Monthly Archives: January 2016

Kirriemuir Camera Obscura

Where better to start my occasional blogs for the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, than with The Kirriemuir Camera Obscura –  a great example of the richness of Scotland’s beautiful built heritage.


The Camera Obscura can be found inside the cricket pavilion situated on Kirriemuir Hill which was gifted to the town by Kirriemuir’s famous (and perhaps most controversial) son, author and playwright J.M.Barrie.

At a cost of £25,000 it was designed by architect Frank Drummond Thomson of Dundee.  Thomson designed numerous public and private buildings in Dundee including the Blackness and Coldside libraries, Alhambra Cinema (now the Whitehall Theatre) and the King’s Theatre.  Thomson won the pavilion design competition because his plans were closest to Barrie’s original idea for the building:

“It should not be ornate, or call attention to itself, but should be something that settles down quietly as belonging to the Hill – a Kirrie building, not something from the outside”.

Thomson’s design created a structure with no roof support posts thus providing an uninterrupted view of the cricket game from all parts of the pavilion. However, the most significant architectural feature was the incorporation of the Camera Obscura.


Now one of only four in Scotland it provides panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside including the Sidlaws to the south, the Ochils to the west, and the Grampians to the north.

Opened on 7th June 1930, J.M. Barrie’s speech was broadcast by the B.B.C. using an innovative system of microphones and amplifiers set up by the Dundee branch of the Edison-Swan Electric Company Ltd.

Over the years various caretakers have looked after the pavilion and Camera Obscura including Charles Melvin (1885-1941) who in November 1917 received the Victoria Cross while serving with the Black Watch in Iraq.

In 2015 the management of the Pavilion passed from the National Trust for Scotland to the Kirriemuir Regeneration Group whose enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers provide guided tours.  It is well worth a visit  – check the Camera Obscura Facebook page for 2016 opening hours.



Sources: Dundee Courier 7 June 1930 p.6; Falkirk Herald 11 June 1930 p.15; Dundee Courier 18 July 1941 p.2; Dictionary of Scottish Architects




Growing your family tree in 2016


2016 Genealogical Goals

As we start a new year I hope you have had time to reflect on the progress you made with your family history in 2015 and are enjoying planning your research goals for 2016.

Inevitably there will be lines that have ground to a stop because you haven’t been able to find that vital record or crucial piece of evidence. Throughout 2016 I will be posting hints and tips to help grow your family tree.


As this is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design  I will also be including some posts on Scotland’s beautiful built heritage, culture and environment along with a few posts on my favourite subject of gravestones.

Revisiting records

As part of your genealogical journey this year consider reviewing some of the sources that you have previously checked.  Each year the National Records of Scotland release new images available to view online. From the 1st January it became possible to view images for statutory births for 1915, marriages for 1940 and deaths for 1965.

More recent records can only be viewed at one of ScotlandsPeople centres, if you are unable to visit in person I offer look ups as part of my research services.

Other sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past are also often updated with additions to the record sets and transcription corrections.

Whenever you use an online database remember to record the location of the record and when you carried out the research.  This will make it easier to check back later and assess if any new records have been added.

I hope 2016 is the year in which you solve some of your mysteries, make exciting genealogical discoveries and enjoy success in achieving your research goals.