On Friday 8th July RSGS was delighted to welcome over 90 members of the Bartholomew family to its headquarters, The Fair Maid’s House, in Perth.

John George Bartholomew (1860- 1920)

The extended family, spanning four generations, all of whom are descendants of world-renowned Edinburgh cartographer John George Bartholomew (1860-1920) and his wife Janet MacDonald, had travelled across the world from the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Continental Europe, England and Scotland to celebrate their mutual relative. Coming from a celebrated line of map-makers himself, John George held the title of ‘Cartographer to the King’, and was the first to introduce the use of coloured contour layer maps.

Members of the Bartholomew family touring the Fair Maid's House

RSGS Trustee Lorna Ogilvie warmly welcomed the family, before introducing RSGS CEO Mike Robinson who addressed the visitors through video. “It is a real pleasure to welcome so many members of the Bartholomew family to Perth" commented Mike, "and it is especially great that many have been able to travel from all corners of the world to celebrate John George. RSGS has had a strong connection with the Bartholomews for years, and it was John George Bartholomew with Agnes Livingstone Bruce who founded the Society in 1884 and were integral to getting it off the ground, for which we owe them a huge debt of gratitude still.”

RSGS CEO Mike Robinson welcoming visitors over video

The gathering was organized by John Eric Bartholomew, who commented “the RSGS has been a talking point in many of our families since our childhood. We were always reminded of the role played by our ancestors in shaping the Society's development. But what left the biggest impression on us as youngsters was meeting so many intrepid explorers and pioneers, and the thrill of Thursday night RSGS lectures in Edinburgh's Usher Hall. So many good stories and wonderful memories!”

John Eric Bartholomew signing the RSGS visitor book

"Our visit was one of the highlights of our very special four-day family gathering." Commented Ivon Bartholomew, "RSGS gave us a wonderful insight into the work of the Society and the role my great grandfather played in its foundation. We also enjoyed seeing some amazing treasures from your archive. Special thanks to all the knowledgeable staff who made our visit so enjoyable and for making us all feel so welcome. As children, my brothers and I loved attending all the exciting lectures and meeting so many of our childhood heroes with our father, John C Bartholomew, who received an Honorary Fellowship in 1993, after proudly serving as President of the Society from 1983 - 1987. Our recent visit has re-energised me to renew our membership, so that my children might enjoy and benefit from attending some of the Society's events in future, as I did. Heartfelt thanks again to all concerned!"

During their visit the family members were shown around the Fair Maid’s House, which is home to RSGS’s collections and features displays on geographical issues, explorers, and the history of the Society, and houses the Society’s vast historical collections of maps, diaries, books, photos and artefacts, all gathered from scientific exploration over the past 150 years. The family were shown around by RSGS's experienced volunteers, including members of the RSGS Collections Team, headed by RSGS Trustee Margaret Wilkes, who arranged a special display for the visitors. The objects on display included a small silver matchbox gifted to John George Bartholomew to mark his idea of founding the Society, from co-founder Agnes Livingstone Bruce, the daughter of the famous explorer and missionary, David Livingstone. 

RSGS Trustee Margaret Wilkes showing family members a special display from RSGS collections

Small silver matchbox gifted to John George Bartholomew

During their visit all members of the family were invited to sign a special map reproduced from The Times Survey Atlas of The World (1920), prepared at the Edinburgh Geographical Institute under the direction of John George Bartholomew, depicting world vegetation distribution and ocean currents.

All of the visitors were invited to sign the specially recreated map

A young member of the family signing the special map

Artist Colin Woolf who reproduced the map, commented, “I feel very privileged to have been involved in the creation of this map, which marks a unique moment in time.  A lot of care and consideration went into making a faithful reproduction, as I was amazed by the amount of detail included in the original, and I wanted to make absolutely sure that I captured it all clearly and precisely. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting members of the Bartholomew family, and seeing their reaction to the map - even the very youngest members were eager to add their names to it!” The map, which now features signatures from four generations of Bartholomews from across the world, will be preserved in RSGS archives. 

The special map with signatures of the entire family, featuring four generations of Bartholomews