“The Mountains all to me are dear”

Pastor Geyer was a man of many interests. He was a talented artist who travelled in Scotland and abroad to seek subjects for his etchings and photographs.

He seems to have been particularly drawn to wild rugged landscapes such the Scottish Highlands and the Alps. On a trip to the Lake District in May 1885, he wrote a poem in praise of mountains in the visitors’ book of the Wastwater Hotel, a haunt for walkers and climbers for 200 years, in which he laments the need to return to “the cities’ hubbub”.

Caledonian Railway. Tours in Scotland. 1893. The British Library / Europeana

Pastor Geyer’s pictures reveal he was a keen traveller around Scotland and further afield, but with a particular love for the Trossachs. He was not alone in this – the area of wooded hills, glens and lochs between Ben Lomond and Callander became increasingly popular with tourists during the Victorian era thanks to Sir Walter Scott’s phenomenally successful poem, The Lady of the Lake, and the relative ease of access to this part of ‘the romantic Highlands’ from the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Scott’s poem, completed in 1810, became a best seller, with over 25,000 copies purchased in the first eight months of publication. Many readers were inspired to visit Loch Katrine and the wild and dramatic landscape the poem described, and the railway companies and some entrepreneurial hoteliers soon stepped in to exploit this interest. They started developing circular tours that transported visitors from the railway stations at Callander (Caledonian Railway) or Aberfoyle (North British Railway) by charabanc and steam ship.

One of the best-known routes involved travelling from Callander station by horse drawn charabanc (or motor coach in later years) to the Trossachs Pier, then by steamer to Stronachlachar on the western shore of Loch Katrine, cross country to Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond, then on board another steamer back to the railhead at Balloch.

The ship everyone associates with Loch Katrine, the Sir Walter Scott, was commissioned in 1899 by Robert Blair, the proprietor of both the Inversnaid and the Trossachs Hotel – obviously business was good, and he acknowledged the source of his good fortune in naming the vessel!

One of Pastor Geyer’s most successful pictures, an etching of Loch Achray and Ben Venue (NG 1923), may well have been created on a trip following this route. Another of his etchings of Queen’s Cottage, Brig O’Turk is also between Callander and Loch Katrine, and the village became a regular inspiration for artists visiting this area. For example, in 1882 Glasgow Boys James Guthrie and George Henry both produced pictures inspired by painting holidays spent in the village – Guthrie’s A Highland Funeral (1982, Kelvingrove) and Henry’s Brig O’Turk (1982, Kelvingrove).

Guthrie, Henry, E A Walton and Joseph Crawhill had all spent the summer and early winter sketching in Brig O’Turk. Guthrie’s picture was inspired by a scene he witnessed during his time in the village and is recorded in a realistic, dignified and unsentimental style, very different to prevailing fashion. Henry’s picture of a row of cottages in the village is more impressionistic, but could easily depict some of the same buildings featured in Geyer’s etching of roughly forty years later.

Loch Katrine is also famous as the source of Glasgow’s drinking water, and other visitors were drawn by the tremendous engineering works and aqueducts and tunnels associated with developing the water supply. Presumably Pastor Geyer, as a former engineer, could really appreciate the work of John Frederick Bateman, and the other civil engineers involved in the project.

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1859, there is a cottage and jetty built for her to use during her visit to the reservoir Loch which is still visible today. Unfortunately, she never got to visit the cottage as the 21-gun salute fired to welcome her to Loch Katrine blew out all the windows!

Trossachs Hotel photographed by Oswald Lübeck. 1870. Deutsche Fotothek / Europeana. Public Domain

Queen Victoria was of course a great champion of the Scottish Highlands and her purchase of Balmoral Castle in 1852 and regular trips there helped ensure that holidaying in Scotland and celebrating the beauty of rugged natural landscape remained fashionable throughout her reign and after.

Another enthusiast of the mountains and waterfalls of Scotland was the naturalist, philosopher and art and social critic, John Ruskin. Like Queen Victoria, he was a huge fan of Scott and regularly quoted from The Lady of the Lake during his public lectures. In 1853, he visited Brig O’Turk in the Trossachs with his wife Euphemia (Effie) and the artist John Everett Millais. Ruskin was keen supporter of the work of the young artist and Millais was commissioned to paint a portrait of Ruskin standing in a rustic landscape in nearby Glenfinlas. Ruskin had a very clear idea of what the picture should convey, having written that artists should “go to nature in all singleness of heart” and had commended Millais and his fellow members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for their attention to natural detail.

The painting is both a fantastically rendered record of the geology and flora of the site and the cascading water, and quite a revealing portrait of a man completely absorbed by the beauty of his surroundings. Contemporary letters suggest that Millais struggled to complete the background work due to heavy rain and midges in Brig O’Turk. The figure of Ruskin was painted from life in the artist’s studio in London the following year, but it was a very difficult job, as by then Ruskin and Effie’s marriage had floundered and she married Millais in 1855, a year after the work was completed, having her first marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation.

Despite the soap-opera-worthy story associated with the picture, it is an impressive painting and does seem to encapsulate all of Ruskin’s ideas about the primacy of nature in art. He advocated that “Nothing must come between Nature and the artist’s sight; nothing between God and the artist’s soul”, and this veneration of the natural world and appreciation of the spiritual benefit of being in the countryside was shared by many of his contemporaries. 

Pastor Geyer also played his part in encouraging interest in mountain landscape and the natural world.  

A Glasgow Herald article of 14 April 1894 refers to a talk and electric light lantern show by Pastor Geyer at the Glasgow Atheneum about two tours which he intended to conduct over the summer to Paris and Switzerland.

A Glasgow Herald article of 14 April 1894 refers to a talk and electric-lantern show by given by the Pastor at the Glasgow Atheneum about two tours which he intended to conduct over the summer to Paris and Switzerland.  During his presentation, he showed views of Paris, the Lake of Geneva, Oberland, Lucerne and the Rhone Valley.  The report goes on to note that the proposed tour parties would each be limited to about 16 ladies and gentlemen and would start on 22 June and 13 July.  Other newspaper records show that while on holiday in his native Austria in 1891, he had attracted an audience of over 2,000 people for one of his ‘Lectures on Scotland,’ and that this was so profitable he was able to make a £20 donation towards the host church’s support for sick members of the congregation.  Presumably these talks and tours were organised primarily to raise money for his ministry in Glasgow, but also helped fund Geyer’s own trips to photograph and sketch the landscapes that inspired so him.

In 1897 he gave two lectures on the Alps and the Carpathian mountains at a series organised by Lizar’s, a Glasgow company that made cameras and hired out magic lanterns.

When on holiday abroad he gave a talk in his father’s former church in Pressburg (now Bratislava) where he showed slides of Scottish scenery.

Other newspaper records show that while on holiday in his native Austria in 1891, he had attracted an audience of over 2,000 people for one of his ‘Lectures on Scotland,’ and that this was so profitable he was able to make a £20 donation towards the host church’s support for sick members of the congregation.  Presumably these talks and tours were organised primarily to raise money for his ministry in Glasgow, but also helped fund Geyer’s own trips to photograph and sketch the landscapes that inspired so him.

Although the idea of a minister ‘moonlighting’ as a tour guide may seem curious to us today, it is remarkable how many men of the cloth became pioneers in the development of early package tourism and in championing environmentalism. 

Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948) was a Congregational Minister in Colne, Lancashire when he first offered organised, walking holidays.  He began by encouraging members of his church to take “recreative and educational holidays” rather than engage in the more usual drink-fuelled revelry of day trips to Blackpool during the wakes-week. In 1891 he led 32 church members on a holiday to Ambleside in the Lake District.  He later wrote that in the early days of his tour-leading, people were satisfied with quite basic accommodation, so long as they could experience “the joy and the freedom of the open fells.” Leonard was one of the founders of the Co-operative Holidays Association, established to provide, “recreative and educational holidays by purchasing or renting and furnishing houses and rooms in selected centres, by catering in such houses for parties of members and guests and by securing helpers who will promote the intellectual and social interests of the party…..”  He went on to set up the Holiday Fellowship in 1913 when he felt that the CHA was moving upmarket and focusing too much on the comfort of middle-class holidaymakers.  Holiday Fellowship remains a leading provider of walking and special interest holidays in the UK today, though the accommodation now offered has become, if not luxurious, certainly a lot less spartan than its founder advocated!  Leonard also played a key role in setting up the Youth Hostels Association and was President of the Ramblers Association from 1935-1946.

Another churchman who combined a zeal for social improvement, a belief in the spiritual power of the natural world and real business savvy was Sir Henry Simpson Lunn, a former Methodist missionary.  Lunn started Co-operative Educational Tours in 1893 and was the founder of what went on to became Lunn Poly, at one time the largest chain of Travel Agents in the UK. 

Cook’s Tours in Scotland. 1900. Science Museum Group Collection Online.

However, the greatest ordained ‘tourism mogul’ has to be Thomas Cook (1808-1892), the Baptist Missionary and temperance campaigner.  In 1841, he organised his first tour to transport around 485 temperance supporters from Leicester to a teetotal rally in Loughborough, charging a shilling each for the return train journey. Quickly realising the holidaymaking potential of the railways, and the difficulty many would-be passengers had  in navigating the timetables and fare structures of the many competing railway companies, far less understanding how to arrange accommodation in a city they did not know, he saw a role for an ‘MC’ to make all the arrangements and to escort the tourists on their trip – the package tour was born. 

In 1851, Cook arranged for no fewer than 65,000 people to travel to London by train to visit the Great Exhibition. Travel, accommodation (in temperance establishments, naturally) and exhibition entry tickets were included in a single price.  By 1860, Cook was established in London and by 1868 the firm’s offices were dealing with 30,000 letters and 50,000 enquiries every year.  In 1878, John Mason Cook succeeded his father in the firm and steadily expanded the business into the travel-agency empire it became, printing timetables, guidebooks and organizing holidays all over the world. 

Farewell to Wastdale

The following poem by A H Geyer appears in the Visitor’s Book in German and has been translated into English in the book by F H B.  (May 28 1885)

The Mountains are my native home  

The Mountains – loved where’er I roam. 

Where-ever I may find them: 

O’er glaciers in my Alpine land. 

If on Ben Nevis’s brow I stand, 

Or climb Sca-fell Pikes summit. 

The Mountains all to me are dear, 

God’s gift to me His Creature here  

A token of His favour; 

When I descry them I am gay. 

 And sad when I must wend my way, 

 Back to the cities’ Hubbub. 

And Mountains here too I have found, 

In Wastdale’s mountain hold of ground, 

And then I have ascended; 

And no we must a last depart, 

I bear your image in my heart, 

Ye well-beloved Mountains. 

A.H. Geyer, Linz, Austria