Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Solway Coast Charles Oppenheimer

This looks like Kippford. The Solway Coast, another of Charles Oppenheimer's railway paintings.

Sweetheart Abbey

Another of Norman Wilkinson's Galloway paintings for LMS

Fishing in New Galloway Norman Wilkinson

Another of  Norman Wilkinson's Galloway  railway posters.

Galloway poster for London Midland and Scottish Railway

Rather different from the Charles Oppenheimer BR painting, here is one for LMS by Norman Wilkinson.

The Galloway Dee Charles Oppenheimer

Painting of the Galloway Dee by Charles Oppenheimer  for British Railways.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Power of the Dee

Galloway Dam, Nearing Completion by Charles Oppenheimer(1975-1961). Th dam is on the Galloway Hydro-electric scheme.

Galloway dam under construction

Art in Concrete by Charles Oppenheimer (1875-1961). Tongland dam (near Kirkcudbright) under construction for the Galloway Hydro-electric scheme.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Concrete shock

Harnessing the Power of the Dee - Charles Oppenheimer, 1933.

This is my letter in response to two letters in response to my original letter about wind-farms...

Dear Sir,
                 In reply to  Delya Wilkinson and Alan Keith’s letters [20 October 2011], it seems  there are two main objections to wind farms. One is essentially aesthetic and concerns the visual impact of wind farms. The other is economic and concerns the inefficiency of wind farms as generators of electricity.

Thinking about the aesthetic objection, I remember visiting the first ’Homecoming’ exhibition of  paintings by the Kirkcudbright artists in 2000.  Most of the paintings were of scenes which captured the tranquillity of the Galloway landscape. But one painting stopped me dead in my tracks. It was by Charles Oppenheimer and showed a brutal mass of stark white concrete, dominating and overpowering the rural landscape.

The painting was one of three (Art in Concrete, Harnessing the Dee and Galloway Dam, Nearing Completion)  by Oppenheimer which document in graphic detail the ‘industrial devastation of the landscape’(to use Alan Keith‘s phrase) caused by the construction of dams for the Galloway Hydro-Electric scheme in the 1930s. But outside of an art exhibition, is anyone still shocked by these brutal concrete structures?   Of course not. The dams and turbine halls have become unremarkable features of the landscape. Likewise, once the fear of the new gives way to familiarity, wind-turbines will lose their power to trouble and disturb.

Turning to the  economic argument against wind-power, the Cruachan Power Station  mentioned  favourably by Delya Wilkinson is part of a pumped storage hydro-electric system.  The same principle could be used here. When the wind blows, electricity generated by wind power could be used  to pump water into the higher dams on the Galloway hydro-electric system, storing it for later use. By combining wind and water power, the overall efficiency of the generating system would be improved.

Realistically, since converting  the existing hydro-electric scheme to a pumped storage system will require significant investment, it will need a strong local campaign to make the case for such an innovative proposal. However, while finding ways to improve the efficiency of wind-power may answer the economic critics, it will not satisfy those critics who oppose wind-power on aesthetic grounds. The problem here is how best to manage the visual impact of wind farms.

In 1999,  widespread concerns over the expansion of forestry in Galloway led to a series of detailed public consultations. Those attending were given maps and asked to indicate  where and where not to plant more trees. These maps were then used to create Dumfries and Galloway’s Indicative Forestry Strategy. A similar process of public consultation could be used to manage the location and hence visual impact of wind farms.

Alistair Livingston

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Robert Johnston of Kelton 1696

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

History and Hegel

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Galloway and Carrick re-united after 826 years

In 1186, after the death of Gill-Brigte, son of Fergus, of Galloway; Roland aka Lachlan, son of Uhtred, son of Fergus seized control of Galloway. This was disputed by Donnchadh, son of Gille Brigte so Carrick, which had been part of Galloway, was separated and Donnchadh was made earl of Carrick.

Carrick remained detached from Galloway and became part of Ayrshire. Until now. The Scottish Boundary Commission have today proposed the political re-union of Carrick with Galloway to create a new Westminster Parliament Constituency to be called Galloway and Carrick.

So after more than 800 years, Galloway will become a (political) nation once again...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Wind farms and the Galloway Levellers

Letter published in  Galloway news 6 October 2011.

Between 1973 and 1976 I used to take the ‘backroad’ bus from Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright Academy via Gelston. It was a fascinating journey through an ever changing countryside thick with history. The road itself was built around 1800, replacing a tangle of medieval tracks which meandered from farm to farm. The old tracks would have been familiar to John Martin.

Born a cottar’s son in 1710, in May 1724, John Martin joined the Galloway Levellers. He lived at Lochdougan and walked to Bombie Hill to level a dyke. He was caught and fined for possessing a flintlock gun. John Martin died in 1801. In his long life, John witnessed the transformation of the landscape by the enclosures he fought against. Yet as his gravestone shows, John adapted to the new technology of the mechanical age by becoming a clock maker in Kirkcudbright.

Back then though, I was more interested in the future than the past. I had just discovered something called ‘radical technology’ which imagined an eco-friendly future powered by solar panels, windmills and methane digesters. This vision of the future was a response to recent events, when a sudden rise in oil-prices and a miners’ strike led to power cuts and a three-day week in the winter of 1973/4. To save energy, window displays in shops were switched off at night. I remember how dark and gloomy that made King Street in Castle Douglas.

The energy crisis passed and my copy of the Radical Technology Handbook has been gathering dust since 1976, the pages yellow with age. Then last week a glossy flyer for the Barcloy Hill Wind Farm dropped through my letter box., so I dug it out again. The proposed wind farm is just off the Gelston to Kirkcudbright road.

As the history of John Martin shows, the new wind farm will be part of a countryside in which change has been contested in the past. Yet, as his history also shows, such changes create new opportunities and new possibilities. The Galloway Levellers fiercely resisted the enclosure of the countryside, but within John Martin’s lifetime the new dykes and hedges had become an essential part of the ‘improved’ farm landscape.

In time the wind farms being built now will become as much a part of our countryside as the enclosed fields which were so strongly opposed in 1724. Likewise their economic and environmental benefits will gradually become more apparent. So that in the future, it will be as difficult to imagine a countryside without them as it is to imagine the countryside as it was 300 years ago.

Alistair Livingston

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Life and Society in Dumfries and Galloway


 European Ethnological Research Centre, School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh

 A major new project to study the changing everyday life of the people of Dumfries and Galloway, over the centuries. This ambitious study, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, will result in publications in a variety of formats. It seeks to bring together research carried out by D&G inhabitants, academics and others sharing interests in such topics as the family, identity, occupations, farming, land management, fishing and maritime culture, industry, population movement, communications, local administration, sports, customs, place-names, religion, emigration and immigration, language, literature, folklore, art, music and song, and intellectual life.
In short, whatever affected the lives of the folk as described, wherever possible, in their own voice.

 The project will be launched at two venues: 

The Buccleuch Centre, Langholm Saturday 15 October 2.00pm – 4.00pm


 The Catstrand, New Galloway Saturday 22 October 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Caledonian Railway engine

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