Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
Scots Who Made A Difference

by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.
© 2007

BAGPIPE (Ninth Century Europe)
What would a list of Scottish notables be without mention of that noble instrument the bagpipe? We know bagpipes existed in ninth century Europe, but there is some evidence that they were around long before that date. Bagpipes are found in many other countries besides Scotland, but they have become so indelibly linked with Scotland that the country and its ubiquitous instrument are practically synonymous. Pipes take many different shapes and forms, and though formerly used in pastoral celebrations, nowadays they are used for every kind of festival occasion including military pageants. And the piping in of the haggis on "Robbie Burns Nicht" is celebrated in whatever corner of the world Scots gather on January 25.

Scotland has two types of pipes: the Highland and the Lowland or cauld-wind pipes, with the latter being bellow-driven (providing the cauld-wind), and including the Border pipes, used for reveilles and curfews by town pipers, but rarely played today. In the Highland pipes, air is fed from the mouth to a bag operated by the elbow, which supplies the chanter and two or three drones. By the mid-16th century, these pipes had been well established as military instruments.

The stirring music of the Scottish Highland pipes has been adopted by military bands all over the world. They have led Scottish soldiers into battle for centuries. In World Wars I and II, the ominous wail of the pipes that preceded the Highland charge of the kilted Scottish infantry regiments, known as "the ladies from hell," often created panic among the enemy troops. It is widely believed that the famous Rebel Yell of the American Civil War is derived from the fierce cry of the Highland Charge of Scottish infantrymen accompanied by their pipers.

In 1856, Baikie, born at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, published his Narrative of his expedition to Nigeria, completed the previous year. After the death of the captain, Baikie ship's surgeon took command, sailing the Royal Navy vessel on tributaries of the Niger over 250 miles further inland than any previous European explorer. Baikie later founded a trading settlement on the river, practiced medicine among the native peoples and translated parts of the Bible into the Hausa language. His main accomplishment was to help open up Nigeria to British trade, which eventually led to that country's absorption into the Empire.

All independence movements have their necessary martyrs, and Scotland's attempts to shake free of its English shackles created a fertile ground for martyrdom. Scottish nationalist sentiment regards Baillie highly, for he was executed for his part in an alleged plot to murder Charles II. Known as Baillie of Jerviswood, the Scottish religious leader became associated with James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Lord William Russell, both heavily involved in attempts to free Scottish Presbyterianism from domination by the Anglican Church of England, championed by the King. Baillie was hanged, drawn and quartered in Edinburgh as an example to his ever-rebellious countrymen.

BAILLIE, ROBERT (1599-1662)
Another Robert Baillie did not meet so grim a fate, yet his influence upon subsequent Scottish religious affairs was probably greater than that of his unfortunate namesake. Presbyterian minister and scholar, this Robert Baillie was the leader of the movement to reject the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer in 1637, and by rejecting the book, so rejected the Church (and its head, the King of England). Baillie was an important member of the Glasgow Assembly in 1638 when the Church of Scotland broke away permanently from English Episcopacy. He thus played an important part in the formation of that particular Scottish character that has such great pride in its independent spirit.

BAIN, ALEXANDER (1818-1903)
The study of psychology owes much to Aberdeen-born Alexander Bain, a pioneer in the necessity for a rigorous, scientific approach to the problems confronted by observers of the processes of the brain and the nervous system. Until his keen insights and his stress on finding physical correlatives for such abstract concepts as "idea" and "mind," leading British philosophers had treated mental illnesses as part of metaphysics. Bain completed many authoritative texts on logic. His outstanding contribution to the study of the brain's processes is only now bearing fruit, as modern medicine finally gets to grips with the intricate workings of one of the mankind's last frontiers --the brain.

BAIRD, JOHN LOGIE (1888-1946)
It is painfully difficult to assess the influence of John Logie Baird, born at Helensburgh, Dunbarton. He is credited with being the first man to televise pictures of objects in motion, thus letting the genie out of the bottle. Whatever our opinion of its effects, the name of Baird is as indissolubly linked with television as is that of Marconi with wireless.

In his attic, at Hastings, on the southern coast of England, alone, with primitive equipment and no funding, Baird solved one of the major scientific problems of his age, the transmission and reception of recognizable images, in which very little progress had been made ever since the invention of the telephone by fellow Scot Alexander Graham Bell. At Hastings, Baird's washstand served as a laboratory bench; he used old tea chests and biscuit tins, parts from old bicycles and electric motors saved from the scrap heap, along with ex-government apparatus in plentiful supply after WW I.

Early in 1924, Baird's experiments in the use of the light-sensitive cell led him to put enough bits and pieces of his primitive equipment together to transmit the tiny flickering image of a Maltese Cross over the distance of two or three yards. Moving to London, and aided by Gordon Selfridge, he then gave the first public exhibition of the transmission of outlines by wireless at the big London store owned by his backer. The thrill of his lifetime came on October 2, 1925 when he placed a dilapidated ventriloquist's doll (named Bill) in front of the transmitter and received a real recognizable image, complete with shading and detail. Flushed with excitement, the inventor rushed out to find a live model, William Taynton, who thus became the first person in history to be televised, with William Logie Baird changing places with his young model to become the second.

Spurred on by the efforts of others in the exciting new field of television, especially by many hard at work in the USA, including the formidable (and well-financed) Philo Farnsworth, whose work led to the development of the cathode-ray tube, Baird became the first person to televise images across the Atlantic when pictures of himself and Bill were sent from London and received in New York City on February 9, 1928. He then demonstrated television to an audience on the Cunard liner Berengaria in mid-ocean.

By the autumn of 1928, the first commercial apparatus had been designed and Baird chose the National Radio Exhibition at Olympia, London to demonstrate its use as an entertainment medium when popular entertainer Peggy O'Neil sang and told stories. On September 30, of the same year, the BBC began its first experimental broadcast of television. The rest, as they say, is history.

On November 2, 1917 before the bloody carnage of World War l had come to an end, as foreign secretary in the government of Lloyd George, Balfour wrote his famous letter to Baron Rothschild, head of the English branch of the influential Jewish banking family. Prompted by Zionist leaders Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, Balfour argued for British support and aid for Zionist efforts to establish a home for world Jewry in Palestine, then a British mandate. The letter has gone down to posterity as the "Balfour Declaration," without which the state of Israel may never have come into existence, certainly not when it did (May 15, 1948) and with the support that it later attracted.

Before his inspiration in drafting his famous letter (seen in retrospect as mainly to protect British interests in the Middle East against Arab-inspired nationalist movements that may have been anti-British, pro-Turkish or even pro-Axis), Balfour, from East Lothian, had enjoyed a checkered career. He had been secretary for Scotland and chief secretary for Ireland, during which "reign" (I use that word deliberately), he had vigorously opposed Irish home-rule. His severity in putting down attempts at Irish insurrection gave him the title of "Bloody Balfour."

Yet this complex man opposed the evils of English absentee landlordism, naively believing that one could kill aspirations of home rule by kindness. His British Empirism thus made him completely blind to the nationalist feelings of the majority of the Irish people while at the same time he was advocating the establishment of an independent homeland for the Jews (His Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903 encouraged the sale of land to tenant farmers in Ireland, as if that were enough to right the wrongs they had already suffered).

Younger brother of the politician Arthur James, Francis enjoyed a successful career as a zoologist, earning his fame as the founder of modern embryology. He began his career at the famed Stazione Zoologica in Naples, then an international center for biological research. It was there his studies provided crucial information on the evolution of invertebrates to vertebrates. His text A Treatise on Comparative Embryology (1880-81) was the first comprehensive text of that subject, laying the foundations for modern embryology. Balfour died trying to climb an unconquered alpine peak before he could serve in a newly created chair of animal morphology at Cambridge University.

Sir James Balfour of Pittendreich was yet another Scot instrumental in helping establish the Protestant Reformation so thoroughly in Scotland. Switching from the priesthood to Calvinism, Balfour was involved in the assassination of Cardinal Beaton at St. Andrew's in 1546. Captured by the French, he worked as a galley slave for two years, but by renouncing Protestantism was able to gain his freedom. He then supported Mary of Lorrain, mother of Mary Stuart, in her fight against the Protestant nobles, against whom he served the Catholic regent as a spy.

Balfour next served as a personal advisor to Mary Stuart when she began her personal reign as Queen of Scots and though serving as a judge, was probably involved in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley. Balfour then switched his allegiance to the Protestant side when the Scottish lords rebeled against the Queen and James, Earl of Bothwell. This time Balfour spied for the Protestants, giving them details of the Queen's military plans. When Mary was deposed, the perfidious, self-seeking Balfour was appointed lord president of the Court of Sessions, helping convict and execute James Douglas for his part in Darnley's murder. Thus out of acts of treachery, Balfour helped lay the foundations for the supremacy of the Protestant lords in Scotland which they never relinquished.

There are many reasons why the English language and English customs began to predominate in Lowland Scotland as early as the 14th century. One of them is the influence of the Anglo-Norman Balliol family, especially that of Edward, son of John de Balliol, King of Scotland (1292-96). Edward inherited his father's claim to the Scottish throne and was supported by that other Edward, the King of England against the interests of the Scottish nationalist party led by King David II.

Balliol invaded Scotland to try to gain the crown in 1332 with a group of English nobles whose lands had been confiscated by David's father, Robert l the Bruce. At the Battle of Duplin Moor, his soldiers defeated those of David (only a boy at the time) led by the Regent, the Earl of Mar, and he had himself crowned king at Scone. His acknowledgment of Edward III as suzerain over Scotland forced the hand of the nationalists who formed a coalition to defeat Balliol at Annan, but were themselves defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill and their leader Douglas killed by the armies of the English king.

In payment to King Edward, Balliol gave him much of the Scottish Lowlands. Ruling precariously and constantly involved in warfare against the forces loyal to David II, Balliol resigned in 1356, giving all his lands to the English king in return for protection as a miserable pensioner. The Scottish Lowlands never recovered.

Another influential figure in the conversion of much of Scotland to Protestantism is Henry Balnaves, from Kirkaldy, Fife. After his conversion from Catholicism, Balnaves worked to establish not only his new faith in Scotland, but also to cement an Anglo-Scottish alliance, to reform the church, and to bring to Scotland a vernacular Bible. After being imprisoned by the Earl of Arran (who had reconciled to Catholicism), Balnaves was set free by an English army, for whom he then served as a paid agent.

Captured by a French force that invaded St. Andrews in 1547, Balnaves was imprisoned at Rouen, where he wrote The Confessions of Faith, published after his death. His last years were spent in his native Scotland, where he took an active role on behalf of the Protestant lords whose determination to resist all and any attempts to restore Catholicism led to the dismissal of Queen Mary Stuart and the subsequent troubled course of Scottish history.

BANK, THE (1740's)
From the 1740's right up to the 1850's Scottish banking was the envy of the world. A product of Scotland's Enlightenment in the middle 18th century, the banks of Scotland, and particularly of Edinburgh, led the world in so many areas. A short list of their accomplishments includes: banking on the limited liability principle, the early adoption of and generalizing of their note issues to the point at which gold and silver currency virtually disappeared from the country, the invention of the cash credit (later to become the overdraft), the elaboration of an agency or branch system, the development of the system of deposits attracted by the payment of interest, the stabilization of exchange and the Savings Bank movement.

Even after the 1850's when the rest of the banking world began to catch up, Scots remained in the forefront of developments in the industry. In 1875, they formed the first Institute of Bankers, training Scots for positions all over the world.

BANNOCKBURN (June 23-24, 1314)
Though Bannockburn would make a wonderful surname, its inclusion here is due to its significance in Scottish history as the name of one of the most decisive military engagements fought in that troubled land. It was a victory for Scotland, for the armies of Robert Bruce, and, on behalf of small nations everywhere in Europe, for the forces of nationalism. It was Bannockburn that firmly established Robert l the Bruce on the throne of Scotland, and it was Bannockburn that regained for the Scottish peoples their independence and pride.

At Bannockburn, by the side of the little stream that gave its name to the area, the armies of the invading English king, Edward III were decisively defeated. At Bannockburn, too, possession of Stirling Castle, the last stronghold of the English north of the border, reverted to Scotland. The slaughter of the English soldiers, who outnumbered the Scots by about three to one, but who were completely unable to maneuver in the marshy terrain, was the culmination of the Scottish Wars of Independence. The euphoria it created lasted for centuries, until that sad, sad day at Culloden.

BARBOUR, JOHN (1325-95)
It was to Aberdeen born John Barbour that we owe the story of the triumphs of Robert the Bruce, recounted in The Bruce, the first major work of Scottish literature. Archdeacon of Aberdeen, Barbour was given a safe conduct by Edward III to study at Oxford during which time he helped negotiate the release of David II, captured at Neville's Cross in 1346. His 20-book national epic, The Acts and Life of the Most Victorious Conqueror, Robert Bruce King of Scotland, was completed in 1376. It is a political history of the country from the death of Alexander III in 1286 to the burial of Bruce's heart in 1332.

Barbour's work extols the bravery, chivalry and idealism of the Scottish heroes and exhorts their successors to follow them by emulating "thair nobill elderis." Its heroes are Robert the Bruce, and James of Douglas, depicted as perfect knights who defend freedom and help the poor in their struggles against tyranny. In the metrical romance, the Battle of Bannockburn, commemorating an event still within memory of his contemporaries, Barbour's vigorous, direct style is not afraid to let the reader know the cruel realities of warfare.

BARCLAY, JOHN (1582-1621)
For all those interested in and influenced by the development of the romance in the 17th century, the name of John Barclay, born in France to Scottish parents, is of great importance. Barclay travelled freely between Paris and London, absorbing much of what both great capital cities had to offer. His Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon (1603-7) in prose and verse is a severe attack on the Jesuits, the medical profession and contemporary methods of scholarship, education and literature. Its panoply of villains and rogues in all the professions contributed greatly to the later development of the highly popular picaresque novel. Barbour's biting political satire is best-expressed in modern Latin verse in his Argenis, reprinted more than 50 times during the 17th century and having an enormous influence on both English and French literature during the following centuries.

Robert Barclay from Gordonstown, Moray, wrote the book that became a standard statement of Quaker doctrines, the Apology for the True Christian Divinity. Barclay had joined the Quakers (Society of Friends) in 1666, nine years before publishing Theses Theologicae a set of 15 propositions of his new faith, for a public debate at Aberdeen, amplifying them further in his Apology of 1678. The book argued for "the inner-light" against the doctrines of Roman Catholics, Anglicans and traditional Protestants in its appeal to the Holy Spirit as the ultimate source of completeness. The Society of Friends closely adheres to this belief wherever it has been established throughout the world.

A friend of James, Duke of York (later James II), Barclay helped obtain the patent to settle East Jersey, in the American colonies. Along with William Penn and other prominent Quaker leaders, he went to Holland and northern Germany to promote the movement, on behalf of which he found himself repeatedly, imprisoned. He emigrated to East Jersey in 1682 where he served as nominal governor before returning to Scotland for the remainder of his life.

From the manufacturing town of Dundee, Angus, George N. Barnes was to become one of the founder members of the British Labour Party, of which he served as national chairman in 1910. Trained as an engineer, he worked his way up to general secretary (1896-1908) of the powerful Amalgamated Society of Engineers, leading a national strike in 1897-8 that established the principle of collective bargaining over conditions of employment. He thus changed the face of British industry forever (and much world industry was quick to follow). It is this that makes his memory so dear to working people everywhere.

In a long political career, Barnes served under Prime Minister Welshman Lloyd George in the coalition government of World War I. He sat in the House of Commons for 16 years, serving as minister of pensions, member of the War Cabinet and negotiator at the Peace conference of Versailles. Barnes argued against the repressive war-reparation payments demanded of the defeated Axis powers and he also helped establish the International Labour Organization as an agency of the League of Nations.

BARRIE, SIR JAMES (1860-1937)
What child has not heard of and thrilled at the adventures of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up? Peter and his friends were the creation of James Matthew Barrie of Kirriemuir, Angus, one of the world's best-loved dramatists and novelists. The son of a weaver, Barrie completed Auld Licht Idylls (1888), sketches of life in his home village and his best selling The Little Minister (1891) before turning to the theatre for most of his writing. His best-known plays, still performed regularly are The Admirable Crichton, Peter Pan, Dear Brutus and Mary Rose.

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