The Female Personators

The Linlithgowshire Rogue’s Gallery held by Edinburgh City Archives contains some fascinating and unusual photographs and snippets about 19th century crimes and criminals.  One entry contains photos of suspects who would not be brought before today’s courts.  In the 1870s, men appearing in public wearing women’s clothing were considered a public mischief while same sex relationships were considered a felony.

This entry in the gallery features a set of pictures under the title ‘The Female Personators’. The photos, probably taken sometime between 1868 and 1870, feature an image of Lord Arthur Pelham Clinton, MP and third son of the Duke of Newcastle, Ernest Boulton an amateur singer and actor, and William Park, a law student.  The trio (pictured to the far right) frequently socialised together, attending the theatre and social events, mostly in London.  Park and Boulton would often dress elaborately and in the centre of the above photo, they are pictured separately wearing lavish dresses with all of the trimmings. The identity of the person to the far left is unknown.

Boulton had an association with Edinburgh through Louis John Hurt, a Post Officer surveyor living in the Capital. In the late 1860s, childhood friends Boulton and Hurt shared lodgings in Edinburgh. Boulton had also been introduced to John Safford Fiske, a young American consul at Leith.  Hurt, Boulton and Fiske were all friends and frequently exchanged letters. These letters would implicate Hurt and Fiske in an 1870 trial which also involved Boulton, Park and Lord Clinton. This association may explain why these photographs appear in the Linlithgowshire Rogue’s Gallery. Perhaps London police were sharing information with their Northern neighbours?

On 28 April 1870, after attending the theatre dressed in women’s clothing, Ernest Boulton and William Park were arrested by London police. The police searched their residences in London, finding large numbers of dresses, accessories and incriminating letters.  Their arrest led to the launch of a sensational trial where both the Attorney and Solicitor General appeared for the prosecution. Boulton, Park, Clinton and others were charged with conspiring to commit an ‘unnatural offence’. Ultimately, there was not enough evidence to support the felony and misdemeanour charges and the accused were acquitted.

If you’re interested in reading more about the trial, a full transcript is available online by clicking on this link. If you are interested in browsing other entries in the Rogue’s Gallery, click here.

Centenary of Public Libraries in Midlothian


The earliest libraries in Midlothian were private subscription libraries, which meant that anybody who wished to use them had to pay a regular fee to gain access to the books. Penicuik Subscription Library opened in 1797, Loanhead in 1818 and the Dalkeith Scientific Association, which was founded in 1835, had a private library for its members.

Some shops also ran their own borrowing libraries, which people could use for small fee. In Bonnyrigg there was a library in a local café, which was known as the ‘Coffee-House Library’.

In 1853 the Public Libraries Act gave burgh councils the option of running a free public library. These were paid for out of local taxation, which often meant that poorer areas of the country like Midlothian were unable to afford them.

The free public library movement in Scotland was greatly encouraged by the generosity and foresight of Andrew Carnegie. 

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline in 1853. He emigrated to the United States where he became a wealthy iron and steel magnate. In his later life, he used his vast fortune to finance many philanthropic projects. He offered money for the building of public libraries on condition that others donated building land and paid for the books and running costs.

The first Carnegie library in the old Midlothian County was opened at West Calder on 24 November 1903. Two years earlier a new public library had been proposed for Dalkeith. After great debate the Burgh Council rejected it because it would impose a heavy burden on local ratepayers.

Bonnyrigg Town Council, however, accepted Carnegie’s offer and land was obtained in Lothian Street. Building work started on 31 July 1908 and a memorial stone was laid by Provost Archibald Gilchrist on 2 September 1908.

Bonnyrigg Public Library was opened on Saturday 2 October 1909 amidst an ‘extraordinary degree’ of interest from ‘hundreds of inhabitants’. A special commemorative poem was written by Provost Porteous of Lasswade, which began:

‘Twas on a lovely autumn afternoon,
A great big day for Bonnyrigg toon;
What a folk did gather there
Fra round about far and near.

For to attend a demonstration
Of Carnegie’s presentation;
A lovely mansion here you’ll  find
With beauty and order all combined.

The opening ceremony was performed by Dr Hew Morrison, who represented Andrew Carnegie. He was accompanied by Provost Gilchrist and his wife, and representatives of the Town Council and other bodies in Bonnyrigg. Dr Morrison was presented with a special silver key to open the building, but, as the Dalkeith Advertiser reported, there was a ‘slight contretemps’ when he tried to open the front door:

‘The Doctor inserted and turned the key in the lock, but the door did not respond to the gentle push with which he attempted to open it. Even the combined efforts of the Provost and some other gentlemen in the vicinity failed to open it. Presently however the door swung easily open, the appearance of the caretaker behind indicating the bolt securing the door from inside had been withdrawn. The incident lasted no more than a minute, and its only effect was to cause merriment amongst the spectators.’

Following the opening ceremony there were a long series of speeches in the library hall followed by a reception:

Now when the business it was over
They did adjourn to the corner,
And as some were cauld and shakey
They got cakes and wine and aqua vittie.

The new library was designed by the Edinburgh architectural firm of Greig, Fairbairn and McNiven. It was built in the English ‘medieval style’ style in red sandstone and had many fine details, including the Dundas family coat-of-arms over the main entrance. On the ground floor, the library had a lending section and a reading room with spaces for 36 readers and a separate alcove for women. A side entrance to the building gave access to a meeting room and also to a public bathroom, which had ‘two spray baths, one plunge bath and a changing box’. On the first floor there was a public lecture hall that could hold 200 people. The building included a flat for the librarian and caretaker. The total cost of the library was £2300 of which Andrew Carnegie donated £2000.

The library housed around 6000 books which had been chosen to suit all tastes, including fiction by the latest authors. There was also a selection of ‘Juvenile Literature’ for children, which Provost Gilchrist hoped would ‘shape and mould their minds in the right direction’. The Reference Room included newspapers and magazines.

The Lending Library was open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 3 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon and between 7 and 9 o’clock in the evening. The Reference Room was open each day except Sunday between 9am and 10pm. Access was available to every ratepayer in Bonnyrigg but they were only allowed to borrow one book at a time. The library had strict rules about behaviour. Users were not allowed to cut articles out of the newspapers and they were not to be ‘intoxicated, disorderly or uncleanly’. Users were fined one penny for every three days that their books were overdue.

The library was originally run by a Library Committee of Bonnyrigg Town Council but in 1921 Midlothian Education Authority took over the administration of the lending library. Funding was always limited and a billiards room was introduced to supplement income. A Council report in 1945 described the library as ‘a somewhat dingy unprogressive appearance’. Bonnyrigg library was soon incorporated into the new Midlothian County Council Library Scheme.

The current library in Bonnyrigg opened on 16 April 1974 but in 1989 the old library was pressed into service because of building work in the new library.  

Since 1909, many other public libraries have been opened in Midlothian and they continue to provide a valuable free service to the local community

The Original Bouncing Baby?

By Rhona Gordon

Shortly before the compulsory registration of BDM’s, Janet Duncan, daughter of deceased Robert Duncan, Shoemaker of Linlithgow gave birth to an illegitimate child on 16th December 1854.   The father she claimed was Peter Hardie, also a Shoemaker of Linlithgow.

Shortly after the birth, the grandmother Mrs Duncan took the child to the house of Peter Hardie, went inside and laid the child down in a bed and left.  That same evening the child was removed from Hardies’ house and taken back to the Duncan’s house, only to be retaken back to the Hardie house. Perhaps this is where the term bouncing baby came from?  Peter Hardie then applied to the Inspector of the Poor to relieve him of the child, which the Inspector was obliged to do in the meantime.  What he did with the child is not noted.

The case was brought to the attention of the Parochial Board of the Parish at their monthly meeting of 9/01/1855.  The Inspector was instructed to employ an agent to raise an action against the putative father Peter Hardie to establish the paternity.

However, by the next meeting of the Parochial Board on 13/02/1855 the Inspector, despite a number of witnesses, had been unable to ascertain what he considered sufficient evidence to prove paternity but thought that there was further evidence to be got which he was trying to obtain.  As such he thought it best to delay any action to sue for paternity in the meantime.

The Board, he said, could consider if there was a case against the mother for criminal prosecution for deserting the child, as she was now in a position, was earning wages sufficient enough to enable her to contribute towards its maintenance. The Board agreed that if she refused to support the child, the Inspector was to raise a criminal action against her. 

As the case was not again mentioned in the meeting minutes and as the child born in December 1854 was not registered, we would never know what happened to it.   However, a registration of death on 15/06/1856 of Peter Duncan, at the tender age of 19 months gave his mother as Jessie Duncan (no father).

What happened to Janet? Janet Duncan married William Stalker on at Linlithgow on 31/12/1857.  A daughter Catherine Calder Stalker was born 14/3/1858. All three immigrated to America, arriving in New York on 21/5/1859.

Learning From the Past – Inspiring the Future

East Lothian Cultural Services have now got two new members of staff working on the new John Gray Centre that will be opening early in 2012. Caroline Mathers is the Development Officer for the centre and Helen Bleck is the Heritage Resource Development Officer.

The very glam Caroline (who would only pose for her photograph once she had her glittery eyeshadow on!) gives us a brief run-down of what she will be doing at the JGC .

“Hello everyone, I would like to introduce myself to the Lothian Lives blog. I’m very happy to be able to tell you a bit about the John Gray Centre. The JGC will open in early 2012 and will be situated in the heart of Haddington town. The centre will house the Haddington branch library and the East Lothian archive and local history Service. The centre will also have a museum with a permanent exhibition space as well as a learning space and a temporary gallery for local artists and groups to display their work.

I am part of the archive team and my focus will be working with different communities to promote the use of the John Gray Centre through developing innovative learning programmes and activities that highlight the wealth of our collections. I’ve been in post for nearly three months now and in that time I’ve been able to see the great work all the services are doing which has helped me when thinking about the kinds of programmes I would like develop.  I’ll be working with other council services such as learning and development and the arts service as well as independent organisations working locally.

At the moment I’m developing an archive project for schools to introduce children to the concept of collecting. Through school visits we will ask P6 and 7 children what they think an archive collects and what we should collect for the future. Classes will be encouraged to start their own small archive, collecting things over the year that they can look back on. We can then display some of the class archives in the JGC, making the project more real for the children involved. There are 32 primary schools in East Lothian and we would like to give every school the opportunity to visit the archive. Investing time and energy in primary school children now will pay off in the future. When young people have an understanding of what archives are and how they could be relevant to their lives they are more likely to use these services in the future and feel comfortable visiting and accessing information. We have to start early!

In my short time working with the archive team I’ve seen a lot of things from the collection. Some amazing, like a soldier’s autograph book from WW1; some that made me stop and think, like a register of deaths documenting suicides and some beautiful things like the illustration we are using for our new Facebook page – check it out at:!/pages/East-Lothian-Council-Archives-Local-History/121137911289662

I am looking forward to learning more and helping to make these inspiring collections accessible for the future.


TB: Vampires and Sunshine Cures

Craiglockhart Hospital and Poorhouse, Tuberculosis Sanitorium, c. 1890s - early 1900s

Warm sunshine and fresh air – something that perhaps all of us are longing for during this coldest of Scottish winters. Such a therapeutic approach formed the basis of treatment of one very common disease in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart Hospital and Poorhouse – an institution that cared for infants, the elderly, the poor and the ill – was one place adopting this therapy. Edinburgh City Archives hold a wonderful collection of photographs of the institution from the turn of the last century. Although the photographs were carefully composed, the images give the viewer a glimpse of life inside the hospital’s walls. They are very much images of their time and show how certain serious illnesses were treated before later developments in medical science.   

The image above is a photograph of a Tuberculosis ward at Craiglockhart Hospital and Poorhouse. Tuberculosis or TB is a highly infectious disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although TB can affect other organs, the bacterium commonly attacks the lungs and is transmitted to others via the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.  Left untreated, tuberculosis is often fatal.TB has a long history; the disease has been detected in human remains dating from 7000 BC. Before the Mycobacterium tuberculosis responsible for the chronic cough, night sweats and wasting associated with the illness were identified by Robert Koch in 1882, Consumption and Phthisis were the names most commonly given to the disease.  Throughout the 19th century, consumption was one of the most frequently cited causes of death in Europe and it is estimated that the disease claimed the lives of 100 million people worldwide throughout the 20th century.   

Although tuberculosis became known as a disease of the urban poor, it affected individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Famous sufferers include Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.  Curiously, throughout the 19th century, the disease’s association with notable people and literary figures afforded a certain mystique and allure to an illness which physically ravaged and wasted its victims. In the past, TB was sometimes associated with vampirism as many believed sufferers  slowly drained the health and vitality of others around them.   

Once the nature of the disease was better understood, public health campaigns urged people to avoid coughing and sneezing carelessly and spitting in public places.  These measures went some way to preventing the spread of the disease. Numerous Sanatoria were also established which isolated infected individuals and offered treatments of limited effectiveness such as bed-rest, sunshine, fresh air and good nutrition. In the late nineteenth-century, the Craiglockhart Hospital and Poorhouse adopted this approach to the treatment of TB.   

This image of a group of TB patients typifies the environment and methods used to treat the disease during this period. Patients were located in a separate ward away from other hospital residents, usually in a specially adapted room with windows, often open, to let in fresh air and sunlight. Although some sufferers placed in Sanatoria did recover from their illness, it was not until the development of the antibiotic streptomycin in 1946 that successful treatment and cure were possible.   

If you would like to see other photographs of the Craiglockhart Hospital and Poorhouse, click here.