From Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th September 2023, Innerpeffray Library hosted its third annual Festival of Reading, celebrating the theme of Wild Words. Authors, poets, storytellers, musicians, artists, and readers met in and around the historic location of Scotland’s first free lending library.
On Thursday evening, the Festival of Reading kicked off with a new production by the Crieff Drama Group, featuring traditional Scots and Gaelic songs performed by Innerpeffray’s very own Library Assistant Naomi Harvey. Hosted by Strathearn Arts in Crieff, Heroic Strife Famed Afar treated the audience to a new perspective on the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, the Battle of Culloden, and its aftermath. The performance included dramatic reading of archival material put together by the late Tony Murray of Dollerie House in a collection of his ancestor’s letters entitled, ‘A Young Man’s Path to Culloden’. The show was entertaining and illuminating, and Naomi’s singing was beautiful.
On Friday afternoon, library volunteer and expert craftsperson Gillean Ford hosted The Art of the Book: Printing from Nature, a hands-on workshop inspired by the natural world and the area surrounding Innerpeffray. Participants made beautiful prints using all sorts of local flora, including seed heads, leaves, firs, and moss.
A Festival of Reading favourite, Perthshire poet Jim C. Mackintosh hosted a sold-out spectacular on Friday evening. Joined by violinist Karys Watt, guitarist Dave Macfarlane, poet Julie McNeill and legendary writer and storyteller Dolina MacLennan, the library rang with music and laughter throughout the night. An absolute highlight was the unexpected audience participation, which had various sections of the audience loudly impersonating lambs and calves separated from their families – all in the name of attracting the attention of an invading mythical beast set on destroying the Scots Pines of Perthshire. Say it with me now: it had the head of a woman, the body of a whale, and the wings of an eagle!
Jim also treated audience members to a special gift: a handwritten piece of his poetry, with everyone getting a unique extract (some previously unpublished!). In addition to leaving the night with unforgettable stories and wild words, we also took home love, peace and poetry.
Over the weekend, Innerpeffray was visited by four acclaimed writers based in Scotland. Picture book author and illustrator Natalie Russell led a group of children in an arts and crafts workshop inspired by Hamish the Highland Cow, and journalist, author and poet Merryn Glover told us what Scotland means to her and discussed her latest book, The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd.
Nature writer Keith Broomfield presented some amazing photos of the wildlife and locations that have inspired him to write books including A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey.
Fiona Valpy took us on a journey throughout the inspired settings of her bestselling works of fiction, including her upcoming novel The Sky Beneath Us – the title of which was revealed as an Innerpeffray exclusive!
On Sunday afternoon, the 2023 Festival of Reading came to a close with Pop-up Poetry by the River, hosted by local poet Jennie Turnbull in Innerpeffray’s stone storytelling circle. Listeners and readers came together in this very special location to hear poems on the theme of Wild Words. Thank you to Lesley Buchan Donald, Alastair Donald, Tom Langlands, Ian Ledward and Karen Macfarlane for reading their poems – it is a brave thing to stand up and read your own writing to a group of strangers and we really appreciate the poets sharing their words with us.
The 2023 Festival of Reading was filled with serendipity – a reminder of what a special place the Library of Innerpeffray is. Our poetry circle was almost put off by a lightning storm but instead, the first drops of rain fell just as we said our goodbyes; the threat of thunder in the air gave an appropriate atmosphere to the proceedings. On Saturday, we heard the story of how Gillean Ford picked up a novel by chance one day in the Innerpeffray second-hand book stall and decided to get in touch with the author to share how much she loved it – leading to Fiona Valpy coming to talk at the Festival.
Also during the week, two separate groups visited the library looking for names in our archive of historical visitors’ books. We were able to successfully find their own signatures or those of their families and Innerpeffray played host to an unexpected reunion between old neighbours who had not seen each other for twenty years. You would be surprised by how often this kind of spooky happenstance occurs in the library!
As Governor Steph Haxton reminded us on Friday evening, Innerpeffray is a place where words matter and magic is created. To all who read, sang, made art, and came along to listen and enjoy, thank you for being a part of the 2023 Festival of Reading.
Innerpeffray may have been conceived as a lending library all those centuries ago by David Drummond, third Lord Madertie, but this purpose has expanded over the intervening years to the wonderful resource we have today. One of the more recent uses is as a reference library, and it is thanks to this that this blogpost was conceived. As well as my role as a volunteer guide at the Library, I am a Process Safety Engineer and part of this job entails raising awareness of previous industrial incidents to identify where things went wrong and how we in the industry can reduce the likelihood of similar events happening in the future. Typically, these hark back to events from, at most, thirty or forty years ago – easily within living memory. For a change, however, I decided to use the Library to see if there were records of industrial accidents going back not just decades, but centuries. My search was successful…
The first incident I came across was an account of a colliery explosion by Dr. Arthur Charlett, who was the Master of University College, Oxford, from 1692 to 1722. This was included within the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the oldest science journal in the world. The account describes an incident at Fatfield Colliery, which is situated just to the south of Newcastle on the River Wear. On 18th August 1708, at around 3am, there was, to quote Dr. Charlett, “The sudden Eruption of a violent Fire”. As you can see from the text above, he goes into great and vivid detail of the impact of the colliery explosion and the extents of the blast damage. He goes on to describe some of the different dangerous gases that might be encountered whilst mining – the “Stith” and the “Sulphur” – and the effects of each. For modern day readers, the “stith” is an asphyxiant and would most likely consist of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and the “Sulphur” refers to methane with some residual sulphur components to give the smell. Given the explosion, it is more likely that the build-up in this case was the “Sulphur” – if you think of damage caused by gas explosions in people’s homes today, it is easy to understand the deadly impact of a build-up of methane.
What was particularly fascinating for me from a professional viewpoint was that he does not just describe the event and the background, but does on to actually theorise the sequence of events that led to the issue. The second page of the account (shown above) describes the workings of the mine. The production of “Stith” and “Sulphur” are pretty much unavoidable when mining, certainly in 1708, and, as such, methods have to be found to keep the concentration of these gases at acceptable levels. Today, mines use complicated ventilation systems with fans to ensure that they keep levels down, but in 1708, they were solely reliant on good natural airflow – “a free Communication of Air”, as Dr. Charlett put it. Where this was hard to achieve, by some combination of the mine’s layout and the still atmospheric conditions, workers were removed from the danger zone; a decision that I as a 21st Century Process Safety Engineer very much applaud! Whilst the danger zone was unmanned, however, the noxious and explosive gases were still very much being released. As such, when the wind picked up again, the flammable “Sulphur” was then pushed through the mine until it reached the candle of an Overman. This provided sufficient energy to ignite the flammable cloud, which, through the confinement of the mine’s tunnels, then exploded, killing the men who had returned to work in the mistaken belief that the danger had passed with the increased air flow.
It would be lovely to say that the 69 people who lost their lives that August morning were the last to suffer from a colliery explosion of this kind. Sadly, there were a further three explosions at the same colliery in the next 120 years. Few, if any, changes were made on the back of this incident – the workforce being considered very much expendable and the hazards an unavoidable part of the very profitable mining industry. It took over 100 years for improvements to be made to lighting in mines, with various safety lamps being developed after the Felling Colliery disaster in 1812, the most notable being that of Sir Humphrey Davy.
The second incident that I investigated through the Library’s tomes occurred in Brescia, Italy, in August 1769 (coincidentally 61 years to the day after Fatfield). I came across this in the September edition of the Scots Magazine – the world’s oldest magazine still in publication! The Library holds the first 45 years of the Magazine from 1739 to 1784 and these are particularly popular for Culloden and the Declaration of Independence. It also includes various news articles from around the world, not just those directly affecting Great Britain, hence the inclusion of an account of a magazine of gunpowder exploding after the church in which it was stored was hit by lightning.
As you can see from the text above, the impact was colossal – “it overturned about a sixth-part of the houses in the town, and… buried near 3000 persons under their ruins”; “All the streets are covered with ruins of every sort”; “A cannon of twenty-five hundred weight [1.3 tonnes] carried two miles and a half”.
Unlike the Fatfield colliery incident, this account is entirely descriptive, with little heed given to an explanation of what actually happened. It is, however, responsible for the long held belief that over 3000 people died. In fact, more reliable accounts published a few years after the disaster concluded that the maximum death toll was 400-800 people – still an astonishing number, but significantly less than 3000. It is perhaps unsurprising that this account does not delve too deeply into the explanation of what happened that day – after all, it was fairly simple! Lightning struck the church where the gunpowder was stored and the spark ignited the highly flammable powder. The confines of the vaults in which it was being stored ensured that that the church acted effectively like a bomb and so caused it to explode. Given lightning strikes are still a known hazard today, I was ready to leave this incident here, but a little more digging led me down some interesting further routes…
More recent online accounts mentioned that the Brescia incident led to legal changes in Great Britain in 1770 and 1772. Fortunately, the Library has a few shelves filled with tomes of Statute Books from the reign of George III, so, for the first time, I dived into these and found them both:
On the left, we have the original act from 1770, which was their first attempt at properly regulating the amount of gunpowder that could be held in one place, and the follow-up from 1772 when they realised that they had forgotten to regulate the actual manufacture of gunpowder (a brilliant quote from the full text of the Act reads “the Act passed in the last session contains no Provision for regulating the making of Gunpowder, and is in other Respects defective”). Both acts set out maximum quantities that could be held, which reduced in close proximity to towns and cities, as well as how much could be conveyed at once. The 1772 Act also added in regulations around who could manufacture gunpowder, as well as limiting the amount of charcoal that could be stored adjacent to gunpowder. Whilst neither Act directly references Brescia, it is clear from the content that the recent incident was foremost in the minds of those crafting these new laws, a hypothesis further strengthened with our final piece of evidence from the Library and the appearance of a man whom I think you’ll know.
Benjamin Franklin is rightly lauded for a life incredibly well lived, with his political, diplomatic and scientific achievements all very well documented. At the Library, we have a six volume set of the Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin and within the final volume, there is a letter outlining his recommendations for the improvements to the lightning protection that should be made to the Royal Magazine at Purfleet, which had been built in 1764. Within this letter, shown below, he refers to the incident at Brescia to highlight the necessity of protecting gunpowder magazines from the dangers of a lightning strike. He describes a number of measures that he suggests should be put in place to ensure the security of the gunpowder magazine, as well as referring to experimental work carried out not just in the UK, but also in the colonies only a few short years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
So to conclude, there are lessons to be learned from the past that still have direct relevance to us today. There was a colliery explosion in Turkey in October 2022 that killed at least 42 people due to a methane explosion and a lightning bolt struck a fuel oil storage tank in Cuba in August 2022, killing 17 firefighters. The lessons learned from history through the deaths of hundreds people are still so easily forgotten today; what other stories lie buried within the volumes on the shelves of Innerpeffray Library?
2023 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Adam Smith, the celebrated Scottish philosopher, political economist, author and leading participant in the Scottish Enlightenment. Events are taking place in many places, but particularly in Scotland, to mark the life of the man whose pioneering work and thinking on political economy influenced individuals, organisations and governments to think again about how a nation’s wealth is built and developed. Today, many would call Smith the father of capitalism and free market thinking.
To mark the tercentenary the following post will share information about two editions of Smith’s most famous work, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations, which are on the shelves of the Library of Innerpeffray.
Smith spent many years studying economics, trade and business before writing The Wealth of Nations and the final text covered subjects such as the division of labour, growth and productivity, competition, laissez-faire systems, free trade and free markets. He also included his thoughts on empire, colonialism and slavery and proposed schemes for both a gradual devolution of the British Empire and a theoretical scheme for imperial federation. These schemes left an ambiguous legacy that affected political and economic debate on empire for a very long time.
The Wealth of Nations influenced many economic thinkers, perhaps most famously, Karl Marx. But where Smith’s thinking on social evolution centred on human nature and the individual’s desire for self-betterment, Marx concentrated on social change being engineered through a struggle between different socio-economic classes.
Five editions of the book were published in Adam Smith’s lifetime and he added corrections and footnotes to some of these; many other editions were published after his death in 1790.
The Innerpeffray Acquisitions
Many of the library’s 18th century books were acquired at the instigation of Robert Hay Drummond (RHD), who inherited the Innerpeffray estate and thereby responsibility for the Library of Innerpeffray. RHD died in 1776, the year of publication of The Wealth of Nations, and no copy of it had been bought for his collection. In 2008 a local man, Tony Murray of Dollerie, Laird of Crieff and a Friend of Innerpeffray Library, donated his copy of the book (in three volumes) via a long-term loan to the library, to rectify this significant absence from the collection. It is an eleventh edition published in London in 1805 by T. Cadell and W.Davies.
The eleventh edition contains a page reprinted from the fourth edition where Smith wrote ‘an ‘advertisement’ about the contribution of information from Mr. Henry Hope of the Bank of Amsterdam. Hope was an important merchant banker in Holland and, it would seem, provided information that was important enough to Smith to warrant a very specific acknowledgement.
In 2013 the library received an important gift from an American bibliophile of Scottish descent, Janet Burns St Germain. Amongst this donation was a copy of the second continental edition of The Wealth of Nations, in four volumes. This edition was published in 1801 by James Decker (of Basle) and the Levrault brothers (of Paris) and it was the only edition to include an English translation of ‘Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Riches’ by the French economist and administrator, Anne-Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne.
Turgot’s book, published in 1766, had a great influence upon Adam Smith and has been described as “…the best work on the science published previous to the Wealth of Nations.”
In his youth Turgot was influenced by scientific curiosity, liberalism, tolerance and social evolution. He became friendly with philosophers of the school of physiocratic thought, which is now generally regarded as being the first scientific school of economics.
He was a talented and reforming administrator who served both Louis XV and Louis XVI. His attempts to reform France’s finances over his years of service to the crown were blocked by the privileged classes of France and he eventually fell out of favour with Louis XVI.
The Life and Times of Adam Smith
Smith was born in 1723 to Adam Smith (Senior), a Comptroller of Customs in Kirkcaldy, and Margaret Douglas, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Little is known of his early life other than a report that when he was four years old when he was four years old he was allegedly “abducted by gypsies” and then rescued.
His early education took place in Kirkcaldy and from there he went on, aged 14, to the University of Glasgow, an institution that was already centrally placed within the Scottish Enlightenment. At Glasgow, Smith became influenced by Francis Hutcheson, Professor of Moral Philosophy, who was an exponent of a theory that a person’s ‘moral sense’ could help them to make the right decisions and take appropriate actions in life. This influence played a part in Smith’s later work where he included aspects on human nature in his writing. For instance, in The Wealth of Nations he considers the struggle of the inner man “the impartial approval or condemnation of personal/others’ actions with a voice impossible to disregard” versus individual desire for self-interest or self-preservation.
In 1740, Smith graduated and gained a scholarship to Balliol College at the University of Oxford. He found life there less stimulating than at Glasgow and spent much of his time in self-education, largely in classical and contemporary philosophy. Six years later he gave a series of lectures in Edinburgh on rhetoric, history and economics, impressing his contemporaries in the process.
In 1751, aged 27, Smith was appointed by the University of Glasgow to the position of Professor of Logic and within two years he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy, a subject that covered theology, ethics, jurisprudence and political economy. Smith threw himself into his work at the University, teaching up to 90 students (aged 14-16) at a time. He taught them in English not Latin, a precedent which had been set by his own professor, Francis Hutcheson.
Smith also participated in Glasgow society, mixing with aristocrats, scientists, intellectuals and leading members of the Enlightenment, e.g., the philosopher David Hume, engineer James Watt, and Joseph Black, a pioneer in chemistry. Smith also met Robert Foulis, an important printer and publisher (who was also taught by Francis Hutcheson), and merchants and businessmen who were involved in colonial trade such as Andrew Cochrane, the founder of the Political Economy Club. These businessmen gave Smith important insights into the world of business and they influenced the ‘real world’ feel to the writing of the Wealth of Nations.
Smith’s life in Glasgow was a good one, both professionally and socially, and he described his time there as ‘…the happiest and most honourable period of my life.’ He published his first book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ in 1759.
In 1760, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts and in 1762 the university deferred the title LL.D upon him; but the following year he gave up his position to become a private tutor. He took up a role as tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch which was well paid and involved travelling to France where he met writer and philosopher Voltaire, economist and physician Quesney and Turgot, whose influence has already been commented upon above.
Smith returned to Britain in 1766 and for a period of years lived both in London and Kirkcaldy. During this time he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1773) and, of course, in 1776 published The Wealth of Nations, a book that had been at least ten years in the making. The book would bring him lasting fame and contribute not only to a new style of economic thinking but also to the rise of classical liberalism, a doctrine which held that governments should protect individual freedoms and liberties and protect people from the harmful actions of others.
Whilst he was living in Kirkcaldy, Smith spent much time caring for his mother; she died in 1784 when he was sixty-one. He did have an active social life during this time, visiting with and entertaining friends such as Irish statesmen and philosopher Edmund Burke, geologist James Hutton and two Prime Ministers- Lord North and Pitt the Younger. Stimulating company indeed! Additionally he took an active role in learned organisations such as the Oyster Club, the Poker Club and the Select Society; his friend and Enlightenment philosopher David Hume was also a member of the latter.
In his later years Smith was appointed in 1778 as Commissioner of His Majesty’s Customs in Scotland and moved back to Edinburgh. This appointment could be seen as somewhat ironic- a prominent advocate of free trade was now in charge of enforcing government rules and regulations on commerce. But Smith was never a complete economic libertarian and his father had been in the same trade, so the acceptance of the appointment is not wholly surprising. In 1783 he helped to found the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in 1787 the University of Glasgow appointed him as Lord Rector, an appointment he held until his death.
Adam Smith never married or had children though he did have a love interest during his young adult life; Dugald Stewart reports that she was ‘a young lady of great beauty and accomplishment.’ Her name is not known and neither is it known why a marriage did not result from the relationship.
He died in July 1790 and is buried at Canongate in Edinburgh.
Adam Smith led an extraordinary life: the life of an intellectual, a pioneer, and a participant in one of the greatest periods of progress and innovation the world has seen.
He left a legacy that is still recognised as important and books that are still read by students and people with an interest in economics, social history and politics. Organisations which he helped to found and/or promote still exist and prosper, statues have been erected, modern economic thinktanks are named after him and he is listed as a great Scot by many national organisations and media outlets. Three hundred years have passed since Adam Smith was born but I suspect that his intellectual legacy and importance is such that he will be remembered for many hundreds of years to come.
Today’s blog on the use of nicknames in the Innerpeffray visitors’ books is inspired by a recent discovery of a 1965 visitor to Innerpeffray, who signed their entry ‘Littel Elf’!
In the Innerpeffray visitors’ book of September 1965, there are a series of entries by the Hall family from Dundee. After Caroline and Rosalind (in what look like children’s handwriting), and before Daphne M., appears ‘Littel elf’. The question arose – who or what was this ‘Littel elf’? A small child would be my first guess, although it could also be an entry written on behalf of a family pet or child’s toy.
Alan McNee discusses some equally fantastical fictitious names in his 2020 article on visitors’ books, including the following two entries from the nineteenth-century Athole Arms Hotel visitors’ book in Blair Atholl: “Mr & Mrs Bogie Man & Woman & son” and “Podgy Wodgy, Ayry Fairy & Hoppety Poppety”.[i]Like McNee’s examples, the signature of ‘Littel Elf’ demonstrates the interesting relationship between visitors and visitors’ books. McNee goes on to write that the “visitors’ book was one of the very few places where an ordinary tourist, lacking the cultural capital to be published in print, could share her or his thoughts”.[ii]
Visitors’ books are not legal documents, where visitors are required by law to include their full and accurate details. By entering the name ‘Littel elf’ in the Innerpeffray visitors’ book, it has become part of a public record and part of our history. Whether a child’s toy or playful nickname, that moment of joy has been recorded in writing and will be remembered. It also got me thinking about other signatures in the visitors’ books which feature shortened or alternative names.
Turning to the twentieth century, an entry in the Innerpeffray visitors’ books from 30th September 1926 reads: ‘Bing Crosby – America’. While we have no further evidence to prove that Bing Crosby did indeed visit the library, there is also no reason to disbelieve this entry. In 1926, at the very start of his career, ‘Bing Crosby’ was not such a well-known name that there would have been any reason for someone to write a false entry. Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby Jr. (1903-1977) was an American singer, actor, entertainer and businessman, perhaps most famous for his version of the song ‘White Christmas’ which appeared in the films Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1954).
A keen golfer whose “passion for golf nearly equaled his love of performing”, it seems likely that Crosby was visiting and staying at the nearby Gleneagles Hotel, which had opened with much fanfare two years prior.[iii]
Reports vary on how Crosby received his iconic nickname – some say he received it as a joke from a teacher, others from his penchant for playing cops and robbers, and the most widely shared story is that it comes from a comic strip.
In 1932, the New York ‘Binghamton Press’ confirmed the latter, quoting Crosby’s mother, Mrs. E. L. Crosby: “When Harry was about seven years old, [a] neighbor boy started calling him ‘Bingville’ after the title of a newspaper comic. The name quickly was shortened to ‘Bingo,’ and finally ‘Bing.’”[iv] Published from c.1901 to 1934, Newton Newkirk’s column and comic ‘The Bingville Bugle’ detailed the hilarious exploits of the fictional town of Bingville.
By the age of 23, when Crosby visited Innerpeffray Library, he was more ‘Bing’ than he ever had been ‘Harry’.
Another notable use of a nickname in the visitors’ books is that of Lady Isabel Galloway Emslie Hutton (1887-1960), who signed her name in 1907 as ‘Bell G. Emslie’.
One of the innovators featured in Innerpeffray’s 2022 exhibition, Emslie Hutton was a trailblazing doctor who worked with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in France, Greece and Serbia during the First World War. In 1920, she worked with Lady Muriel Paget’s Child Welfare Scheme to house almost 140,000 Crimean refugees and orphaned children, and she is one of the only women (alongside Dr. Elsie Inglis) to have been awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle medal, the highest military honour bestowed by Serbia.
Visiting Innerpeffray at only 19 and before her illustrious career took off, Emslie Hutton signed her name in the visitors’ books as ‘Bell’ – perhaps using a family nickname since she was travelling with her parents. Funnily enough, in this instance, the use of a nickname almost prevented me from finding out more about her. What first brought her entry to my attention was her father’s signature, where James Emslie detailed that he was the Sub. Keeper of the Privy Seal in Scotland. Only after researching James Emslie did I find the link to his daughter.
The Innerpeffray visitors’ books record the names of thousands of visitors to the library from 1857. The first volume alone contains approximately 9,855 signatures – with a vast array of different naming practices. Whether nicknames, pet names or fond family jokes, the visitors’ books record them all.
Now, ‘Little Elf’ can join the ‘Innerpeffairies’ (inspired by a misspelling of ‘Innerpeffray’ in an 1868 visitors’ book entry) as an unofficial library mascot!
Isla Macfarlane, PhD Candidate
[i] Alan McNee, ‘‘Arry and “Arriet ‘out on a Spree’: Trippers, Tourists and Travellers Writing in Late-Victorian Visitors” Books’, Studies in Travel Writing, 24.2 (2020), 142–56 (p. 149) <https://doi.org/10.1080/13645145.2020.1847836>.
[iii] Richard West and Ted Thackrey Jr., ‘From the Archives: Bing Crosby Dies at 73 on Golf Course’, Los Angeles Times, 1977 <https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-bing-crosby-19771015-story.html>.
[iv] ‘Harry Crosby Got Nickname From Cartoon’, The Binghamton Press (Binghamton, New York, 1 February 1932), Monday Evening edition, p. 17.
Back in December 2022, I headed to Manchester for a whirlwind day tour of some of its prestigious libraries! On the day I was lucky enough to take part in a tour of Chetham’s Library and spend a little time researching at the Portico Library. Unfortunately I was in Manchester on a day when the John Rylands Library was closed, but I did pop in to Manchester’s Central Library to visit The Reading Girl statue by Giovanni Ciniselli (1832-1883):
“She was bought in Italy by Daniel Adamson, the first chairman of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, and given to the library by his family in 1938. There is a bit of a mystery about what she is reading – we know that it was originally a poem called The Angel’s Story which was printed on paper and pasted into her marble book but, by the time she came to the library, this had disappeared and we have never been able to trace the poem since.”
Chetham’s Library, founded in 1653 by Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653), is the oldest public library in the English speaking world. With more than 100,000 printed books, over 1,000 manuscript volumes and thousands more archival documents housed in a series of stunning medieval buildings on the site of the original Manchester Castle, Chetham’s is well worth a visit.
Founded only 27 years later, in 1680, the Library of Innerpeffray shares many similarities with Chetham’s. While Chetham’s is the oldest surviving public library in England, Innerpeffray was the first free lending library in Scotland. Both libraries were founded, alongside associated schools, by noblemen who left money for the purpose in their wills. In Humphrey Chetham’s 1651 will, it states that the library should be open “for the use of schollars and others well affected”, with the Keeper told to “require nothing of any man that cometh into the library”. In the 1680 will of Innerpeffray’s founder, David Drummond, third Lord Madderty, similar sentiments are shared, with the library established “for the benefit and encouragement of Young Students”.
Some additional highlights of my tour included seeing the surviving chained parish libraries and medieval cat flaps!
The next library on my tour was The Portico Library, a beautiful independent nineteenth-century subscription library, founded in 1806. William Gaskell, minister and husband of author Elizabeth Gaskell, was Chair of the Portico between 1849 and 1884 and visited Innerpeffray Library with Beatrix Potter’s parents in 1869.
The staff at the Portico very kindly let me have a look at a couple of their Strangers’ Books – books which recorded details of visitors and readers from outside Manchester who were introduced and vouched for by members.
The instructions read: “Any stranger not residing within five miles from Manchester, and not having an establishment, either commercial or otherwise, in town, may be admitted into the rooms for one calendar month, on being recommended by two proprietors, in their own handwriting…”
“At times, the books resemble a list of characters from a Boy’s Own adventure story, with mountaineers, palaeontologists, Irish cavalry officers and Napoleonic War luminaries all passing through the old entrance on Mosley Street. There are records of visitors from around the globe, as far as Rio de Janeiro, Old Calabar (Akwa Akpa), Calcutta (Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai) and Tasmania.”
Although I wish I could have stayed for longer, I briefly looked at two volumes, covering the periods 1837-1855 and 1853-1873. Even with just a quick glance through the names listed in the volumes, there were multiple entries signed by visitors from Perthshire and other parts of Scotland. I’m sure a future comparison with the Innerpeffray visitors’ books would be very interesting! Hopefully I can plan out a full research trip to the Portico one day in the future (and finally get in to John Rylands!)
As the coronation of King Charles III approaches, books on the shelves of the Library of Innerpeffray have revealed some fascinating details of past coronations in the United Kingdom and Europe. Part of the library’s current exhibition demonstrates that ‘there is nothing new’ in the modern world, that ideas, sayings and practices that seem unique or revolutionary in the present day are often just a reinvention of the past. In some ways the same could be said of the coronations of our country’s sovereigns. As time has passed, some of the arrangements and customs have remained fixed and some have altered, either by legislative changes or by innovation. But the essentials have stayed the same.
For hundreds of years the church and the Christian tradition have been involved at the heart of the coronation service. When the current Archbishop of Canterbury steps forward to crown King Charles III he will be following in the footsteps of his predecessors, following an age old form of words and actions. But the person who preaches the coronation sermon will have the opportunity to do something unique, to deliver a homily which represents present day circumstances and sensibilities to a sovereign who must serve his country in a multicultural world.
In the past the sermon has only had to reflect a Christian perspective and at the coronation of King George III in September 1761 a Bishop who had a very special connection to the Library of Innerpeffray, Robert Hay Drummond (RHD), delivered it. RHD was the great-nephew of David Drummond, the 3rd Lord Madertie and founder of the Library of Innerpeffray. RHD inherited responsibility for the library and adjoining school in 1739 and did much to augment and extend the book stock. He also raised the funds to build the beautiful neo-classical building in which the library is still housed.
So, how did RHD come to preach the sermon at the coronation of George III? Possibly, as the result of the influence of royal patronage. He had come to the attention of Queen Caroline (the wife of George II) whilst he was acting in a play at Westminster School and some years after she influenced his appointment, at the relatively young age of 25, to the royal chaplaincy. She remained his patroness for the rest of her life. RHD accompanied George II whilst the king was on campaign in Europe and preached a sermon for him.
He continued to advance within the church spending time in the bishoprics of St.Asaph and Sarum (Salisbury.) In 1761, whilst he was the Archbishop-elect for York, he was chosen to preach the coronation sermon.
He chose an Old Testament verse (I Kings, X.9) as the basis of the sermon – ‘because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do justice and judgement.’ The sermon was described as being ‘sensible and spirited and free from fulsome panegyric’, dignified in style and delivered in well-chosen language. In reading the sermon it is very clear that RHD presented his advice to the king in two main arguments that he described as truths: –
‘That when great and good kings reign, they are the means by which God blesses his people,’ and
‘That the duty and the end of royalty is to do justice and judgement.’
The sermon uses other biblical texts to illustrate his arguments and he sets out various ideas on how the sovereign can lead by example; influence society for the common good, peace and happiness; be mindful of the people’s affection for the previous monarch and his achievements; accept any personal suffering he may face in the course of his duty and service to the country and utilise general knowledge and science as well as religion in reaching his decisions. If he followed these directions, RHD opined, the country would be blessed with citizens who had a respect for the law and who showed a ‘cheerful obedience’ to government. RHD also exhorted the people to be loyal and supportive of the new king in the pursuit of ‘pure religion’, virtue, just government and liberty. Regardless of individual belief or religious practise, some readers might consider that the sermon would produce a good template for life today and it is possible to see many facets of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II through this lens. Once again, some aspects of life change very little over time.
Some time after the coronation in 1761 the King ordered that the sermon should be published and the Library of Innerpeffray holds a copy of it in a book of RHD’s sermons. The following image is taken from that book.
A second book in the library, a compendium of The Scots Magazine, gives a detailed account of the coronation of George III and Queen Charlotte, which took place only two weeks after their marriage. The account mentions the role of RHD and describes a very long day –starting at 9am and finishing after 10pm – which was marred by mishaps and a very prolonged, tiring ceremony. It is reported that one of the jewels fell out of the King’s crown during the day and that it was found after the coronation banquet; but there is no actual evidence of this. Even the weather was covered – a letter reprinted from the London Chronicle of 29 September 1761 tells us that the weather leading up to and following the coronation day was wet and stormy, but the day itself enjoyed ‘…an extraordinary alteration in the weather.’
But perhaps the most interesting part of the article is a detailed description of the procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. The participants were lined up in order and walked to the Abbey, preceded by a herb woman and six maids who scattered herbs on the route ahead of the walkers. The participants were numerous and varied and included Peers and Peeresses of the realm, soldiers, choristers, clerks, masters of the king’s wardrobe and jewels, privy counsellors, knights, heralds, barons and baronesses, aldermen, aristocrats, clergy, sheriffs, senior legal staff, members of the King’s and Queen’s personal staff, senior government officials and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Quite a gathering of the great and the good and the writer describes it as a procession that ‘…far excelled any thing of the kind ever known in this kingdom, or any other part of the world, for grandeur and magnificence…’
Once inside the Abbey the lengthy coronation service began and the article gives a detailed account, outlining the order of service, the participants, the regalia used, the clothing, the chairs of Estate used by the monarch and his consort and the music performed by musicians and choristers. As a piece of reportage it is clear and interesting and gives the reader a real understanding of the proceedings.
The following photograph shows an extract from the article about the order of the procession. This represents only a proportion of the people who took part- there is another page and a half of detail.
In reading these books and other accounts it has become clear that many similarities exist between the coronations of the distant and recent past. The UK is the only country in Europe still to carry out a formal coronation of the monarch and his consort and with over a thousand years of history of coronations, in four very different nations, it is perhaps surprising that so many elements of the event are familiar to us today. As has already been said, there is not much in life today that is really new; we are not in uncharted territory where coronations are concerned.
Examples of continuing customs are:
The coronation oath– this is the only legal requirement in the proceedings and it has been amended over the centuries to reflect the changes in our society such as the roles of different churches, the political union of kingdoms, the creation of The Commonwealth etc. But essentially the oath remains a promise to govern according to the laws and customs of all citizens.
The use of Westminster Abbey – the venue has been used since 1066 (initially only in England) and the upcoming coronation will be the fortieth to be held there.
The Procession – the monarch makes a public procession from his/her place of residence to the abbey. These days the monarch travels by coach rather than on foot but the eye-catching and colourful pageantry remains.
Regalia – the orb, sceptre, coronation ring and St. Edward’s crown are still used.
The Stone of Destiny forms part of the structure of the throne. This year it will travel from its home in Edinburgh Castle to London for the ceremony but will then return to Scotland.
Holy Oil is used to anoint the monarch using a spoon that has been part of the coronation regalia (in England) for hundreds of years. It survived the destruction of religious artefacts by Oliver Cromwell, though St. Edward’s crown did not. That is a replica.
Music – this forms a centrepiece of the ceremony and new pieces are often commissioned (eight by George III, twelve by Charles III.) Some pieces are a fixture eg Handel’s composition for Zadok the Priest.
Homage is paid to the new sovereign by attendees, though the numbers included in this part of the ceremony vary.
A Court of Claims (now called the Coronation Claims Office) is set up to allow people to apply for official roles in the coronation.
Crowds – the streets are filled with spectators and the abbey is crowded with invited guests and officials. Galleries have been built in the streets, in the abbey and in Westminster Hall in the past to accommodate huge numbers of spectators, guests and participants.
Public celebrations – military guns are fired, street parties are held, recipes are created (Coronation Chicken, Coronation Quiche), fireworks and/or bonfires are lit.
Re–enactments – these days the coronation is replayed on TV and streamed all over the world to allow public involvement in the event whereas in the past plays and re-enactments took place to allow people outside of London to get a flavour of what had happened in the capital.
The State pays for a state occasion. The budget for George III’s coronation was initially estimated to be £9,430 but it has been reported as actually costing anywhere up to £70,000. Overspends in public life reverberate all through history!
So wherever you are on coronation day look out for innovations. They are not always numerous and you will be observing history in the making. Interesting accounts of the coronations of the past remain in books, diaries, print newspapers and journals in libraries and archives all over the world. Indeed we have copies of The Tatler, Picture Post and The Field at Innerpeffray that document royal events of the 20th century, including the coronation of the late Queen. But we live in a digital, fast-changing world and it will be interesting for today’s younger generations to see how much of the coverage of this year’s coronation actually survives.
What happened to Robert Hay Drummond after the coronation of George III? He served for many years as Archbishop of York and undertook renovations of his palace and the parish church of York. He was a hospitable man, a friend to many and a liberal patron of the arts. He became Lord High Almoner to George III and reformed many abuses of that office whilst also taking part in the proceedings of the House of Lords where he influenced political power as a Whig. Policy changes against the Whigs occurred during the reign of George III and this led RHD to cease attending the House of Lords. He then devoted himself entirely to his archdiocese and the education of his children, particularly with respect to the teaching of history and the love of reading, encouraging a wide range of books. His wife Henrietta (whom he had married in 1749) died in 1773 and RHD never really recovered from the blow, passing away himself in 1776.
Music played for George III. The 1761 coronation is the only one known where one composer, William Boyce, created almost all of the music. He composed eight new anthems but refused to compose a new setting for Zadok the Priest. He petitioned the king to allow Handel’s original composition to be used and the king agreed. Handel’s wonderful piece has been used ever since. Three full rehearsals of the coronation music took place before the event and tickets to these rehearsals were sold to the public. The scope of the music demanded a huge cast of musicians and choristers, so much so that alterations had to be made to the layout of the abbey and an assistant conductor appointed so that everyone could actually follow the conductor’s instructions.
The Scots Magazine claims to be the oldest magazine in the world that is still being published. Whether or not that is the case, it is certainly one of the world’s best selling Scottish interest magazines. It was first published in 1739 and has had some breaks in publication during its existence. It has been published continuously since 1927 under a series of owners, the current owner being DC Thomson & Co Ltd, the publisher of various famous comics (The Beano, Dandy, The Broons etc) and newspapers and owner of several media sites. One of its most famous editors from 1759-65 was William Smellie, who was the joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a friend of Robert Burns and the editor of the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Charles Bathurst (cited on the title page of RHD’s printed coronation sermon) was a London bookseller. He started his working life as an apprentice printer and worked for Benjamin Motte, whose bookselling and publishing business operated from Middle Temple Gate, Fleet Street, London. Motte published work by Jonathan Swift, initially anonymously at the author’s request and notably Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. Later on, Bathurst and Motte collaborated on other works and printed another book written by Swift, A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation.
If this has whetted your appetite to look at and/or read some of the treasures held in The Library of Innerpeffray, please take a look at our website which contains details of our collections and opening times for visitors.
Some of the collection can only be viewed by prior appointment with The Keeper of Books, Lara Haggerty, so please do check in advance if there is something in particular that you would like to see. We are no longer a lending library, so unfortunately you cannot borrow books.
During the winter months, when the library is closed to the public, there is still a lot of work to be done on the collections. The appropriate storage and care of books is an important part of the library’s work and our volunteers are kept busy with the dusting of the books, checking their shelf positions against the catalogue, identifying necessary repairs to covers and/or pages and cleaning the bookcases. It is an important exercise which is for the most part routine. But it does offer the chance for volunteers to get to know the collections more closely and to study books of particular interest to them. And, from time to time, we rediscover a book that throws a light on events in the modern world through the lens of history.
One such book was discovered shortly after the Supreme Court’s judgement on whether a second referendum on independence could be held in Scotland under legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Court ruled against the arguments made by the Scottish government and, in doing so, brought the public and media spotlight back onto the nature of the Union and the matters that are reserved in law for determination by the UK Parliament. So when the small, nondescript slim brown volume was first taken off the shelf for cleaning little did we know that it would be so topical and pertinent to the current debate.
The book may be small in physical size (smaller than a typical modern paperback,) relatively short at 156 pages, but it is a first edition, has a long and impressive title, a celebrity author and is signed by a famous person. It also forms part of a very important collection of books (the Scotland Collection) which was gifted to the library in 2013 by a wealthy American bibliophile, Janet Burns St.Germain.
The following photographs show the front cover, the spine and the impressive title page.
Several points of interest can be seen from the title page:
The text is about an inquiry into the reasonableness and consequences of a Union with Scotland
The book was printed and sold in Paternoster Row in London in 1706 by a ‘publisher’ named Benjamin Bragg. So it was published in the year in which the Treaty of Union was ratified.
The name of the author is not included on the title page, but as can be seen from the handwritten note on the opposite page, the author has been identified as William Paterson, a co-founder of the Bank of England.
An outline description of the contents of the book has been set out, including a proposed scheme for the Union of the two countries (note that only Scotland is mentioned on the title page, England is not) and a discussion of the relative financial, legal and other ‘facts of moment’.
So, we now know what the book is about and we know the identity of the author but why is William Paterson not identified on the title page? Well, the text is written in the form of a report on the proceedings of and discussions amongst the members of an imaginary club named the ‘Wednesdays Club in Friday Street.’ There is a dedication written under the pseudonym of Lewis Medway, addressed to Laurence Philips, Esq near York and the text that follows is an important attempt to explain the economic consequences of a proposed Union between Scotland and England. The club members discuss various topics about the proposed Union and Lewis Medway
provides a record of the meeting plus an account of individuals’ opinions and observations.
It can be seen from the dedication that Paterson was very much in favour of the Union, arguing that the loss of the countries’ standing in the world and their economic problems was owing to ‘the want of a Union.’ Indeed he states, as a further argument, that ‘..a Kingdom divided within, or against itself, cannot stand.’ His argument throughout the text could be summarised as being that the introduction of a Union was not only convenient but a necessity and that all arguments against it could be weighed and measured against the positive ones and found wanting.
The book was written at a time when the crowns of Scotland and England had long been unified but their Parliaments, of course, had not. Various pieces of legislation passed in England and the failure of the Darien Scheme (which Paterson had helped to devise) in the late 17th century had affected both trade (particularly with the Dutch) and thus the economy of Scotland. In addition the two countries had different ideas about the nature of the Succession to the crown and this problem needed to be resolved since Queen Anne had no living heir. It made sense to many of the nobility and political classes, therefore, to unite the two Parliaments though, in Scotland at least, the opinion of everyday folk was at odds with their world view.
On reading the details of the contents page it can be seen that many of the arguments of 1706 are still being discussed in the media and Parliament today. For instance, the advantages/disadvantages of the Union to both countries; the amount of representation Scotland should have within the unified Parliament; the effects of a united economy on the relationship with European countries; the need for common granary and fisheries policy; ports of entry to the country; the relationship with the island of Ireland; the effects of restraints and prohibitions of trade on the economy and of course the discussions on taxation, debts and revenues, customs and excise, government expenses, coinage, weights and measures and poor relief (benefits, in today’s language.) Does this all sound familiar?
The final four pages contain information on a proposed scheme for the representation of Scotland in the unified Parliament, setting out numbers of representatives and taxation per Shire, Borough and city.
And what of the signature of the famous person? Well that belongs to James Boswell the younger (1775 -1822) and it can be found near the beginning of the book with a date of 1809 beside it. Boswell was the second surviving son of the more famous James Boswell, the lawyer and biographer of Samuel Johnson, a biography which is considered to be among the finest in the English language. The younger Boswell was also a lawyer and he rose to become Commissioner of Bankrupts. He was also the literary executor of Edmond Malone, a Shakespeare scholar and a friend of the elder Boswell.
In carrying out some background research for this post, a number of interesting facts surrounding people and places relating to the book came to my attention and I thought that they might be of interest to some readers.
William Paterson ( 1658 – 1719) was a Scottish trader and banker, co-founder of the Bank of England and one of the main proponents of the catastrophic and commercially disastrous Darien Scheme. In early life he emigrated to the West Indies where he gained considerable business acumen as a merchant. He was also reported as having had dealings with local buccaneers. He first conceived the Darien scheme whilst living in the West Indies and perceived it as a trading colony in Panama for Scotland to gain economic advantage in establishing trade links with the Far East. On returning to London in 1687 he made a fortune with the Merchant Taylors’ Company, through foreign trade, perhaps primarily through the slave trade in the West Indies. In 1691 he published a pamphlet, A Brief Account of the Intended Bank of England. He became a director of the bank in 1694 but left his position in 1695 after disagreements with colleagues. In 1698 he travelled to Panama with his family to join the Darien expedition. His wife and child died and he became very ill himself. On returning to Scotland in 1699 he became active in his support for the pro-Union movement.
Benjamin Bragg was a bookseller by trade, sometimes known as a trade publisher. In the times that he was operating, the term publisher meant something entirely different to what we know today. A publisher could commission a book to be printed but he/she could also be involved in the wholesale and/or retail book trade. He was involved in the production of many books and pamphlets but some of his publications were seemingly dubious in terms of how and when they appeared on the market. He fell foul of the Court of the Stationers’ Company (see notes below) and appears in their court records more than once; for example, in November 1706 his name appears in relation to the selling of sham almanacks.
The printing trade was controlled as a monopoly from 1557 by a livery company known as the Stationers’ Company (SC). The SC was also responsible for policing the industry and also controlled as a monopoly a joint stock company called The English Stock which had sole control of the publishing of almanacks, psalters, school books, ABCs and catechisms. It was this monopoly which Benjamin Bragg offended against in 1706 (see above.)
Copyright Law. In 1695 the Licensing Act was allowed to lapse and this produced a situation where anyone with enough capital and access to a press could set themselves up as a publisher. This led to an explosion in piracy in the printing trade and the whole subject of who owned copyright in the printed word was brought into sharp focus. In 1704 the novelist and poet Daniel Defoe wrote an essay on the regulation of the press in which he argued for a free press but with the introduction of some statutory protections to give authors the rights to their own work and to prevent piracy. Benjamin Bragg seems to have been involved in piracy; in 1706 he published a pirated, error-filled edition of Defoe’s ‘Jure Divino’ one day before the official version was due to appear. In 1706 the bookseller trade also argued for a change in the law, to protect publishers and authors. In 1707 a group of thirteen influential City of London publisher/booksellers (not including Bragg) introduced a petition to parliament on the subject of copyright. All of this eventually led, in 1710, to the Statute of Anne which was effectively the first legislation on copyright.
Paternoster Row was situated in the St.Pauls Churchyard area of the City of London until it was devastated by aerial bombing during in World War II. In 2003 it was replaced by Paternoster Square. In the 12th century it was the centre of production of paternoster beads by skilled artisans. These beads were used by illiterate monks and friars to help them keep track of the progress of their required daily recitations of Our Father (Pater noster) prayers. The road is said to have received its name from the habit of monks and clergy leaving St Pauls Cathedral and processing along the road chanting the litany, including the Pater noster prayer. Nearby streets, Ave Maria Lane and Amen Corner also received their names from these processions. By the time Benjamin Bragg was operating out of the Black Raven, Paternoster Row was the centre of London’s bookseller trade, with the different bookseller properties being advertised by signs rather than numbers.
The Black Raven was taken over in 1710/11 by a lady named Sarah Popping who was a bookseller, printer and publisher. She published, among many other things, a newspaper named The Observator which was associated with Daniel Defoe. She also published works which are attributed to Defoe. In 1711 she was imprisoned for libel and in 1712 she was taken into custody accused of printing, against the order giving printing rights to someone else, a report on the trial of the Earl of Winton for treason. She was released however after claiming no knowledge of how her name had been connected to the publication!
Janet Burns St. Germain was American by birth but was of Scottish ancestry. She had a lifelong interest in Scotland, its history and culture and she amassed a sizeable collection of rare Scottish books, most of them first editions. She donated them to The Library of Innerpeffray from 2013 onwards, intending them to be seen and read. Some of the Library’s greatest treasures are contained within this Scottish Collection. Janet died in 2016.
And finally, if this has whetted your appetite to look at and/or read some of the treasures held in The Library of Innerpeffray we look forward to welcoming you: opening times for visitors can be found here. This book: An Inquiry into the Reasonableness and Consequences of an Union with Scotland, London, 1706 will be on display in 2023 as part of our ‘Nothing New’ exhibition.
Some of the collection can only be viewed by prior appointment with The Keeper of Books, Lara Haggerty, so please do check in advance if there is something in particular that you would like to see. We are no longer a lending library, so unfortunately you cannot borrow books.
Please note that we are currently closed for the winter and will reopen on 1 March 2023.
Today’s Visitor Vignette features one of my favourite signatures in the Innerpeffray Visitors’ Books, a young visitor to the library on 22nd August 1899.
Every time I come across this page, I am delighted all over again that Alice Mary Griffith allowed her son Rupert (aged 6) to sign his own entry. You can picture the interaction: Rupert watches other people signing the visitors’ book and wants to have a go. The adults around him make eye contact above his head, have that silent discussion about whether he’s too young, and eventually concede. Rupert takes up the pen, and in his very best handwriting, carefully forming each letter and making sure to dip the pen back in the ink on multiple occasions, inscribes his name. And the visitors’ books are forever blessed by this wonderful entry.
Although neither Rupert nor A. M. Griffith leave any indication as to their location or place of residence, the Bagshawe entries which bracket the Griffiths indicate that the party was staying presently in Crieff and visiting from Manchester and Cheltenham. And indeed, it was possible to track down records of Rupert and Alice Mary Griffith in and around Cheltenham.
Rupert Vardon de Burgh Griffith was born on the 25th December 1892 to Walter Hubert de Burgh Griffith and Alice Mary Griffith (née Gaitskell). He was baptised the following year, on 26th January 1893, in the same church where his parents had married in August 1891.
Rupert was educated in Cheltenham and by age 18 was studying at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where the 1911 Census records “Rupert V de B Griffith” working as a “Gentleman Cadet.”
In the 1914 edition of Hart’s Annual Army Lists, digitised and available online through the NLS, Rupert is listed as a Second Lieutenant, having joined the Royal Fusiliers on the 13th March 1912, when he was 19. Almost exactly three years later, he was killed in action in St. Eloi, France, on the 12th March 1915, having been promoted to Lieutenant five months before. Rupert was buried in the Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery in Belgium.
There is quite a lot of information already available about Rupert’s career in the Royal Fusiliers and his death during the First World War. His obituary includes his last words, “Cheer up, lads; time’s up in five minutes” and adds that he “was a good all-round athlete, his favourite sports being football, polo and rowing.” And now we can also add to his story that when he was 6 years old, he accompanied his Mum to the Library of Innerpeffray and convinced her to let him sign the visitors’ book himself.
The theme of the main exhibition this year at the Library of Innerpeffray has been “Innovation and Invention”. It was inspired by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, an innovator ahead of his time, when in 1680 he decided to share his collection of books by founding the first free public lending library in the UK, as well as a school, at Innerpeffray.
No doubt many of the ‘ordinary’ folk who borrowed books from Innerpeffray would go on to become innovators and inventors, in various fields and to greater or lesser degrees. Two such Borrowers, John Barclay and Robert Stirling, were chosen to be part of the 2022 exhibition.
John Barclay 1758 -1826
John Barclay was born 1758, at Cairn, near Drummaquhance, where his father, James, was a farmer. The family later moved to Strageath, just across the river from Innerpeffray. It was John’s uncle, also named John, who founded the Borean or Barclayan church sect in Edinburgh.
John was educated at the parish school of Muthill and in 1776 he went to the University of St Andrews to study divinity. He was a Borrower at Innerpeffray in 1777 and 1780. As well as preaching he acted as private tutor to the sons of Sir James Campbell of Aberuchill, whose daughter, Eleonora, he would marry in 1811. In 1789 he moved to Edinburgh with his pupils, where he became interested in the anatomical classes at the medical school. From that time on he devoted himself to medical studies and took the degree M.D. in 1796.
In 1797 he began to deliver private lectures on anatomy. His new anatomical nomenclature was published in 1803 and in 1806 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1808 he published his work on the muscular motions of the human body and in 1812, a description of the arteries of the human body. Until 1825 he was delivering two complete courses of human anatomy each day, every winter session, and for several years, gave a summer course on comparative anatomy. He died in Edinburgh on 28th August 1826.
23rd June 1777 2 vols. William Robertson – ‘ The History of the Emperor Charles V’
20th September 1777 Vol. 1 William Temple – ‘The Works of William Temple’
23rd May 1780 James Ferguson – ‘Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s principles’
Robert Stirling 1790 – 1878
Robert Stirling was born 1790, at Cloag, near Methven, where his family farmed. The Stirlings were part of an extended family, mostly tenant farmers, whose farms were to be found between Perth and Stirling. By the time Robert was born the family had introduced new farming methods, new crops which had been bred to produce higher yields and new types of machinery.
At the age of 15, Robert went off to Edinburgh to study for a Master of Arts degree. He does not appear to have graduated but, in those days, this was not a requirement for extra study or ordination. In 1806 he borrowed two books from Innerpeffray in June and one in the July. It may be that his visit to the library coincided with a visit to Stirling family relations who were at that time tenant farmers at Innerpeffray Mains Farm. Members of this family were already regular borrowers at Innerpeffray.
In 1809 he was accepted by Glasgow University as a student of divinity for another four years, before returning to Edinburgh for a further year. He continued his divinity studies until 1815, when he was licensed as a probationary minister by the Presbytery of Dumbarton. On 19th September 1816 he was ordained as a suitable minister for the second charge at Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock.
On the 26th September 1816, he lodged his application to patent the “Stirling air engine”, later known as the “Stirling heat exchanger”. Robert and his brother James went on to patent further engines some of which have been adapted over the years to power cars, computer chip coolers, portable refrigerators and more recently used in the solar power sector.
He married in July 1819 and in 1823 he moved his wife and young family to Galston, Ayrshire, where he would remain Minister for 52 years. He had a workshop built beside the Manse where he continued with his engine work. He also became interested in making telescopes, under the tutelage of his friend Thomas Morton.
Robert died at Galston on 6th June, 1878.
10th June 1806 Count de Buffon ‘Natural History, general and particular’ Vol. 5
Edward Gibbon ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’
23rd July 1806 William Robertson ‘History of America Volume the First’
After the Festival of Reading last year, I posted the following blog to the Books and Borrowing website, recapping all the fantastic events that made up our inaugural festival. Read on to whet your appetite for this year’s events!
Last week I spent a delightful few days at the Library of Innerpeffray’s inaugural Festival of Reading! From Wednesday 8th to Saturday 11th September 2021, Innerpeffray hosted eight Tayside writers to celebrate The Past on the Page, in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott.
In the run up to the festival, the library launched the A Postcard to Reading project – a campaign to collect information about reading with participants filling out postcards and sending them in the post from wherever they live. There has been a fantastic uptake and the library has received responses from all over the world – with the furthest so far from Canada and Australia! Some of the first books people remember have been The Wind in the Willows, Little Grey Rabbit, and Winnie the Pooh. The most popular book choices have been The Bible, Pride and Prejudice and The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. And miles ahead of any other answer, the most oft-cited response to ‘What does reading mean to you?’ has been escapism and education!
On Wednesday 8th September, the Festival of Reading kicked off with a brilliant conversation with nature writer and wildlife guide Tom Bowser. Organised by the Friends of Innerpeffray Library, in this event Tom discussed the realities of rewilding Scotland through his award-winning Argaty Red Kite project and his 2021 book, A Sky Full of Kites, published by Birlinn. The subject of potentially reintroducing beavers to Scotland certainly divided the audience…
On Thursday 9th September I took part in a creative writing workshop with historian and author Steph Haxton, writer of the Pendennis trilogy. In addition to writing a series of short pieces inspired by old photographs and objects, we made our own small accordion-fold (or liperello) books and learned about different methods of approaching historical fiction. At the end of the workshop, I even wrote a ghost story about Innerpeffray that might one day see the light of day!
Friday 10th September brought two author events and an evening of music, poetry and song. In the morning, we were delighted to welcome Perthshire author Linda Cracknell for a conversation about writing fiction with an eye on the past and her new book, The Other Side of Stone, which weaves tales of various characters around a woollen mill between 1831 and 2019.
On Friday afternoon we welcomed New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Wein to discuss her young adult books including Code Name Verity (2012), The Enigma Game (2020), and The Pearl Thief (2017) – the latter inspired by Innerpeffray Library! It was brilliant to hear Elizabeth’s passion for writing for young people and how her pilot’s license has brought flight into her books.
On Friday evening we gathered in the grounds for drinks and fresh air before moving into the library itself. Brought together by the incomparable Jim C. Mackintosh, poet and Makar of the Federation of Writers Scotland, we were treated to an evening of music and words with violinist Karys Watt, guitarist Dave Macfarlane, singer Aileen Ogilvie and fellow poet Julie McNeill.
Words cannot describe how magical it was to listen and feel the rhythm through the floorboards – for many, including myself, this was our first live music in eighteen months. Jim and Julie read some of their own poems – inspired by themes of resilience and history – and the band performed songs in both English and Gaelic. Towards the end of the evening we contributed to a unique, crowdsourced poem – five members of the audience read a selection of words that had resonated with them throughout the pandemic, topped and tailed by lines by Jim and Julie. Serendipitous and beautiful – the chosen lines of poetry and prose flowed perfectly, creating a one-off poem just for that audience on that night.
On Saturday morning the library hosted two events: one for families and children and one hosted by our very own Books and Borrowing team! Author and illustrator Natalie Russell took children and their adults on an adventure down the heritage trail to bring their stories to life – I was later told by one participant that he had created a squirrel-beaver cross that loves mangos!
In the main library, Katie, Matt, Isla, Marian, Alex, and Lara presented some findings from their research projects – telling the audience all about the borrowing registers we have been investigating, literacy in Scotland, and Innerpeffray’s visitors’ books. After a quick break we took the audience upstairs and hosted a Q&A, discussing topics such as various occupations found in the borrowing registers (poachers, maids and vagabonds!) and the concept of honesty – the different ways borrowers were trusted to take books home.
On Saturday afternoon we were joined by Gothic writer Helen Grant and historian Steph Haxton who discussed the differences between traditional historical fiction and ghost stories inspired by history. In the course of the panel, we were charmed by stories of spirits taking care of their resting places and scared by tales of ministers hung for crimes they might not have committed!
For the grand finale of the festival, Dr Daniel Cook delighted the audience with renditions and discussions of some of Sir Walter Scott’s supernatural tales, including ‘The Fortunes of Martin Waldeck’, ‘Wandering Willie’s Tale’ and ‘Donnerhugel’s Narrative’. Dan brought home the theme of this first Festival of Reading – inspiring thoughts of the enduring legacy of Scott and the Past on the Page.
Hosting a festival with authors, audience-members, and the possibility of thunderstorms at the end of a pandemic is no small feat but the Library of Innerpeffray prevailed and this inaugural festival was a success! Thank you so much to all the speakers, performers, attendees, organisers, and volunteers for making the week so rewarding. Time to get planning next year’s festival celebrating Scotland’s Year of Stories!