At the start of the summer I was completely unaware of a very special man – a man who has become a big part of my life. I saw an advert from the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group, looking to recruit a project officer to help deliver a festival weekend celebrating the life of a local man from the 19th Century… a certain Patrick Matthew. My intrigue was piqued. Who was this man? Why did I not know more about him?
An initial bit of research saw me on the first step of quite a learning journey.
Patrick Matthew was from the Carse of Gowrie – the beautiful stretch of countryside lying along the River Tay between Perth and Dundee. He was relatively unknown locally, until his descendants and experts made contact with the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group, asking to help create a memorial project.
Digging below the surface, Patrick Matthew’s story is as puzzling as it is fascinating. He lived in Gourdiehill House, in what is now Grange near Errol. He was a landowner, fruit farmer, forester and social justice campaigner. At the time, his orchard of 10,000 trees was the largest in Scotland. From his observations of his own orchards, he wrote of the basic concept of natural selection in his book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture in 1831. He has recently been credited with being the first person to bring giant redwood seeds to the UK in 1853 and there are now many examples of these trees across the Carse, including some he grew himself. Matthew’s sons set up orchards and nurseries in Matakana, New Zealand, using seedstock from the Carse. Patrick Matthew predicted the Tay Rail bridge disaster of 1879, but his warnings went unheeded. He wrote and travelled widely, and was particularly interested in the rights of tenants and technology.
In short, he was quite a character.
But why was he not more widely-credited with these ideas at the time? Why do we not know of him more widely, or even locally?
This trail has been quite some work in the making. We have been lucky enough to work with many local landowners and groups, learning about who Patrick Matthews was, and seeking permission to erect the QR stakes. We have made great acquaintances and formed firm partnerships along the way.
We are going to launch the weekend in traditional Scottish style at The Inchture Hotel (http://www.inchture-hotel.co.uk/). The event will include a keynote speech from Patrick Matthew’s 3rd Great Grandson, Howard Minnick, as well as informative talks from Linsay Duncan of Speak Scotland (www.speakscotland.co.uk), Scottish Country dancing from The Angus Kitties, and piping from John Robertson. Please email us at email@example.com if you would like to come along to this free event.
Errol Hall will be Headquarters for the weekend and displaying the very impressive work carried out by our Junior Carsonians. The JCs are pupils from all 6 local Primary Schools within the Carse, who have worked over the last two years with the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group to understand more about Patrick Matthew – who he was, where he lived and the trees he grew. I have seen some of the work the children have carried out already and I can’t wait to see their final exhibition. They are a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of areas of Patrick’s life, as well as the local area, and I think the display is going to be amazing.
From the Hall on the Saturday, we will be blazing the Patrick Matthew Trail by bike! Leaving from Errol Hall on at noon, we will be taking in a number of the key locations, exploring Matthew’s life and legacy along the way. I can’t wait for this event - the Carse is one of my favourite local cycle locations (not just because it’s fairly flat!) – finding out more about Giant Redwoods and Patrick Matthew along the way will be amazing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book on this fantastic event.
We also have some academic inputs over the weekend - AK Bell library in Perth (http://www.culturepk.org.uk/your-local-library/ak-bell-library/) will play host to the research around Patrick Matthew on the Saturday morning – hosting some of his papers and letters which will be available to look at; and Alibob Café (http://alibobatcairnomohr.co.uk/) will host Dr. Sutton, who will be discussing his book Nullius in Verba about Matthew’s legacy. Book here for Dr. Sutton’s event. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dr-mike-sutton-discusses-his-book-nullius-in-verba-patrick-matthews-legacy-tickets-37773191633?aff=erelpanelorg
On Sunday we will be hosting events at Megginch Castle and Errol Park House and Gardens – both of which have redwood trees so loved by Matthew. Book here for the Errol Park and Gardens event https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/31-redwoods-and-afternoon-tea-at-errol-park-house-tickets-37773325032?aff=erelpanelorg Megginch Castle is an open event – walk in Patrick Matthew’s footsteps! Volunteers will meet you with plans for a self-guided tour through the grounds and orchards.
In short, it’s going to be an amazingly fun and fascinating weekend. I feel privileged to be part of it, and can’t wait for it all to start. In the meanwhile… just one or two things to be organising! See you there!
Please see http://www.carsesus.org/pm-weekend---whats-on.html for more details and how to book.