Writing in the Daily Express in 1936, the sports journalist Trevor Wignall said “Sport .. is probably the biggest thing in the land. It occupies the thoughts, and empties the pockets, of countless millions”. Sport will certainly be occupying my thoughts for the next 12 months as I endeavour to mine the extensive and varied sports-related material held in the various locations of this wonderful institution.
Having survived and April Fool spoof on my appointment with the temporary Head of General Collections Declan, I am lucky enough to have been appointed as the first ever Sports Writer in Residence. In a year-long post jointly funded by the National Library, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport, I will be mining the National Library’s vast sporting resources and opening them up to the public, amongst other activities.
I first experienced the National Library’s joys when, as a post-graduate student at Aberdeen University in the 1990s, we were sent to George IV Bridge to learn how to use a reference library! Twenty years later, I have now been given the equivalent of the keys to a sweetie shop and access to some of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to sport and Scottish heritage. While the National Library of Scotland is the largest Library in Scotland, there are also, within our collections, many smaller more specialist libraries. We are the largest newspaper library in Scotland and have the largest collection of Scottish newspapers in the world. I knew that, but did not realise that the same applies to maps.
The National Library is largest sports library in Scotland with a wealth of material on the home-grown Scottish sports of shinty, curling, golf and Highland Games. There are also large collections on sports where Scotland has often played a key role in the sport’s history and development such as football, rugby, tennis, swimming, athletics and cricket. Amongst the other sports to be found at the Library are Roller Derby, Ice skating, Bowling, Boxing, Snooker, Athletics and Bazaars. There is a huge amount of material on personalities relating to sport in Scotland, their achievements at home, and also on the world stage. And if you want to know about the history of lifting big stones, a la Donald Dinnie, this is the place to find out more about them.
As would be expected, the National Library of Scotland has one of the largest collections of printed and manuscript golf and golf-related material in the world, ranging from 15th century manuscript material that mentions the game right up to the programme for the 2014 Ryder Cup held at Gleneagles and includes maps, early books, biographies, club histories, course design, serials and programmes. The library has recently been trying to build up our 20th and 21st century printed golf collections, such as programmes for major championships and we will continue to scope and build our modern golf collections via purchase, donation and Legal Deposit.
Our newspaper collections are home to decades of sports coverage both at national and local level. We currently receive 250 Scottish newspapers and have almost complete collections going back to 1925 and beyond. We have over 18000 items on football world-wide, including large collections on Scottish football. We have probably the largest collection of Scottish football programmes available to the public for perusal; over 9000 programmes for full-time league clubs and another thousand for international and junior football matches, including a small but growing collection of programmes for women’s football.
We have club histories from the smallest amateur side to the big city teams, a near comprehensive collection of biographies relating to the game, extensive collections of football magazines, Wee Red Books, Topical Times books, Roy of the Rovers annuals amongst others.
There are over 3000 books on world and Scottish rugby, ranging from the history of local clubs to books on the Rugby World Cup and Lions tours as well as early books on the development of the game in Scotland and International programmes dating back to when these were played at Raeburn Place rather than the current national stadium, Murrayfield.
Cricket in Scotland was widely played and has a long and interesting history. We have early histories of the Grange Cricket Club, Carlton Cricket Club and books on lots of other cricket clubs throughout Scotland. We have the rare programme from 1948 for a Scotland v Australia match played in Aberdeen which was the legendary Don Bradman’s last international.
Over the next 12 months I will be delving into this rich seam of sporting history, contributing to the work of the Sports Heritage Scotland project at Hampden Park and linking our sporting heritage to other aspects of society such as the nation’s health and well-being, education and cultural activities such as the Royal National Mod, the Edinburgh Festival, The Academy of Sport’s Summer School on Sport and Culture and other events throughout Scotland.
The National Library of Scotland is keen to develop new audiences, enhance the sports content of its on-line offering and to engage with communities in terms of building our store of the nation’s sporting history. There is a whole community of interest which the National Library can support by continuing to make its collections more accessible. The material held here on behalf of the nation is for everyone to peruse at their leisure, on-line, or, better still, in person. Our collections are diverse and niche. Your sport is here – we are sure we have a sport for everybody and can help everybody with sport.
Access to all our resources is free and straightforward in our reading rooms in Edinburgh. If individuals or small groups would like help with any of our collections or discuss any aspect of our work, please get in touch.
Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan, Sports Writer in Residence
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