Local Newspapers and Media

Alexander Scott, known as 'Booky' Scott because he was a bookseller, and reputed always to have worn a white shirt, had shaggy locks and was remembered by many old Peebleans for his practice on Hansel Monday (the first Monday after New Year's Day) of scattering ballad sheets from an upstairs window of his house in the High Street to the children waiting below. Although 'Booky' Scott sold literature, he did not stock new books or new periodicals. In that respect he was unlike his predecessor, Sandy Elder, who had in 1812 such periodicals on sale as the Edinburgh Review, the Quarterly Review, and the Scots Magazine.

Only two or three newspapers came into town each week in the early years of the nineteenth century. They were expensive and it was local custom for various persons to share the cost and they were passed from hand to hand until they were in tatters. Various tax duties were payable on every copy: stamp duty at 4d (1½p) which was reduced to 1d in 1836 and abolished in 1855. There was also a tax payable on advertisements of 1s rising to 2s and then 3s 6d (17½p) and, in addition, an excise duty on newsprint of 3d (1p) per pound weight of paper. However, a public reading-room was opened in 1846 for the 'gratuitous admission of all'. It was established in the old Town Hall, which was next to the Town House in the High Street and the same stair led to both. It had been opened at the suggestion of William and Robert Chambers and it was they who undertook to keep it supplied with newspapers.

When the various taxes on newspapers came to an end in 1855, it led to a flood of new national, regional and local newspapers starting up. Clearly it was good news for newspapers like the Peeblesshire Monthly Advertiser but it was even more welcomed by the national newpapers and there followed the start of the 'penny press'. When The Times had successfully developed the technique of rotary printing it became possible for national newspapers to develop very large circulations.

The local press primarily existed to serve its own immediate community but in order to gain a viable circulation it extended into a wider area to make itself an attractive medium for advertisers. However, circulation was generally only a few thousand copies and there was a need to develop general printing services to ensure a reasonable level of profitability for the business.

The first issue of the Peeblesshire Monthly Advertiser and Tweedside Journal appeared on 4 February 1845, when 1,100 copies were