Researching local town history

People often think that the only way to search for material in the National Library of Scotland is via the on-line catalogue. However there are other resources available that can pinpoint useful material that can assist with your research.

For example, if you are studying the history of Largs, you will find quite a few items of relevance via the on-line catalogue. The best method of finding material about the small Ayrshire town is to use Largs in the “keyword – title” search option, which provides 171 results, or in the “keyword-subject” option, which results in 135 hits.

These results will vary in their usefulness. Among them are the local newspaper, “The Largs and Millport Weekly News”, which The Library holds from its inception in 1877 up to the present date. If there are particular events in the history of town that you are researching then the newspaper is likely to be the best source for contemporary information.

There are numerous publications available, including books about the town’s links with Australia, various pictorial histories, histories of the local churches and an account of the local football team, Largs Thistle, from its inception in the 1870s up to the early noughties. There are also several smaller items which cover very specific events, including planning appeals and a curious item from the late 1800s titled “An account of the life and transactions of Mr Richardson, late Minister at Largs : how he committed suicide by cutting his own throat”.

If you input Largs into the search box on our website however, it will search beyond our catalogue. In fact it comes up with over half a million results, as this search facility trawls on-line resources, and as a result finds over 300,000 newspaper articles of relevance. If your research has a particular focus, such as Nardini’s famous café, then you can input that as an additional search term to narrow your results to a more manageable number (in this case, 129 news articles).

Other on-line content that is uncovered by using this search facility includes details about the name of the town from “A Dictionary of British Place Names”, information on the Battle of Largs from “Brewer’s Britain and Ireland” and the “Largs Burgh Order confirmation bill” from the U.K. Parliamentary Papers resource from 1936.

Our e-resources vary in accessibility: some are freely accessible, some require registration with The Library, while others can only be accessed from networked computers in our reading rooms.

If you visit our digital gallery you can add a bit of colour to your local history research. Using Largs as a search term will search the Moving Image Archive catalogue, so you will find videos of a journey from Glasgow to Largs on a steamer and a concert at the Barrfields Pavilion, both from the 1930s.

The digital gallery also searches material from The Library’s collection that has been digitised, including the aforementioned “An account of the life and transactions of Mr Richardson, late Minister at Largs : how he committed suicide by cutting his own throat”, which can be viewed on the Word on the Street page, or some printed music about the Battle of Largs. It also includes vintage maps, including an 1855 Ordnance Survey map of the town. Material from the digital gallery is accessible by anyone whether you have registered to use The Library or not.

Should you have any further queries about this or any other subject, please contact us at Ask a Librarian or simply speak to staff at our Enquiry Desk.