Ishbel McKinnon, Archivist, writes: Together they shine a light on events taking place in the burgh in the years immediately following World War II, a period of national reflection, reconciliation and rebuilding.
The visitors’ book is a leather-bound volume containing over 950 signatures of official visitors to the burgh, including members of the royal family, politicians, military personnel, singers, actors and others. The scrapbook contains associated telegrams, letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs.
Many visitors to the burgh in this period were political or military figures, such as Sir Winston Churchill who was awarded the Freedom of the City of Perth on 27 May 1948. There were also several trade and sporting delegations, such as the Canadian Curling Team which visited in January 1950 and envoys from Perth, Australia whose visit in summer 1950 formed the foundation for a successful and long-standing town twinning relationship between the two cities. Well-known American actress, Greer Garson, made a fleeting but much publicised visit in February 1950 to purchase a pedigree shorthorn bull for her Mexican ranch at the world-famous annual Perth Bull Sale. Local newspapers made much of the event and photographs of the pair accompany several articles - her signature in the visitors’ book is the only one penned in bright pink ink.
The collection complements the institutional Archive of the City and Royal Burgh of Perth by giving an alternative perspective on civic events taking place in the burgh from that which is recorded in the official archive. It had travelled far from its roots, being offered for sale by an auction house in Kent, in March 2021. Joint support from the Friends of the National Library and the National Fund for Acquisitions enabled us to secure its purchase, for which we are extremely grateful.
Initial concerns about how the collection came to public auction have been alleviated through discussion with Perth’s present Lord Provost who informed us that it was past practice for Lord Provosts to retain these quasi-official records as a memento of their service. With this in mind, we shall keep our eyes peeled for similar records appearing in the future.