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Telford's vast number of projects spanned Britain but were mostly unseen. To publicise them, in 1819 he embarked upon a tour of the Highlands with the Poet Laureate Robert Southey.

Julian Glover's new biography of Thomas Telford: a shepherd's son, born in the Scottish Borders in 1757, who revolutionised British engineering and set the stage for the Industrial Revolution.

After the completion of his masterpiece, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales in 1805, Telford spent the next thirty years of his life involved in a vast range of works up and down the country. These included the construction of over a thousand bridges; twelve hundred miles of good road across tough terrain; forty-three harbours and fishing ports (from Wick to St Katherine's Docks in London); canals throughout England; and the great new road across Wales to the Menai Bridge and Holyhead. In particular, his new roads and bridges revolutionised access to the Scottish Highlands, and in 1819 Telford embarked upon a 'promotional tour' of the north of Scotland in the company of the Poet Laureate Robert Southey.

But the Highlands were also the location of one of the great struggles of Telford's career: the Caledonian Canal (designed to link Inverness on the east coast with Fort William on the west). Begun in 1804, construction was slow, difficult and costs kept rising; it was not completed until 1822 - and Telford did not attend the formal opening ceremony.

Reader: Robin Laing

Writer: Julian Glover

Abridger: David Jackson Young

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

15 minutes

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