September – Huntly: Capital of Strathbogie by Cyril A Barnes

Well, I’m nearly a month late with this book, at this point. Which is ridiculous because I actually got my mits on it in September.

Why did it take so long to read?

Well, there were a multitude of factors – none of which are worth getting into. But don’t think it’s because this little gem of a book wasn’t worth reading, because it was – it’s absolutely awesome.

Husband chose it because, despite my history-nerd tendencies, I’ve never actually rented a book from the local history section of the library. I think that’s probably because as a library volunteer, I dread shelving the things so tend to avoid touching the precariously balanced shelves… but I digress.

Huntly: Capital of Strathbogie is a slim little volume but is full of personality. Written by a former journalist for the local paper, it’s concise, accurate and interesting. It reads like a series of short articles, or like an album playlist –  a list of self-contained, lyrical stories.

I learned more about where I live from these 137 pages than I have in the 5 years of stomping the streets and hills round about.

I think what strikes me most is that so much of the town’s infrastructure was paid for by locals, in what amounted to crowd-funding. The library building, the hopsital, the town hall… all of it either donated by benevolent philanthropists, or funded by the people themselves.

One part which was especially bitter-sweet reading was the transcript of the hospital’s hand-over to the NHS. The pride and trust with which it was given to our fledgling health service is heightened by the author’s comments about the systematic defunding of the NHS through the 80s/90s in which he’s writing the book. Tragically, this holds as true today as it did when the book was published in 1998.

As with ‘A Cat Called Dog‘, this really changed my perception of the genre. I’ve often been guilty of thinking of local history as being incredibly dry, and written by people who aren’t writers. I expect – probably wrongly – high levels of waffle.

Happy to be proved wrong again!

Can’t wait to see what Husband selects for October… especially as it’s now the 16th…