Lifting the Lid on Clydesdale’s fruit basket history

Fruits of their labour...making fruit preserves in the early 20th century, the canning process is seen in action here. (Pic: Lanark Museum)
Fruits of their labour...making fruit preserves in the early 20th century, the canning process is seen in action here. (Pic: Lanark Museum)

The Clyde Valley’s produce will be celebrated in the National Library of Scotland’s latest touring exhibition, coming soon to New Lanark.

It seems only fitting that an exhibition examining the Scots diet over 400 years is coming to Clydesdale.

Bringing in the harvest...a horse-drawn reaper in the 1880s or 1890s, harvesting at Pettinain. (Pic: Lanark Museum)

Bringing in the harvest...a horse-drawn reaper in the 1880s or 1890s, harvesting at Pettinain. (Pic: Lanark Museum)

For the Clyde Valley has a rich history of fruit growing and market gardening which earned it the fruit basket of Scotland title.

Lifting the Lid, which opens at New Lanark on September 23, is a touring display from the National Library of Scotland.

It is made up of a series of colourful panels which tell the story of food and drink in Scotland, based on photos and descriptions of material in the National Library’s collection.

But the exhibition will also include objects and photographs from local collections.

Evelyn Whitelaw, New Lanark’s exhibitions officer, has worked hand in hand with Lanark Museum and Lanark Library to add local flavour to display cases.

She said: “The museum and library have been a huge help, sourcing objects from their collections which may not often go on display.

“We’re working on the theme of local agriculture and industry, paying particular attention to the Clyde Valley’s fruit production.

“So, for example, we have a 1920s Scott’s of Carluke marmalade jar, alongside beautiful Victorian butter stamps engraved with a rose, thistle and fleur de lis, which probably came from a large local household or a shop.”

Other interesting local artefacts include a honeycomb press and box, an enormous ceramic bread pan, a menu from a 1930s Lanimer Ball, as well as menus from Lanark’s Caledonian Hotel and Lido Cafe and a 1939 Carmichael District Burns Supper programme.

Another item sure to pique local interest is a bottle from the Cora Linn Mineral Water Company.

The fact it has survived all this time is incredible, given the company was only in production in the North Vennel for six months, from April 1936.

And a former New Lanark resident is also adding her own flair to the exhibition.

Evelyn explained: “Lizzie Meek was a resident in the village from the late 1800s into the early 20th century.

“Some of her recipe books will be on display, along with a crocheted table cloth which she created while living here in the village.”

Arguably, though, Evelyn’s favourite items are not quite so dated.

“With such diverse objects, it’s difficult to pick one or two out,” she said.

“But we have a bottle of Lanimer Ale from the 1980s and a bottle of New Lanark Bicentenial Ale from 1985, both of which still contain the product.

“They were created for two specific events by Broughton Brewery and it’s fantastic the ale is still intact – it adds a lot of local flavour.”

You couldn’t really expect an exhibition about Scotland’s diet in the last 400 years NOT to have a taste of the local though.

Evelyn explained: “Fruit has been grown in the Clyde Valley since the 5th century, albeit it wasn’t done on a commercial scale until around the 17th century.

“At that time, apple, pears and plums would have been grown, after which soft fruits and tomatoes came along.

“The Clyde Valley was known as Scotland’s fruit basket so it’s important for us to ensure the area’s proud heritage is included within this touring exhibition.”

In addition to local artefacts, Lanark Library and Lanark Museum have also donated a large number of photos – depicting life and labours in this ripe patch.

Evelyn added: “I’d like to thank the library and museum for all their help, particularly Paul Archibald.

“Thanks also go to Borders Biscuits for its sponsorship of new display cases to showcase items from these local collections.”

Scotland was once branded the ‘sick man of Europe’. Yet it has a rich and diverse natural larder with plentiful supplies of fish, game, cereals and fruit.

Lifting the Lid examines our changing relationship with food and drink as well as the myths and traditions associated with our diet.

Colourful panels feature content from the National Library of Scotland, such as recipe books, food advertisements, quotations and photographs.

Part of a Scotland-wide tour that aims to introduce the National Library’s collections to people across the country, closer to where they live, Lifting the Lid will be staged at New Lanark from September 23 to November 12.

Entry is included with a New Lanark Visitor Attraction ticket or Robert Owen’s School for Children ticket.

High demand for Shining Lives

New Lanark will play host to a unique event next month which is already proving hugely popular with visitors.

Shining Lives will see a spectacular sound and light projection event being staged at the World Heritage Site.

But free tickets for the event are being snapped up like hot cakes so people are being advised to book...now.

Marketing and PR officer Melissa Reilly said: “People have to register for the show.

“Almost 1500 tickets have already been snapped up for the Saturday night and around 800 for Sunday night.

“So we’re advising people to register for their free tickets soon as we’d hate them to miss out on the spectacular.”

And that word is certainly one that sums up the show that will unfold at New Lanark on Saturday, October 21 and Sunday, October 22.

With the stunning 230 year old buildings acting as the display surface, historic images and video footage from New Lanark and the surrounding area will be brought to life on a grand scale.

This will be augmented by a soundtrack, lighting and living history display which echoes the life of the mills and its workers, as well as other industries in the Clyde Valley.

It will provide a unique interpretation of this famous site – even for those who have visited many times over.

The show is also likely to feature images never before seen thanks to an open day held at New Lanark back in April.

People were asked to search their attics and cupboards for old photos and take them along to be scanned. And some of these loaned photos may well be shown super-sized on the mill buildings for all to enjoy.

To register for tickets, visit 
the website www.newlanark.org/visitorcentre/shining-lives.shtml.