Media Release: Plaque inaugurated on 200th anniversary of Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia’s visit to Moffat


THE Consul General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, Mr. Andrey Pritsepov, will be present at the Annandale Arms Hotel in Moffat on Tuesday 24 May at the inauguration of a plaque and information board commemorating the 200th anniversary of the visit and overnight stay of the 20 year-old Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia to the hotel, then called ‘The King’s Arms’, and the town in 1816.

Begins a spokesperson: “Nicholas, later Tsar Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia 1825-1855, apparently enjoyed his stay, remarking that it was the only time that he and his all-male retinue had not had to share beds during their visit around Scotland. He gave the inn-keeper a tip equivalent to the whole bill.

“The Edinburgh leg of the Grand Duke’s UK tour – the first official royal visit to Scotland for over 100 years – was stage managed by Sir Walter Scott who, six years later, was able to use the hastily-invented template to welcome George IV to the capital.

“The tour was designed by the Grand Duke’s mother, the Empress Maria Federovna and her advisers, to acquaint the Grand Duke with all aspects of British life.

“Relations were thereby cemented between the four members of the so-called ‘Concert of Europe’ comprising the powers of Austria, Prussia, the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom, members of the Quadruple Alliance that defeated Napoleon and his First French Empire.

“The Grand Duke’s ‘educational tour’ followed one year after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, which ended 23 years of recurrent warfare between France and the other powers of Europe.”

The spokesperson continued: “Local legend has it that the Grand Duke was supposed to have taken, or (more likely) been given as a souvenir of his stay, an engraving by Robert Burns of a poem on a window pane of Moffat’s Black Bull Inn (est. 1568).”

The plaque installation was organised by local cultural charity, GYRE (pronounced ‘GAIA’), one of a number of events taking place across the year which celebrate Scottish and Russian connections, including a specially-commissioned one-act play, ‘Grand Duke Nick’s Night Out’, by Shropshire-based playwright, Peter Roberts.

It will feature as part of the autumn season, 28 Sept to 1st Oct, at Moffat’s Old Well Theatre and performed by UADS.

A special performance will be given on Thurs 20th Oct before the official opening of the fifth Moffat Russian Conference held in association with the State Library for Foreign Literature Moscow and the Institute of Translation, Moscow, this year on ‘Poets and Power’ at Moffat House hotel 21-23 October.

The Consul General will address guests at a reception in the hotel before short talks by historian Professor Andrew Wheatcroft and Archie McConnel, of Dumfries Archival Mapping Project (D.A.M.P).

Elizabeth Roberts, chair of GYRE, has been involved for 50 years in official and unofficial cultural relations between Great Britain and Russia.

She points out the many connections between Scotland and the Grand Duke: “His Nanny Miss Janet Lyon (known as ‘the lioness’) and Doctor John Rogerson – who had carried the Grand Duke, aged five, to safety on the night of the assassination of his father Tsar Paul I – retired to Dumcrieff House near Moffat – were Scots.

“From private correspondence, it is believed that the Grand Duke spoke English with a Scottish accent.

“On his tour, the Grand Duke received the freedom of the city of Edinburgh and made a generous donation to relieve the suffering of the poor of Glasgow, many of whom had flocked there from the countryside following the ‘year without a summer’, when crops failed.

“He also visited the manufacturers of the innovative ‘carronade’ gun at the Carron Iron Works in West Lothian, and spent the night with Robert Owen in New Lanark before entertaining Dr Rogerson to dinner in Moffat on his way south.”

Elizabeth continued: “Trade and tourism between this country and Russia have a long tradition, going back many centuries. We hope that by showcasing Moffat and Dumfries & Galloway that we can continue to develop these valuable cultural links.”


Notes to editors:

Press call and photograph opportunity with

Consul General Andrew Pritsepov
Tuesday 24 May 
Annandale Arms Hotel 4.45pm

Further details contact Elizabeth Roberts 07968801178

  • GYRE (Charity No. SC045058) is a registered SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation)
  • GYRE is a creative partnership formed to enhance life in and for Moffat, the region and internationally. The partners, all-resident in Moffat, have strong links with and expertise in Russia, China, the USA and other countries around the world.
  • A few public tickets are available for the reception online at Eventbrite. The event runs from 5pm till 7pm.
  • A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since GDN visited in 1816. Then, as part of the victorious (Battle of Waterloo) tripartite alliance against Napoleon, we were allies of the Russians.
  • Then along came the Crimean War A party of young people at Moffat House burned Nicholas in effigy on a bonfire, and gave GDN three hearty boos.
  • The Battle of Alma is remembered in Moffat, in the form of the name of a house in Well . It can be seen from the Wikipedia article that the Scots Fusilier Guards and the Coldstream Guards were both involved in the battle.
  • GND is supposed to have taken, or (more likely) been given as a souvenir of his stay, an engraving by Robert Burns on a window pane of the Black Bull Inn (est. 1568) see’_diamond_point_engravings#Black_Bull_Inn.2C_Moffat of a couplet

Ask why God made the gem so small, and

Why so huge the granite, because God meant

Mankind should set the higher value on it.

  • In WWI, Britain and Russia were allies until the Revolution in 1917, after which they signed a separate peace treaty with Germany.
  • In WWII, Russia joined the Allies when Germany invaded in 1941 see
  • Moffat and Russia have been linked since 2012 by the annual Moffat Russian Conferences – see attached account approved by the Steering Committee.
  • GDN visited the Carron Iron Works on his tour.  A week or so ago it was announced that they are to close by the end of 2017 – the end of a long history.
  • There will be a short talk during the reception 5-7pm on May 24 by Professor Andrew Wheatcroft on the innovative ‘carronade’ gun designed and made at the Carron Iron Works.
  • There will also be some remarks by Archie McConnell of D.A.M.P. Dumfries Archival Mapping Project about the state of roads used by GDN and his party to travel from Edinburgh via Falkirk, Stirling, Glasgow, and New Lanark to Moffat.
  • World-famous road builder, John Loudon McAdam, died in Moffat, where he stayed regularly on visits home.
  • Ossian author James Macpherson met his publisher in Moffat where they were both taking the waters
  • Merlin is convincingly argued by Nikolai Tolstoy to have been the only historic character, a shaman/advisor to a British king in the Arthurian legends, and to have lived towards the end in a cave above Moffat – see
  • Moffat is famous for its toffee shop; sheep racing; veteran British car rally; gold-panning competition; the Moffat Ram statue in the High St (no ears) Magnificent architecture – practically every building is listed, including the first bungalow in Britain – a Grade One listed 1836 building

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