A glimpse into the past through performance and technology
Diaries written by a 19th century Selkirk doctor have been recorded for posterity and are now free to download thanks to Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Service
Born in 1845 Dr John Stewart Muir was the GP of Selkirk and the surrounding Parishes for 54 years.
A series of podcasts has been recorded, looking at Dr Muir’s War while the diaries have also been used by local actor John Nichol to create a new production which was first performed in February this year.
To coincide with the release of the podcasts that production is being brought back to the stage in November for two performances at Bowhill Theatre.
Mr Nichol commented: “Doctor Muir's have opened my eyes to a bygone Selkirk with unfamiliar and familiar place-names that I have been compelled to seek out, acquaint, and reacquaint, myself with.”
“It's fascinating to find that, although 'the past is a foreign country', the folk are just the same.
“Particularly interesting to me were the links I found with Doctor Muir just by talking to people, who either remembered him or his family, or knew people connected with him.
“My father and my Aunt had their teeth extracted by him and I knew Doctor Muir's grandson, Stewart Roberts, who is referred to in the diaries as 'little Stewart'.”
The project has been the result of some dedicated work by Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Service, based at the Heritage Hub, Hawick, who in 2014 received the collection of diaries written daily by Dr Muir, from a family member.
It is likely that the series was continuous but those transferred were for the years 1891 and 1899-1938.
Staff at the Heritage Hub have been transcribing the diaries and researching people and places mentioned. The outcome of this work has now been published through the service’s catalogue ‘Hubcat’. They have also created biographies for the Muir family and other noteworthy Selkirkshire individuals, including First World War soldiers.
Dr Muir’s diaries are a rich source of information about medical practice but also the social history of the town and county of Selkirk. The diaries for the years of the First World War are blogged daily by the Heritage Hub and record life in the town during World War I.
Dr Muir was active in civic life until his death aged 94, on 18 November 1938. The previous year he was granted the Freedom of Selkirk at the annual Common Riding. He last participated in 1934 aged 90 when his Grandson served as Standard bearer.
The diaries record his connections with medical high-flyers such as Colonel Sir George Thomas Beatson the oncologist. Following retirement in 1928 he was made an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, a rare honour for a country GP.
Archive Manager Paul Brough says: “In the last two years or so the team at the Heritage Hub has grown to be very fond of Dr Muir and his work and his ‘mini adventures’.
“I am very pleased to see the stories reach a wider audience.”
This project aims to engage the community of Selkirk and beyond with the story of Dr Muir, described in his obituary as “a grand old man of the Borders” and “a friend as well as a healer”, while promoting the existing transcription and blogging work of the Heritage Hub.
The podcasts are available at www.liveborders.org.uk/local_history, along with the blog, in the Catalogue and Online Resources section, or can be found by searching SoundCloud.
John Nichol’s performances will be held at Bowhill Theatre on Friday, November 3 (7.30pm) and Saturday, November 4 (3pm). £9/£7 concession (under 16s and 60+).
Tickets available from: 01750 22204 or www.borderevents.com