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Treasure 53: An Account of Pedestrianism
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Treasure 53: An Account of Pedestrianism

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
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Treasure 53: An Account of Pedestrianism
Historic Documents
Treasure 53: An Account of Pedestrianism
National Walking Month takes place in May and is promoted by the UK charity Living Streets. Their aim is to encourage people to see walking as a natural choice and they hope to see a reduction in health problems, congestion and pollution, and social isolation while boosting local communities by bringing high streets to life. Specific events such as Walk to School Week and Walk to Work Week are also held during this month.

One of the books in our Local Studies collection describes the exploits of walkers in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1813, Walter Thom published 'Pedestrianism; or, An account of the performances of celebrated pedestrians during the last and present century; with a full narrative of Captain Barclay's public and private matches; and an essay on training.'

Pedestrianism was the term used for competitive walking races which were extremely popular as a spectator sport in the 18th and 19th centuries, both in indoor and outdoor venues, not only in Britain but also in America, Canada and Australia. Large sums of money could be won and betting on the results was prolific.

Walter Thom came from Bervie in Kincardineshire but moved to Aberdeen in the early 1800s where he published The History of Aberdeen in 1811. He then moved to Edinburgh for a short time before travelling to Ireland where he became editor firstly of the Dublin Correspondent and later of The Dublin Journal. He died in Dublin in 1824.

In his preface to Pedestrianism, Thom explains that his choice of subjects treated in the volume will deserve attention of all classes "as exercise conduces so much to the strength and soundness of both body and mind".

He discusses the Olympic Games and gymnastic exercises as practised by the ancient Greeks before moving to "modern pedestrianism" which he claims "affords the best species of exercise, and may be said to include much that is valuable to mankind". He describes feats of pedestrianism from the 1700s and 1800s, which included races over a period of days or those which only lasted one or two hours.

Aberdeen Local Studies
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