What do YOU think?
The Mapa Scotland means different things to different people, depending on how they see it. Here we invite you to tell us what you think about it and its significance.
Why not share your thoughts about the map once you’ve visited it? You can send us your comments using the form you’ll find on the Contact Us page.
Retired history teacher and Mapa Scotland member Kim Traynor from Edinburgh gives us his ‘take’ on it:
The first thing you notice is that it’s a map, but quite unlike any you’ve ever seen before. It’s an amazing size, and when you hear it was built by just a handful of individuals, you immediately recognise the labour that must have gone into its construction—a truly astonishing feat. Then, when you learn that it was shaped by hand, you begin to realise it represents more than sheer effort; it’s also a work of art – one of those achievements that fills you with admiration for the human spirit it embodies. This was someone’s vision, and it was realised through commitment, determination and toil on the part of those involved. You then discover Barony Castle played a role in the Second World War, still very much shrouded in mystery because it was subject to the Official Secrets Act; and though that’s now partially lifted, it seems that only those who were there at the time really know what went on behind its closed gates. And when you know that the map was built by young Poles at the request of an older Pole who had been stationed in the Borders and later came to own Black Barony – not by accident but because of his personal interest in the place – you start to perceive a continuity between the Poles who used the hotel during the war and those who built the map. It then becomes a moving symbol, a monument even, of the Polish presence in Scotland over two generations – and if you include the Poles taking part in restoring it, three generations. And when you learn that the Polish forces in wartime Scotland – uprooted, far from their homes and families. and socially quite isolated despite the host nation’s hospitality, were prepared to defend this country against invasion, knowing many of them would die if that happened, you’re humbled. You realise that saving and restoring the map is about more than just rescuing a unique feature in the landscape. It’s about repaying a debt, saying thank you and passing it on as a reminder to future generations.
Now retired, Christine De Luca, a Shetlander living in Edinburgh, visited the map in June 2014. She remembers coming across Jan Tomasik and the map in the 1970s:
I was teaching geography in the 1970s when I first came across the map. I was blown away. Jan Tomasik was working on it, undisturbed, with a quarter inch map in his hand! I hadn’t realised he owned the hotel, as he seemed more like an artisan than a hotelier … actually, the hotel didn’t seem to be very prosperous at that time. I thought he was maybe the retired handyman!
It must have been some time after 1975 (the year I met my husband) and fairly early in our ‘courtship’ when we went out for a Sunday drive, possibly in 1976 or 1977. I can still see Jan in among the mountains (Firth of Lorne, Ben Nevis way!) holding that battered quarter inch map, folded to the place he wanted. I think he enjoyed the technical challenge of it and the scaling, which he explained to me. It was obviously a labour of love.
My husband thinks that the old man mentioned the war and the need to do something for his adopted country but to be honest that bit hasn’t stuck in our memories.
The map wasn’t painted at that time, just grey concrete. He seemed to be checking heights and levels I think. He explained that he was going to flood the model to sea level soon and get the rivers flowing too. The latter particularly amazed me. It seemed such a demanding task to get water to all the right places and levels. He seemed fascinated by the task in hand like a boy with a tricky hobby, determined to finish it.
The visit remains a kind of Brigadoon experience for me, as it seemed so strange to be doing this half way up a high hill with trees all around! But as a geographer I was fascinated and felt I would have loved to have brought my pupils to see it; so many had difficulty creating a 3D image in their heads from a 2D map.
I always expected to hear more about the map as I thought it had huge potential for schools and especially for the blind. I was surprised that I never saw anything in newspapers about it and when I mentioned it to other people they looked at me rather strangely as if I was making it up!
We both remember going back in the early to mid 1980s to see if the map model had been completed, but we found it fenced off and no one at the hotel [which had changed ownership - ed.] able to tell us anything about it. How could they possibly not know anything about this huge unique feature just a stone’s throw from where we were standing? I left feeling as if it were a figment of my imagination!
I saw it today and am delighted it will be restored. It is wonderful!
[Not long after after contacting us with the above message,Christine attended the 2014 Conrad Festival in Edinburgh (http://www.conradfestival.pl/en/13/630/763/afternoon-in-edinburgh) where she entertained those present, Poles and Scots, with her own poem about the map. (Note its visually appropriate form as a “concrete” poem). Listeners not only enjoyed the poem but expressed interest in the model that inspired it. Perhaps there is scope for the map to become a focal point for future relationships between the two UNESCO Cities of Literature, Edinburgh and Krakow.]
Click this link to see Christine’s Mapa Scotland poem