Penfest views and voices



Penicuik Looking Back

Suburbanised in the sixties, Penicuik grew up around the old Kirk and well of St Mungo, with papermills, three railways, short-lived mines, a barracks, good examples of buildings by Pilkington (his architectural work across Britain was celebrated in an exhibition at PCAA some years back), and above all a striking landscape setting between the Pentland Hills and the wooded valleys of the Esk.

Take a look for yourself.PCAA’s exhibition, Penicuik Looking Back, was organised with Penicuik Historical Society and Midlothian Council in May 1997 at the Cowan Institute (Penicuik Town Hall). Timed for the end of Hunter and Lass Week, the exhibition contained photographs of many aspects of Penicuik’s history, banners, notes about the French Prisoners’ Monument, Prime Minister Gladstone’s time in Penicuik during the great 1880 Midlothian campaign.

Penicuik has been a papermaking town for three hundred years (Penicuik blue paper was said to have been carried by the Darien expedition in 1698). Some of the key figures in the papermaking story like Agnes Anderson, Marjorie Fidler and the Cowan family were recorded in Penicuik Looking Back.

Penicuik’s main papermills closed twenty years ago, but the Dalmore Mill nearby at Auchendinny continues to operate. Its owners, Curtis Fine Papers, along with MacSween’s Haggis, helped to support Pulp Fiction, our 1998 exhibition of papier-mâché figures by local artist Jan Miller.

Penicuik Looking Back included information on Penicuik people like the little-known pioneer of industrial development in Finland, James Finlayson and the town’s popular novelist of a hundred years ago, S R Crockett, It covered the sad episode of Penicuik’s Napoleonic prisoner-of-war camps far more fully than can be reflected here. Most of the exhibition was devoted to the social life of the town: particularly the traditions of the Penicuik Free Gardeners (whose banners and flower buskit were on display), the Annual Penicuik Gala Queen, the Penicuik Silver Band, the Curling Club, and the Hunter and Lass.