A contribution by Duncan Harley, author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire, The Little History of Aberdeenshire and Long Shadows - Tales of Scotland's North East.
George Washington Wilson (1823 – 1893) is usually remembered as one the fathers of Scottish photography. But in common with most early photographers, he started out as a traditional brush and oil artist. His early days were filled with portraiture and his legacy was, at least in part, ruined by the Inland Revenue.
He became, alongside a few now forgotten fellow professionals, an official Royal photographer and did the Balmoral circuit for a few years. In his later years he and his minions travelled the length and breadth of Britain making images of the likes of Fingal’s Cave and the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street for sale to an emerging media market.
But he also taught art in his earlier days. Amongst his many students was a young lad from Banff named William Brodie (1815-1881). Brodie went on to carve elements of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, make Royal busts for the nobility and generally make a decent career as an artist in stone. His main claim to fame though is his rendering of a wee Edinburgh dog by the name of Greyfriars Bobby.
Even if you’ve not heard of George Washington Wilson or William Brodie. You’ve maybe heard about Bobby and maybe even rubbed his shiny nose on your journey through tartan-tourist-land.