Arran: a history By Thorbjørn Campbell

Arran a history-1

This book was bought on the last day of our recent trip to Arran, so I did not start to read it until we had returned home. The first chapter is entitled ‘Early Times’ and describes the geology. The Highland Boundary Fault runs through the Goatfell complex of mountains. It also runs through my old school in Callander – separating the gym from the rest of the building. The evidence of early human settlement and the archaeological remains are outlined in the next three chapters. Ordnance Survey references are provided at the end of each chapter for the significant sites mentioned. Arran’s role in events of the Middle Ages to the present day are discussed and how events in the wider British, Irish and European history impacted in the island and its people. It had a role in Robert the Bruce’s bid for Scottish independence and later suffered from the Clearances as did much of the rest of the Highlands and Islands and the mid-19th century potato famine which struck Scotland as well as Ireland. The book was published in 2013 and the final three chapters address the 19th century, the development of services which occurred much later than they did in mainland Britain and ‘The Modern Age’. Two appendices provide songs and stories in Arran Gaelic. If you are planning a trip or have visited the island before I would recommend it.

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Here is a guest post from Malcolm Lorimer. It has also been submitted to the Methodist Recorder:

Many people will remember the Mow Cop book sales run by Rev’d Stephen Hatcher on behalf of Englesea Brook Primitive Methodist Chapel and Museum. When I heard that Stephen was retiring I HAD AN IDEA. Instead of moving over 250 banana boxes full of books into a chapel for the annual sale why not move the people into a bookshop! Along with Elaine and Richard Pearce who are the editors of the Ranters’ Digest (a publication of The Friends of Englesea Brook) we set up  and run the bookshop.

I have always had a desire to run a second-hand bookshop and just when Second Hand Bookshops are closing around the country the Methodist Church opens one!  Since March 2012 we have opened the Methodist Chapel at Hassall Road  Alsager (part of the Cheshire South Circuit) for Second Hand Book sales. The Chapel is situated on the edge of Alsager only 2 miles from Junction 16 of the M6. The chapel was redundant but it is proving a useful “Fresh Expression”. There are over 40,000 books in subject order and there is everything from Early History to modern paperbacks.

We have taken out most of the pews and installed bookshelves in the church and schoolroom. We also have two sheds for extra books.

All the profits from book sales help support Englesea Brook Museum. This is a place where you can explore the story of working-class religion in the 19th century particularly as it was experienced by a group called the Primitive Methodists.

There are large sections on Christianity and Theology with particularly strong sections on Methodist and Anglican Theology. We have over 300 Bible commentaries as well as sections on Worship/Bible Studies/Preaching/Music and Drama and also sections on Healing/Evangelism/ Leadership Spirituality/Pastoral/ Ethics/ Church History/Christian Biography.

Methodism. We have  a large Methodist collection which contains over 500 church histories/Methodist history throughout the world/John Wesley-Biographies/journals etc. Also local histories of chapels etc. Not to be forgotten good sections on History, Art, Poetry, Gardening, Classics, Local History, Travel, Geography, Childrens’ books and an  extensive area devoted to Crime (over 1000 books) and General Fiction. The customers have commented that they like the fact that books are in subject order and even for fiction –alphabetical!! Refreshments are available and there is a place to relax and read.

We are fortunate that people give us the books and we have been blessed with the donations of clergy when they retire. Recently we took delivery of a huge collection of history books written in the last twenty years. I never knew there was so much written on the Tudors!

I help sort the books and you never know what you may find. Recently we had 50 books on building model ships!!! Lately I was going through an old tatty box with what looked like old magazines and nothing special in particular when there at the bottom were two children’s books in pristine condition – 19th century French lithographs which fetched £200 each at auction. We accept all kinds of books from modern novels to old and dusty theology. Some of the most rare books are put on the Internet.  We are hoping to do an auction this September. Books will be listed on our website.

We are blessed with a team of volunteers who work tirelessly arranging and selling the books, moving boxes and making tea and occasionally serving cakes to customers. They come from all denominations and all have a love of books and working in the shop.

We have found that it is not only a bookshop but a real “Fresh Expression” of the church with the conversations we have with customers. One of our most popular sellers is Bibles. We have probably 30 different versions at any one time-(All new or nearly new). People come and ask questions. We can share our faith when we are asked to and customers like the friendly atmosphere.

We have services at special times in the chapel (the organ is still working) and this year we hope to have monthly discussions on books and local authors.

We open Friday and Saturday each week 10am-2pm, all Bank Holiday Mondays and by appointment. In the summer we have books on tables outside It is a poor week if less than 50 people visit the bookshop. We don’t throw books away to landfill but some go to Africa and others are pulped to go to making new books.  Books can be accepted, but we don’t usually collect unless it is a special library.


You really need to visit the bookshop if you can. If you are looking for a particular book or subjects which interest you we can let you know when a particular book comes in. Let us know your wants and what you are interested in and we will send E-mail alerts when books come in on your subject. Why not keep in touch by our Blog on Facebook. Books  and special sales will be advertised there. The bookshop is certainly worth a visit this summer.

Facebook page: alsagerbookemporimforengleseabrook

Rev Malcolm Lorimer.



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From John O’Groats to Land’s End

John O'Groats -Lands End 1916

Robert Naylor was a Warrington timber merchant whose home when this book was published in 1916, was Beeston Towers in Cheshire. It is now a hotel. The 1372 miles covering the sights between John O’Groats and Land’s End was not his first long walk. In the Foreword he describes sailing in 1862 from Liverpool to London to go to sea and in 1870, walking back to Lancashire with his brother for 306 miles, averaging 25 miles per day. Their route is described as ‘circuitous’.

A year later they decided to walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End. They placed various restrictions upon themselves: they were not to take a ferry or accept a ride in any conveyance, they did not walk on Sundays and abstained from intoxicating drink. They elected not to carry maps but to rely on their own judgement and local advice. Interestingly they began their walk on September 6th 1871 and took nine weeks to complete it. I usually plan my walks for late spring or summer as the days are long, hopefully drier and in Scotland, the midges are not at their peak.

The Naylor brothers took a somewhat circuitous route to John O’Groats: on a ship from Aberdeen to Shetland, from there to Orkney and back to the mainland. In the late 18th century the Clearances were still underway. They met some men from one of the islands. Their ancestors had lived there for ‘as long as time immemorial’ but all the inhabitants had been expelled by the factor so that the whole island could be turned into a sheep farm.

The book is generously supplied with photographs. Naylor does not mention taking any photographs, so I assume they come from other sources.  Although the walk was undertaken in 1871, the book was not published until 1916. My copy was ‘published for presentation only’ and was presented to one Ezra Barnet by the author. In a brief afterword entitled ‘In Memoriam’ John Naylor attributes the idea of the adventure to his brother who had since died. He states that he wrote the book from diaries they kept during their travels and it does appear to be the first recorded journey of this route.

Many people have emulated them since, walking the length of the country or around the coast, running, cycling or swimming and numerous books have been published. If you don’t want to buy this book and support a bookseller, it is available on the Project Gutenberg website.

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Books about lighthouses

‘The Lighthouse Stevensons’ by Bella Bathurst has sat on my bookshelf for a while but had to be read during my most recent trip. We were staying in the last Northern Lighthouse built by the family; Eshaness in Northmavine, Shetland. It was finished in 1929 and unusually, was built with concrete because the local stone was deemed unsuitable. Most people know about Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer and numerous publications have been written about his life and works, but less was known about the rest of the family. I have heard some express surprise that the offspring of so many engineers could become a writer but reading the book reveals that several of Robert Louis’s forebears expressed the desire to go to university, one wrote poems, wanted to write fiction and one carried out experiments and published scientific papers. In her preface, Bathurst states that she did not intend the book to be a definitive biography of all four generations and therefore concentrated on the time between 1786 and 1890 when the first four Stevensons were working and the four lights most closely associated with them. It inevitably touches on the history of shipwrecks but also press gangs which interfered with the workforce for lighthouse building. In addition to being engineers, they also had to advertise for and appoint the keepers who were required until the last light was automated in 1998. There are several black & white illustrations of lights and some of the Stevensons.









The information sent to us by the Shetland Amenity Trust said that the keeper’s cottage had been owned by an American writer from 1999 and that she had written a book about her experience. I managed to find an ex-library copy of the paperback for only £2.60 and it arrived just before I left on my current trip so I read it on the plane.

The Last Lighthouse covers the eight years it took Sharma Krauskopf to search for and buy it and the early days of her and her husband’s ownership. It is laid out as a series of e-mails from her to friends, her husband and a growing list of people who wanted to keep updated about the project. She talks about the benefits of the lack of the sounds of civilisation, the landscape, the ocean and wildlife. One thing she said resonated with me after my very brief stay. Right next to the lighthouse is a car park and when we were there, people were wandering around, peering in the windows and asking to use the toilet. Nothing had changed since her experience in 1999.

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The Borders

I first travelled through the border country between Scotland and England when I was only six weeks old with my parents on their motorbike and sidecar. Since then countless trips have been made for both work and pleasure, crossing the border on the various roads that traverse it. The most recent journey was yesterday. I picked up Alistair Moffat’s ‘The Borders: a history of the borders from earliest times’ in the bookshop in Moffat a few weeks ago even though it was first published in 2002. I have read some of his other books but had not spotted this one previously. Born and bred in the borders he had a television career and was Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He now runs the Borders Book Festival which sadly I cannot get to this year. Alistair begins the book in prehistory with continental shifts and ice-ages, imagining what life would be like based on what we know from geology and archaeology. He then traces the various peoples who have lived in, fought over, worshipped in and moved through the area as well as the myths, traditions, writing, art and music inspired by it. He continues this up to the end of the 20th century and also provides a bibliography. There is a small selection of photographs in the centre. This book certainly reminded me of some things I had forgotten and added greatly to my understanding of the area I will be travelling through for many more years.

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31 Vintage Posters That Demand You Pick Up a Book | Literary Hub

We can all agree that propaganda is bad. Right? But wait, let me ask you: what about literary propaganda? That is, what if you encounter a poster, and it slyly, via trickery, encourages you to read…

Source: 31 Vintage Posters That Demand You Pick Up a Book | Literary Hub

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The Edge of Extinction


Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex and has written several books. This, sub-titled ‘Travels with enduring people in vanishing lands’ is the first I have read and was published in 2014. Many peoples are and have been endangered because of colonisation, industrialisation and more recently, climate change. I was particularly interested to read the chapters on New Zealand, Australia and Death Valley, California as we have trips planned there in the next two years. We also passed through Ohio and the Amish communities while driving the Lincoln Highway last summer. Other chapters cover communities in China, Russia, Finland, Canada, Louisiana and Botswana. People in England, tend to think of communities at risk as being overseas. Scotland of course is very aware of the Clearances which continued until the 19th century. However, two chapters of the book are devoted to UK peoples. Marsh Farm in East Anglia and the Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland which we are very familiar with as my husband hails from North Antrim. The different people Pretty meets on his travels are all finding ways of adapting to a new world. There are extensive notes and lists of other sources, some already familiar, others not. I suspect will be reading and re-reading this book for some time.

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