THE Bridge of Allan and Dunblane Rotary Club was recently entertained and informed by Bruce Gittings, of the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, who gave a talk on the Gazetteer for Scotland.

The Gazetteer for Scotland, which can be accessed at, is a vast geographical encyclopaedia, featuring details of towns, villages, bens and glens from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles.

It is the first comprehensive gazetteer to be produced for Scotland since 1885 and includes tourist attractions, industries and historical sites, together with histories of family names and clans, biographies of famous Scots and descriptions of historical events associated with Scotland.

With some 24,500 detailed entries, the gazetteer is the largest dedicated Scottish resource that has been specifically created for the web.

Its popularity can readily be assessed by the fact that it now enjoys some one million web-hits per week.

Bruce explained that there has been a Scottish tradition of descriptive gazetteer publishing dating back as far as the 16th century.

Not only have these publications been produced for Scotland, there have been descriptive documents created by Scottish authors for many parts of the world, particularly those areas administered by Britain.

However, surprisingly, until comparatively recently, there has been no definitive list of Scottish place names that very often carry significant cultural importance.

Until the emergence of the Gazetteer for Scotland, the most authoritative reference work was the six-volume Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland produced in 1885.

When it was produced, W.G. Blackie observed: “Next to a good dictionary, the most generally useful book is a good gazetteer."

The new Gazetteer, on which work began in 1995, has developed phenomenally, with 2.1million words of contemporary information and 2.25million words of historical text having been produced.

Accompanying these are ten thousand photographs and maps and this range of information is being added to on a regular basis.

Bruce revealed that he is personally adding some one hundred thousand words each year.

All these areas can be searched electronically, with sophisticated cross-referencing achievable, so that for any particular subject a wide range of associated information can be accessed.

As an example, Bruce showed a comprehensive range of information on Perth that had been produced automatically, drawing together information from a number of sources and integrating them.

Similar outcomes can be achieved for a wide range of other places and other topics. Easy access to such information is proving a major benefit to tourists and others seeking information on such aspects such as genealogy.

A major challenge, and a significant achievement by the gazetteer, has been finding ways of linking, and giving easy access to, the information held by a variety of governmental and other public and private agencies.

Bruce reported that this integration has largely been successful, with consequent benefit not only to teaching and research but also to visitors.

The significant achievements of the gazetteer were recognized by the speaker’s host Bob Watson who noted the extraordinary range of information now available, and the relative ease of accessing it. He asked members to join him in congratulating Bruce for leading this remarkable initiative.

There will be a meeting on Thursday, February 9, in the Westlands Hotel, Doune Road, at 6pm for 6.30pm, with speaker Adam Varley discussing the Chernobyl disaster.

Visitors are always very welcome to meetings and anyone interested in attending should contact the club secretary Iain Fraser at or by calling 01786 822751.

More information can be found on the club website: or the Facebook page: