My Ten Favourite Children’s Books

Posted May 13, 2014 1:46 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

1. My Naughty Little Sister, Dorothy Edwards. Especially the one where Dad ‘looks after’ her for the day (that is, leaves her to play while he reads the paper) – and loses her.

2. Little Grey Rabbit, Alison Uttley. Little Grey Rabbit was too good, Hare too stupid, Squirrel too vain, but I loved them all. Friends who shared a house – who made their own family. Fuzzypeg – the only ‘child’ in the stories – was my favourite.

3. Milly Molly Mandy, Joyce Lankester Brisley. I spent hours with the map of the village – aren’t maps in children’s books just the best? My school friend Alice had a pink and white stripped dress – like MMM’s. Although as she was blonde and I was dark, really she was Little Friend Susan and I was MMM.

4. The Enchanted Wood, Enid Blyton. I remember reading it, and the sequels, in one go – sitting on the landing, no doubt getting in everyone’s way.

5. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, Rumer Godden. Like The Secret Garden (another favourite) this is about assuaging loneliness by befriending the lonely.

6. Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery. I wished I had red hair and was brave enough to answer back.

7. The Family from One End Street, Eve Garnett. The big, happy family, the cleverest of whom was called Kate.

8. Ponder and William, Barbara Softly. Because I had a dearly-loved panda too.

9. Little Pete Stories, Leila Berg. Alone, but for his shadow.

10. Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban. I would have been happy eating marmalade on toast everyday, just like Frances wanted to eat bread and jam all day. I loved her made up songs too.

I wanted to add to this list a book called Tales from the End Cottage, but although I can vividly remember the cover – an old lady with an apron and hair flying out of her bun, surrounded by chickens, I can’t remember anything about the story itself. I’d love to see it again. It is, of course at the National Library of Scotland – the very same edition. And it’s by Eileen Bell. I am reunited with my own childhood.

But what was your favourite childhood read? What are your book memories? Do you remember a story, but have forgotten its title? Do you have fond memories of a particular edition of a children’s classic?

For The Hidden Library on 31 May, our Book Detectives will try to reunite you with a lost book from childhood. Give us some clues and you could see your book in the reading room on 31 May.

Enter our prize draw and to win a personalised tour into the depths of the NLS to find your book!

Send your book enquiries to by 20 May

Meet children’s classics chosen by staff at the NLS and your childhood book at The Hidden Library on 31 May. Bring the family for an afternoon of workshops, mystery tours, competitions and more.

Book 11: Living Earth (and lots of pamphlets too rare to give away)

Posted February 6, 2014 9:02 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

Amongst the many books on the shelves of my particular floor of the NLS are pamphlets. I love the surprise of them – without spines, you can’t know what they’re about until you’ve pulled them off the shelves. The titles of a dozen I looked at on two shelves tell you something about the enormous range of material the NLS collects as well as that of the little known world of pamphlets. Who needs to read a book when there are pamphlets with titles like these?

The Rational Basis of Religious Experience
Spartacus: A Study in Revolutionary History
Slugs and Snails
The Unfair Sex
How to Grow your own Tobacco
Is Britain Viable?

Some are even in little brown envelopes with the title of the contents typed, in pale purple, onto a small white label:

Ministerial Salaries and Members Pensions Act 1965
Radio and Television Engineering – the Next Phase
A Pacifist Look at Politics
Black in a White World

This floor of the Library – the old inter library loan stock – is different from every other floor in of the Library – because I can browse it. It’s also unlike the rest of the library because some of it has been catalogued like a normal library – using the Dewey Decimal system. So when I walk up and down the shelves I spot pockets of particular subjects. Today I stopped at an aisle that appeared to house books (and pamphlets) on ballet, flight, gold, banking, religion and agriculture. Amongst the farming books (including Science has Green Fingers, The Principles of Under Drainage and The Astonished Earth) – I discovered 30 or so Bulletins from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, from the 1930s to 60s.

Priced from one to six shillings they are on various topics such as silage, asparagus, turkeys, tomatoes, apple packing, sheep breeding, nuts, cider apple production and chrysanthemums. They have gorgeous, unique covers and include surprising histories of particular crops (did you know that that asparagus was eaten by the ancient Egyptians, that Pepys called it ‘Sparrowgrass,’ or that a wild form grows by the sea?). But it’s the photos I love the most – intended to demonstrate techniques and but accidentally beautiful. Here’s one from Asparagus (#60, 1939) – carefully gathered and tied bundles of asparagus. How much more prolific males plants seem to be!


The photographs also offer glimpses of people’s lives in the 1930s-50s – Women in aprons at the chick dispatch room (# 148 Incubation and Hatchery Practice, 1952) the man smoking while checking the chicken eggs, and the cheery sheep shearer with his docile sheep (#166 Sheep Breeding and Management, 1960)

Sheep shearer

and a record of disappearing or lost farming practices – a horse drawing a fertilizer distributer (#94 Potatoes, 1957), chrysanthemum blooms laid out carefully and ‘held firmly in place’ in paper-lined boxes (#92 Chrysanthemums, 1954), a capped farmer treating a ewe’s hoof for rot, while it sits in its sheep chair like it’s at the chiropodist.

My favourite photographs come from Apple Packing, (#84, 1936). The 12-photo sequence on how to wrap an apple are extraordinary, culminating in an image of a single apple, wrapped in white on a black background. The other 11 photos include a pair of poised, bony hands, demonstrating the technique in stages, like putting a nappy on a baby or making an origami flower. Whoever knew that wrapping an apple should be a delicate and precise task?

Wrapped apple

Unfortunately, so unique are these pamphlets that I can’t give them away. The Library does have the titles, but these are older editions. Once they’re catalogued, you’ll be able to view them in the Reading Room. In the meantime, there’s one copy of Living Earth - the American writer, Peter Farb’s first book – going free at the NLS. Worth grabbing hold of, if only for its beautiful dust jacket.

Book 10: Albert Camus, Carnets 1935-1942

Posted January 30, 2014 12:05 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

Carnets 1935-1942I last read Camus in school – as a lonely 18 year old studying for my French A level. I read Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse and Camus’ L’Etranger. And felt that French literature understood me, even if I needed a very big dictionary to understand it.

Carnets 1935-1942 includes Camus’s enquiries into death and the absurd; his struggles with the stifling reality of life that hooked me as a teenager, but there’s so much more. Camus was in his 20s when he kept this volume of his notebooks – he’s extraordinarily wise, ruthless, observant and funny. It’s a rich and varied collection of voices and ideas. Camus used his notebooks to develop ideas for his fiction and non-fiction, so there are extracts from The Outsider and The Plague and philosophical enquiries that contributed to The Myth of Sisyphus.

I particularly enjoyed the less purposeful entries – the scraps of overheard conversation, encounters on the tram, descriptions of sweltering Algerian landscapes, his expressions of bravery and compassion. I winced at, but valued, the impatient advice to writers. Here are some of my favourites:

April, 1936
‘The first hot days of the year. Stifling. All the animals are lying on their side. At dusk, the air above the town takes on a strange quality. Noises rise and are lost in the air like balloons. Trees and men stand motionless. On the terrace of their houses, the Arab women gossip while waiting for evening to fall. The smell of coffee being roasted also rises in the air. An hour of tenderness and despair, with nothing to embrace, nothing at whose feel to throw oneself, overcome with gratitude.’

May, 1936
‘One must not cut oneself off from the world. No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life. My whole effort, whatever the situation, misfortune or disillusion, must be to make contact again. But even with this sadness I feel a great leap of joy and a great desire to love simply at the sight of a hill against the evening sky.’

September 30, 1937
‘It is in order to shine sooner that authors refuse to re-write. Despicable. Begin again.’

November 16, 1937
‘We must have one love, one great love in our life, since it gives us an alibi for all the moments when we are filled with motiveless despair.’

June, 1938
‘The temptation shared by all forms of intelligence: cynicism.’

‘The misery and greatness of this world: It offers no truths, but only objects for love.’

August, 1938
‘The ‘real’ experience of loneliness is one of the least literary there is – a thousand miles away from the idea of loneliness that you get from books. The degradation involved in all forms of suffering.’

August 21, 1938
‘We do not have feelings which change us, but feelings that suggest to us the idea of change. Thus love does not purge us of selfishness, but makes us aware of it and gives us the idea of a distant country where this selfishness will disappear.’

November 8, 1937
‘In the local cinema, you can buy mint-flavoured lozenges with the words: ‘Will you marry me one day?’ ‘Do you love me?’, written on them, together with the replies: ‘This evening’, ‘A lot’, etc. You pass them to the girl next to you, who replies in the same way. Lives become linked together by an exchange of mint lozenges.’

April, 1939
‘In the tram. The man who is half drunk and tacks himself on to me. ‘If you’re a man, give me a shilling. Look, I’ve just come out of hospital. Where am I going to sleep tonight? But if you’re a man, I’ll go and have a drink and I’ll forget. I’m unhappy, I am. I’ve no on.’
I give him the shilling. He takes my hand, looks at me, throws himself into my arms and bursts out sobbing. ‘Ah, you’re a good chap. You understand me. I’ve no on, you understand, no on.’ When I have left him, the tram starts off again and he stays inside, lost and still in tears.’

And finally here’s a snippet of the intensity and joyfulness of Camus’s experience of the world – his clear-eyed and unflinching vision, his ‘lucid and patient fervour:’

September 15, 1937
‘Today, I feel free about the past and about what I have lost. All I want is this compactness and enclosed space – this lucid and patient fervour. And like the warm bread that one kneads and presses I simply want to hold my life between my hands.’

Carnets, 1935-1942 is available to read at the NLS. You can also read the other volumes: Carnets 1942-1951 and Carnets 1951-59

One copy of Carnets, 1935-1942 will be available to take home from the NLS – find it somewhere on the ground floor…

For more diaries and autobiographical works of other writers, try:

A Writer’s Diary. Being extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf, edited by Leonard Woolf, 1953
Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, 1981
The Golden Peak: Travels in Northern Pakistan, Kathleen Jamie, 1992
Diaries 1969-1979: the Python Years, Michael Palin, 2006
So Lovely a Country will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers, Donald Keene, 2010
Writers and their Notebooks, edited by Diana M. Raab, 2010
Found at Sea, Andrew Greig, 2013

Books 7, 8 and 9: for Burns Night!

Posted January 24, 2014 11:15 am by k.hendry | Permalink

Wandering the Interlibrary Loan stock near my desk is the best part of my job. I haven’t worked out the cataloguing system and don’t want to. I love coming across books by chance, finding little pockets of books on unlikely subjects – today I found ballet, flight, gold and banking. And then I came across a couple of shelves of books by Scottish writers, or about Scotland. Including

Malcolm Mooney’s Land, W.S Graham, 1970
The True Face of the Kirk, Stuart Louden, 1963
Ane Tryall of Heretiks, Fionn Mac Colla, 1962
Officers of the Black Watch, Vol 2, compiled by Major General Neil McMicking, 1956
Mouth Music, Alexander Scott, 1954,
The Fife Coal Company Limited, A Short History, Augustus Muir, 1953
Quaint Scots of Bygone Days, D.C Cuthbertson, 1939
Story of Scottish Rugby, R.J Phillips, 1925

So here are three books for Burns Night:

Rab the Rhymer: A Play in Three Acts on the Life and Songs of Robert Burns, Eric Crozier, 1953
The Ponnage Pool, Helen B Cruikshank, 1968
Scots Poems, Robert Fergusson, 1947

Crozier was Benjamin Britten’s right hand man in setting up the Aldeburgh festival, a librettist and opera director.

Cruickshank is a little known poet, who wrote in Scots and English and was a good friend of Hugh MacDiarmid’s. Her poem in the voice of Jean Armour on page 49 is forgiving and loving:

I kent, dear Rab, your benmaist luve
Wad aye come hame, come hame to me.

Fergusson – Burns’ lesser known contemporary, died aged 24 in the Bedlam. Burns called him ‘his brother in the muse’and commissioned a headstone in Canongate Churchyard, thirteen years after Fergusson had been buried in an unmarked grave.

All three will be given away free at the NLS on Burns Night

Other items in the NLS by these three writers include:

Let’s Make an Opera! An Entertainment for Young People in Three Acts. Including The Little Sweep, A Children’s Opera, music by Benjamin Britten. 1949
Helen B. Cruickshank Reads from her Collected Poems, Helen B Cruickshank, 1974 (sound recording)
Fergusson: A Bi-centenary Handsel: Seventeen Poems, selected by Robert Garioch. Including A Vision of Angels: A One-Act Play, by Anne Smith, 1974

All of these books can be read in the National Library of Scotland.

Book 6: New Lines 2

Posted January 16, 2014 6:32 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

New Lines 2, edited by Robert Conquest

The first New Lines anthology was published in 1956 and along with its precursor, Poets of the 1950s (edited by D. J. Enright), attempted to define poetry, as it was conceived by ‘The Movement,’ a group of English poets, including Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, and Robert Conquest.

Conquest asserts, in his introduction to New Lines 2, the group’s rejection of Modernism’s ‘absurdly inflated search for novelty,’ its ‘self-conscious insistence on ‘experiment’’ and its ‘style-accumulation.’

New Lines 2 is an interesting artefact – its earnest attempt to rescue poetry for the grip of Modernism was futile and self-important. The list of contributors on the back serves only to remind us of once big names who are no longer read. The mostly white, English, middle class, heterosexual, male writers whose voices are no longer urgent or relevant. The poems inside are weighted with rhyme and with traditional poetic concerns. There are titles in French and pockets of mysogyny. There are anxious poems about being a poet. It’s comes across as a self-absorbed document of mainstream, hegemonic culture.

Yet it is undoubtedly fascinating to check out who was in and who was out of favour in 1964, whose voice has disappeared and whose has survived. I hadn’t heard of many names – James Michie, Hilary Corke, Francis Hope, Richard Kell, Thoas Blackburn. Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin are the star names, and you can see why – they really are so much better, braver and bolder.

Then there are some less obvious gems. It’s the youngest poet of the lot – Hugo Williams – who brought me most delight and whose star is still in the ascendant. I loved ‘The Pool Player,’ which opens ‘This man never read books. He’d seen / What they could do to you. They provided / That false sense of security whiskey / Gave you.’ I can identify with this – the escape from reality that a good novel brings, the way immersion in fiction breeds a kind of over-confidence in one’s capacity to understand the world, that’s so fleeting in real life.

Of course, ‘The Pool Player’ isn’t really anti-reading. It’s made up of layer upon layer of stories – the pool player’s story (hustling his way ‘across America’), the story-making that’s been part of his working life (on the cabaret and strip-tease circuit), the characters he invents for himself (Fast Eddie Felson, Fast Daddy) when he’s shooting pool. Story-telling is the source of his power: ‘He’d never been King of anything before.’

Story-making elevates this drunken, impoverised, criminal life because it makes him ‘feel free.’ And yet the pool player is not really free – he is caught by the moral imperative of the story. His fall is inevitable: ‘He was doomed. / …to drink his shots into oblivion.’

Stories must have endings, and they’re all the more satisfying with a moral framework. Even the pool player himself seems to find his ‘bad’ ending satisfying: ‘To win until you lost was / Somehow more rewarding, an emotion // taken from its simple preliminaries, through to its natural fate.’

I love the ambivalence about this poem – how necessary and urgent the life of the imagination is and yet how dangerous. Another, more famous poem, making a silmilar point, is Larkin’s ‘A Study of Reading Habits.’ How in reading we can be someone else and how that other self, accompanied by other endings, are darker and more violent than reality: ‘The women I clubbed with sex! / I broke them up like meringues. Unlimately, for Larkin, it’s the too-close-to-home stories of personal failure and inadequacy, that he experiences in reading. ‘Books are a load of crap’ he decides. Of course we don’t believe him – fear of inadequacy was one of Larkin’s stories – but these poems point to the dangers of reading and story-making, as well as their freedoms. Reading is a fierce act and a brave one.

I also liked 3 less assuming poems – Anthony Thwaite’s ‘Night Thoughts’ and John Wain’s ‘Anecdote of 2am’ on the loneliness of nightmares, and the tender ‘A Considered Reply to a Child’ by the unknown (to me) Jonathan Price:

‘I love you,’ you said between two mouthfuls of pudding.
But not funny; I didn’t want to laugh at all.
Rolling three years’ experience in a ball
You nudged it friendlily across the table.

… I’m about nine times your age, ten times less able

To say – what you said; incapable of unloading
Plonk at someone’s feet, like a box of bricks,
A declaration.

To discover some of the less well-known names in this anthology, try the following collections, all in the General Collections of the National Library of Scotland:

Instead of a Poet and Other Poems, Francis Hope, 1965
The Early Drowned and other Poems, Hilary Corke, 1961
Bread for the Winter Birds: the Last Poems of Thomas Blackburn, Thomas Blackburn, 1980
In Praise of Warmth: New and Selected Poems, Richard Kell, 1987
Collected Poems, James Michie, 1994

New Lines 2, edited by Robert Conquest

New Lines 2, edited by Robert Conquest

Book 5: Profiles of the Future: Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible

Posted January 8, 2014 3:50 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

Profiles of the Future, Arthur C Clarke

Profiles of the Future, Arthur C Clarke

Profiles of the Future: Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible, by Arthur C Clarke.

Arthur C Clarke was not just a science fiction writer (most famous for 2001: A Space Odyssey) but a writer of non-fiction about science too. He famously predicted satellite communications back in the 1940s and, as he points out in Profiles of the Future: Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible, manned travel to the moon. This book presents many other predictions from a ‘global library’ to ‘immortality.’

There is an intriguing ‘Chart for the Future’ at the back of Profile of the Future, listing past scientific and technological achievements and predictions of future progress. Biology and chemistry begin, in 1800, with ‘organic chemistry’ and climax with ‘immortality’ in 2100. Transportation begins with ‘the locomotive’ in 1800 and ends with ‘meeting with Extra-Terrestrials’ in 2100. There is much amusement in these dreams of the 1960s. The idea that we would be ‘colonising planets’ in 2000 seems, looking back, laughable.

Yet what’s more fascinating about this book is the understanding it brings to scientific concepts and concerns – I understood more about gravity and nuclear energy after reading Clarke’s explanations, than I had before. The prospect of anti-gravity may be an illusion but the urge to understand and control gravity remains urgent if mankind can ever escape the earth and exploit the resources of the solar system. Clarke’s understanding of where we’ve come from and where we want to go is infused with intelligence and perspicacity.

Here he is on resource depletion in his ironically titled chapter ‘Ages of Plenty’ –

For most of our raw materials, as for our power sources, we have been living on capital. We have been exploiting the easily available resources – the high-grade ores, the rich lodes where natural forces have concentrated the metals and minerals we need. These processes took a billion years or more; in mere centuries, we have looted treasures stored up over aeons. When they are gone, our civilisation cannot mark time for a few hundred million years until they are restored.

Clarke’s prediction are driven by a subtle awareness (despite, or perhaps because of his hope that politics and economics will cease to be as important in the future) of social need.

His predictions have been most accurate in this social sphere – of communications. He predicts GPS technology – ‘No one need ever again be lost, for a simple position and direction-finding device,’ and email – ‘the Orbital Post Office.’ We will have ‘global TV and radio,’ he promises: ‘the great highway of the ether will be thrown open to the whole world and all men will become neighbours – whether they like it or not.’ The consequences of this global communication system will be, Clarke believes, the end to ‘any form of censorship, political or otherwise… (and) the abolition of all barriers to free intellectual and cultural intercourse.’ And this is where Profiles of the Future become most interesting, in the way that Clarke expresses our hope and aspirations for the future.

For more on science fiction, prediction and explanation, why not try the following, all available to read at the National Library of Scotland:

Robot Futures, Illah Reza Nourbakhsh, 2013
• ‘The Right Kind of Wrong: A “Knowledge in Pieces” Approach to Science Learning in Museums,’ Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, Bruce L. Sherin in Curator: The Museum Journal vol 56.1, 2013
Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, edited by Kathryn Allan, 2013
The Wonderful Future that Never Was, Gregory Benford and the editors of Popular mechanics, 2012. [Reveals predictions made in Popular Mechanics magazine between 1903 and 1969 about what the future would hold]
The New Quantum Age : From Bell’s Theorem To Quantum Computation And Teleportation, Andrew Whitaker, 2012
When the Earth was Flat: All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong, Graeme Donald, 2012
Science In 100 Key Breakthroughs, Paul Parsons, 2011
The Noble Lie: when Scientists give the Right Answers for the Wrong Reasons, Gary Greenberg, 2008
Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: where Real Science Ends and Pseudoscience Begins, Charles M. Wynn, 2001
Spectrum II, A Science Fiction Anthology, edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest, 1962
• No 15,850. A.D. 1890 … Improvements in aerial locomotion. [With a plan.], patent Office, 1891 [‘a similar system to that used on the funicular railroads; aerial vehicles or balloons being attached by cable cords to rings … able to run… over the enclosed cable-line’]

Book 4: Children’s Games in Street and Playground

Posted December 21, 2013 1:46 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

Children’s Games in Street and Playground, by Iona and Peter Opie

My mum has this book and I remember its florescent blue spine on the bookshelves at home. I remember looking at the photograph on the front – of a boy hurling something that, I thought, looked distinctly like a blackboard rubber. The photos inside also fascinated me – all, with one exception, of boys. Boys, I thought, disapprovingly, being wild and disobedient. In the final picture, however, there are girls and boys, in the middle of a game of ‘fox and chickens.’ Nine children are the chickens, each holding onto the waist, pinafore or jumper of the child in front, all running after the fox, who in turn is trying to round on the very last chicken in the line. In the photo, this is the smallest girl, her hair flying, her feet barely touching the ground. I remember feeling for her – there was no doubt in my mind that she had not chosen to be in this position. All the others are chasing, she is the only one being chased. This was uncomfortably close to my world – bullying boys, never being fast enough to run away, the awful process of selection that preluded any game and which inevitably left me, like the girl in the photo, at the end of the line.

Published in 1969, Children’s Games in Street and Playground, records the games and voices of more than 10,000 children across the UK from Shetland to Cornwall. Although the children in the photos were perhaps only a few years older than me, I felt their stories and games didn’t catch my experience: the horror of ‘Kiss Chase,’ the stampede of ‘British Bulldog’ the shame of being the first caught in ‘Tag’ or ‘Stuck in the Mud.’

The subtitle of the Opies’ first chapter, ‘The preliminaries to a game can be a sport in themselves’ says it all – the sport of humiliation. The chapter describes in detail the rituals of this practice – the rules and customs through which children avoided or allocated ‘disliked roles.’ I remember shouting ‘bags not on’ in an attempt to avoid being ‘it.’ I remember counting fists in ‘One potato, two potato,’ before my fate was sealed.

The Opies dedicate more than 30 pages to ‘dips’ or elimination rhymes. ‘Eeny, meany, miney, mo’ was mine and my children use it today. Reading through some of the many variations of this rhyme, I even feel a twinge of nostalgia. I had no idea that ‘Eeny, meany, miney, mo’ had such a long and varied history across the world and in many languages: ‘Eme, mene, mink, mank (German), ‘Ina, mina, maina, mau (Norwegian) and ‘Une, mine, mane, mo’ (French).

My version seemed to have become the mainstream version in the early 1920s, thanks to Kipling’s poem ‘A Counting Out Song.’ I was aware, even as a child, of the racism barely concealed by the substitution of one letter to form the ‘harmless’ ‘tigger.’ Indeed my father changed it to ‘knicker,’ as if to further distance the rhyme from Kipling’s version, through ridicule, and to reunite it with its mutable, nonsense roots. As a child, I had no problem imagining catching a knicker or its subsequent squeals.

There’s much else that’s fascinating and entertaining in this book; from the distribution map of ‘predominant names for touch-chasing games’ (’tig’ in Cornwall, northern England and Scotland, ‘tick’ in north-west England and north Wales, ‘tag’ around Bristol and the Severn, ‘tugger’ around Newcastle), to the chapter on guessing games, which did prompt fond childhood memories and which still make excellent family games during school holidays. Enjoy.

For more on Scottish street games and songs try:

The Singing Street : Scottish Children’s Games, Rhymes and Sayings, James T.R. Ritchie
A short film of The Singing Street can also be found on the Scottish Screen Archive at

Or discover the Scottish folklore-collecting equivalents of the Opies – John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw:

Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, Margaret Fay Shaw
The Book of Barra, John Lorne Campbell, illustrated with photographs taken by Margaret Fay Shaw and J.L. Campbell.

All available, to everyone, in the General Collections at the National Library of Scotland

Children's Games in Street and Playground

Children's Games in Street and Playground

Book 3: You are Wrong Father Huddleston

Posted December 11, 2013 5:28 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

You are Wrong Father Huddleston, by Alexander Steward

Published in 1956, this fascinating and appalling example of pro-apartheid rhetoric gives a taste of the cultural and political norms against which Nelson Mandela fought.

Steward’s book was a rebuttal of Trevor Huddleston’s seminal anti-apartheid treatise Naught for Your Comfort. Apartheid is, Steward argues, ‘moral, ethical, Christian.’ It even offers ‘cultural and spiritual advantages for the Bantu people.’

Against growing British criticism of South Africa’s ‘race policy,’ Steward wishes to correct many misconceptions: ‘Actual living conditions of the bantu people are in a good way in advance of those in other parts of the sub-continent.’

In chapter 9, ‘A Measure of Good Will,’ he describes how ‘there is much affection and goodwill among the White people for the Bantu in South Africa’ – the demonstration of which is ‘costing the European… at least £20 million a year.’ Look at all the good things we’re doing for the ‘Bantu,’ Steward protests – creating holiday camps for them, giving them their own police force, educating them. He includes some helpful photographs, illustrating the modern houses, hospitals and schools built ‘entirely for the use of the Bantu.’

Against Huddleston’s criticism of the Bantu Education Act as ‘education for servitude,’ Steward claims that that the ‘lack of economic opportunity for the Bantu in the European community… was not … a policy (but) a fact.’ Equality of opportunity would be wasted on the Bantu because ‘the backward race is at a hopeless disadvantage.’ Fundamentally, Steward argues, apartheid is good for the ‘Bantu;’ it is a way to ‘recognise natural differences as well as the gap in the level of civilisation.’

Whereas Huddleston’s essay inspired thousands to join the anti-apartheid movement, Steward’s response is an example of the dominant view of white South Africans in the 1950s. Lest we should forget, this book was published six months before Mandela’s five-year trial for treason, from December 1956 to 1961.

As usual, one copy of this book is available free at the National Library of Scotland. It can be found under the Christmas tree.

If you’d like to read more about Nelson Mandela’s life and times and discover some the many items the library holds about him, why not start with the following suggestions from the General Collections curators:

Glasgow against Apartheid: the City’s Declaration, Glasgow District Council, 1985

Scotland’s Apartheid Connection, Scottish Education and Action for Development, Scottish Education and Action for Development Campaigns, 1985. (Exposes ways in which Scotland was supporting the apartheid regime, both intentionally and unintentionally. It is written from an anti-apartheid perspective)

Nelson Mandela: the Struggle is my Life. His Speeches and Writings Brought Together with Historical Documents and Accounts of Mandela in Prison by Fellow-Prisoners, International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, 1986

Nelson Mandela : his Life in the Struggle : Portable Exhibition of Photographs, International Defence and Aid Fund for South Africa, 1988

Briefing for UK Companies on Trade with South Africa, Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa Division, 1988

Sechaba : Festival of Cultural Resistance to Apartheid : 22 September – 7 October, Glasgow 1990, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Scottish Committee/Scottish Trades Union Congress, 1990

Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk Awarded 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for Momentous Contribution to Peaceful Elimination of Apartheid in South Africa, United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, 1994 (Notes and documents / United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, 2/94)

Prisoner 466/64, scriptwriting & research, Santa Buchanan, Anthea Josias ; story boarding, Daniel Swanepoel, Santa Buchanan ; illustrators, Pitshou Mampa, Pascal “Freehand” Nzoni, 2006 (Biographical comic book about Nelson Mandela and his times)

The Glasgow : Mandela Story, Brian Filling, 2011

You are Wrong Father Huddleston, by Alexander Steward

You are Wrong Father Huddleston, by Alexander Steward

Book 2: Sins of the Fathers

Posted December 8, 2013 12:20 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

Sins of the Fathers: A Study of the Atlantic Slave Traders 1441-1807

In the centre of this book are 12 pages of black and white photos. They show the torture equipment of slave traders (branding irons, thumb screws and mouth openers) and engravings of ‘merry and contented’ slaves. Awful though these images are, my attention was captured by photos of slow-moving, peaceful rivers – the Niger Delta and the Benin River. Their emptiness is ominous: were these the landscapes from which millions of people were sold into slavery, over more than 400 years?

Based on the memoirs, journals, logbooks and testimonies of generations of slave traders up on the west coast of Africa, this 1967 book describes the slave trade through the words of the traders themselves. There’s Willem Bosman; a 17th century Dutchman who liked to keep a ‘neat and clean’ ship, while packing six or seven hundred people on board. Then there’s Captain William Snelgrave, an 18th century Englishman who knew how to prevent slave mutinies by reassuring his ‘negroes’ that they ‘would not be eaten’ and Richard Drake, a 19th century American, who despite ‘growing sicker every day of this business of buying and selling human beings for beasts of burden,’ worked in the slave trade for more than 25 ‘profitable years.’

We’re offering the still-shocking Sins of the Fathers: A study of the Atlantic Slave Traders free, to the first person who asks for it at the NLS front desk.

If you’d like to read more about slavery and abolition, why not try the following recommendations from the curators of the General Collections:

• Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup, 1853
• Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell, 1936
• Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
• Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic, Alan Rice, 2003
• Joseph Knight, James Robertson, 2004
• Scotland and the slave trade : 2007 bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Scottish Executive, 2007
• Calls and Responses : the American Novel of Slavery since Gone with the Wind, Tim A. Ryan, 2008
• It Happens Here: Equipping the UK to Fight Modern Slavery, Centre for Social Justice, 2013 A database which includes Scots who were compensated for emancipated slaves, and also traces this money into business links.
• The House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database (HCPP) which gives full text of all of the discussion in parliament relating to slavery and the slave trade and can be accessed remotely in Scotland by anyone with a NLS library card. The print version of the Parliamentary papers can be consulted in the Reading Rooms.

See also:

All recommendations are available for anyone to read at the National Library of Scotland

Sins of the Father: James Pope-Hennessy

Sins of the Father: James Pope-Hennessy

Book 1: Forty Years of Soviet Spying by Ronald Seth

Posted November 29, 2013 8:10 pm by k.hendry | Permalink

To celebrate the start of my 40 weeks’ dig into one corner of the NLS, I’ve chosen a darker investigation – Forty Years of Soviet Spying.

From McCarthyism to Soviet defectors, atomic espionage to George Blake, this book, written in 1965, speaks from the fear and anxiety of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union’s ‘espionage roots’ were firmly ‘planted’ in British soil.

Ronald Seth was a British spy in the Second World War, who was caught by the Nazis, forced to work for the intelligence agency of the SS and later tasked to bring Himmler’s 1945 message of peace to London.

Find out all about Russian spy networks and listen to the voice of 1960’s paranoia. Seth’s final words to the people of Britain? ‘The greatest danger from Soviet spying lies not in the operation of the professional agents, but in the hidden sympathizers…All men and women…must be continuously scrutinized…The only effective antidote to the Soviet Union’s seizure of our secrets is…constant vigilance of the population as a whole.’

Under the pseudonym of Robert Chartham, Seth wrote about ‘sexology.’ Along with Forty Years of Soviet Spying you can find his Mainly for Wives: A Guide to Practical Love-Making (1964) and Sex Manners for Men (1967) in the National Library of Scotland. The sexual revolution and the cold war; Seth was truly a man of his times.

A copy of Forty Years of Soviet Spying by Ronald Seth is available for free to the first reader to ask for it at the main enquiry desk of the National Library of Scotland.

If you want to read more about espionage why not try -

The White Guard, Mikail Bulgakov, 1925
A Handbook for Spies, Alexander Foote, 1949
Single Spies, Alan Bennett, 1989
At her Majesty’s Secret Service : the chiefs of Britain’s Intelligence Agency, MI6, Nigel West, 2006
Rudolf Nureyev: The Life, Julie Kavanagh, 2008
A Foreign Country, Charles Cumming , 2013
Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers, Leah Bendavid-Val, 2013

ALL in the General Collections of the NLS and available for everyone!

40 Years of Spying - FREE to one lucky reader, at the NLS

40 Years of Spying - FREE to one lucky reader, at the NLS