Visit Carluke’s General Roy map exhibition

CAVLP Heritage re-enact Major-General William Roy and his Hanoverian soldiers survey of Cleghorn Temporary Roman Camp, 1764. (Photo by Archibald Photography)
CAVLP Heritage re-enact Major-General William Roy and his Hanoverian soldiers survey of Cleghorn Temporary Roman Camp, 1764. (Photo by Archibald Photography)

THESE days, even without a satellite guidance system- it’s fairly easy to find your way around Scotland, thanks to roadsigns and maps.

However, three hundred years ago, navigating from A to B in this country was akin to being blindfolded in a cellar during a powercut!

That all changed, largely due to a man from humble beginnings who went on to become one of Carluke’s most famous sons and Lanark Grammar School’s most distinguished pupils.

Next week the memory of that man - Major General Wiliam Roy - is to be celebrated with a special exhibition in his home town, the result of months of work by local groups.

Organised by the Carluke BID town improvement body in association with the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership heritage group, a `pop-up’ art display based on his life and work is being held at 28 Hamilton Street, Carluke from Saturday, March 19 to Wednesday, March 29, admission free.

Visitors to temporary `Roy Gallery’ in premises provided by South Lanarkshire Council will see works created by community groups, schools, Guide and Scout units and others under the umbrella of the Mapping the Past Project.

After its Carluke `premier’, the art show will travel to other locations in the Clyde and Avon Valleys in the coming months.

Explained a spokesman for the Project: “William Roy, who lived between 1726 and ­1790, is a major figure in Carluke’s history and in the history of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Roy was a pioneering archaeological surveyor, mapping many of the Roman sites in Scotland, and was the first person to map the whole of Scotland, going on to devise what would become Ordnance Survey Mapping.”

Carluke BID Chairman Brian Clark said, “We are delighted to have been able to put this exciting exhibition together. It is so important for people to understand the history of our town and the impact of a Carluke man on the world.”

Added Gavin MacGregor of the Valleys Partnership: “As well as the exhibition, we will be running other associated events and activities in the temporary space, including opportunities to make maps and celebrate the remarkable legacy of the father of mapping,”

This “remarkable legacy” had pretty unremarkable beginnings, William Roy being born at Milton Head, Carluke on May 4, 1726, the son of a factor to the local Hallcraig estate; Roy’s uncle served in a similar capacity to the Lockharts of Lee.

Helping survey his father’s estate `patch’ is thought to have been his original inspiration and, following education at the parish school in Carluke and then Lanark Grammar, he went off to Edinburgh to become a civilian draughtsman for the Board of Ordnance at the Castle.

Aged only 20, one of his first - and most sombre - duties was creating he first official map of the Culloden battlesite.

This work brought him to the attention of the heads of the Army in what it then termed North Britain and he was soon employed on extensive military surveying and mapping of what was still the largely uncharted Scottish wilderness.

Further military tasks saw him eventually commissioned in the army engineer and ordnance corps and he rose to the rank of Major General in 1781. His works were recently celebrated by a historical reancement group (pictured).

He became a member of the Royal Society and the year after his death his lifetime of work came to fruition with the formation of the Ordnance Survey, the organisation which was to make the United Kingdom the most accurately mapped country on the globe.

Despite the fame and rank he acquired, William Roy never lost touch with his local roots.

It is said that he was always a frequent visitor to Lockhart Castle, where his uncle had been factor, first dining with him and other humble employees in the servants’ hall; later on he was invited to dine with the then-Laird’s family and eventually was to sit at the top of the table at the Laird’s right hand.

Given the new display, William Roy still commands that respect today.