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.)

15-4-1865 Fortunes of Nigel Sir Walter Scott
3-5 Five years of a hunter’s life Roualeyn Gordon-Cumming
3-6 Red Gauntlet Sir Walter Scott
1-9 Burns Life and Works  
12-11 The Lamplighter Maria Susanna Cummins
19-12 Queechy Methade
16-2-1866 Old Mortality Sir Walter Scott
26-2 The Talisman Sir Walter Scott
16-4 Anne of Geierstein Sir Walter Scott
20-9-1867 Life of Nelson Allan
6-1-1868 Russel War 1853, 1854  
8-12 Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott
12-1-1869 Quentin Durward Sir Walter Scott
29-12 Life of Napoleon  
4-2-1870 Life of Oliver Cromwell William Harris
29-4 Life and Works of Robert Burns Alan Cunningham
15-4-1871 Memoirs of Englishwomen Louisa Stuart Costello
20-5 Shakespeare’s Plays  
14-5-1872 The Roving Englishman  
7-11 St. Ronans Well Sir Walter Scott
2-10-1873 Waverley Sir Walter Scott
19-11 Scotts Poems  
6-1-1874 Lives of the successors of Mahomet Washington Irving
29-1 Conquest of Florida  
10-2 Ferdinand and Isabella William Prescott
12-3 The Book of Days Robert Chambers
  7-4 Arabian Tales and Anecdotes Conspiracies – 15/16/17 centuries   John Park Lawson
  19-5 Adventures of British Seamen Robertson Adventures in America  
21-7-1874 Bird Architecture  
14-11 Waverley Sir Walter Scott
4-12 Chambers Papers William Chambers
25-5-1875 Stewarts Queen Mary Gilbert Stuart
1-7 The Memoirs of Sir James Melville James Melville
24-8 Elise or Innocencie guilty Jean Pierre Camus
20-1-1876 The History of England Thomas Macaulay
4-7 Memoirs of the Duke of Wellington  
20-7 The Roving Englishman  
2-1-1877 Men of the Time Alaric Watts
10-5 Burns Life and Works Alan Cunningham
27-11 Scotts Prose Works  
2-7-1878 Chambers Papers William Chambers
4-7 Memoirs of Englishwomen Louisa Stuart Costello
17-10 Life of Wellington