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George Meikle Kemp
Architect of Sir Walter Scott’s Memorial in Edinburgh
Sir Walter Scott Monument©Graham Riddell Photography
Sir Walter Scott’s iconic, gothic tower and memorial, is a dramatic addition to Edinburgh’s architectural heritage and city landscape. Its prominent position in Princes Street Gardens adjacent to Princes Street and Waverley Bridge, originally towered above the surrounding buildings from which atop can still be seen outstanding views of Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and the gardens below. It is a world famous structure and yet the story behind its architectural designer is less well known but equally worthy of note.
George Meikle Kemp was born on 26th May 1795 in the Moorfoot Hills of the Scottish Borders at Gladstone Loch (Reservoir) to James Kemp, a lowly Borders’ shepherd and mother Jean Mowbry. George was a shy and somewhat timid child which does not appear to have held him back in life. The family moved almost immediately after George’s birth to work at Newhall Estate near Carlops south of Edinburgh. There he grew up and was educated in Penicuik where he developed his talents in carpentry and interest in poetry and the violin, however it was his amateur passion for architecture that was to become his true life path.
A memorial wall now stands on the northern gable of Moy Hall, Redscarhead, off the A703 near Cringletie, a few miles north of Peebles, by Eddleston Water. The building was then the workshop of master carpenter Andrew Noble, joiner & millwright, under whose supervision he served a four year apprenticeship. It is now a private residence and is easily missed when travelling by car on the A703, being something of a well kept secret reserved only it seems to those seekers of Kemp’s story and his subsequent contribution to the world of gothic and neo gothic architectural design. The garden (at the time of writing) is in a fairly poor state and could do with a little love and refurbishment as it is now overgrown with weeds and the stones have become blackened and discoloured by weathering.
George Meikle MemorialFeatured on the north gable of Moy Hall at Redscarhead near Peebles with garden, now sadly overgrown. ©Graham Riddell Photography
Arch DetailOwn memorial - a three light arched window in whinstone ©Graham Riddell Photography
The Three Fishes of Peebles Emblem©Graham Riddell Photography SaltireThe Saltire Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
St RonanPatron Saint of Innerleithen Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
Left PanelThis Memorial To GEORGE MEIKLE KEMP Was Subscribed by the inhabitants of the County of Peebles and others Upon the FIRST CENTENARY of the Death of SIR WALTER SCOTT Baronet of Abbostford 21st September, 1932 Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
Bronze Plaque (centre)George Meikle Kemp Carpenter and Architect Born 1795 - Died 1844 Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
Right Panel Sir Michael G Thorburn, Lord Lieutenant George Anderson, Provost of Peebles Robert Mathieson, Provost of Innerleithen James Grieve, F.S.A. SCOT Committee Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
As a child of ten, Kemp had occasion to visit Roslin Castle and was inspired by the design and structure of the ruins there and nearby Rosslyn Chapel. In later years he ‘walked’ extensively throughout the Scottish Borders, visiting to sketch and draw details of the area's rich, historic and religious architectural heritage of it's abbeys such as Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh and in particular Melrose Abbey, where one of history's renowned medieval craftsmen, John Morvo, a master mason, had worked on its construction.
It is worth reflecting upon today, how folks travelled in those days as there were no buses, taxis or trains that we take so much for granted and Kemp therefore went on foot often covering twenty to forty miles as a matter of course!
By chance, Kemp was walking to Galashiels to a new job there (purportedly in fowl weather) when he was given a lift by non other than Sir Walter Scott in his private carriage. They became friends and perhaps by Scott’s influence, or through his own family, Kemp eventually joined the Scottish Masonic Order and was accepted into Lodge St. Andrew, Edinburgh, in 1827 as a Freemason. Freemasonary has long been a magnet organisation attracting publishers, writers, architects and craftsmen amongst others and would have been an ideal organisation to network and develop his contacts and career.
Indeed through his connections he was apparently introduced by his brother James, to the Duke of Buccluech for whom Kemp provided drawings for the architect of the proposed Bowhill House near Selkirk and he submitted designs for another grand house the Duke was considering building at Dalkeith and constructed a wooden model for it.
Kemp continued to travel extensively at home and abroad where he plied his trade and was therefor able to support himself financially. He moved to Lancashire in 1817, then in 1824 to London then on to Boulogne, Abbeville, Beauvais and Paris visiting each location and staying there for several weeks, allowing him to work and study the ancient churches and abbeys of gothic design including Notre-Dame. Only the death of his mother brought him back home to Scotland.
In 1830 Kemp’s drawings of Melrose Abbey were exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy which led to a further commission for drawings for a planned publication ‘Scottish Cathedrals and Antiquities’ by an engraver called Mr. Johnstone. This project floundered but created the opportunity for him to submit further ideas and architectural plans for the restoration of Glasgow Cathedral incorporating two new towers. Controversy over drawings rights between the leading architects James Gillespie Graham ensued, Kemp had used his pseudonym John Morvo (the medieval stone mason of Melrose Abbey), rather than his real name and strove to claim his contribution to the design and be recognised as his work.
Melrose AbbeyDrawing of Melrose Abbey The Royal Institiution copyDrawing of the Royal Institution, now known was The Scottish Royal Academy (RSA)
1832 he married Elizabeth Bonnar (daughter of eminent artist Willian Bonnar) and fathered four children, two boys & two girls. Sadly his eldest son died at the age of twenty and was showing great promise as a noteworthy architect and of pleasing character in his own right.
Another opportunity arose to prove Kemp's architectural genius in 1836, with a design competition for a new public monument in memory of the great novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott (whom Kemp had met and been given a lift from all those years previously), who had died a few years earlier in 1832. Kemp submitted his plans, again under the pseudonym of John Morvo, not having sufficient confidence that he would be taken seriously by the architectural establishment, being a mere craftsman.
The design was based on some of the work he had previously prepared for the Glasgow Cathedral project and drew on all his experience collected over years of Gothic Architectural study. His initial design was awarded third place, however the committee embarked on a further competition and being impressed with his work, and after further refinement of his original design, he was ultimately successful in winning the commission in 1838.
Scott Monument ConstructionPhoto: David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, held by the University of Glasgow. Read more at: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/lost-edinburgh-duo-captured-scott-monument-s-construction-1-4555080
Sadly, Kemp never saw his monument built. Walking home from a visit to a contractor in fog and poor visibility, he appears to have lost his way and fell into the Union Canal and drowned, only to be found several days later. He is buried in St Cuthbert's graveyard at the west end of Princes Street.
The_grave_of_George_Meikle_Kemp,_St_CuthbertsGeorge Meikle Kemp's final resting place is within sight of the Scott Memorial.
The National Galleries portrait at the top of this piece was painted by his brother-in-law William Bonnar who also oversaw the build and construction of the Sir Walter Scott Monument. It was completed in the autumn of 1844 with Kemp’s son laying the finial. The monument was finally inaugurated on 15th August 1846.
And so it was, that the man who gave a boy a lift, unwittingly met the future creator of his now world famous, memorial.
Written by Graham Riddell November 2017
My special thanks to local friend Ross Happer of Innerleithen for taking me to see the site and inform me of much of it's history.
Ross HapperRoss Happer from Innerleithen who told me about Kemp and his fascinating story Photo©Graham Riddell Photography
Kemp Family History. com
Peebles - The Royal Burgh
National Galleries of Scotland - Photos
Scottish Architects .org.uk
I recently had the pleasure to attend a Street Fashion photography workshop with world renowned Edinburgh Fine Art photographers Trevor & Faye Yerbury in their capital city.
We began shooting in the city centre at the Usher Hall off Lothian Road and exploring some classic beauty fashion portraits of our wonderful model Riona Neve from Belgium who was over on her first ever visit to Edinburgh.
I love classic beauty photography and shot in natural daylight without reflectors or any additional lighting using my EF 70-200mm at f2.8. on a Canon 7D body and a 24-70mm on a full frame Canon 5D. I placed Riona in the darkened doorway of one of several wooden doorways that form part of the original building's wonderful architecture to create contrast to her pale complexion. I wanted her looking directly into camera for maximum impact and I think her expression in top image was as captivating as it was engaging. The second shot was taken from another set up and I liked the look of it.
My eye was then drawn to a series of billboard posters and I decided to try and place our model within them. The regular repeat pattern of yellow and blue seemed to cry out for a long lens to compress them and so after a little persuasion Riona agreed to try and craft a look with her placed within them. In the image below, I love the strength of colour and the way Riona's casual 'waiting' posture punctuates the whole scene in her black outfit.
Next came a change of clothes into something more adventurous. Dressed in a black bodice, black stockings and suspenders, and topped with a scarlet hat we ventured into the seedy lane of Grindlay Street Court which was the perfect choice to create some atmospheric images again using natural light only. The lane was dark and had graffiti sprayed on the walls which added to the sense of a somewhat seedier atmosphere. There were really only a couple of spots where the light was optimum and in these shots below I sought to capture her sensual side.
Keeping the theme, we moved across the road to the Financial district where a walkway bridge over the main road afforded opportunities to expand on the theme. The next few shots I felt worked best in black and white as the light was naturally diffuse with grey skies and ever-threatening light drizzle. I then followed up with a strong colour background.
We then moved on and left the Financial quarter and the bemused onlookers and headed into the centre again for a quick change and some elegant fine art within the steps and pillars of the neo-classical stone building of West Register House formerly, St George's Church.
Finally we headed down to Stockbridge to explore a venue popular for weddings and it was fitting to change dress once again, this time in opposite to the sharp lines of our black dress and hat styling to something fresh and lifestyle in white.
A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards. It was commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house, close to his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried.
The son of a local quarryman from Stobo in the Scottish Borders, he originally trained as a brush maker in Edinburgh but his appearance proved too challenging and so he eventually settled in Manor back in the Borders. Even there, superstition and unease made the locals wary of him, believing he could cast and evil eye on them and so they tended to blame him for any ills with their livestock.
Also known as known also as David of Manor Water, Bow'd Davie, Crooked David, he stood three foot six tall and was immensely strong with a powerfully developed upper body and arms that gave him immense strength which compensated for his dishevelled, deformed legs and disfigured feet, which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and yet in a show of strength, reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed which can be seen today in a roadside dyke in the area. In the picture below you can see the tree-line of the river cutting past the stone's head.
He lived the majority of his life in the Manor district in an adapted cottage with his sister. His cottage had a tiny door and window (below) and sat between two adjoining buildings on either side. His sister lived next door (see large door on right) and was of normal stature. Some sources commented on him as being an intellectual who enjoyed reading Milton's Paradise Lost and and other poetic works by William Shenstone.
Sir Walker Scott (writer and poet of great renown) visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.
My sense of him has left a lasting impression on me and I am grateful for my local guide and friend Ross Happer who took me to the locations and ignited my interest in this delightful character and local legend.
Yesterday saw out the last day of February in 2017.
The morning was crisp with bright sunshine and the early morning frost was still thick on the branches of my six weeping birches.
All around there was the gentle sound of dripping as the warming sun's rays melted the grip of winter and jewels of ice fell inevitably to the ground. Spring felt near.
Up close, these small fragments, held precariously by fingered twigs, seemed like rough-cut diamonds or irregularly shaped miniature comets suspended in space. Sparkling in the sunlight, they glistened, refracting tiny rainbows of intense colours of orange, indigo, and yellow and more as the light penetrated through their icy cores.
Then suddenly, without fanfare or warning - it had gone.
Bending Time_3108In-camera effect involving a mixture of slow shutter speed, zoom and rotation to create this abstract imagge of woods and path. Today I want to give you some insight into making unusual, abstract images in-camera without the need for photoshop.
I was out walking in the woods on a dull afternoon in January and the light was pretty uninspiring. I had given up the idea of photographing anything of interest and so decided to have a play instead.
It can be a fun experimenting and these simple ideas will move you forward on your own photographic journey.
The image above is called 'Bending Time' and it uses a simple technique to create movement. All you need is a zoom lens that you can manually control.
1. First set the ISO low as possible
2. Next set your exposure (Evaluative or Centre metering will do) using a low speed such as 30th sec or less.
3. Zoom the lens whilst taking the photo. It will look something like this...
I Fell for Autumn_0508The rush of autumn 4. Then try rotating the camera in your hand whilst holding the lens and allowing it to zoom at the same time. You should end up with something like this image.
I hope that is helpful. Give it a try and send me a link to your efforts.
Finally, below are some more results using a combination of theses ideas.
Softly Underwood_5852Saplings in a small wood with vertical shake. Increasing the Frequency_3099Abstract taken in Caerlee Woods using in-camera tecnique.
As a photographer, exploring the arts and mysteries of image capturing and image making, can be a perplexing business.
For a start, what kind of photographer do I aspire to be?
I have always been attracted to raw natural beauty and the drama and uniqueness of the ever changing landscape. Nature in all her moods is I imagine, not unlike a mistress. Exciting, challenging, captivating, even dangerous. Her moods and expressions keep me in awe and I have always felt a special kind of bond with Her which comes from an inner sense of connection to the land that engages my very soul.
On my web site I describe this interaction as a 'process' having once been asked by a client what my 'process' was for images I was exhibiting. I did not know what he meant or how to answer at the time but it got me thinking and so I came to realise that the process of taking pictures for me was about two things.
Firstly, my eyes which see the potential and secondly, the 'connection' from my inner being to what I am seeing. This is a personal and unique perspective which sometimes I don't always understand even though I am the creator. It seems almost from the subconscious mind. I can fully appreciate however, why others might also be attracted to certain works, since they clearly resonate with them, perhaps on a level I am not even aware of. For this reason I try not to be too prescriptive about my work. Either you will like it or you won't. It has to 'move' you in some way to make you want to own it and pay me for the privilege.
Other photographers may disagree with me and probably with good reason. They will say that there is actually a third essential element to this process which all the Great artists must possess - 'Vision".
This I suppose is my greatest weakness, yet what I enjoy is the excitement of the chase, of not knowing, working in real-time to capture something illusive and fleeting. This also affects how I shoot events, or a portrait, a small intimate wedding, or pretty much anything else. I may have a back-of-mind idea but I have often been left with 'mud on my lens' where the weather didn't play ball, or the situation wasn't right when I got there to do a planned shoot. This difference is perhaps what separates us ordinary photographers from the true masters.
Taking my due process forward, I am keen to develop more people-oriented work (my landscapes have always been devoid of them!!), asking friends to sit for me, creating personal projects, or paying professional models in order to explore deeper whatever piques my interest. Working with people is much more challenging. They have emotions and appearances which demand respect.
So I attended an introductory portraiture class with the world renowned Trevor and Faye Yerbury Studios near Edinburgh to watch two masters of their art at work and learn some basic pointers and creative principles. Communication with the sitter or model is vital and crafting the image is key to success, whereas the landscape keeps her council.
People are also directly affected by you. There is a fluid dynamic at work which my other 'mistress' doesn't react to. 'She' is almost unaware, candidly taken which is a style I like to adopt generally where possible. So when I got the chance to put my methodology to the test with a paid photo-shoot with a professional model, I wanted to explore the full gamut of possibility. It was an appetiser and far from A LA Carte. A blunt encounter with professional talent.
In two hours I explored the Classic look, the Corporate look, the Fashion look, right up to the difficult challenge of Art Nude on a one-to-one basis. In each I looked for the poses and shots she performed that attracted me and where I felt I failed was in the 'vision' shots where I had images of paintings I wanted to use as a basis. I did the best I could or was capable of in such a brief encounter in an unfamiliar studio.
So what kind of photographer am I now?
This is what I am trying to unravel. The basic process remains much the same but the eye has sought new stimulus, new projects and new life.
If you would like to see the images I took on the shoot then please follow these links below. There are some nudes so please don't if you might be offended.
Finally, I leave you with a few images from the people shoots I have been working on more generally.
Happy New Year and thanks for your interest in my photography journey so far.
"Photography is more than a technical image or captured moment......
It is an interactive process....
….the distillation of engaged emotion”
©Graham Riddell Photography
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Recent PostsGeorge Meikle Kemp - A Memorial to the designer of Sir Walter Scott's Monument Sex in the City The Black Dwarf of Kirkton Manor (David Ritchie) Death of a Crystal, A Shining Life Bending Time Raw Files from Raw Emotion Music to a Photographer's ears What the 'f' (Aperture Values and Full Stops) Working with Children Super Moon Eclipse - Last one until 2033