CHAPTER 19

 

Local Newspapers and Media

 

IT WAS DUE to the foresight and the enterprise of Alexander Elder that the first printing-press was brought to Peebles in 1814. He was a stationer and bookseller, with a shop on the south side of the High Street. Two years before that he gave Peebles its first circulating library, which contained over 2,000 books. It was there that William and Robert Chambers developed their love of books and most likely caught the smell of printer's ink that was to capture their lives and to add lustre to Scottish publishing and to the literary heritage of the English-speaking world.

Alexander Elder printed and published a small pamphlet entitled The Concise History of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing. This first publication produced in Peebles was described as a 'quaint production, the printer having considerable difficulty with his capitals and the spacing of words'. Nothing, however, can detract from his worthy effort in bringing the art of printing to the town. It may well have inspired the idea of a locally-produced newspaper.

Two names are closely associated with the starting of the first local newspaper. Andrew Murray, a printer and publisher of newspapers with a business in Edinburgh, was the first 'publisher', but, the newspaper had a 'local agent' and he was Alexander Scott. It proved to be a timely initiative that was most likely due to the foresight of Alexander Scott, because the newspaper came into being shortly after he had acquired Elder's business. Certainly J. Walter Buchan gives him the credit for starting the newspaper but it is clear from the first copies that Alexander Scott was not the publisher but the 'local agent'. The fact that the Peeblesshire Monthly Advertiser and Tweedside Journal quickly became established in the town was undoubtedly due to Scott with his local connections and his knowledge of Peebles and its affairs.

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