Thank goodness for collectors!

Bonnyrigg Calendar 1977


















Thanks goodness for collectors! You might call them daft but they are a godsend for archivists and archive collections.

Recently, Midlothian Local Studies has completed a catalogue for a collection once owned by Eric Basden. 

Eric B Basden lived at 7 Leyden Park, Bonnyrigg with his wife Joan and four children. He was a keen entomologist, and a member of the Bonnyrigg and Lasswade District Horticultural and Industrial Society.  He was active in local affairs and his collection reflects his interests, including horticulture, local shops, businesses, the annual Civic Week, and clubs and societies in Bonnyrigg and Lasswade.


Civic Week programme

















Alex Eadie

















In the 1970s and early 1980s, Eric collected a huge amount of ephemera from the Bonnyrigg area. This included advertising leaflets from local shops and businesses, political leaflets, newsletters, membership cards and calendars, even books of bingo tickets and brown paper bags. Few people would consider saving this kind of material which is normally just thrown away.






Vote for Buchanan














Fortunately, Basden kept it and it was donated to Midlothian Local Studies after his death. It provides a fascinating snapshot of life in Bonnyrigg in the 1970s, a typical Scottish town of its day. 


Amongst the collection is a series of fact sheets called ‘Compar-a-cost’. These were produced by the local council in the 1970s and compared the prices of basic groceries in local shops. Inflation and rising prices were one of the big issues of the 1970s and here local people could compare prices. In December 1975, a tin of baked beans cost 11½p in Nobles of Bonnyrigg but 15½p in St Cuthbert’s of Mayfield.


Another typical item is a receipt for Allan Forrest, Grocer and Fruiterer, High Street, Bonnyrigg. Eric Basden has added a note to the receipt stating that he asked the four members of staff to sign it the day before the business closed for good (15 May 1976).






Raffle tcikets


















The collection includes two scrapbooks of local small ephemera, such as bus tickets, raffle tickets, business cards and invitations.

The collection also holds some internment notices from Lasswade cemetery dating from 1916 onwards. Basden probably rescued these from somebody’s bin.

Eric Basden died in 1984, having been a Midlothian man and pillar of the local community for all of his life.



Bonnyrigg & Lasswade Official Guide


















The only worying thing about this collection is that if you are of a certain vintage, the 1970s don’t seem that long ago but the decade is rapidly becoming the stuff of archives.

There must be an upside to all this work…

We’re mad busy at East Lothian Archives getting ready for our move to John Gray Centre in a few weeks. Packing, cataloguing, cleaning, blogging – you name it we’re doing it. The website for the new centre began its user testing this week (and will launch to the public shortly) so many hours have been spent writing content, checking the details and uploading catalogues to make our collections as accessible as possible. With one search visitors will gets results from all heritage services in East Lothian – Museums, Archaeology, Local History and Archives. It’s been an amazing amount of work but we’re really pleased with the results.

 All our work and the creation of a new building is having a positive effect on our profile in East Lothian which has already led to an increase in donations. Earlier this week a gentleman visited us to hand over documents of Haddington Inspector of the Poor form the early 19th century. It’s a fabulous collection that he had been holding onto for some years and now feels that East Lothian’s new Archive will be the best place for it. The collection includes details of a soup kitchen that was set up to feed the destitute, a list of paupers for Haddington and an appeal by the Inspector to Whitehall asking for money for the passage to Australia of two children of a convict who had been sent there.

 Hopefully this will be only one of many fabulous new accessions we receive – there has to be a upside side to all this work!

National Cataloguing Grant Success

As we move into the New Year, here at West Lothian archives, we are looking forward to busy and changing times for our archive service.

Last month we learned that we had been awarded a National Cataloguing Grant of £42,588 to catalogue our Livingston collections. The 18 month project entitled “Livingston New Town, From Plan to Community, 1962-2012” will be led by a project archivist and will involve the cataloguing of the records of Livingston Development Corporation as well as some of our smaller Livingston collections, the creation of an online catalogue, and the publication of a summary guide to the collections.

The project coincides with the 50th anniversary of the new town of Livingston and will allow us to celebrate and permanently document the history of the local community.

Many people think of archives as being hundreds of years old, but this award recognises the importance of 20th century history to both our local communities and our wider cultural heritage.

The grant is a massive boost for our archive service and we are excited about enabling community access to these important collections.