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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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School and sun out

I can’t recall a previous Easter school break coinciding with such a prolonged spell of summer-like weather. I remember picknicking over the hill in the Tarras valley in the snow one Easter.

This unprecedented warm, dry weather started with the break-up of the schools and it looks like ending with the return to classes. What a chance for the youngsters to abandon their computers and TVs and get outside to enjoy the fresh air and nature at its best.

On reflection I don’t remember being all that interested in nature at that stage of my life.

But I did appreciate the freedom to roam – and still do.

The unseasonal heat has meant a quick demise for the daffodils, but an early arrival for other plants.

I saw my first cratties last week up the Lodge Walks, then, sitting on the wires in the Laird’s Entry were two swallows.

“One swallow doesn’t make a summer”, of course, and the forecast for colder weather this week proves the validity of this old adage.

I don’t know whether the cratties are out earlier than usual but, on looking at Tom Irving’s list of the dates of our feathered arrivals , I see that swallows are no earlier than expected.

With our inherent Scottish pessimism, some of us are asking, “Did ee think this is oor summer?” It has been known.

With things hotting up for the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Thomas Telford’s birth at Glendinning in Westerkirk, the MacDiarmid lecture group is adding to the tributes to this colossus of roads with its 2007 lecture on the subject, Thomas Telford. A Legacy of Enduring Quality.

But how many people in Langholm know of another great engineer, a female no less, who was brought up and educated in Langholm and was inspired by Telford’s works. Her father was James Donaldson Buchanan, a minister of Langholm parish.

Born on October 8, 1899, she was educated at Langholm Academy, the Ministers’ Daughters College and the University of Edinburgh where in 1923 she graduated with a BSc in engineering, later studying with Nobel Laureate Professor Charles Barkla.

When Sir Ralph Freeman was recruiting staff for his work as consultant on the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dorothy was appointed to the design office at £4 a week. She moved to the drawing office to work on the bridge’s southern approach spans.

She worked on site at Belfast’s waterworks scheme before returning to the drawing office to work on the George V bridge in Newcastle and the Lambeth bridge in London.

She gave up working when she married, believing family and professional roles could not be combined. Who knows what heights she might have reached? Her achievements gained a place in the publication The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish women.

What a coincidence that Telford from up the valley became the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820 and Dorothy Buchanan from Langholm was elected the same institution’s first female corporate member 107 years later.

Readers may be interested to hear of a major WW1-related family history project which concerns men and women from our region.

To complement the official War History of the 5th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, published in 1929 by Captain G F Scott-Elliot, a new project is being undertaken which will contain a complete nominal role of the men from Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire who served with the local territorial battalion in Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine and the Western Front during WW1. A narrative of events will be illustrated, where possible, by individual accounts, photos of the soldiers and letters to and from home.

If you have photos of or information on family members who served in the KOSB in the Great War, contact Stuart Wilson (Sons of Galloway), 16 Valmont Road, Bramcote, Nottingham, NG9 3JL or through the website at www.sonsofgalloway.org.uk

Already two Langholm men have responded to Stuart’s appeal. Dick Irving’s father Pte W Irving 240260 and Billy Elliot’s dad Pte Len Elliot 240920 were both serving in the KOSB during WW1.

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