The Black Collection is a remarkable record about Penicuik and surrounding area from 1880 to 1930. It is named after James Black and his son Robert, who assembled a mass of material about life in Penicuik.
The main part of the collection is a series of carefully compiled scrapbooks on life in Penicuik. The subjects range from local industries, sport, clubs and societies, and biographies of Penicuik people.
In the 1970s, the Black Collection was gifted to Midlothian Library Service by James Black’s grandson, William. The originals have been indexed and microfilmed, and these can be consulted in Penicuik Library or in Local Studies at Loanhead.
Amongst the Collection is a fascinating photograph album about the Penicuik Rifle Volunteers. The Volunteer Force was a citizen army of part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps, created as a popular movement in 1859. Originally highly autonomous, the units of Volunteers became increasingly integrated with the British Army after 1881 before forming part of the Territorial Force in 1908.
A Volunteer Battalion called the 3rd Midlothian Rife Volunteers was established in Penicuik in 1860. Several members of the Black family became members of the Volunteers. The Black Collection has nine scrapbooks about the individual Penicuik Companies.
The photograph album includes this small picture taken on Peebles Road, Penicuik in 1901. Captioned as ‘The Coming Volunteers’, it shows a small group of young boys who have formed their own Volunteer Company. They are standing to attention with their wooden swords and home-made helmets made out of cardboard. The photograph was taken during the latter stages of the South African War or Boer War (1899-1902). This was a very emotive period in British history when the country was caught-up in a distant war against an elusive but very determined enemy. The War engendered very strong feelings in Britain with many people strongly opposed it.