Dr. Stuart Allan - David Stewart of Garth, Scott’s “Highlander of the Old Stamp”

On Thursday 6th September 2018 we had a talk by Dr. Stuart Allan. He was introduced by our Chairman, Prof. Peter Garside.

It’s a great pleasure to introduce Dr Stuart Allan as this evening’s speaker. Stuart is Keeper of Scottish History & Archaeology at National Museums Scotland, head of a department of over 25 specialist curators whose expertise covers the material culture of Scotland from around 13,000 BC to the present day. Stuart has delivered several successful exhibitions at the National Museum of Scotland including Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War 2014, and Admiral Cochrane: the Real Master & Commander; and at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle, where he began his museum career. He is the author of a number of research publications, including Commando Country, a study of the Second World War special training centres in the Scottish Highlands. In 2017 he was joint recipient of a major research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the project Baggage & Belonging: military collecting and the British Empire 1750-1900 which is a UK-wide interdisciplinary study of the culture of collecting by soldiers in the context of colonial warfare. His collaborative research has also received funding support from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy.

Stuart has been with National Museums Scotland since 2000, previously as Principal Curator of Modern & Contemporary History, and before then as Senior Curator of Military History. His earlier career included positions at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums, the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, and the National Records of Scotland. He is a member of the Joint Advisory Committee of the Faculty of Advocates Abbotsford Collection Trust and the Abbotsford Trust; and an honorary adviser, military collections, for the National Trust for Scotland.

Stuart’s title features David Stewart of Garth as Scott’s ‘Highlander of the Old Stamp’, which I believe is a quotation from a letter of Scott’s to J. G. Lockhart of 14 July 1828. The name rings a particularly sharp bell for me personally, since later that year Stewart, on the point of taking up a Governorship in the West Indies, wrote to Scott requesting that, as several ladies among his friends were anxious to have Scott’s autograph, he (Scott) would therefore ‘favour me with a few lines, and scribble your signature as often as the paper will hold’. The resulting verses, which survive in a letter of Scott’s now held by a library in Switzerland, and which repeat Scott’s full name in alternating lines, was sensibly not cut up to satisfy autograph hunters, and the following text will appear in the forthcoming collection of Scott’s Shorter Poems I’m currently editing with Gillian Hughes .


Brave Stuart, name without a blot

Yours to command is Walter Scott.


What ere in Waverley is wrote

I bear the blame, quoth Walter Scott.


A grey auld man sore failed I wot

There’s life in’t yet, said Walter Scott.


Trees did he plant and lands he bought

A Darnick Laird was Walter Scott.


He loved a man that bravely fought

And Garth was friend to Walter Scott            .


With Highland Chiefs he had a vote

For well the plaids loved Walter Scott.


The greyhounds good were fleet as thought

Till age lamed them and Walter Scott.


Call this vile stuff—I reck it not

So there’s an end of Walter Scott.


Dr Allan’s own approach will reflect his long-standing interest in the relationship between military service, and the adoption of Highland traditions as symbolic of Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is currently leading a team working on a forthcoming major exhibition embracing this theme, which he will be introducing to you through his talk this evening.


We are afraid that because this talk contains a lot of information from a soon-to-be-announced Exhibition that we have to wait until the details are officially made public before we can share it here.... It will definitely be worth the wait. 

Above Image Copyright "Lee Live: Photographer" (Used with Permission)