Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Chelsea Flower Show

In an article about the Chelsea Flower Show, the BBC reported that the organisers had noted “nearly a quarter of the UK's front gardens are now paved over.”  The results of a survey showed that 24% of gardens are paved, concreted or gravelled.

In the Official Publications Collection there is a small item entitled “Our Gardens” (shelfmark GHA.1/2).  It was published in 1948 and in the foreword by the Minister of Health (Aneurin Bevan) explains that “the purpose of this book is to show how much anyone who is fortunate enough to have a garden can do to add to the attractiveness of his neighbourhood….I therefore commend this little book in the hope that it will help us all to maintain in the surroundings and the settings of our homes that tradition of good gardening of which our country has always been proud.”

In Hansard from the Lords Sitting of Monday, 21st January,vol. 348 (shelfmark GHL.5) 1974
Lord Chorley states  ”I think that the English people should be particularly sensitive to the importance of their floral heritage. What have flowers meant to the English? If you go to the Chelsea Flower Show, if you go to Vincent Square every fortnight, you will see not wild flowers but flowers which have developed out of wild flowers; but for the wild flowers they would not be displayed there and our gardens in the summer would not be the lovely sights that they are. Plants have meant a very great deal to the English people, to the English way of life and to our culture. One important aspect of this I have already mentioned; namely, what flowers have meant to our poets. Obviously, our greatest poets have been as much moved by the charming little flowers in our countryside as by almost anything else, and that has meant a great deal. The inspiration to our people of our great poets-Shakespeare, Wordsworth and the others-cannot be measured. It certainly cannot be measured in money. It cannot really be measured in words. What would Wordsworth's poetry be without the flowers?”

Monday, 18 May 2015

How did Scotland Vote? – UK General Election 2015

The UK General Election 2015 was held on the 7 May. This infographic provides details on the results in Scotland. From the Scottish Parliament's SPICe briefing series.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Historic political papers to be made available online

Access is opening up to valuable House of Lords papers that go to the heart of 19th century British political history. A project to digitise the papers will give free online access to National Library of Scotland registered readers with a Scottish address. At present they can only consult this parliamentary material by visiting the Library in person.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

OECD iLibrary

OECD iLibrary is the global knowledge base for OECD’s data and analysis. It is one of the most comprehensive online resources on the world economy, society, education and environment. It contains all books and papers published since 1998 as well as a vast collection of statistics, with data going back to the early 1960s and more than 80 countries are covered. More detailed information can be found here You can get remote access to this resource if you are resident in Scotland and have a library card If you have any queries regarding this resource please contact enquiries@nls.uk

Monday, 11 May 2015

Bradford Stadium fire : 30th anniversary

On 11 May 1985, a fire broke out in the wooden stand at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground during a match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. 56 people were killed and hundreds of others badly burned. A Committee of Inquiry chaired by Sir Oliver Popplewell was set up under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act to investigate the causes and find ways to improve safety. The Inquiry also considered the tragedies at Birmingham City and the Heysel stadium. The Papers are the submissions and evidence gathered by the Committee from many sources, including the Fire Brigade, police, football clubs, other sports facilities, and the press. Access to these reports is available digitally via the National Library of Scotland to readers resident in Scotland by applying for a reader's card Interim report P.P. 1984/85 Cmnd 9585 and P.P. 1884/85 Cmnd 9710 Final report

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

to go or not to go - emigration in 1846

This is an extract taken from the several weekly reports made to the Governor-General by the Chief Agent for the Superintendence of Emigration at Quebec.

Dated August 20, 1846
In answer to your letter of the 14th instant, requesting me to inform you of the state and condition to which the passengers of the barque “Elizabeth and Sarah” arrived at this station… On boarding her I found the passengers in the most wretched state of filth and disease.  No order or regulation appeared to have been preserved, or any attempt at enforcing cleanliness.  Their excrements and filth have been thrown in the ballast, producing a stench which made it difficult to remain any length of time below.  I found about 26 cases of fever and received the names of 20 others, including the master, who had died on the passage…. On landing the passengers at the sheds, I had to send 50 more to hospital, where there is at this moment 76, and six have died in hospital since landing.  The remainder, though weak, are healthy at present, and have been made to clean themselves, their clothes and bedding, those of them that have any, but the major part of them are destitute of a second change of clothes....The causes which have conspired to produce disease and death among the passengers are ….
1st.   Want of cleanliness and inattention to ventilation.
2nd. Insufficiency of food and water, and that of an unwholesome quality.
3rd. Overcrowding.
These causes conspired to produce fever, and when once disease set in, the effluvium from the persons of the sick, dying, and dead, confined in the hold (the master was kept two or three weeks on board after death), soon rendered the whole atmosphere unfit for respiration."
He goes on to state that the Captain “was a man unfit, morally and physically, to take charge of a passenger vessel; he was in ill health and of intemperate habits.”
To read the whole report it can be found at
Papers relative to Emigration to the British Provinces in North America
House of Lords paper 1847 vol. XV

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Research guides from the United Nations Libraries

The UN Libraries in New York, Geneva and Vienna have an impressive selection of research guides on a variety of topics available. I would like to highlight a couple of useful guides from the extensive list UN Documentation: Overview UN Documentation: How to Find UN Documents

Friday, 17 April 2015

Prsions in Scotland 1854

Sixteenth report of the General Board of Directors of Prisons in Scotland (1854)
This report is a very interesting read on the state of the prison service in Scotland.  I have only picked out a few informative facts. 
Library -“The Chaplain reports that the books in the library, consisting of standard popular and instructive works, well adapted to incite and gratify a desire for mental, moral and religious improvement, are read with advantage and are in good order.  Every prisoner who can read is supplied once a week with a religious and secular book.”
Exercising -The average time for exercise is 72 minutes daily.  The exercise pattern has been changed from the 7th November and the prisoners that were to be kept in strict separate confinement no longer walk in single file or wear masks.
Rules for the Governor -No. 27 “He shall see that the Prison is at all times quite secure ; and shall not allow any trees to grow against any of the walls…”
Uniforms -The male dress consisted of a “jacket, waistcoat, with sleeves, trowsers [sic] shirt, pocket handkerchief, shoes and stockings, neck-handkerchief and cap when necessary, a belt, (when the prisoner has been in the habit of wearing one.  In winter serge drawers, and the waistcoat to be lined with serge, and for those who require it, an under waistcoat of serge.”
The female dress was “striped shortgown, twilled cotton under petticoat, blue plaiding under petticoat, bodice of stout twilled cotton, shift, pocket handkerchief, shoes and stockings, neckerchief, cap when necessary, other necessary articles.  In winter a drugget upper petticoat , instead of a cotton one.” 
Sickness - In total 96 persons have been placed on the sick list out of these forty seven have been “seriously and dangerously ill, and forty nine more slightly.”  In total 9 prisoners died from various illnesses- such as consumption, progressive general paralysis (a disease to which the insane are peculiarly liable) and a severe nose bleed.
However, there was an incidence of diarrhoea in the prison but out of all the inmates only two died and these “were those of two Insane prisoners, who obstinately refused all medical assistance.”

Saturday, 11 April 2015

70th anniversary of the United Nations

The United Nations Library to commemorate the 70th anniversary has produced a website 70 years, 70 documents presenting an exploration of the seventy key documents that have shaped the United Nations and our world. I recently put together a display in the National Library of Scotland demonstrating the range and depth of the library's Official Publications collection. I chose to do this by selecting one year, in this case 1948. UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 in Paris and I chose to include this in the display. It also appears in the UN's 70 years, 70 documents as the key document for that year.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What happens if there is a hung parliament?

We are now in the official run up to the 2015 General Election. Find out what will happen if the election results in a hung parliament. This is when the election results in no single political party winning an overall majority in the House of Commons, this is also known as a situation of no overall control.

Friday, 27 March 2015

What the Washerwoman saw!

This is from the minutes of evidence taken upon the second reading of the bill intituled

“An Act for dissolving the Marriage of John Worrall, Esquire, with Sophia Mariner his now wife, and for enabling him to marry again; and for other purposes therein mentioned”
“Then Sarah Jackson was called in and having being sworn, was examined as follows:

(By Counsel) Are you the wife of Mr Abraham Jackson of Leeds?
Have you known Mr and Mrs Worrall?
Did you ever live in the Family, or were you employed as their Washerwoman?
I was employed as their Washerwoman.
Do you remember Mr Sanderson coming to the house?
Yes, very well”…

It continues…
"Did he visit while Mr Worrell was away?
Do you remember Mrs Worrell going away?
About what?
About her being in the family way by Mr Sanderson”
As an aside, whilst reading the minutes, I noticed that when a woman was called to give evidence she was asked if she was the wife of whomever, but when a man was called he was never asked if he was a husband of somebody.   

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Chimney sweeps and sooty warts!

Report from the Committee on Employment of Boys in Sweeping of Chimnies [sic] : together with the minutes of evidence taken before the Committee and an appendix.
House of Lords paper 16 Vol. XCI 1817

This report is  "to examine the several petitions which have been presented to the House against the employment of boys in sweeping chimnies."
The minutes are quite harrowing to read as they describe the treatment of the boys in this trade, the age of the children going up the chimneys can be as young as a four year old, the deformities, the diseases and the ill treatment are dreadful.  The following are some extracts from the minutes.
One of the questions from the minutes of evidence is “Had you any information how often they were washed, or if any care was taken that they should be washed, by those persons who were not considered as respectable masters? – We found that among the less respectable class of chimney sweepers the boys were taken to the New River of a Sunday morning in the summer season. “
The same question was asked about the winter months the answer was “we had reason to fear there was not, and which would account for the disorders generated by remaining longer that the week in their filthy garments.”  The main disorder was a cancer that affected the scrotum, known as sooty warts!
One respectable chimney master states that in cold weather they do let the boys wash in warm water.
The chimney sweeps would have sores, bruises, wounds and burns on their thighs and knees and “sometimes they get burnt by chimnes partly on fire”.  If a boy is unwilling to go up a chimney the masters will use a rod or the threat of being sent back to their home. They use pins in the feet to force the boy up the chimney. Apparently they don’t light straw under them to encourage them to go up the chimney, although one person has heard of a case that they do.  They have deformities of the spine, legs and arms and once they have grown too big for the job they are cast out without being taught a trade or having any other means to make a living.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Butcher Birds

I found a beautiful little book in our Official Publications Indian  paper collection called "Bird friends and foes of the farmer."
The author a Mr P. Susainathan has devoted years to the observation of bird life.  In the preface it states  ”It is unnecessary to emphasize the extent to which birds affect all those engaged in farming : but apart from their importance to the agriculturist in this respect they are of absorbing interest in themselves.  We all need recreation of some kind”
I particularly like the Shrikes or Butcher-birds.  This bird impales its prey on acacia and cactus thorns before commencing to make a meal of it.  This bird is beneficial to the farmer!
Another bird is the Hoopoes which like rubbish heaps and termite mounds!  The call of this bird resembles the sound “Hoop-hoop” repeatedly.   This bird should be encouraged and protected as its love of eating insects helps to reduce the dreaded mosquito.
A bird which is also useful to the farmer and people is the vulture, in particular the smaller White Scavenger Vulture which is a foul feeder on human excreta and dead animals.  This bird should be encouraged in towns and villages.   However, the parrot family includes a number of bird-pests to agriculture which are a constant menace to standing crops!
This little book full of information and illustrations can be found at IP/25/AD.1.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp liberated 27/1/1945

Today marks the 70th year of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein issued the following statement to mark this International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Seventy years ago on this forever solemn day, Auschwitz-Birkenau – the largest killing centre of the Nazi concentration camps – was finally liberated.

We continue to be haunted by the fate of the millions of Jewish men, women and children, as well as Roma, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and other prisoners and deportees from all over Europe, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and dissidents, who suffered and were killed by this ghastly extermination machine. The memory of well over a million Jewish children, and thousands of other children, who were put to death is particularly unbearable. Both personally and as a representative of the United Nations, I bow to every woman, man and child who was forced to endure such terrible suffering.

The Charter of the United Nations – which also commemorates its 70th anniversary this year – was shaped in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Second World War. The Charter seeks to establish a new "vision of what the world should be". It should be a world in which all people are able to exercise their human rights in freedom, dignity and equality, in full accordance with international human rights law.

And yet the toxic influences of discrimination and racial and ethnic hatred can still be felt among us, and the catalogue of atrocities runs on and on.

Discrimination and hatred kill and wound thousands of people. They also harm each one of us. They negate the wonderful diversity of individuals and cultures within our shared membership of humanity, and our fundamental and universal human rights.

In memory of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and the pain that many others have since endured, I believe that it is urgent for us all to strengthen our moral courage. We must resist discrimination of every kind so that all may live in liberty, with respect, equality and justice.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mary Slessor and the evils of drink

Mary Slessor died 100 years ago on the 13 Jan 1915 aged 67.
She was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria.

I checked the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database to see if she was mentioned and found the following information.

She was called and examined on Friday 21st May 1909 to give evidence for the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Liquor Trade in Southern Nigeria (Command 4907). 

There are quite a few gruesome facts she mentions in the inquiry and one example is about the ordeal of oil, which she could see from her window every morning.

“Perhaps they had had a big drunk [sic.] the night before, and had all got headaches in the morning, and were accusing their wives of all sorts of things, and they have the ordeal to find out the guilty ones…"Then somebody takes a ladle of boiling oil and pours it into their hands, and of course they run away screaming. .. if the oil burnt down in this way (describing) there was no palaver, but if it did not they were found guilty.”

If they were found guilty “They were tied up with a stake with thorns on it, and with the bones of a tiger, and trussed up close, and their legs tied close together with the stick of thorns in between.” she mentioned “This was a thing of daily occurrence, and that it was caused by drink.”

You can read the full report in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database listed under licensed digital collections.  This is freely available to readers in Scotland with a National Library of Scotland readers ticket.  Or you can read the original command paper which can be found at the shelfmark P.P. 1909 vol. ix Cd 4907.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hunger in Britain today

The conclusion of The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom was published this week. It sets out a series of policy recommendations for the government.

Friday, 24 October 2014

United Nations Day 24th October

Celebrate United Nations Day There are some great UN research guides available on many topics including the Ebola Virus outbreak to help you with your research.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Award winning government website reaches major milestone of 1 billion site visits

Launched 2 years ago, GOV.UK brings together government services and information online. As the first ever single domain for government, it replaced DirectGov, Business Link and over 250 separate department and agency websites. The top 3 most visited pages are find a job, renew your vehicle tax, and calculate your state pension.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum: analysis of results

We have receive a couple of interesting House of Commons Library research papers into the National Library this week. An analysis of the results from the Scottish Independence, Referendum. HC Research paper 14/50 and Unemployment by constituency HC Research paper 14/49

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Smith Commission

You have an opportunity to have your say and respond to the Commission directly via their website from the 13th October 2014. The terms of reference for the Commission are: To convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cold War intelligence

Now available through the National Library of Scotland. A full-text collection of 2,360 formerly classified U.S. government documents (most of them classified Top Secret or higher) which provides readers with the declassified documentary record about the successes and failures of the U.S. intelligence community in its efforts to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Details on how to access this resource can be found on the NLS Website

Friday, 3 October 2014

Father of the House

Winston Churchill resigned from the House of Commons 50 years ago. He started in the House of Commons in 1900 as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Oldham.  He was Prime Minister twice 1940-1945 and then 1951-1955.  In 1959 he was given the title Father of the House (the member with the longest continuous service).
On the 28th July 1964 the then Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said “ I beg to move, That this House desires to take this opportunity of marking the forthcoming retirement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Woodford by putting on record its unbounded admiration and gratitude for his services to Parliament, to the nation and to the world; remembers, above all, his inspiration of the British people when they stood alone, and his leadership until victory was won; and offers its grateful thanks to the right honourable Gentleman for these outstanding services to this House and to the nation.”
I thought I would check Hansard for some of his speeches from World War I and from World War II.  An example of one of the many hundreds of speeches he gave in the House of Commons is on the 27th November 1914 as the First Lord of the Admiralty where he states “But even if we were single-handed, as we were in the days of the Napoleonic wars, we should have no reason to despair of our capacity-no doubt we should suffer discomfort and privation and loss-but we should have no reason to despair of our capacity to go on indefinitely, drawing our supplies from wherever we needed them, and transporting our troops wherever we required them, and to continue this process with a strength which would grow stronger with each month the War continued until, in the end, and perhaps not at any very distant date, the purposes for which we are fighting are achieved.”
Obviously one of the most famous speeches he made to the House of Commons on the 20th August 1940 was “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day....”
All the many speeches Winston Churchill gave to the House of Commons can be found via the  National Library of Scotland's website if you live in Scotland and you have a library card. It is listed under licensed digital collections and contained in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database.