THIS week, Ronald Ireland informs us about Professor John Veitch...

One of the most prominent and best known features in the High Street of Peebles is the fountain in front of the Tontine Hotel, dedicated to Professor John Veitch. 

What is less well known is the history of the man himself. John Veitch was born on October 24, 1829 in a house in Biggiesknowe which still stands today. 

His father was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars. John was educated at the Burgh Grammar School and then at Edinburgh University. 

His original intention had been to become a minister of the Free Church. He attended New College in Edinburgh, but before being licensed to preach, he changed his mind and instead went on to pursue an academic career. 

In 1856 he became Assistant to Sir William Hamilton, the Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University. In 1860 he became Professor of Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics at St Andrews and then in 1864 he was appointed Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow, a post he held until his death in 1894.

Although largely forgotten today, he wrote many works of philosophy and poetry which gave him a national reputation. 

He produced a number of works on the history and poetry of the Scottish Borders and throughout his life he never forgot Peebles and his love of its surrounding hills. 

In 1870 he built “The Loaning” which remained his home until his death. He described it as his “charming mountain home”. 

In those days it stood on its own with clear views to the surrounding hills.

It was demolished some years ago to make way for modern housing development. He was given the Freedom of the Burgh in the 1870s.

The memorial in the High street was erected in July 1898, but there is another monument commemorating him near the head of Manor Valley.

It is a stone cairn situated at the foot of Dollar Law. 

Professor Veitch loved the Peeblesshire countryside and spent much of his leisure walking the hills. Manor Valley was a particular favourite, but in 1873 there was proposal to build a reservoir to supply Edinburgh with water. That would have entailed a dam across the valley.

Professor Veitch led a successful campaign against what he considered a ruination of one of the most beautiful valleys in southern Scotland.

He was successful and the scheme was abandoned. 

The cairn was erected in 1900 by grateful fellow lovers of the valley.

When he died he was buried in Peebles. As a testament to his love of the nearby countryside, his gardener of 25 years brought heather from Cademuir and planted it around his grave.