are attached, others of an inferior description suited to various classes in society and shops in which goods of every description are always to be obtained. Generally, the earlier work of the New Town is of a robust Georgian style. To this the character of the Square and its public buildings conforms. 

Captain Robert Barclay-Allardice 

Two years after the commencement of feuing Barclay died and was succeeded by his son, Captain Robert Barclay-Allardice. He was the famous agriculturist, soldier, pedestrian and strong man who carried on his back all the way from Aberdeen,a bundle of young trees which he planted in the Den of Ury with his own hand. He it was who had plans drawn so that real progress was made in the New Town in the first two decades of the 19th century under his encouraging hand. In 1801 the population of the New Town was 770, in 18211,635, and development raised the total to about 3,000 in 1831. As time went on, Stonehaven's importance grew. By 1871 the possibilities of the Town as a holiday resort were becoming apparent, and since that date its many natural attractions have been steadily added to. In 1884 the Recreation Grounds down by the Bridge of Cowie came into being, and by 1891, only 37 years after the death of Captain Barclay-Allardice, the population of Stonehaven had reached 4,500. This figure in 2003 now exceeds 12000. 
It was Captain Barclay-Allardice, too, who conceived the idea of the Market Buildings on the edge of the Square, with their open arcades or piazzas, originally for the accommodation of stalls. These are familiar to us today as the pends or covered ways. On the upper floor of the Market Buildings were once the County offices, these later becoming the Royal Hotel (known as the Market House). By the south-west pillar (near the telephone kiosk) was once a trough with piped water where cattle, horses and goats refreshed themselves as they rested during the Thursday market. 

He also conceived the idea of the Market Buildings on the edge of the Square with their open arcades or piazzas, originally for the accommodation of stalls. These are familiar to us today as the pends or covered ways. On the upper floor of the Market Buildings were once the County offices, these later becoming the Royal Hotel (known as the Market House). By the south-west pillar (near the telephone kiosk) was once a trough with piped water where cattle, horses and goats refreshed themselves as they rested during the Thursday market. 

Stonehaven Street Names 

How closely the family of Robert Barclay is linked with Stonehaven, can be judged by a consideration of the children of his second marriage from whom many of the streets take their names. His second wife was Sarah Ann, only daughter of James Allardice of Allardice, the last representative of an unbroken line of male property owners from the time of King William the Lion. Through this marriage Robert Barclay received the estates of his father-in-law and, says his memorial, assumed that additional surname of Allardice. Of this marriage the children were Robert James Allardice, David Stewart, Rodney, Ann, June Cameron, Mary and Margaret. The picture is completed by the fact that the last named married Hudson Gurney of Kessock, Norfolk. Thus eleven street names are represented above, Barclay Street and Allardice Street being the two main streets on the east and west sides of the Market Square. 

Lewis Grassic Gibbon 

He was born in Aberdeenshire but moved to the Howe of the Mearns where he spent his formative years within the sights and sounds of this unique part of the countryside. His upbringing was to be a profound influence on his writings in later life and were epitomised in Sunset Song, the first part of his trilogy about life in the Mearns in the early part of the twentieth century. 
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