Friday, October 24, 2014

John Wilson Dougal

It was back in 1998 that I made the classic Tolsta to Ness coastal walk on Lewis (see chapter 19 of book 2). Along with Dune Tower and its chapel (described in the previous two posts) I also paid a visit to the Dougal monument. 

Dougal monument seen from the north - it's the white spot atop the small hill (below the soaring skua)
The monument, a 10-foot tall obelisk, stands atop a knoll overlooking the sea. Its white paint is worn, and it has a metal plaque embedded on one side. The plaque has an engraving of a rock-hammer, along with the words 'John Wilson Dougal' and the date '1905'. It was in 1905 that John Wilson Dougal noted the flinty-crush bands of the Outer Hebrides.

The Dougal monument (1998)
Plaque on the monument
Dougal was the founder of a chemical company in Edinburgh and an amateur geologist. For many years he explored the geology of the Outer Hebrides, and had been the first to describe their flinty-crush rock formations.

Dougal, who died in 1935, thought it was a band of this tough material stretching the length of the Western Isles that helped them survive glacial erosion. He wrote up many of his adventures in the Hebrides, and after his death they were published in Island Memories, a jewel of a book for anyone interested in the islands. His walks around the Lewis coast while staying at Dune Tower, and in the Uig hills on the west side, inspired me to explore these remote places for myself. In book 2 (chapter 19) you will find a photo of Dougal with a rock-hammer, like the one on the plaque, hanging from his belt. It is a wonderful photo, and was sent to me by his granddaughter who lives in Australia.

Dougal monument seen from the sea (2013)

1 comment:

  1. My grandfather (Angus Macdonald) of Port of Ness accompanied JWD on many of his walks in northern Lewis. JWD refers to him as 'my friend Angus Macdonald' in this book. he was also his companion on the beautifully described summer night ocean voyage from Port of Ness to the famous gannet island of Suilisgeir, 40 miles NNE of the Butt of Lewis. I treasure my copy of this book!
    Angus Murray