Westerkirk Parish Library today is one of the oldest lending libraries in Scotland still lending books. It also still purchases a few books annually. It is managed by a group of Trustees who maintain the investment and building and who employ staff to take care of the grounds. The library is a treasure trove of old books. If you are interested in local history or tracing your family connections back to this area then this is a great place to lose yourself for a few hours, days...or years! Now for some history........ Westerkirk Library began in 1793 when the Westerhall Mining Company, which owned the Louisa Antimony Mine at Jamestown, presented the miners with a set of twenty three books. Antimony is a highly toxic substance and the miners could only work a limited number of hours a day. The miners were highly appreciative of the donation of books and took a decision to increase their book stock through personal contributions of “five shillings each man” at a time when wages were less than ten shillings a week. When the mine closed in 1799/1800 the library moved to the old Westerkirk School in Bentpath. Later in 1863 the purpose built building that you see today was built to house the ever growing collection of books. Funds for the building were raised by public subscription and included donations from Sir Frederick Johnstone of Westerhall and the Duke of Buccleauch, Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott. Thomas Telford, the world famous civil engineer, was born in 1757 in the same valley as the Louisa Mine. Throughout his career he maintained links with the place he was born and was a great lover of books. When he died he left £1000 in his will to Westerkirk Parish Library and also bequeathed money to Langholm Library. The money was to be invested and the interest used to purchase books. A further sum of £1700 from the residue of his estate was added in 1851 to be used for the same purpose. A great number of books were purchased for the library with Telford’s bequest. These were bound in leather and tooled in gold with “Westerkirk Library” and “Telford Legacy” on the spine. The library records cover a period of over 200 years and provide an insight into the reading habits of this rural part of South West Scotland. In the past there had been annual membership fees for the library however this practice was abandoned in 1965. It is said that the library used to open on the night of the full moon – handy if it is not cloudy during the winter months. But now it is open on the first Monday of every month. .
Heroes of Westerkirk
Westerkirk Parish Library Trust is a registered charity and we are in the process of raising money to help restore some parts of the building and our special book collection.
In early 2017, thanks mostly to a large donation left by Arthur Bell in his will, we had some major work completed with all of the slates being replaced on the roof. There is yet more work to be done.