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Meet the Borrower – Thomas Stalker Pt 1

Thomas Stalker was the Gamekeeper at Innerpeffray for over 30 years. He began borrowing books from Innerpeffray Library soon after taking up the employment, in the early 1860s, and continued to do so throughout his time in the area. In December 1864 he married Ann McLean and they brought up their family in Parkneuk Cottage.

The first time Thomas appears in the records is on the 15th April 1865, when he borrowed the ‘Fortunes of Nigel’ by Sir Walter Scott. Throughout 1865 he borrowed a further five of Scott’s novels and another five of them in 1866. Scott’s novels remained a favoured choice of reading throughout his borrowing and, over the years, he would often return to some of them several times. Robert Burns was another long term favourite, as was Shakespeare.

Apart from the novels by Sir Walter Scott, Thomas borrowed novels by other authors as well as books such as ‘Five years of a hunter’s life in the far interior of South Africa’ by Roualeyn Gordon Cumming. Perhaps he wanted to compare his life as a gamekeeper in Scotland with that of a Scotsman going hunting in far off country such as Africa!

As the years progressed Thomas’s choice of reading matter began to expand and by the early 1870s, although still borrowing the occasional novel, he is clearly developing interests in a much wider range of subjects. The history of England and Scotland, as well as that of the wider world, became his main reading list. Add to that historical and critical accounts of the life of Oliver Cromwell, Nelson, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Ferdinand and Isabella, and other notables. He borrowed books about adventures at sea and to places such as Arabia and America, This increased desire for knowledge of the wider world continued throughout his borrowing but there were also books that he returned to regularly for reference, such as Robert Chambers’ ‘The Book of Days’ and William Chambers’ ‘Papers’.

Perhaps rather an unusual choice of book was ‘Elise, or Innocencie guilty: a new romance translated into English by Jo: Jennings, gent..’ printed in 1655. The printing date for this book, along with other 17th century books that Thomas took home to read, would seem to indicate that all of the books in the Innerpeffray collection were made accessible to borrowers. no matter which level of social class they were deemed to come from.

In 1875 the Stalker children began to borrow books from Innerpeffray and an insight into their choice of reading will be covered in Part 2.

Thomas Stalker borrowed so many books for them all to be listed here but the following extracts from the Borrowers Register, 1865 to 1878, give an insight into his choice of reading during these years. (Note: Extracted entries are transcribed exactly as they appear in the Borrowers Register.)

15-4-1865Fortunes of NigelSir Walter Scott
03-MayFive years of a hunter’s lifeRoualeyn Gordon-Cumming
03-JunRed GauntletSir Walter Scott
01-SepBurns Life and Works
12-NovThe LamplighterMaria Susanna Cummins
16-2-1866Old MortalitySir Walter Scott
26-FebThe TalismanSir Walter Scott
16-AprAnne of GeiersteinSir Walter Scott
20-9-1867Life of NelsonAllan
6-1-1868Russel War 1853, 1854
08-DecRob RoySir Walter Scott
12-1-1869Quentin DurwardSir Walter Scott
29-DecLife of Napoleon
4-2-1870Life of Oliver CromwellWilliam Harris
29-AprLife and Works of Robert BurnsAlan Cunningham
15-4-1871Memoirs of EnglishwomenLouisa Stuart Costello
20-MayShakespeare’s Plays
14-5-1872The Roving Englishman
07-NovSt. Ronans WellSir Walter Scott
2-10-1873WaverleySir Walter Scott
19-NovScotts Poems
6-1-1874Lives of the successors of MahometWashington Irving
29-JanConquest of Florida
10-FebFerdinand and IsabellaWilliam Prescott
12-MarThe Book of DaysRobert Chambers
07-AprArabian Tales and Anecdotes Conspiracies – 15/16/17 centuries  John Park Lawson
19-MayAdventures of British Seamen Robertson Adventures in America
21-7-1874Bird Architecture
14-NovWaverleySir Walter Scott
04-DecChambers PapersWilliam Chambers
25-5-1875Stewarts Queen MaryGilbert Stuart
01-JulThe Memoirs of Sir James MelvilleJames Melville
24-AugElise or Innocencie guiltyJean Pierre Camus
20-1-1876The History of EnglandThomas Macaulay
04-JulMemoirs of the Duke of Wellington
20-JulThe Roving Englishman
2-1-1877Men of the TimeAlaric Watts
10-MayBurns Life and WorksAlan Cunningham
27-NovScotts Prose Works
2-7-1878Chambers PapersWilliam Chambers
04-JulMemoirs of EnglishwomenLouisa Stuart Costello
17-OctLife of Wellington