Montrose basin wildlife - Scotland


MONTROSE 27 miles NE of Dundee on the A92 E Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre B Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre H William Lamb Studio A House of Dun G 1st Marquis of Montrose G George Wishart Montrose is an ancient royal burgh, which received its charter in the early 12th century. It sits on a small spit of land between the North Sea and a shallow tidal inlet called the Montrose Basin, which is a local nature reserve founded in 1981 and famous for its bird life. 

The Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre (see panel on page 356) is visited by thousands of bird watchers every year who come to see the many migrant birds. At the old Montrose Air Station, where some of the Battle of Britain pilots trained, is the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. In 1912, the government planned 12 such air stations to be operated by the Royal Flying Corps, later called the Royal Air Force. Montrose was the first, and became operational in 1913.

 Now it houses a small collection of aircraft, including a full size replica of the famous Sopwith Camel, plus mementoes, documents and photographs related to flying. The William Lamb Studio is in a close off Market Street and is open to the public during the summer. The working studio of the famous Montrose sculptor who died in 1951 includes displays of his sculptures, etchings, paintings and drawings. Also featured are his workroom and tools and his living room with furniture he designed and made. In 1932, Lamb was commissioned by the Duchess of York to make busts of her daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. 

So impressed was she that she then commissioned a bust of herself. To the west of the town, beyond the Basin, is the House of Dun (National Trust for Scotland). From 1375 until 1980 the estate was home to the Erskine family, with the present house being designed by William Adam in 1730 for David Erskine, 13th Laird of Dun. It contains good plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings and a collection of embroidery carried out by Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine, natural daughter of William IV by his mistress Mrs Jordan. There are also formal gardens and woodland walks. Montrose was adopted as the title of the Graham family when it was ennobled. The most famous member was James Graham,5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose, who was born in 1612 and succeeded to the earldom in 1625. At first he was a Covenanter, then changed sides. He was made Lieutenant-General of Scotland by the king, and unsuccessfully tried to invade the country with an army. He later went to the Highlands in disguise to raise a Royalist army.

 During a succession of skirmishes, he defeated Covenanting forces due to his brilliant leadership and almost reckless courage. Charles’s defeat at Naseby, however, left him powerless, and his forces were eventually soundly beaten at Philiphaugh in 1645. Afterwards he fled to the Continent but returned in 1650 in support of Charles II. Charles, however, disowned him and he was hanged. Though not born in Montrose, George Wishart the religious reformer has close associations with the town. He attended the grammar school here in the 1520s, and went on to Aberdeen University. He later returned and taught at the grammar school, where he used the Greek translation of the Bible while teaching his pupils. For this he was accused of heresy and had to flee to England. In 1546, he was burnt at the stake in St Andrews on the orders of Cardinal Beaton.

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