Emmeline Vyner: poet, psychic, dog-lover

Staff at Central Library have been archiving a box of personal papers, diaries and scrapbooks and in the process, discovering a remarkable life. Emmeline Lillian Vyner was born in Halifax around 1876. She moved to Scotland with her husband and first daughter and stayed here for the rest of her life. She was found dead in her shop in Leith in 1947 by her son.

A mother of five, she possessed a wry sense of humour and a robust outlook on life lived through two world wars. She liked to write poetry and her poems were placed in Edinburgh and Leith newspapers: romantic and natural subjects to start with then moving on to First World War poems, based mainly on the experience of the women and children left to cope at home. She was not afraid to criticise the church and the established institutions of the day and to challenge injustice where she found it with her published articles and in letters to the newspapers. When she felt in a lighter mood, she wrote humorous pieces for magazines, newspapers and lyrics for songs. She had lofty ambitions and received rejection notices from some of the biggest literary agents in Britain. She has pasted one of those rejections in her scrapbook signed by Curtis Brown. He set up the agency which still manages some of the biggest names in the literary world today.

Some of her most interesting pieces are on her activities attending psychic seances in various houses in Edinburgh and Leith in 1942. These circles were well attended by large numbers of participants and, from Emmeline’s accounts, the attendees gained a great deal of comfort from the messages from the mediums. She explains in one article that she has been receiving jealous looks from the other sitters at the number of messages she receives and explains the best way to receive messages from the spirit people. She advises not to eat flesh meat or eggs on séance days, talk to your spirit friends before you leave your house, tell them where you are going and ask them to come with you. Once you are at your circle, sit still and relax and don’t cross the legs, feet, hands, arms or do anything to close yourself up. She writes “Let spirit emanations flow from your extremities and remove your hat if you like.” Always enterprising, Emmeline has typed up these accounts on reused paper (due to wartime restrictions) and has charged between threepence and sixpence for a copy!

It’s her delight in children and dogs that really shines through her journals and scrapbooks. In her work as a cinema pianist, she rails against playing for two hour features with only the shortest of breaks but she delights in the mornings that she played her piano for the children’s features. She loved to hear all the children singing along to her piano and deliberately played tunes they would enjoy although she said that, due to the noise, a brass band might have been a better accompaniment! Dogs she loved, especially old English collies, and her charming article on dogs and their affinity with their masters is illustrated with four photos of Rough, her own example of the breed. She states the reasoning powers of dogs is quite evident and provides several examples of dogs doing just that. The funniest is an Alsatian called Prince whom, upon hearing his mistress’ wish for a fur coat from her husband, promptly went out the door and stole her a mink coat that had been left out to air by a neighbour!

We are glad Emmeline Vyner settled in Scotland all those years ago and left behind so many different types of writing. It has been fascinating to see a glimpse of how an ordinary person dealt with the Great War through poetry and then found support through spiritualism to carry on through the Second World War, brought closer to home by Leith air raids and rationing. We are so glad that we have had a chance to read her papers, her newspaper articles and her scrapbooks and make a connection with such a lively and resilient character.

 

Green Pencil Award Ceremony 2018

There were smiles all round when finalists in the Green Pencil Award  collected their prizes with their families and teachers, at a ceremony hosted by Councillor Alison Dickie, Vice-Convener for Education, Children and Families on 22nd November at Central Reference Library.

The environmentally-themed creative writing competition, funded by Edinburgh Libraries, has been running for 11 years. This year’s competition was launched at the Queen’s Park Education Centre in August by children’s author Vivian French, who led a writing workshop for P6 pupils from Preston Street Primary.

To tie in with 2018 being the Year of Young People, the award was opened for the first time to S1-3 pupils, as well as P4-7 pupils from City of Edinburgh Council and independent schools across Edinburgh. Because of this, the theme was ’Young People and the Scottish Environment’. There was a record number of 1245 entries, from which 20 finalists and an overall winner were selected by a judging panel whose members came from the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Libraries and Schools and Lifelong Learning.

Generous prizes were donated by sponsors, including RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, Jupiter Artland, RSPB, Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Bedlam Paintballing, Dynamic Earth,Camera Obscura, NTS and Historic Environment Scotland.

Green Pencil Award

This year’s overall winner Liam Guyatt, from St Margaret’s RC Primary is presented with the Green Pencil trophy along with a medal to keep by Councillor Alison Dickie.

The judges comments on Liam’s winning story ’Ferry Glen’, “What really struck the judges was the way that Liam’s story addressed the topic so well, giving a real sense of a young person enjoying the Scottish environment. Liam cleverly managed to create a wonderful picture of this beautiful place, with all its sights and sounds, in his own, very personal way. We were impressed with the humour and originality of the story which in no way took away from the depiction of the natural environment and Liam’s appreciation of it.’

All 20 finalists attended the event.

The 20 winning entries appear in a brochure which goes to all public libraries, sponsors and schools that submitted entries to the competition.

Central Library’s BookCafe is back for Autumn!

We’re almost ready for our autumn season and we’re looking forward to sharing some great new finds with you! We’ve been digging around for interesting new (and old) work that’ll be perfect for your lunchtime listening.

Our BookCafe isn’t an ordinary book group; it’s a shared reading group. We come together to listen to a book, short story or poem being read aloud. You can say as much or as little as you like, and just listening is fine too. It’s a simple as that.

If you’ve never been to a shared reading group before, and are wondering if it’s for you, please come along and say hello. We run 1 – 2pm once a month so you can pop in on your lunch break and see what you think. And, as well as good stories, good poems and good chat – there’ll be plenty tea and biscuits to go round too!

Our dates for Autumn/Winter are:

20th September, 18th October, 15th November & 20th December

We love our BookCafe and we’re sure you will too, but you’ve heard enough from us. Here’s what our members say:

‘It’s an hour of calm in my day’

‘It’s such a great way to leave your day at the door and focus on something completely different for an hour’

‘Coming to the BookCafe really makes my week’

Book online at www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk or drop in on the day!

Green Pencil Awards 2016

Last week the Central Library hosted this year’s Green Pencil Award Ceremony when 20 finalists, their friends and families and other special guests came to the awards ceremony held in the Reference Library on Thursday 24th of November. Councillor Richard Lewis attended to hand out the prizes.

Photograph of Green Pencil Award

The 2016 finalists from left to right
Bethany Woodburn – Cargilfield School, Megan Rutherford – Bruntsfield Primary, Afra Schwannauer – Preston Street Primary, Jemma Cattanach – Bruntsfield Primary, Catherine Byrne – Cargilfield School, Alice McGuire – Hermitage Park Primary, Greta Grant – Leith Primary, Councillor Richard Lewis, Lily Chatwood – Leith Primary, Cara Campbell – Pentland Primary, Catriona Simpson – Preston Street Primary, Finlay Black – Cargilfield School, Blair Henderson – Clifton Hall School, Rachael Smyth – Davdison’s Mains Primary, Natalie Ruzgar – St Margaret’s Primary, Amy Brand – Oxgangs Primary, Samuel Joester – Wardie Primary, Rose Kinsler – Sciennes Primary, Seren McDougall – Bruntsfield Primary

This year the theme was ‘Scotland’s Glorious Gardens’, Edinburgh school pupils in the P4 to P7 age range were inspired by the many gardens, parks and green spaces that we are lucky enough to have, and to enjoy using, here in the City.

Photograph of Councillor Richard Lewis and Green Pencil Award winner

Councillor Richard Lewis congratulates the winner, Rachael Smyth from Davidson’s Mains Primary

The Award aims to promote literacy, in particular reading and creative writing and firing the imagination. It also helps raise awareness and encourages learning about nature and other important environmental topics.

Photography of Green Pencil Award

Rose Kinsler from Sciennes Primary reads her entry to the crowd

This is the ninth year the competition has run. This year’s competition was launched by the author Vivian French on September 1st at Central Children’s Library and Princes Street Gardens with pupils from Preston Street Primary School.

The Green Pencil Award

The Green Pencil Award

The night was a great success and we very much look forward to next year’s competition.

Dr Poem on call on National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day on Thursday, Dr Poem came to Central Library dispensing a little bit of poetry to our readers. Poems were prescribed to patients according to their mood.

dr-poem-5

We also collected comments from the patients:

Poems help me get through life

 

To do…get the messages

Read a poem

 

Remember the poem

Create the feeling

Life is good!

 

The rain in Wells

Runs mainly into drains

Unlike the rain in Spain

Which drains into the wells

 

Get the messages

Sausages

Cabbages

To make potage!

 

A wonderful idea

 

Words to make the world a better place

 

Our Doctors consulted the fantastic Scottish Poetry Library website for help with prescribing the right poem remedy.

Green fingers needed for annual writing competition

Young entrants in the Green Pencil Award will explore the competition’s theme, Scotland’s Glorious Gardens.

Last week children’s author Vivien French joined pupils form Preston Street Primary School  for a special writing workshop in Princes Street Gardens to launch the competition.

 

Image of Princes Street Gadrens

Amelie Colgrave, age 10, and Vivien French, author, admire the view in Princes Street Gardens

Children, who must be p4 to p7, can write a poem or story, which could focus on anything from a memorable visit to a Scottish garden like the Royal Botanic Gardens or a creative depiction of what the ideal Scottish garden would look and smell like.

Culture Convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, said: “This is a popular and engaging competition for budding writers across the city, and always produces many creative and compelling entries from young people.

This year’s theme should also inspire more visits to our fantastic range of parks and green spaces so I look forward to reading the creative writing to result from it.”

Image of children

Councillor Richard Lewis and children’s author Vivien French with pupils from Preston Street Primary School.

 

Find out how to enter the Green Pencil Award and inspiration for your poems from this library booklist 

The closing date is Friday, 14 October, with an awards ceremony to be held at the Central Library in late November.

 

 

Harpies, Fechters and Quines – Women around the World, 13 – 23 June

This year’s Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2-week events programme celebrates women’s cultural contribution to life in Edinburgh.

There is a wide range of events and exhibitions starting with the launch on 13 June and closing with the amazing poetry slam competition on 23 June at Out of the Blue in Leith.  Whether you are interested in women’s issues, literature, arts or simply learning about new things then you are warmly welcome to come along and meet other women with similar interests. We are sure you will be both entertained and informed.

See the full programme of events and book your place.

This Festival for women by women is the result of a partnership between the Bonnie Fechters, an Edinburgh Women’s Group, the Glasgow Women’s Library and Edinburgh Libraries.