Thursday, 8 December 2011

MONTROSE

On August 20 1773 the famous 18th century travelling companions James Boswell and Dr Samuel Johnson fetched up in Montrose during a tour of Scotland. They were none too impressed with their lodgings there, an inn where according to Boswell a waiter "put a lump of sugar with his fingers into Dr. Johnson's lemonade, for which he called him "rascal!"." However, the following morning they started to see the town in a better light, visiting the town hall "where is a good dancing room, and other rooms for tea-drinking". [i]

The Montrose Boswell and Johnson visited in 1773 would have been a very different place to the present-day Montrose. There would have been no Montrose Academy in those days, with its handsome golden dome - the Academy was established in 1815. Neither would they have been able to visit the Montrose Museum, opened in 1842 and housed in an elegant building in the neo-classical style with Ionic columns on either side of the doorway. The present-day Montrose Parish Church would not yet have been built; instead Boswell and Johnson would have looked upon its predecessor, a 16th century church and bell tower, extended in 1643. They would also have been denied the chance to visit the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, on the site of Britain's first military air station, which was established in 1912.

However, the pair would have had the chance to enjoy a round of golf, since the first recorded instance of golf being played in Montrose was in 1562, or possibly even earlier. They also would have been able to indulge in a bit of bird-watching on the tidal waters of Montrose Basin, although they would have had to return in winter to observe the many bird species who arrive at the Basin at this time of year, including greylag and pink-footed geese. The modern-day Montrose combines industry and tourism, with a port and North Sea oil supply base existing alongside a sandy beach, two golf courses, and the seafront with the Traill Pavilion.

[i] From Everybody's Boswell, edited by Frank Morley.

Map of the area.

'Montrose Beach' photo (c) 2006, Grant Matthews - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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