Old and New

Fifty First Timer No.12

Visit the Smith Institute, Stirling. (Now named Stirling Smith Museum)

It has been my ambition to visit this unique local museum ever since I attended a lecture by its Director Dr Elspeth King. That was twelve years ago, but it was worth the wait. The museum is housed in what looks like a Greek temple, a style much favoured in the eighteen hundreds. It was gifted to the city by Thomas Stuart Smith, whose family story is so similar to that of Kidnapped’s David Balfour, it is believed that Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired whist visiting the institute and dealt himself a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ card.

There are three exhibit rooms in the museum. The first, small room, is adjacent to the one café I failed to try on my travels. This room houses a painting exhibition by Greer Ralston. All paintings are of horses and although I am not partial to animal paintings, I couldn’t help be impressed with the emotions captured in each subject’s eyes, it is chilling.

The next exhibit is my favourite, the history of publishing in Scotland, how lucky. There is particular emphasis on Stirling Printers Eneas MacKay, who published many works by SRL and MacDiarmid, among others.

The last exhibit appears to be a permanent feature, with local archives reaching back to the Bronze Age. I was enthralled by a short film explaining the demise of the mining industry in the area.

Twelve years is a long time to put off a visit, but now I have witnessed what is on offer I will be pop in on the passing.


One lilac tree and buddleia; to encourage the birds and the bees and the butterflies into the garden.

One kerria and saxifrage, planted in an painted old fireplace. I saw a kerria while visiting my brother in hospital and fell in love with its delicate apricot flowers.

Two broom bushes beside the grasses. I love broom, the hedgerows sparkle with it at the moment. I suppose I could have gone out and dug a clump but if everyone did that there would be no hedgerows left.

One rowan tree. A friend gave me a tiny sapling in a plastic bottle. I planted it yesterday and already it looks at home. It is widely believed in Scotland that no home should be without a rowan tree. We left one behind when we moved here. Now I feel our home is complete.

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