The Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child

In 2011, the first mystery paper sculpture was discovered in the Scottish Poetry Library. It was an incredibly delicate gift; a tree growing out of a book, an eggshell of poems and a little card with read:

dsc_4944_582“@ByLeavesWeLive and became a tree….We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words…This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..”

More sculptures were discovered that year at the National Library of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and here at Edinburgh Central Library.

The identity of the artist was withheld, and to this day we don’t know who the artist is.

We do know that this sculpture, the Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child, is dsc_4953_591her last and we are tremendously privileged to have it here at Central Library.

You can see the small sculptures donated to Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Central Library’s foyer or online on our Capital Collections Website. You can go to Wikipedia for more information on all the sculptures.

 

Sheila Macbeth Mitchell (part 1)

Back in June, when we published our series of blog posts about Ethel Moir, a nurse who had served during World War One in the Scottish Women’s Hospital, we received an intriguing comment from someone called Jonathan. He had read the story and was getting in touch to tell us about his grandmother, Sheila Macbeth Mitchell, a nurse who had been on board HMHS Britannic when she’d sunk in the Aegean in 1916. Sheila had left him a large scrapbook containing photographs and ephemera from the time  –

If Capital Collections would be interested in seeing this sometime and copying pictures to add to the special collection – get in touch”.

After meeting with Jonathan, seeing the scrapbook and hearing stories of his grandmother, we were extremely keen to take up his offer of sharing the contents and the story of another remarkable woman who led an extraordinary and adventurous life. The scrapbook is now available to discover on Capital Collections.

Sheila Macbeth was born on 12th June 1890 in Lancashire and was educated at Polam Hall in Darlington. An accomplished golfer in her youth, she wanted to become a teacher of physical education, but her family would not let her have a job. World War One, however, enabled her – like many other women of her generation – to leave home and develop her independence. She served as an auxiliary in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Hospital Nursing Services.

Page of family photos from Sheila Macbeth Mitchell's scrapbook

Page of family photos from Sheila Macbeth Mitchell’s scrapbook

Sheila’s roots however were in Scotland, her great-grandfather James Macbeth had been an Excise Officer in Port Glasgow and both her grandfather and father were born in Greenock. Her grandfather Norman was a portrait painter who, when he came to Edinburgh in 1861 gained employment as a portrait painter and was elected A.R.S.A (Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy) in 1870 and R.S.A. (Royal Scottish Academy) in 1880.

Her father’s first school was Mr Henderson’s Preparatory School in India Street where he was in the same form as Robert Louis Stevenson. He later attended The Institution (later to become Stewart’s Melville) in Queen Street and Edinburgh Academy. When he left school he went to Friedrichshafen in Germany to study engineering and was apprenticed to an engineering firm in Leith Walk. He later relocated to Lancashire where Sheila and several of her siblings were born.

In 1908 aged 18, Sheila went with her elder sister Flora to live in Paris for a year. Here she attended the Cours de Musique, a music course run by Mlle [ Miss] Yvonne Galliet.

Sheila Macbeth, Parc Monceau, in Paris, c1908

Sheila Macbeth, Parc Monceau, in Paris, c1908

Sheila also started to get interested in golf around this time. In her notes she relates:

Flora & I joined the Surrey County Golf Club as well as one at Purley Downs & until Flora married, Father let us have the use of a car & chauffeur – but when she went & I was the only golfer – I had to go by train & it made a hole in my Dress allowance of £50 per annum as I had to take caddies & have new balls when playing matches”.

When war broke out in 1914 one of her first introductions to it was cooking in the hospital of the Camp of Public Schools Battalion:

which was built high above Mother’s house in Surrey. We let soldiers use our dining room each night where we left newspapers etc. & we gave them the use of one bathroom. Many of them filtered into the drawing room with the family – & we had a dance there on occasions – & much music”.

Public School Boys Camp, 16th Middlesex Regiment, August 1914

Public School Boys Camp, 16th Middlesex Regiment, August 1914

In 1915 and with the war continuing in Europe, Sheila served as an auxiliary in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Hospital Nursing Services, noting sometime later,

In 1915, the London Hospitals were asked to take people like me for 6 months training – so that there would be enough nurses to look after the wounded. I went to Training School of London Hospital for 6 weeks in Bow – & then worked at the Hospital in Whitechapel for 6 months – after which I became a Special Military Probationer attached to Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service Q.A.M.N.S. My 1st Station was outside Nottingham”.

Sheila's timetable as a probationer at the London Hospital Training School.

Sheila’s timetable as a probationer at the London Hospital Training School.

Having completed her training, Sheila joined the crew of HMHS Britannic in November 1916 as she set off for what would be her sixth and final voyage…

Read the second part of Sheila’s story and view the full scrapbook online via Capital Collections.

Illustrating Edinburgh Exhibition

library_poster2Pop into the Central Library by the 26th November to see a fantastic exhibition by Edinburgh College of Art’s Illustration Department. Entitled Illustrating Edinburgh it uses our favourite city as inspiration for posters and sketches.

In the staircase cabinets you’ll find posters designed by illustration students. The students each chose a building located in Edinburgh and designed a poster inspired by the architecture of the venue and by the events held there. The designs were influenced by the principles of Modernist art and design movements such as Dada, futurism, Russian constructivism and Bauhaus. The posters are original collograph prints, a process which incorporates collage, drawing and use of a printing press.

Downstairs on the mezzanine level of the library we have a collection of sketchbook work by ECA Illustration students, staff and alumni inspired by the city of Edinburgh.

Scars on the City

Scars on the City: Edinburgh in World War One was an exhibition that ran from February to June 2015 at the Museum of Edinburgh. The exhibition drew on Edinburgh Museums & Galleries’ extensive wartime collections to explore the everyday lives of Edinburgh people during the War. Objects like shrapnel from a zeppelin raid, soldiers’ knitted socks and a Red Cross nurse doll were displayed to help transport visitors to a time of terror, hardship and, sometimes, adventure.

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

The exhibition’s curator, Vicky Garrington, says that the wartime toys and games from the Museum of Childhood were a big hit with visitors:

“People were surprised to find out how clued up young people were about the details of the War. Cigarette cards taught them about ranks, army signals and artillery, while board games challenged them to evade mines and bombs en route to Berlin!”

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Meanwhile, shrapnel from bombs dropped by German zeppelins bring home the reality of the first war to be fought not just overseas, but on the Home Front.

The quirky and poignant objects from the exhibition are now available to view on Capital Collections, together with the stories that bring them to life.

The Sitooterie Garden Journals

In early 2012, in the Sitooterie overlooking her Colony flat garden at Slateford, artist Mary Archibald started keeping a journal of the daily activity. Rising early each morning, she witnessed the garden come alive with birds, insects and animals.

Mary has continued her journal every day, observing the growing plants and wildlife that visit the space. The pages record Mary’s daily musings and sketches on life in her garden and through them we also get to know the regular visitors and their habits, favourite foods and places.

The first 5 journals on Capital Collections span February 2012 to October 2015 but Mary continues to date to document the natural world on her doorstep.

‘I wake to a splash of red in the garden and the poppies have started opening…
Lots of starlings again…
The babies are really funny, quite bemused looking as if they are wondering what it is all about… then remember it is about food and squawk at their parent…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 31st May - 2nd June 2012

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 31st May – 2nd June 2012

‘I hope the temperature goes up soon as the sunflowers are almost ready to be planted in the ground…
Great stooshie in the sky… Sparrowhawk, it floated around for ages being chased by a very brave blackbird…
Tiny tadpoles just beginning to wriggle in their spawn like little live commas…
Mouse breakfast: Focaccia
Close up the pigeons are very beautiful…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 26th - 29th April 2013

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 26th – 29th April 2013

‘There’s a frog croaking in the pond … a contented croak like a cat purring …
And Robbie is bathing in the birdbath.
The garden is full of sunflowers.’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 30th September 2014

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 30th September 2014

‘5 frogs in the pond this morning and very happy they will be as it’s not too cold but very wet!
The temperature is up and down like a yo-yo these days.
The frogs are back under their duvet this morning…
Tulips from Lidl’s. More beautiful now almost gone.’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 25th - 27th February 2015

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 25th – 27th February 2015

‘Bees buzz everywhere…
Lots of honey bees… They love the Tropeleum and the Foxgloves… disappearing completely inside each Foxglove flower… then backing out tail first…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 11th - 12th July 2015

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 11th – 12th July 2015

The diaries are a wonderful all-year round record of flora and fauna in an Edinburgh urban garden. Browse each Sitooterie Garden Journal on Capital Collections:

Sitooterie Garden Journal 1

Sitooterie Garden Journal 2

Sitooterie Garden Journal 3

Sitooterie Garden Journal 4

Sitooterie Garden Journal 5

With huge thanks to Mary Archibald for sharing her journals with us.

Edinburgh and the three bears

Tomorrow is World Animal Day, a day aimed at raising the status of animals and to improve welfare standards. World Animal Day is being commemorated in Edinburgh with a special ceremony at the statue of Wojtek in West Princes Street Gardens.

bears

Presscuttings and books from the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection

Wojtek, World War 2 hero

Adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in 1942, this Syrian brown bear cub was fed with condensed milk, fruit, marmalade, honey, syrup and beer. As member of the the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Wojtek became a symbol of the Polish wartime struggle and travelled to Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped by carrying ammunition. At the end of the World War 2, the 1.8 metre tall bear was transported to Berwickshire in Scotland. Following demobilisation in 1947, Woytek was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he spent the rest of his life. Since 2015, Wojtek has his own bronze statue in Princes Street Gardens. Sculpted by Alan Beattie Herriot, the monument represents Wojtek and a Polish Army Soldier “walking in peace and unity”.

Oliwa and Ograd, the pride of Edinburgh zoo

Did you know that Edinburgh Zoo hosted two other bears from Poland? Oliwa and Ograd were given to the children of Scotland from the children of Poland in 1959. In January 1968, Oliwa gave birth to three cubs – making the pair Edinburgh’s first breeding brown bears.

Visit the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection to uncover find more hidden histories of Edinburgh.

For a bite-size history of Edinburgh Zoo explore Our Town Stories.

 

City Garden event at Central Library

New PictureThe City Garden Project is a proposed urban greenspace project to improve the quality and quantity of ‘little green spaces’ across Edinburgh. So much space in the city is under used, from grass-desert parks to concrete traffic islands, the forgotten shoreline to featureless street
corners; this project is about revealing their potential for creative and green space uses!

City GardenCome along to the Central Lending Library on 30 September any time between 12 noon and 3pm and meet the team from HERE + NOW, the landscape and design studio behind the City Garden project. You’ll be able to see examples of their previous projects and find out more about the City Garden idea. Most of all they’d love you to share your ideas for a City Garden Project and how you’d like to activate unused spaces. You will be able to mark places which could be a potential City Garden you know of on a map. This can be everything from a vacant or abandoned area to a neglected street corner.

Why not drop-in and help make Edinburgh an even greener city!