Item MIN - Minto Papers; NLS MS.11908: f.17

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Minto Papers; NLS MS.11908: f.17


  • 1845 - 1978 (Creation)

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Minimal; ephemera, copies of covering letter & autograph letter

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Born Ayrshire 1780; died Edinburgh 1848
Starting work as an apprentice gardener on estates in Scotland, William McNab moved to Kew in 1801, being promoted 3 years later to foreman. In 1810, on the recommendation of Joseph Banks, he was offered the post of principal gardener at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh by the Keeper, Daniel Rutherford. Despite inadequate funding he set about developing the Garden, increasing the overall collection dramatically and introducing many new or rare plants, including mimosas, Australian banksias, and tropical water lilies. McNab was instrumental in the successful move of the Garden from Leith Walk to Inverleith under the Keeper, Robert Graham. He adapted a machine for transplanting well established trees, some over 40 feet high, details of which are included in his published paper on hardy evergreens (1830). His other main contribution to the literature was a treatise on cape heaths. McNab was a founder member of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1836. Despite ongoing disputes over his salary, as a gardener and horticulturalist McNab was held in high esteem, as witnessed by the records of his testimonial dinner in 1844. He died in 1848 to be succeeded as curator of the Botanic Garden by his son, James.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; Gardeners Chronicle 1848, p 812

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• Copy of covering letter from NLS to Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, dated 13 Jan 1978 re; letter from Minto Collection. Original of covering letter in “McNab, Wm” papers.
•Copy of letter from William McNab, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh dated 17 Oct 1845, probably to Mary, Countess of Minto concerning Minto House Garden

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