It’s Victorian Britain. Queen Victoria has just ascended to the throne, Charles Darwin is yet to write his masterpiece Origin of Species, Dickens has just created our Christmas with his book “A Christmas Carol” (though Santa Claus has yet to appear), Christmas cards have just been created and the Highland Clearances are coming to an end.
1844, in the City Chambers, Edinburgh there’s a rumbling about paths being blocked and there being nobody to do anything about it. Lord Provost Adam Black was concerned that some local landowners were encroaching on (reducing in width or blocking) public roads and other people would be doing the same unless something was done to stop them.
The Lord Provost called a meeting on 18 November 1844 at the Council Chambers, Edinburgh. Over 31 people attended with Councillors, Baillies, Advocates and more. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the “expedience of calling a public meeting for the formation of an association to protect the public’s right of access.” All present agreed to this.
The committee established to organise the public meeting included the Lord Provost (Adam Black), Baillie Gray, Baron Baillie Hill, Baillie Duncan, Professor More, Mr Hunter, Mr Logan, Mr Douglas, Mr Malerlin, Mr Christie, Dean of Guild, Mr Morton, Treasurer Gibson, Mr Thomson, Mr Grieve, Mr Robertson, Mr Stoddart. The Lord Provost would act as the convenor and Baillie Duncan as Secretary.
This steering group held five meetings prior to the original suggested public meeting. One of the first actions taken was to create a constitution which was submitted to a Mr Rutherford (lawyer) for his opinion. He felt that it was sound, but that any court action would see all office bearers and members being held potentially liable for costs.
At their meeting of 28 March 1845, the steering group agreed to not to start any legal action until a guarantee fund was established.
The Association is Born
3 April 1845. The Public meeting is held in the Saloon of the Royal Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh. Although the original hotel is now demolished, it stood next to Jenners on the site now occupied by the Mercure Mount Royal Hotel.
The meeting listened to Adam Black’s case and agreed unanimously to the setting up of the “Association for the Protection of Public Rights of Roadway In and Around Edinburgh”. From the start it was a membership organisation and the initial subscription 10shillings.
The Association’s purpose was set down as “… to preserve or recover for the public use such legal rights of way as are in danger of being interrupted or of being permanently lost to the public in consequent of interruptions already in existence.”
A massive 34 Directors were appointed.
President - The Right Honourable Lord Provost of Edinburgh (Adam Black)
Vice Presidents -
Sir Thomas Dick Lauder Bart.
Mr Gibson Craig, MP
James Gray, Magistrate
Robert Grieve, Master of the Merchant Company
William Dick, Dean of Guild
J Gibson Thomas, Treasurer of the City
JH Macfarlane, Member of Town Council
John Neill, Member of Town Council
John Ritchie, Member of Town Council
John Dick, Member of Town Council
CR Tait, Member of Town Council
Robert Chambers, Publisher
Keri Crichton SSC
Alexander Allpelton(?) Merchant
Alexander Cowan, Papermaker
Alexander Douglas, MP
Peter Forbes, Wine Merchant
William Law, Merchant
Alexander Locarno, Advocate
Andrew Melrose, Merchant
Charles Morton, MP
Patrick Hill LLD
John Redpath, Merchant
Ralph Richardson, Merchant
JR Stoddart, MP
William Lair, Publisher
Archibald Thomson, Merchant
William Duncan SSC
It’s fascinating to see the jobs of some of those original directors and how notable they were such as Robert Chambers, Scottish publisher, geologist, evolutionary thinker, author and journal editor!
The end of the Association for the Protection of Public Rights of Roadway in Scotland
Since January 1884 there had been talk of transforming the Association as a new, limited, company, the Scottish Rights of Way and Recreation Society. On 4 April 1884, the Association passed all its remaining funds to the new Society at its meeting held at the Dowells Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh. The final Directors at the meeting were:
Adam Black (President)
Amongst the Directors present at that last meeting was W A Smith, author of Hill Paths in Scotland, and the Bartholomew family of cartographic fame, who were to have a long association with ScotWays. Adam Black, son of the Lord Provost Adam Black who started the Association, was also present.
For the past 40 years the Association had done a lot including fighting the successful battle for Glen Tilt. The Glasgow Weekly Herald (May 20 1884) reported Lord Cockburn as writing in his journal for 1845 when the old Association was formed “This Society will do some good, but it is 50 years too late. When I was a boy nearly the whole vicinity of Edinburgh was open.”