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Lord Basil William Douglas Daer

This article is part of ICE's Engineer biographies series.

Lord Basil William Douglas Daer (1763-1794), was the second, but eldest surviving son and heir of the fourth Earl of Selkirk.

In 1786 his father delegated to him the management of his estates in Galloway and, in the course of this work, he realised the importance of good roads to agriculture and instigated improvements to and reconstruction of those on the estates. In this he was assisted by a land surveyor, John Gillone, whom he trained in his methods.

Lord Daer took up the suggestions of Sir George Clerk of Penicuik for the improvement of roads through hilly country and developed them further, in particular by fixing the alignment strictly by chain and level so as to maintain a uniform gradient suitable for horse-drawn vehicles.

A road had been constructed north-east from Durisdeer on similar principles in 1770, but to a gradient of 1 in 13, whereas Lord Daer favoured 1 in 25. As well as the roads on the Selkirk estates, he pioneered this method throughout Galloway, firstly on part of the road between Newton Stewart (then known as Newton Douglas) and New Galloway.

He was also instrumental in obtaining a Turnpike Act for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, although this was not passed until 1796, after his death. Under this Act, John Gillone was appointed County Engineer and carried on Lord Daer's work on several roads, particularly that from Dumfries to Castle Douglas (now the basis of A75) and A712.Lord Daer predeceased his father. John Gillone died in 1810.


  • Road from Kirkcudbright towards Gelston
  • Road from Kirkcudbright towards Gatehouse of Fleet
  • Road north-east of Newton Stewart

Written by A. D. ANDERSON.

This text is an extract from A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, published by ICE in 2002. Beginning with what little is known of the lives of engineers such as John Trew who practised in the Tudor period, the background, training and achievements of engineers over the following 250 years are described by specialist authors, many of whom have spent a lifetime researching the history of civil engineering.

--The Institution of Civil Engineers