Scottish Genealogy

Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Birthday to...Dr John Kirk

This day, 100 years ago, I would have been pleased to wish Dr John Kirk a very happy 29th birthday.  He would no doubt have not been very interested in my good wishes as he would have been quite busy taking part in David Livingstone's Zambesi expedition of which he had been a part since 1858.  

By 1861, Kirk and Livingstone and their fellow explorers would have been in the area of Lake Nyassa and Kirk would be busy collecting botanical samples and corresponding with the great scientific minds of his day - people like Richard Owen and Joseph and William Hooker.

But my best wishes for Kirk would perhaps be reserved not for his genius as a botanist, but for his role in attempting to hasten the end of slavery in Zanzibar whilst he worked for the consular service there in the 1870s. 

An interesting man, who has left a wealth of papers, many held here in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland which may be of interest if you would like to investigate his life.  There will be also be a talk about Dr (later Sir) John Kirk at the National Archives in London on 12th January 2012, given by Alastair Hazell, whose book The Last Slave Market traces the extraordinary life of Kirk.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Shopping in 1861 - today's adverts in the Caledonian Mercury

As I undertook some more of my festive shopping today on a pretty busy Princes Street here in Edinburgh, I began wondering what I could have bought for those nearest and dearest to me in the past.  Now, the Scots traditionally have been more animated about New Year than about Christmas, but I decided to take a browse through the options available in the adverts from the Caledonian Mercury newspaper on this day 150 years ago...

Now, for the man in your life you could perhaps choose something from your fine local milliner's - 'The Operative Hat Company' of 73 St Mary's Wynd were advertising that 'we make as good hats as can possibly be made' and that they could 'sell cheaper than any other house in town'.  Great - that's the place for me!

If you really wanted to spoil him then perhaps you could get some ox hide leggings at 7s 6d , sold by 'The Ox Hide Leather Leggings Factory' (who knew there could be such demand that a factory would be needed?)

Ladies were reminded on the same page 'in making your purchases for the laundry, do not forget GLENFIELD PATENT STARCH' used by 'her majesty's laundress' no less.

You can also treat someone to some fine corned beef (at the Royal Emporium on George Street), first class teas (at J Pirret's on Clerk Street) and American apples and Russian cranberries (at Baxter's Place).

Image: Toa55 /

All the makings of a cheerful Christmas for everyone there I think.  And for some light reading whilst digesting the apples and cranberries, perhaps the newly released Memorable Women of the Puritan Times or the 'temperance tale' entitled Drift: A Story of Waifs and Strays...

All adverts quoted are from the front page of the Caledonian Mercury from the 17th December 1861

Monday, 12 December 2011

RCAHMS seeks your feedback on social media and archives

Just a quick reminder that the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [RCAHMS] are looking for your opinions on changes to the way that they use social media to allow users to interact with their collections.

As part of the 'Beyond Text' programme (investigating communication across time and place using performance, sounds, images and objects) RCAHMS will be looking to implement some of the following ideas:
  1. Image tagging – to enable users to add their own keywords to Canmore images and to search for these tags, turning Canmore into a browsable image bank
  2. Thesaurus – to enable users to nominate Canmore images to represent each site type definition
  3. RCAHMS Data Service – to enable members of the public to search for data and export the results to develop new interactive resources, for example Apps
They have an online survey at their website and it is well worth taking part so that you can add your ideas to the mix.  Social media is playing a bigger part in our lives, and it is now also playing a bigger role in archives and other cultural institutions too.  Visit their site to read more about the Beyond Text project and take part in the survey - you need to hurry though - last day for the survey is the 16th of December.