This beautifully-produced landscape-format book sets out to provide "a visual celebration of Thomas Telford's engineering and architecture, much of which remains today." It succeeds wonderfully. Large numbers of high quality and often large photographs help bring to life the amazing range of Thomas Telford's contributions to the world we live in today. The result is a testament to the genius of a man who was born the posthumous son of a shepherd on 9 August 1757 near Westerkirk in Dumfries-shire. He spent his childhood supplementing the family's limited income by shepherding and left his parish school at the age of 14 to become an apprentice stonemason in Langholm. He went on to become the first President of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
This is the third edition of Chris Morris's book, and it has been expanded to incorporate material about Scotland previously published in his "Thomas Telford's Scotland". The book's title is a reflection of Thomas Telford's itinerant lifestyle. At first sight it is divided geographically, but it turns out to be largely driven by the chronology of Telford's life and work. The opening chapter looks at his beginnings as a mason and architect, in Shropshire and elsewhere (where the town of Telford is now named after him). We then move on to his work as a canal engineer in England, and then his return to Scotland, where there is scarcely a road, bridge, harbour, church or canal built during his active working life in which he was not involved in one way or another.
Then we are back to England and Wales for the Holyhead Road, and for more canal projects, many built only a short time before the advent of the railways. The concluding chapter takes a wider look at Telford's work, including the Gota Canal in Sweden, the South Wales Road and St Katherine's Dock in London. It is fitting that in his concluding chapter, the author describes Telford as "the outstanding engineer of his generation." This book succeeds admirably in its ambition to be a "visual celebration", but it also succeeds in other ways, too. Its coverage of Scotland is sufficient for it to be awarded valuable glove-box space by anyone touring the Highlands and Islands, and it is also suitably thought-provoking. As you wonder at Telford's achievements on the eve of the railway age, it's difficult not to also wonder whether he might have achieved even more had he been born a couple of decades later. Or perhaps he really was a man of his time, and it was only possible for the railway pioneers to achieve what they did because Telford had shown what was possible in the pre-railway era.