Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Brisbane-tastic: updated!

This replica Viking ship lives outside Vikingar!
in Largs (Like Westward Ho! Vikingar! always
has an exclamation mark, sigh). 
Largs in Ayrshire could not be accused of lacking in history. It was the last part of Britain to be invaded by Vikings (who were repelled). It has a neolithic tomb, and of course it boasts Nardini's. Which isn't owned by the Nardini family any more, but still sells fine ice cream.

But the thing about Largs that captured my attention when I arrived was that so many things bore the name Brisbane. Did this Brisbane have something to do with a certain Australian city?

Well yes, yes it does. ..

And here follows the explanation.

Brisbane House.  Pic from here.
The house was changed over the
years and finally demolished in 1940.
A fine house in a beautiful glen to the north of the town was bought by the Brisbane family of Renfrewshire in 1671. They changed its name from Kelsoland to Brisbane House and made it their family seat (because they were posh). They made a big impact on the town over the years, and several roads, and indeed the glen itself got named after them.

Thomas Brisbane was born in 1773, and lived at Brisbane House, with his family.  He studied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, and became a noted astronomer.  In 1789 he joined the British Army, and had a distinguished career, serving under Wellington.  In 1813 he was promoted to Major-General (which title is added before Sir, to give him his proper due)

Major-General Sir Thomas
Makdougall Brisbane.  Picture
from Wikipedia, unattributed.
Although away from home a lot, following his army career, Thomas Brisbane did come home to Largs from time to time.  There he followed his hobby of astronomy.  He built an observatory, and a pillar nearby could be lined up with three pillars he had built in 1808 on Moot Hill, now called Green Hill (in order to tell true North, in case of clouds).  Although Brisbane House is in ruins now, all four of these pillars still stand.  The three pillars are called the Three Sisters, and there's a geocache there, or at least, there's supposed to be.  He also built the first astronomical observatory in Australia, which brings us on to the Australian connection

On the recommendation of Wellington, Thomas Brisbane was appointed as the Governor of New South Wales for the period 1821-1825.  He did a lot of useful work while in Australia, and was involved in mapping work.  One expedition came across a river, which they decided to name the Brisbane River.  Later, a convict colony, built on the river came to also be called Brisbane.  This colony has developed into the city of Brisbane, which is one of those cities which almost looks like it's come out of a sci-fi novel (unlike Largs).

Brisbane, Australia - I want to go, but fear I
may need a hovercar.  Pic from here
Thomas Brisbane left Australia at the end of 1825, returning home to Largs, where he focused on astronomy, his regiment, and his duties as a country gentleman.  He improved drainage in Largs, and funded two schools.  Brisbane Primary School has done very well in recent HMIE reports.

In 1826 he added the name Makdougall before Brisbane.  He had married  Anna Maria Hay, only child of Sir Henry Hay Makdougall of Makerstoun in 1819.  When Sir Henry died in 1826, Sir Thomas succeeded to the Makdougall estate, and legally added the name Makdougall to his own.  They stayed on the Makdougall estate (the house still stands and is called Makerstoun house now), where Sir Thomas had an observatory built.  It was the first magnetic astronomical observatory.  After Anna Maria's death, the estate passed to the Scotts of Gala.

The 'k' in the name, rather than the 'c' which has become correct usage (Mac meaning 'son of' in Scots Gaelic) is very unusual, and seems to be confined to the Makerstoun area.  FYI there is a girl's version of Mac: Nic, but it is followed by the family name of the girl's father (not her mother as might be anticipated).

Major-General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane died in Largs in 1860, predeceased by all four of his children.  He is buried in Largs, but his name lives on all over the world, as well as on the moon.  You can find lots more information on Thomas Brisbane here.

This post is part of a series of 50 I'm doing. I'd love to see your take on one of the titles.  Find the full list here.
The book challenge
Words at 3/4/14 - 70,735.  
18,000 words done since the challenge began, 2000 so far this month!
Where I'm at in First Draft - end of Chapter 13.
What I did last - Third draft of a piece on blogging.