Friday, June 25, 2010

The Blairadam Antiquarian Club

June 25 (1826).—Another melting day; thermometer at 78° even here. 80° was the height yesterday at Edinburgh. If we attempt any active proceeding we dissolve ourselves into a dew. We have lounged away the morning creeping about the place, sitting a great deal, and walking as little as might be on account of the heat.

Blair-Adam has been successively in possession of three generations of persons attached to and skilled in the art of embellishment, and may be fairly taken as a place where art and taste have done a great deal to improve nature. A long ridge of varied ground sloping to the foot of the hill called Benarty, and which originally was of a bare, mossy, boggy character, has been clothed by the son, father, and grandfather; while the undulations and hollows, which seventy or eighty years since must have looked only like wrinkles in the black morasses, being now drained and limed, are skirted with deep woods, particularly of spruce, which thrives wonderfully, and covered with excellent grass. We drove in the droskie and walked in the evening.
The last few days in New York City have been in the high 80's/low 90's with plenty of humidity - a treat Scott rarely, if ever experienced.  A real treat must have been the antiquarian club centered around the Blairadam estate that three generations of Adams' worked on.  Purchased by architect William Adam in the1730's, sons John, James, and Robert developed the policies. 
Scott and eight others gathered around the time of the Summer Solstice for Friday night meetings at Blair Adam led by William Adam's grandson William.  The group planned trips to sites of historical interest, which they visited the next day.  The weekend included Sunday services at Cleish Church.
As described in Metcalfe and Erskine's "Sir Walter Scott and the Blair Adam Club" (article published in The Scottish Review), Scott modeled grounds around Abbotsford on the model of Blair Adam (Shenston's Leasowes).

From the Scottish Review article:

A FEW miles to the west of Loch Leven, the scene of Sir Walter Scott's Abbot, lies the mansion house of Blair Adam. In the summer of 1817 the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam of Blair Adam, invited Sir Walter Scott, who does not appear before this time to have been intimately acquainted with the district, to spend a few days with him at Blair Adam House. Along with Scott were also included in the invitation two of his most congenial friends, Sir Adam Ferguson and Mr. W. Clark, son of Mr. Clark of Eildon, author of a well known essay on Naval Tactics, which first taught the practice of the manoeuvre of breaking the line on decided and defined principles. The little holiday party, we need scarcely say, spent a very pleasant time with their accomplished host and his son Rear-Admiral Adam—the first Sir Charles Adam.

They strolled through the Blair Adam garden and pleasure grounds—through the woods and groves. These had been laid out on the system of Shenston's Leasowes—the model after which Sir Walter Scott was then beautifying the policies of Abbotsford. In a quiet social hour, and in the heart of this scene of enchantment where the eye rested now on the gleaming surface of Lochleven and anon on the rugged basaltic brow of Benarty, with its historic pass winding round its base, Lord Adam entertained his distinguished visitor with a graphic description of the antiquarian and historic surroundings of Blair Adam. We narrate the incident in his Lordship's own words : ' I at this time told Sir Walter how singularly the place was environed with castles of great antiquity—many of them connected with historic matter of the highest concernment. That there were besides other objects of great beauty, curiosity and interest, all of them (even the most distant) within the reach of being thoroughly seen between breakfast and the evening —so that with a basket well supplied with cold meat and some bottles of good wine, we could explore the recesses of Castle Campbell (I believe the most distant), enjoy our refreshment, and return before the night set in. The places which I ennumerated, beginning at the nearest, was my own little castle of Dowhill. To the west were the castles of Cleish, Aldie, Tullibole, Castle Campbell, the scenery of the Cauldron Linn and the Rumbling Bridge. To the north I mentioned the Castle of Balfour, Burleigh, and the Castle of Balvaird, the original seat of the Stormont family.

* The writer desires to express his obligations to Sir Charles K Adam, Baronet, Blair Adam, for kindly placing at his disposal for consultation the Family Records of the Blair Adam Club.

' I represented that on the east side is the royal palace of Falkland, and also of Leslie, with its superb trees and its ancient beautiful terraces, on the banks of the river Leven, and Christ Kirk on the Green, rendered illustrious by a royal poet. That, travelling westward, there were the Castles of Strathendric and of Arnot, and the ruined castle of drained Lochore, between the Lake and Blair Adam, was the Castra Stativa Agricolaj still to be traced. To the south was Dunfermline, where Bruce is buried, and James IV. drank ' the bluid red wine.'

' Last but not least was Loch Leven Castle, seen at every turn from the northern side of Blair Adam.'

This castle as well as its neigbourhood was ere long to be invested with a new halo of romance on the publication of The Abbot in 1820.

The subject now introduced to his notice must have been congenial in no ordinary degree to the author of The Antiquary and the redactor of the Border Minstrelsy. Scott's mind has been compared by Lockhart to one of those antique Gothic fabrics with its rich imagery and tracery, half seen in the clear day light, and half by rays tinged with the blazoned forms of the past.

We do not wonder that we should be told that Scott was at once fascinated—and that the talk which ensued generated the idea of the formation of the Blair Adam Antiquarian Club. The scheme was—as follows. The select party then at Blair Adam were to be the members, with a few names of special friends to be added to the number.

They agreed to visit Blair Adam annually, arriving on the Friday in time for dinner, and leaving again for their duties in Edinburgh on the following Tuesday morning. This gave them two free days for their antiquarian excursions and explorations. On Sundays, besides going to the Parish Church of Cleish, they could ramble about the policies or stroll together to the wooded slopes of Benarty.

The time of the year chosen for these happy reunions was the summer solstice, when the days were brightest and longest...

1 comment:

  1. I live in kinross,originating from kelty. I enjoyed in my youth exploring blairadam unaware of its historical I begin to realise the history and secrets it has to Offer to the historical explorers like me