Scotland’s Year of Stories – tales from Stirling Council Archives

The year 2022 has been designated Scotland’s ‘Year of Stories’ by Visit Scotland. This year, we at Stirling Council Archives are going to be delving into the records that we hold to tell you some of the stories that lie within them.

Records are created for many reasons, and preserved for many more. Some are intended as a lasting commemoration of weighty decisions or actions taken. Others are personal mementoes or evidence of transitory occurrences. Whatever the original intention, each one contains information that tells a story, whether it be the fragment of a greater whole, or a narrative in its own right. All Archives are full of a wealth of stories, and Stirling Council’s is no exception to that rule. Every document has a tale to tell if one takes the time to look and understand.

Throughout this year, Archives staff are going to be posting some of the stories that the original source material held at the Council Archives have to tell about our the heritage of our communities and the people that lived and prospered (or otherwise) within them.  We hope you will join us in listening to the tales of long ago our archives have to tell.

This blog post is a taster of the kind of material we hold and the stories that are contained within the writing or images that comprise them.

Photographs always tell a story, even if it is just the fact of people being in a place on a particular day. Some of the photographs we have at the Archives have been given to us without any background information associated with them, so we have to take a guess at what is happening. A group of men and boys are photographed outside a building, they are all well dressed, perhaps for a celebration of some kind. Are they work colleagues, or members of the same or allied family groups at a wedding or some similar function? It is not actually possible to say. We know that the photographer was based at Bridge of Allan, and that the date is around 1890, but beyond that, we have nothing. The story here is merely a literal snapshot of lives long gone. Still their direct gaze is compelling, and the image moves us, linked as we are by our shared humanity.

Other images give the viewer more to go on, and educated guesses can be made as regards context. This photograph of a parade in Bridge of Allan gives us quite a lot to work with. The clothes and hats people are wearing can be used to date a picture. Environmental conditions, such as the presence of snow or leaves on the trees can suggest a season or a time of year. In this case, going by the clothes and the look of the floats in the parade, it seems likely that this event was held to celebrate the coronation of King George VI in the summer of 1911.

Photographic images tell us more if they are accompanied by textual information, allowing us to understand more about the story of the picture in front of us. Many of the photographs we hold came to the Archives as part of a larger collection, and we can therefore associate names and biographies with the images we see. For example, this little girl is Viola Stirling. We hold the papers of the family she belonged to, and amongst these is her nature diary, kept from when she was twelve years old. From this we can plot the story of her development as a naturalist and read about the plants and animals she saw as she wandered about the estate near Gargunnock where she lived with her family.

Written sources have their stories to tell in perhaps a more direct way, although sometimes, the story is better told if we take the time to also read between the lines. The interpretation of primary source materials is at the very heart of the study of history. It would not be possible to make any approximation of the truth about anything that happened in the past unless such sources exist and are preserved. This is what the staff at Stirling Council Archives are continually doing, to ensure that any member of our community, and researchers from further afield, may have free access to the building blocks of history.

The first extant charter for the Burgh of Stirling dating from 1360 represents the beginning of a long and twisting tale of local government that continues in the telling to this day.

This letter from Prince Charles Edward Stuart to the Burgh officials of Stirling is part of a larger story – that of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. However, this letter plus the Burgh Council minutes and other communications written by some of the families living in the area give us the local angle, and allow us to understand more clearly how people felt about the situation, and where allegiances lay.

These are just a few of the many stories contained in the records we care for at the Council Archives. Staff will be posting more over the coming months.