Leadhills Miners Library

Oldest Subscription Library

Leadhills Miners Library, built in 1741, is the oldest subscription library in the British Isles. It is also the second highest at 1400 feet above sea level. The highest and second oldest library being in Wanlockhead, the neighboring village.

The library is of significant historial and geological importance and is well worth a visit. Many of the volumes acquired in the first century of the library's life are still extant, and the miners deserve credit for tackling such reading after a hard shift underground or at the smelting mills.

The considerable sums, noted in the Minute Books, spent on repairs and rebinding show that the books really were read, and were not merely status symbols.

Of the 23 founder members at Leadhills all were miners except for the minister and the schoolmaster. Members included a number of celebrated men.
 

Celebrated Members of Leadhills Miners Library
 

William Symington, mining engineer of Leadhills and inventor of the paddle steamer and steam pumping engines.

Dr. John Brown, the Edinburgh author of 'Rab and his Friends' both belonged to the library.

The Library used to be named after Allan Ramsey. This refers to Allan Ramsey the elder, poet and auther of 'The Gentle Shepherd'. He was born in Leadhills in 1686, the son of Robert Ramsey, the mine manager.

While there is nothing to link him to the library other than he was an author and poet, there may be a connection, but, having not found one we decided to revert back to the original name of 'The Leadhills Reading Society'.

Allan Ramsey had already, in 1725, established a circulating library in the Luckenbooths area of Edinburgh, and no doubt this idea was heard of in his native village. Allan Ramsey was the son of Robert Ramsey and Alice Bowes. Robert was the son of another Robert Ramsey, also a mine manager at Leadhills, and Alice Bowes was the daughter of a Derbyshire man who had been brought to Leadhills to teach the miners there,

Allans father was cut off at 25 leaving no provision for his family. Allan was apprenticed to a wigmaker in Edinburgh, and lived there the rest of his life. He never forgot Leadhills and the influence of its moorland scenery is easy to trace in his poetry.

Today the library contains various relics of the past life in the village and the mines, as well as the book collection. A mineral collection is on display showing rare minerals unique to this area including one of 'Leadhillsite'.

Many of the volumes acquired in the first century of the library's life are still extant, and the miners deserve credit for tackling such reading after a hard shift underground or at the smelting mills. The considerable sums, noted in the Minute Books, spent on repairs and rebinding show that the books really were read, and were not merely status symbols.
 

Whilst in the Leadhills area, why not visit Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway and experience Britain's Highest adhesion Railway.

 

Tel: 01659 74369

Location: 15 Main Street ML12 6XP