Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Tale of Two Libraries

I have a big list of things 'to do', and places 'to visit'. This week I've been able to scratch two of these places off my list. In both cases I've come away thinking, "Why have I never visited before?"

I feel I know Leadhills quite well, having visited the little railway a number of times over the years, for example here. But the village is also home to the oldest subscription library in Britain. The Leadhills Miners' Reading Society was founded in 1741. Go here to read about it.

It's a walk back in time! By the 1960s, the future of the library was very much in doubt. However local enthusiasts began a campaign to save it, and it was reopened in 1972. It exists today thanks to a small band of volunteers and enthusiasts!

Ali White was looking after the library on the day of my visit, and she could not have been more helpful. She's holding the Journal of the Leadhills Curling Club, the earliest entries therein dating from 1784. Lots of other treasures are in the cases behind! The library is open this year on Saturdays and Sundays, 2pm-4pm, until the end of September.

If you love books, just browsing the shelves is fascinating!

And look what I found - a copy of the Rev John Kerr's 'Curling in Canada and the United States', a record of the first tour by Scottish curlers to North America in the winter of 1902-03, published in Edinburgh in 1904. Most books on the shelves have been specially bound.

Just a couple of miles along the road, in the neighbouring village of Wanlockhead, is another Miners' Library, the second oldest in the country, founded in 1756. It's not in the original building. The library started its life in the local school, but moved to the building above in 1851.

You can read all about the Wanlockhead library here.

The library benefits from being part of 'Hidden Treasures', the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead. The website is here. There's lots to do and see on a visit to the museum, but be sure not to miss the beautifully restored library!

Here, our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide Anne Arrigoni shows one of the three volumes recording the activities of Wanlockhead curlers from 1776 to 1949!

Photos © Skip Cottage


  1. Hi Bob - I can attest to them both being wonderful places to visit, and a testimony to those hard-working men (and women!) too.
    My Aunt was one of those volunteers in Leadhills back in the 1970's - she lived in Symington Street - Miss Hawley . . I am not sure there's be anyone around in Leadhills who would remember her these days . . . . but I do have strong memories of going to see her at the library . . before heading off for an explore in the old mine workings.
    I had a wee reminisce about her here:
    if you are interested!
    Take care and thanks once again for a great read.

    1. Hi Phil

      That's a great post about your aunt, and her photograph. A beautiful tribute to a great lady. Thank you for sharing the link.