National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Famous Scots from the Past

Famous Scots from the Past

Monday, 31 Jul 2017
Photo of vial of arsenic poison

Treasured artefacts displayed together for the first time.

A new National Records of Scotland exhibition will provide an insight into the fascinating lives of four of Scotland’s most renowned historical figures over the next month.

Poison bottles from an infamous Victorian murder trial; a childhood letter sent by Mary Queen of Scots; documents from construction of the Forth Bridge and the Parish Register entry for Robert Burns’ irregular marriage are just some of the items to be displayed at General Register House from tomorrow as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.   

The never-before exhibited treasures from the national archive include:

  • No Bells for the Bard – The irregular marriage of Robert Burns and Jean Armour, 1788; 
  • Correspondence of a Queen – The earliest letter written by a young Mary, Queen of Scots, around 1550; 
  • The Man Who Built the Bridge – Photographs and documents from the construction of the Forth Bridge, Sir William Arrol’s world-famous project, 1880s; and 
  • The Trial That Scandalised Scotland – Poison bottles, love-letters and other productions from the shocking murder trial of Glasgow socialite Madeleine Smith, 1857. 

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, said:

"These items offer an insight into the personal lives of some of the great characters of Scotland’s past, and tell us more about our rich history and heritage. The exhibition is a fascinating contribution to the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology."

Tim Ellis, Chief Executive, NRS, said: "This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to view just part of the wealth of historical materials held by National Records of Scotland, specially selected by our archivists to intrigue both first-time visitors and regular customers."

Notes to Editors

Famous Scots from the Past will run from 1 August to 1 September at General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh – Fringe Venue 502.

Media contact: Ross Truslove, Tel. 0131 535 1382.