Midlothian and the First World War

Bonnyrigg War Memorial in its original setting








Please help our First World War database.

2014 will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. This promises to be a time of major national commemoration and reflection.

In preparation for this event, Midlothian Library Service and Archives has started a major research project about the local area and the war.

The research project has two aims:

  • To record all First World War memorials in the Midlothian area.
  • To research the individuals named on memorials with the aim of creating a Roll of Honour for Midlothian.

The First World War had an enormous impact on Midlothian. Almost every family was affected in some way and many local men and women lost their lives.

Both during and after the War, numerous memorials were raised to commemorate local loss. Some of these are well known local landmarks, such as the memorial in Dalkeith Public Park which lists over 170 names.



There were also many smaller and less well known memorials which were placed in local churches, workplaces, schools and clubs. Over the years, some of these have been moved or destroyed.

Midlothian Library and Archive Service is seeking information on any memorials to the First World War, especially less obvious ones which may be hidden away in buildings. Some people appear on more than one memorial whilst others were never recorded although their deaths were mentioned in local newspapers. The names listed on memorials will be added to our database of Midlothian casualties.

Loanhead War Memorial













Already we have recorded over 60 memorials in Midlothian and over 1800 names have been added to our database. We have rescued one memorial from destruction and plan to have it re-sited in the near future. We are also on the trail of several others memorials that have gone missing, including the Dalkeith High School memorial, the Penicuik Free Gardeners memorial and a framed series of photographs of Bonnyrigg soldiers. 

The database will become a great resource for family history and also will help to preserve memories of the fallen.

The Library Service has produced a leaflet listing town and parish war memorials in Midlothian. Copies are available free of charge at local libraries.

Midlothian Councillor Peter Boyes said: ‘I hope that local people will support this project. The Library Service recently restored the Midlothian County Council war memorial. Originally, it hung in the Council Chambers in Edinburgh, but was put away for many years when the building closed. The memorial has been re-erected in Midlothian House, Dalkeith where it is a striking feature near the Council debating chamber.’ 

If you know of any First World War memorials in Midlothian, please contact Local Studies on 0131 271 3976 or email local.studies@midlothian.gov.uk.


Penicuik War Memorial

Entomology Now (and then) a.k.a. It’s A Bug’s Life

Cartoon of a bee carrying a bucket of honey. Entomology.East Lothian has a long history.  A significant part of that history was been to do with farming.  What some people don’t realise is that farming relies on a well balanced ecosystem. What is even less commonly appreciated is the role of the humble insect within that ecosystem.

Within East Lothian Archive and Local History Collections we have a variety of resources that can help people gain insights into historical, and more recent, investigations into these often neglected areas of study. In 1805 a book was published which was taken from the papers of ‘The Late Robert Sommerville, Esq. Surgeon of Haddington’ entitled ‘Agriculture of East Lothian‘ which included a section on ‘Livestock’.  This concluded with the following remarks on Bees:

“These insects seem not to be so numerous in the county, as at some former periods, and perhaps, even in proportion to their numbers, yield less honey.”  “Honey, however, is not a necessary of life, and if, by the extension of tillage and destruction of weeds, we can raise more corn and feed a greater number of cattle and sheep, we shall not have reason to lament the decrease of bees.”

Mr Sommerville was obviously not a fan of bees, and seems to be unaware of their vital role in our ecosystem.  At the other end of the spectrum, both across time and in attitude, we have Magnus Sinclair. In 2005 he undertook a survey of the types of beetle that could be found at John Muir Park.  A copy of the findings of this study are held within East Lothian Archive as EL119, which is a useful piece in the field of Entomology – the study of insects.

So over 200 years the interest in the natural world within East Lothian remains, even if the attitudes change. And there are windows into this world to be found in the Council Archive and Local History Collections.

Abejita – Bee image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Surfing the New Wave

This is blog written by Stephen Thomas. It has come to the point where we here at West Lothian Council Archive could not, nay dared not, ignore the growing wave of new and exciting ways to put oneself about. These so called Social Media Sites; where information about this and that can be Uploaded to be Downloaded to be Embedded, Shared, Edited, Trolled, Commented upon, Torrented and Uploaded again in the time it takes someone of my technological knowledge to work out how to attach a file to an email.

Bearing those limitations in mind we approached, with some trepidation, the bright and shiny new worlds of Twitter, Blogger, Twitpic, Flickr, YFrog, Hootsuite and Facebook. I am man enough to admit that there were tears, oh yes. Frustrations, rending of hair, slack jawed incomprehension and even the odd curse upon the Gods of technology and all their devious ways.

But as you are no doubt aware people who work in archives are patience and perseverance personified; they will happily wait for moss to grow on a stone so as to have a comfy seat. So, given time and restorative cups that cheer, the new media mountain was climbed and conquered.

Here are the fruits of our labour: 


News, views, happenings and upcoming events. The blog is still very much in its infancy and not updated as regularly as one would like, but it’s getting there.


Various twitterings about projects as they happen. 


Tweets as if from Councillor Alexander Smith, the Poor Law Inspector for the Parish of West Calder around 1896. Some license is used in regard to his thoughts on matters, but the information regarding names, dates and outcomes are all accurate. 


 Our Flickr site where we upload pictures from projects and other more leftfield images taken around the archive.


We also have a Facebook page; just search for the group West Lothian Council Archive. 

Coming Soon – The blog of Private Peter Jack of Blackridge of the Lanarkshire Yeomanary charting a tour of duty from 1915-1916 which took him firstly to the Gallipoli Penninsula and later to Egypt.




Introducing Alexander Smith, Poor Law Inspector for West Calder

In past blogs, West Lothian Archives has brought you the stories of West Lothian residents who claimed poor relief. In “Pauper to Painter” we uncovered the humble beginnings of artist John Kane whilst in “The Original Bouncing Baby” we brought you the story of the battle surrounding the illegitimate daughter of Janet Duncan. West Lothian Council archives will now bring you the story of  paupers  from the perspective of the  Poor Law Inspector for West Calder, Alexander Smith, who was appointed by West Calder Parish Council to be in charge of poor relief for the parish.

We have created a Twitter feed in the name of the inspector and it will appear as if he himself is tweeting about the often desperate residents of West Calder who tried to claim poor relief. Alexander Smith didn’t leave a diary behind so there will obviously be some poetic licence involved but the tweets will be firmly based on the entries of poor law application registers and the minutes of the West Calder Parish Council held at West Lothian Council Archive Service.  These records provide snapshots of the lives of paupers, their family, occupation and financial circumstances and as such are a rich historical source waiting to be untapped.

 Alexander Smith will take you back to 1896 and introduce you to the people who claimed relief and the decisions that were made by the parish council. Follow Alexander Smith’s twitter feed on http://twitter.com/PoorInspector.  If you can, join us on July the 14th as Alexander Smith tweets from a meeting of West Calder Parish Council.