By Margaret Wilkes, RSGS Collections Team


The covers of Vols 1 and 2

I’m stretching the term Memorable Map to mark a Memorable Map Man and two memorable RSGS map publications, significant anniversaries of which are this year: the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of volume one and the fortieth anniversary of volume two of the third edition of RSGS’s seminal The Early Maps of Scotland to 1850, prepared by a Committee of our Society. This third edition updated work undertaken by RSGS Members in the 1930s, the first edition being published in 1934 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Society and a second further expanded edition following in 1936.  The third edition (1973 and 1983) added the important A History of Scottish Maps, expanded existing records of maps and atlases found in the first two editions and, where necessary, corrected and revised the records of items contained therein.

What remains in my mind about this third edition, notably the 1983 volume, is the meticulous, unrelenting graft put into it by its editor, Donald Grant Moir (1902-1986), Secretary of RSGS from 1961 until his death in June 1986, who revised, expanded and edited this final volume.  Always addressed formally by then young curators as ‘Mr Moir’, he was a quiet, precise man (with a hidden sense of humour) who showed great kindliness to us, turning up at map events we organised in the National Library of Scotland to give us his support.  Never one to draw attention to himself, he would have been very surprised that his steadfast, unassuming, unobtrusive person and his diligent cartobibliographic endeavour would long remain in the minds of some of those curators he met.  He personally visited UK major national and many regional and local repositories holding early maps relating to Scotland, to see and re-check hundreds of relevant items, their variant editions and printings, and also to add newly-discovered or acquired items.  Where a map not already listed and which he’d not seen before was laid in front of him a private smile would appear on his face as he closely examined, recorded and measured it, only then allowing himself the luxury of savouring its content. His research notes, in green filing boxes, remain in the Society’s archive.

The publication of the second volume in 1983 led to a memorable moment for me, for on publication day Mr Moir invited me to lunch with him at the then Iona Hotel on Strathearn Place, Edinburgh.  He was driven there by Molly Coyle, his delightful long-term second-in-command at RSGS’s Edinburgh Headquarters.  To mark the occasion, he asked me to join him in a glass of sherry before our luncheon and allowed himself a broad smile for he couldn’t conceal he was both proud and relieved his mammoth task was complete.  I was deeply touched when he gave me a personally-autographed copy of this second volume, and it has a prominent position on my bookshelves.  The following year, 1984 – the Society’s Centenary Year, he was awarded RSGS‘s Research Medal (now the Coppock Research Medal), a very fitting tribute to his exhaustive and painstaking researches over many years.

Kenneth Maclean and I from RSGS Collections Team remember Mr Moir in his latter years at work at RSGS’s then Headquarters in Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh, where he ensured among his many other tasks that his tiny staff maintained the Society’s map collections in good order – an example our thirteen-strong Collections Team seeks to emulate today.  We hope he would have approved!