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The Library of Innerpeffray
A SPECIAL FEATURE FROM SCOTLAND'S ONLINE TOURIST GUIDE
'A large African artiodactyl ungulate
of aquatic habits, with very thick skin, short legs, and a large head
This definition of a hippopotamus comes from my copy of
The Chambers Dictionary. It is a tad easier just to refer to it
as a hippo.
Here in The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide, in
addition to touristy stuff we have a surreal mixture of soup and hippos.
Nowhere else on the planet will one find a place where hippos and soup
go hand in hand. Or so we thought. For there is another place, a place
where that artiodactyl ungulate and soup exist in harmony, and here at
The Good Soup Guide we just wanna cry... WAAAAAAAGGGHHHHHH!!
The Library of Innerpeffray sits around 4 miles south-east of Crieff,
between the B8062 road and the River Earn. If you don't have a car, then
it's either a taxi or a walk. Although the B8062 is reasonably quiet,
there is no pavement so you should be very careful and wary of moving
vehicles. The library is open March to October, Wednesday to Sunday
(various hours). Admittance charge in 2012 was £5 (kids free).
The Library of Innerpeffray was originally housed in the adjacent
church. Today you can enter that old church, climb a narrow spiral
stair, and stand for a moment in the very room, the very dusty little
room, where the books were once kept. When the current building was
constructed in 1762 all the books were moved, where they remain to this
day, a fascinating insight into our past.
When you visit today you may see first hand the old, almost Harry
Potteresque tomes that were once eagerly read and absorbed by farmers
and their children. There are books on witchcraft (for when the library
was founded we still burnt witches at the stake!), and even the original
registers of library users. Then there's the recipe books that include
soups, like 'Cookery And Pastry, As Taught And Practised By Mrs
MacIver, Teacher Of Those Arts In Edinburgh, A New Edition, With
Additions, To Which Are Added Figures Of Dinner And Supper Courses, From
Five To Fifteen Dishes, Also, A Correct List Of Everything In Season For
Every Month In The Year.' Now that's a title!
The Library of Innerpeffray sits just outside Crieff. It is a public
library - 'the oldest free public lending library in Scotland,
representing the very origins of the Scottish Enlightenment.'
It was founded in 1680, and inside there are some very old books, like
Topsell's 'Historie of Foure-footed Beasts', dating to 1607.
The strange illustration shown above is from that book. Clearly, whoever
drew it had never actually seen a hippo first hand. It was probably a
word-of-mouth thing along the lines of, 'It's on the water, looks like a
big pig with a long snout, and eats alligators.'
Today, the Library of Innerpeffray is open to the public, not as a
public lending library, but as a visitor attraction, and an utterly
fascinating one at that. Your first thought on approaching it might well
be, 'Why on earth did they build a public library way out here in the
middle of nowhere?' It's by a river - the River Earn - in an area of
countryside surrounded by nothing but farms.
A school was originally founded at the same time as the library. It was
not unusual way back then for farming families to have upwards of ten
children, so a mere ten farms within a few miles radius would provide
more than a hundred eager kids, all willing to learn. And learning was the
thing, the key to bettering yourself, and to perhaps make a real
difference in the world instead of just shovelling hay.