The Great Polish Map

The Great Polish Map of Scotland is a three-dimensional terrain map built within the gardens of the Barony Castle Hotel. Located near Eddleston in the Scottish borders, the hotel served a previous life as army training grounds before it caught the eye of a visiting soldier who created the feature landmark on the grounds today. The story of its construction and the sentiment behind the map is as unique and interesting as the people who undertook building it over 45 years ago.

The man behind the project, Jan Tomasik, came to the Scottish Borders from Poland early in the second world war. A great number of officers, soldier, pilots, and sailors fled from fallen European countries as the Nazi’s invaded Europe. Many sought refuge throughout the United Kingdom, taking up posts in the military to fight Nazi Germany and defend Britain.

European Troops In Scotland

Military troops added greatly to British forces at the time. The air force alone attributed 20% of their strength to Polish air force pilots fighting for the RAF. The additional strength provided across every branch was vital to the defence of the country and eventually winning the war in 1945.

Polish forces stationed in Scotland were tasked with the defence of the east coast of the country. Potential invasion from Norway was a strong possibility and worried the war office at the time. Regular patrols and static defensive structures defended the coast against attack, helping as much to make residents feel safe as to deter an invading force.

A sergeant in the newly formed 1st armoured division, Tomasik served for the duration of the war and returned to the borders once it was over. There he worked in various jobs until he purchased what was then the Black Barony hotel in 1968.

The hotel put to work many who found themselves adrift and forgotten after the war. Tomasik’s commanding officer, General Stanislaw Maczek, became one of the first employees in the newly renovated hotel.

Tomasik found his friend in a difficult position, stripped of citizenship by the then Communist government of Poland and denied a war pension by the government in Britain. He provided Maczek with work behind the bar and as a handyman to help maintain the historic hotel.

Building The Great Polish Map

Likely exposed to three-dimensional maps during wartime planning and training, Tomasik had a keen interest in topography. Makeshift temporary maps were often used to plan training, defence, and military manoeuvres in the 1940s; these would have been smaller, less detailed models than what he had in mind. Tomasik devised a permanent structure, a scale map of the country that would stand on the grounds of his hotel for years to come.

Tomasik told visitors he wished to present ‘a gift to the Scottish People’ in return for the hospitality and gratitude shown to poles during the war.

Enlisting help from both Scottish and Polish universities, the map project created links between institutions that persevered even throughout the height of tensions around the cold war. Employees from Krakow university visited the the map on a number of occasions, surveying the site, marking the land, and laying brickwork to create the foundations of the landmark.

Over four consecutive summers between 1974 and 1979 the map took shape. The bulk of the work was completed over a period of two years until 1976. The remainder, carried out mainly by family and friends, involved fine detailing, painting, and maintenance. By the time it was completed, the map featured running waterworks, scale forests, urban areas, and roads that connected the country at scale.

Restoring The Great Map Of Scotland

After Tomasik and family sold the hotel in 1985, the map was left to slowly deteriorate over time. Concrete left unmaintained became brittle and fragile. The plumbing that served the rivers, outlets, and lochs broke down completely. Paint that outlined roads and cities weathered off with each passing season.

A group called Mapa Scotland formed in 2010 to restore, maintain, and preserve the map for the future. Uniting with the goal of restoring the crumbling structure to its former glory the ambitious volunteers set to work immediately. Secured listed status for the structure, the group ensured that the map had a place in local history and began to set about restoration works.

Since the group started, the map itself has undergone vast improvements to its condition. Access to the site and visitor information has improved ten-fold. The site today, still being consistently improved, holds significantly more value and relevance than the ruins found before the volunteer group took charge.

Today, the Great Polish Map is maintained and cared for like a treasured gift.

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