Honouring the Memory of “McAdam, The Roadmaker.”

International Road Congress.

A London correspondent of the Advertiser writes:-

Next week the third International Road Congress will meet in London, under the patronage of His Majesty the King, and by invitation of the Government, five Cabinet Ministers being the Honorary Presidents of the Congress. Former Congresses were held respectively in Brussels and Paris. A great host of modern roadmakers, interested on road engineering and the new motor traffic, will attend from all the countries of Europe and from America.

Mr Rees Jeffrey, the Secretary of the Road Board, is acting as honorary secretary to the Congress, which will approach the subject proper from the assumption that the problem of treating macadam roads with bituminous materials has now been practically solved. At these congresses, which are the children of the spread of motor traffic, the name of John Loudon McAdam – sometimes spelled as “Macadam” – is regularly honoured.

The modern road dates from McAdam’s invention, of which the new treatment with bituminous materials and the steam-roller is but a development. The Stewartry, therefore, has a local and patriotic interest in this posthumous honour, which has come to McAdam more than seventy years after his death. Apparently, the roads before McAdam arrived, where no paving with cobbles had been done, were rough cart tracks.

In 1569, James VI granted a charted of the lands of Waterhead, in the parish of Carsphairn, Kirkcudbrightshire, to Andrew McAdam, who was a grandson of Adam McGregor, grandson of the Highland chieftain Gregor McGregor. Adam McGregor had migrated to the Lowlands, most likely to Ayrshire, and there changed his name to McAdam. Originally Celts of the North, the McAdams thus became Lowlanders. One of them, called Gilbert, suffered death for the Covenant in 1685.

The father of John Loudon McAdam, whose pedigree can be traced back to the above Adam McGregor, was one of the founders of the first bank in Ayr about 1763, and married one of the Cochranes of the Dundonald stock. When an infant, John Loudon McAdam was barely rescued from the burning of his father’s moorland house at Lagwyne, near Carsphairn. He is described in some history books as born in Ayr, while other authorities give Lagwyne as his birthplace. Lagwyne was never rebuilt after the fire, and the family migrated to Blairquhan, near Straiton, which accounts for McAdam having been schooled in Maybole.

He emigrated in youth to America, where he had an uncle, and returned to Sawhrie, in Ayrshire, with a moderate fortune, in middle life, where he did service as a road trustee. Subsequently, he removed to Falmouth. He spent £5,000 of his own money in an examination of the roads, and ultimately demonstrated the utility of the method of treating the highways with broken stones, which gave his name in various forms to the English language. McAdam was at length voted the sum of £10,000 by the House of Commons, partly as reward, and partly as repayment of his personal outlays as roadmaker.

He resided latterly near Hertford, but frequently visited his homeland, when he would be seen driving in a close carriage, accompanied by a Newfoundland dog, and a pony, on which he would visit any choice spot off the main road.

When returning from one of these visits to Scotland, he died at Moffat in 1836, an old man of eighty then. Some of the poets – Moore, Hood, Bailey – sang praises of McAdam. Bailie in “Festus” expressing his anxiety to “macadamize the world”; and Jeremy Bentham, the political economist, asserted that “McAdam’s system justified the perpetuation of his name in popular speech.” Some sort of McAdam monument would add an attractive historical feature to the magnificent mountainscape around Carsphairn.