My Work Experience: By Matthew Scott

On the 11th October 2010 I embarked on work experience to West Lothian’s Archive and Record Centre. In all honesty I was expecting to find myself in a dark gloomy building with cobwebs covering the walls however I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a brightly lit room. The archive itself is impressive, I imagined it to be well organised and I was right. When I think about it, this archive contains information which dates back to more than a hundred years ago for the whole of West Lothian. That is going to take a lot of arranging and credit should go to the people behind the scenes who make it happen. You know who you are!

One of my first tasks was to repackage and mark old photographs taken by photographer Bob Wallace. There was a whole box of the small photos he had taken in West Lothian over the course of his career. This was a huge project as it takes a long time to carry out this process which I can vouch for. The length of time it took though had no effect on me because I knew I was unravelling history and keeping it safe from destruction.

Another of my tasks was to update the old school records onto a database. I was specifically looking at Crofthead Primary school in the year 1893-1894. I was challenged at times in trying to read the writing in the old fragile book but that’s part of the job. I also took a look at the poor records and some of the entries which were recorded in these books are a real tragedy. This gave an idea of how different the standard of life people led was back then. As my Grandad told me what his mother had told him, ‘The good old days, they were anything but’.

The workers at West Lothian’s Archive and Records Centre are committed to doing their job and enjoy it as well. They have been great in helping me out and explaining to me what their role is within the council. In being here I have been giving an experience of what the work environment is like. This can only help as I begin to paint of picture of what I would like to do for a living. Thanks again to Archives and Records Centre for taking me on.

My Work Experience: By John Matthew Noble

From Monday to Friday this week I was working at the Archives and Records Centre of West Lothian as part of my work experience placement. My working hours were 10am to 4pm, with lunch being 12:30-1:30.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my placement here, as I hadn’t heard of the Archives beforehand.

My mother said it would likely provide an interesting week of work, and so I booked for the week beginning the 25th of October. Everyone there was (and is) very nice people and we got on extremely well.

On Monday the 25th I spent some of the morning meeting the staff, and the rest of the morning repackaging and marking photo negatives taken by newspaper photographer Bob Wallace. After lunch I proceeded to talk with staff member Rhona about the poor law index. After that a researcher came in to look at some documents, and so I went back to my morning’s task for the rest of the afternoon.

On Tuesday the 26th I returned to meet Stephen, who I was working with that day. In the morning, we were indexing school admission registers (transferring them from written page to computer screen). In the afternoon, we were placing building documents from acidic boxes to acid free boxes, to preserve them.

On Wednesday the 27th it was my 16th birthday, but I was happy to spend it at work rather than school! The morning was spent again repackaging (and marking) the negatives, whilst that afternoon I was Indexing.

On Thursday the 28th I did as yesterday.

On Friday the 29th I used the morning to write this blog, and then in the afternoon I will be back to repackaging and marking negatives.

All in all, this week has been excellent.

I really enjoyed working here with the staff, and would gladly return for another week, or two, or three, or four…

I thank Emma, who has helped me a lot this week.

I thank Elizabeth, who is good for a chat.

I thank Rhona, who taught me what a Parish is.

I thank Stephen, for being the other male presence.

I thank last my Mum, who got me to book this placement.

Medal of Honour

Roll of Honour

We’ve had a recent influx of donations here at East Lothian Archives which has kept us busy! Among material received from North Berwick High School was a framed Roll of Honour document.

This document lists the names of staff and pupils of the School who served in the armed forces during WW1. They were rallied by the threat to the ‘Scrap of Paper’. The scrap of paper was in fact a treaty signed in 1839 by major European powers which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium. When Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 and Britain entered the war as a result, the Germans commented that Britain were foolish to join the war over ‘a scrap of paper’. Though the reasons form Britain’s entry into the War was far more complex, the defence of ‘The Scrap of Paper’ acted as a rallying call.

Some were awarded the military medal or military cross for their service while some such as Ernest Lippiatt and Alex Denholm were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). The DCM was the second level military decoration after the Victoria Cross and was awarded for gallantry in the field.

As you can see from the pictures in the gallery below, there are a number of names underlined. Research has showed that these men are those who did not return from the war – 38 men from a roll of 168.

Tom Curr & the Portobello Pool Beauty

Tom Curr  is a name largely unknown to the general public, but as one of Scotland’s most successful and accomplished commercial artists and cartoonists, his work has been seen by millions of people.  This particular  poster advertising the Portobello open air swimming pool for the local council was probably painted by the artist in the 1940s or ’50s and is a wonderful example of his work.

Tom was born in Edinburgh in 1887 and spent his entire working life – apart from his military service in WW1 – in the employment of the Leith-based printers McLagan & Cumming, the firm which printed this Portobello pool poster.  Many of the army recruiting posters he produced for the firm are on display at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle although no information is provided there about the artist.  He was, in later in life, a noted painter, exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy and his work is included in the Government and Clydesdale Bank art collections.  His paintings of Clydesdale horses now sell for very respectable prices.

Public service was central to Tom Curr’s life and he served his city in many roles including that of town councillor, baillie and magistrate.  He was a member of many committees and was one of the original members of the Scottish Advisory Council of the BBC, as well as a radio and television broadcaster for the corporation on religious matters.  But it is for his work with the youth of Edinburgh, specifically his leadership of the 46th Company of the Edinburgh battalion of the Boys’ Brigade that he would have wished to be remembered.

For those interested in Tom’s life, career and painting, a book by Dr Sandy Brewer – Edinburgh Rock: The Life and Art of Tom Curr – is due to be published next year.