Quintinshill Rail Disaster

Posted May 22, 2015 9:11 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

On 22 May 1915 one of the worst railway accidents in Scotland happened at Quintinshill near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire. Five trains were involved: a troop train carrying soldiers from the Leith Battalion of the Royal Scots, a local passenger train, a Glasgow express and two goods vehicles. Over 200 people were killed, with a similar number injured.

There have been a number of books published on this dreadful accident which can be viewed in the library. They include ‘The Quintinshill Conspiracy: the shocking true story behind Britain’s worst rail disaster’ by Jack Richards and Adrian Searle (2013), ‘Gretna: Britain’s worst railway disaster (1915)’ by John Thomas (1969), ‘The Sorrows of Quintinshill’ by G.L. Routledge (2002) and ‘Britain’s greatest rail disaster: the Quintinshill blaze of 1915′ by J.A.B. Hamilton (1969). These books contain detailed accounts of the events as well as photographs, maps, diagrams, newspaper reports and lists of those killed.

The official report by Lieutenant-Colonel Druitt to the Board of Trade can also be found in the library [Ref: Cd 8114 PP LX 1914-1916 Railway Accidents 1915]. This comprises the full text of the report, witness statements and the report’s conclusion. An electronic version can be accessed by library members with a Scottish address via the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers digital resource.

Finally, the library also holds a small collection catalogued as the ‘Quintinshill Rail Disaster’. It comprises five items about the memorial which was commissioned by the Scottish Area of the Western Front Association and includes the order of service, dedication and photographs of the memorial.

Further information on the accident can be found on the Railways Archive website, while details of the soldiers that were buried at Rosebank Cemetery, Edinburgh can be seen on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Prison Register Indexes

Posted May 6, 2015 1:33 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

The National Records of Scotland hold the original prison registers for Scotland (Reference: HH21) for the period 1798-1996. Graham and Emma Maxwell of Maxwell Ancestry have helpfully published indexes to a number of these registers from the Borders area of Scotland. The indexes, which are held by this library, contain the full name of the prisoner, their residence and occupation, their approximate year of birth and birthplace and their crime and year of imprisonment. The library holds the following volumes:

  • Greenlaw Prison, Berwickshire, 1840-1862
  • Hawick Prison, Roxburghshire, 1844-1862
  • Jedburgh Prison, Roxburghshire, 1843-1869
  • Kelso Prison, Roxburghshire, 1844-1862
  • Peebles Prison, Peebleshire, 1848-1862
  • Selkirk Prison, Selkirkshire, 1828-1840 & 1853-1878

The original registers contain further details on each prisoner, including their physical appearance and distinguishing marks, their state of health and their behaviour while in prison.

Convicts in Australia

Posted April 22, 2015 10:51 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

The first convict ships for Australia set sail in 1787. They arrived in January 1788 and established the colony of New South Wales. Over the next eighty years approximately 165,000 criminals were transported from Britain to the Australian penal colonies. The library holds a number of books that tell the story of transportation to Australia, with ‘The Fatal Shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia 1787-1868′ by Robert Hughes (1998) being the most well known.

There are also a number of publications available which describe the surviving records and where they can be found. Examples include ‘Bound for Australia: a guide to the records of transported convicts and early settlers’ by David T Hawkings (2012) and Cora Num’s ‘Convict Records in Australia’ (2007). The State Records Authority of New South Wales has produced an official work titled ‘Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to convicts and convict administration’ (2006). This book provides in-depth coverage of the available records and what they contain.

Some of the books held by the library focus on convicts in specific areas of Australia, including ‘Convicts of the Port Phillip District’ by Keith M Clarke (1999)  and ‘Convicts in Western Australia 1850-1887′ by Rica Erickson & Gillian O’Mara (1994). Photographs and histories of individual convicts who were transported to Tasmania can be seen in Edwin Barnard’s book ‘Exiled: the Port Arthur Convict Photographs’ (2000).

Scots were also transported to Australia and the library holds some publications that provide details of individuals who were sent to the penal colonies. David Dobson’s three volume ‘Directory of Scots in Australasia, 1788-1900′ (1994-7) differentiates between those who were transported and those who emigrated by their own choice. ‘Tay Valley People in Australia’ (1988) also splits its list of individuals into those that went voluntarily and those that were sent by order of the courts.

Photographs of World War 1

Posted April 9, 2015 10:54 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

258635_3As well as the official First World War photographs that are available on the website, the library also holds a selection of published books depicting postcards, sketches and photographs from the period.

Richard F Hamilton has compiled ‘A Photographic History of World War I’ (2005), with photographs taken from the ‘Daily Mail’ archive, while ‘The First World War in Photographs’ by Richard Holmes (2001) focusses on images that are held by the Imperial War Museum. ‘World War I: the definitive visual guide: from Sarajevo to Versailles’ by R G Grant (2014) covers the period 1870-1923. In contrast John Christopher and Campbell McCutcheon have selected images from August to December 1914 in their book ‘1914, over by Christmas: the First World War in old photographs’ (2014).

A selection of postcards from the collection of John Fraser of London have been reproduced in ‘Postcards from the Trenches: Images from the First World War’ (2008). The collection was amassed over sixty years and now resides in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Some soldiers also found time to sketch their surroundings during their time overseas and one such individual was Lance-Corporal Henry Buckle of the 5th Gloucesters. He was a keen photographer, watercolourist and diarist and his work has been published as ‘A Tommy’s Sketchbook: writings and drawings from the trenches’ (2012).

The Stevenson family and civil engineering

Posted March 16, 2015 10:48 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Guest post by Craig Statham, Maps Reading Room Manager.

In my previous job in a local history centre, I came across two items related to the Stevenson civil engineering family, commonly known as the ‘Lighthouse Stevensons’.

One was a speculative letter, written in 1811, by Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) to North Berwick Town Council seeking to rebuild the town’s harbour. The other was a plan drawn up in 1845, proposing the building of a ferry port at North Berwick to link the tourist route between Edinburgh and Elie in Fife.

When I came to work at the NLS Maps Reading Room, I mentioned this snippet of mapping history to my colleagues. The response was that the family’s collection of papers was held in the Manuscript department of my new workplace. My interest piqued I set out for the strongroom, where our most precious collections are stored, and delved into this little known archive of maps, plans and charts.

The Stevenson Collection is a large archive which includes the business records of the company. It is, quite simply, a marvellous collection highlighting the immense skill of the engineers, but also of the artists who sketched the plans. The Stevenson’s undertook hundreds of projects. Many of these are evident in our archive, although not all came to fruition. They are as eclectic as they are fascinating, ranging from feats of engineering genius such as the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, to relatively minor local projects such as Skateraw Harbour in East Lothian.

If you would like to know more about the Stevenson Collection, please get in touch with staff at the Maps Reading Room.

Forth Rail Bridge

Posted March 4, 2015 1:00 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

74438561_3 Today marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Rail Bridge on 4 March 1890 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. This was the first major construction in Britain to be made of steel and incorporated 53,000 tonnes of metal into its superstructure. It consists of three double cantilevers with two 521 metre suspended spans between them. It was designed and developed by the engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker.

A compilation of contemporary articles, illustrations and photographs was published by W Westhofen as ‘The Forth Bridge. Reprinted from ‘Engineering’, February 28, 1890′ (ca. 1895). This work also includes the Board of Trade report on the ‘Inspection and Testing of the Forth Bridge’ after it was completed. The construction of the Forth Rail Bridge was recorded in 40 black and white photographs, taken by Philip Phillips in 1886. These images can be viewed in the library’s Digital Gallery on the Scottish Bridges page.

Some modern publications on the history and building of the bridge include Sheila Mackay’s ‘The Forth Bridge: a picture history’ (2011), Michael Meighan’s ‘The Forth Bridges through time’ (2014) and ‘The Briggers: the story of the men who built the Forth Bridge’ by Elspeth Wills (2009), which focusses on those who were involved in the construction process. The ‘Forth Bridge: restoring an icon’ (2012) follows the restoration project which was completed in December 2011. This book also provides a list of names of every person who was involved in this mammoth ten-year feat.

Military tribunals during World War 1

Posted February 11, 2015 12:09 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

Guest post by Robbie Mitchell, Enquiries Assistant.

Following on from the previous post on conscientious objectors, this post provides more details on the military tribunals that many of these men had to face.

The records of the Military Service Tribunal system in Scotland – established after the Military Service Act 1916 introduced mandatory conscription – offer detailed evidence of those who objected to conscription into the armed services, whether that was on grounds of health, occupation, hardship or conscientious objection. The Military Service Act required all adult males, aged 18-41, to register for military service unless they possessed a certificate of exemption; however, by April 1918 the age range was extended, meaning men aged from 17 to 55 could be called up, and so exemptions were further restricted.

Some of the objections come from employers appealing for exemption on behalf of their employees, but they had to obtain conditional exemption to avoid service; for example, you might get exemption from a Local Tribunal which could be overturned by a National Tribunal. Most famous of those who objected to conscription were those conscientious objectors – there were 16,500 such registered conscientious objectors during the War; for example, the future Secretary of State for Scotland, Arthur Woodburn – who donated his collection of Soviet posters and ephemera to this library - was one such objector who would be imprisoned for his refusal to serve in the military. Another example was Arthur Naysmith, a Postman from Musselburgh, whose objection was refused and who reacted so angrily to the ruling that one of the Tribunal opined, “This man would make a splendid soldier. He has a fine physique and just wants the nonsense knocked out of him”!

There is an online guide available to the records of the Military Service Tribunals that are held by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. It includes links to examples of some of the Tribunal proceedings and testimonies. The National Library of Scotland also holds a copy of a recently published book on the subject. James McDermott’s ‘British Military Service Tribunals, 1916-1918: ‘A very much abused body of men’ (2011) provides an in-depth history of these events.

Conscientious objectors in World War 1

Posted February 2, 2015 2:44 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

thomas-hannan-largeDuring the First World War approximately 16,000 men refused to fight and became conscientious objectors, usually on moral or religious grounds. There have been a number of recent publications that discuss the subject, including Ann Kramer’s ‘Conchies: conscientious objectors of the First World War’ (2014). Personal stories of those involved can be read in ‘We will not fight: the untold story of World War One’s conscientious objectors’ by Will Ellsworth-Jones (2008), ‘The courage of cowards: the untold stories of First World War conscientious objectors’ by Karyn Burnham (2014) and Felicity Goodall’s ‘We will not to go to war: conscientious objection during the World Wars’ (2010).

Joyce A Walker has written a book which focusses on the Dyce work camp in Scotland. It is titled ‘A cloak of conscience? Dyce Work Camp, conscientious objectors and the public of NE Scotland, 1916′ (2011). The camp was only open for 8 weeks in 1916 and this publication looks at its history and the opinion of the local people at the time.

A free online library resource regarding the life of the Scottish conscientious objector, Thomas Hannan of Maryhill, Glasgow, can be viewed on the Digital Gallery. This tells the story of his background, his thoughts on the war, his imprisonment and his career in the Labour Party up until his death in 1941.

Finally a contemporary document may be of interest: ‘The No-Conscription Fellowship: a souvenir of its work during the years 1914-1919′ (1920). This organisation was set up by Fenner Brockway, the editor of the anti-war newspaper ‘Labour Leader’. It was formed in the autumn of 1914 to support those who objected to taking up arms. The book contains a history of the Fellowship as well as details of those who were imprisoned or shot. Women were extensively involved in this society, which held its final meeting in November 1919.

Burns Night, 25 January

Posted January 15, 2015 4:09 pm by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

90721297.2The anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns in 1759 is celebrated on 25 January throughout the world. These Burns Suppers, which began in 1801, have become highly ritualized, from the eating of haggis and drinking of whisky, to the music, poetry and toasts in his memory.

If you want to know how to host a Burns Supper or if you have been invited to one for the first time, then there are number of recently published books that explain what to do or what to expect. These include the ‘Burns Supper Companion’ by Nancy Marshall (2007), ‘The Ultimate Burns Supper Book’ by Clark McGinn (2010), and ‘Robert Burns Night: a freestyle guide’ by Boyd Baines (2013).

If you just want to know more about the poet and his contribution to the literature of Scotland, then a good starting point is the Robert Burns page on the library’s Digital Gallery.

University of Glasgow

Posted January 7, 2015 11:55 am by Hazel Stewart | Permalink

91169150Today in 1451 a Papal Bull was issued by Pope Nicholas IV which permitted the foundation of the University of Glasgow. The document was issued at the request of King James II of Scotland and Bishop William Turnbull. The university was modelled on its counterpart in Bologna, Italy and became Scotland’s second university. In 1577 a new charter, the ‘Nova Erectio’ was issued detailing the university’s revised Protestant constitution which came about due to the Reformation.

The library holds collection material that provides further information on Glasgow University and the individuals involved in its history. ‘The University of Glasgow 1451-1577′ by John Durkan and James Kirk (1977) provides details of the earliest history of the institution, as does David Murray’s ‘Memories of the Old College of Glasgow: some chapters in the history of the University’ (1927). A more comprehensive history can be found in ‘The University of Glasgow 1451-1996′ by A L Brown and Michael Moss (1996).

Transcribed early documents from the University can be viewed in Cosmo Innes’s four volume work, ‘Munimenta Alme Universitalis Glasguensis: Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727′ (1854). More recent information regarding the management of the organisation can be found in ‘Who, Where and When: the history & constitution of the University of Glasgow’ (2001) by Michael Moss et al. If the architecture of the university buildings is of interest then the comprehensive and lavishly illustrated ‘Building Knowledge: an architectural history of the University of Glasgow’ (2013) by Nick Haynes showcases the physical structure of the university from the medieval period to the present day.

Publications focussing on specific groups of individuals connected to the university include Donald Wintersgill’s ‘Rectors of Glasgow University 1820-2000′ (2001). This volume covers 63 former Rectors as well as providing background information on the Scottish Rectorial system. Peter Hoare has contributed an article to ‘Library Review’, volume 40, numbers 2/3 (1991) on ‘The Librarians of Glasgow University over 350 years: 1641-1991′, while A D Boney’s article ‘Servants of the Old College, University of Glasgow: Misdemeanours and Disciplinary Methods’ can be found in ‘Review of Scottish Culture’, number 14 (2001-2002).