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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Telford, Thomas

Scottish architect and civil engineer, born at Westerkirk, in Eskdale, Dumfriesshire. The son of a shepherd who died while Telford was an infant, the boy was brought up by his mother, and served his apprenticeship as a stonemason. In 1780, he went to Edinburgh, and afterwards to London, where he was employed in the building of houses — in London, on Somerset House. His first big appointment was as Surveyor to the County of Salop, an appointment procured for him by William Pulteney. See Pulteney, William. His first major project was the Ellesmere Canal, to which he was engineer, and for which he built the might viaducts of Chirk and Pont-y-Cysyllte.

Thereafter, Telford built the Caledonian Canal, many miles of road (including the Glasgow-Carlisle road) and numerous bridges in Scotland, the Conway and Menai Straits bridges in Wales, the Dean Bridge, Edinburgh and the Broomielaw Bridge, Glasgow. He also advised on the construction of the Gotha Canal.

Telford never married. He made one of his numerous tours of his Scottish works in company with the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, who left a fascinating Journal of a Tour in Scotland, 1819, valuable for its portrait of the great engineer himself, as well as for its observations on Highland social conditions at the time.

From his earliest days, Telford wrote verse himself, and was keenly interested in the literary developments of his day. He regarded Burns's entry into the Excise as something of a degradation, and on the poet's death wrote a poem denouncing the officials who had so great a man in their power. It reaches this climax:

"The Muses shall that fatal hour
To Lethe's streams consign,
Which gave the little slaves of pow'r,
To scoff at worth like thine.
But thy fair fame shall rise and spread,
Thy name be dear to all,
When down to their oblivious bed,
Official insects fall."
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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
Search our huge CD and music store for any Burns-related phrase!
Hint: Type "lang syne" or "peck maut" etc. into the Search box there for all artists, titles, descriptions or track listings with the words entered.
Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...