Newspapers For Researchers

We are blessed in Angus with a large number of local papers for most of the major towns, the earliest of which dates back to 1811. You should be warned; old newspapers can become a serious addiction. As you browse through the front page, looking at the adverts of ships offering passage to America, you end up becoming fascinated by all of the varied activities taking place in the local inns, the property for sale, the balls, theatricals and bankrupts. Indeed, you are in danger of becoming a local trivia bore as you stun your friends with your newly acquired wealth of knowledge. But did you ever find your ship details?

Newspapers are a mixed blessing of information and frustration. Few of the Angus newspapers are indexed. Only the Arbroath Herald and the Forfar Dispatch have been tackled. These are held in Arbroath and Forfar libraries, respectively, and are card indexes. Their coverage does not extend beyond 1985. The rich content of the newspapers does repay the effort it takes to discover your nugget, or goldmine, of information.

Why so little local news?

Many local papers contained little news. Instead, they were full of details of international news, the British Parliamentary proceedings, London society news, accidents, reports of battles and military campaigns, oddities and Royal scandals etc. Early newspapers catered to the tastes of the rich people who could afford to buy them. Local newspapers grew in the 18th century as a response to the difficulty and expense of obtaining London, or Edinburgh, newspapers. Their purpose was to inform the gentry and professionals in the provinces about national events. The newspapers were delivered by stagecoach service. Most towns had one or more Coffee Houses where male subscribers could read the newspapers. One newspaper would be shared amongst a great number of people. Montrose Town Council subscribed to one newspaper for the entire Council although they were fortunate that the Coffee House was in the Town House! Newspapers were expensive items because of government stamp duty on paper. This was not abolished until 1855.

Widening coverage

Early papers catered to the tastes of the better off who could afford to buy. Local papers in Angus such as the Montrose Review always kept a record of shipping activities as this was of vital importance to many rich Angus merchants.

As the nineteenth century progressed and the cost of production and taxes fell, so readership grew. The content of local newspapers expanded to cover a wider variety of topics. As truly ’national’ newspapers began to emerge and improved transport made them easier to access, so local newspapers began to concentrate on their locality. More information about a locality was included and subjects, such as the opening of new buildings, were covered exhaustively. Often all of the tradesman and craftsmen involved in a project would be mentioned and all of the speeches covered and plans and drawings of the new building included. The opening of the new Infirmary in Arbroath was covered in great depth by the Arbroath Herald, offering the historian a wealth of detail. Personal information of all sorts expanded, even if the emphasis was on prominent members of the community such as benefactors, sportsmen, theatricals, Council members, the notorious or the scandalous. By the end of the nineteenth century, newspapers were covering ordinary people going about their businesses, charity work or sporting competitions. Obituaries were becoming meaningful, and not just a succinct line, and retrospectives for Golden anniversaries or 80th birthdays were becoming more commonplace.

Why bother with local newspapers?

Brechin Brewery newspaper article

The value of much of the early 19th century newspapers often lies in the adverts. Newspapers have long derived their primary source of income from advertising. It was common for the adverts to be place prominently on the front page for maximum impact. The Dundee Courier has given up this practice only in recent memory, while the Arbroath Herald is one of the Angus newspapers to retain this tradition. The dependence on advertising is reflected in the occurrence of the title ’Advertiser’ in many newspaper titles.

The adverts provide us with a rich primary source for many diverse subjects such as cultural, economic and transport history. Recurrent themes amongst the adverts are property adverts for tenancies of farms, sale of house and tenders to build schools or farm buildings. New businesses announced their commencement in the local press, while established ones promoted new products or services. Adverts provide a rich flavour of the goods and services open to the inhabitants of a town. Adverts were placed for meetings of creditors to bankrupt businesses and these often took place in a local inn. Newspaper adverts are also rich in information on cultural history: adverts for balls, dancing masters, the meetings of circulating libraries, theatre programmes, race meetings announcements, school courses on offer and more.

Newspapers are a vital source for all aspects of transport history when they provide details of the times of coaches to various destinations, the times and routes of ferries, and the opening, and closing, of long gone railway lines

Case study: the Montrose Review, 1820

The local value of each town’s newspapers extended beyond their burgh boundaries. The Montrose Review is a particularly rich and early source. It had been established on 11 January 1811 with the full title of The Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review, and Forfar and Kincardine Shires Advertiser. It was circulated widely throughout the counties of Angus and Kincardineshire.

Beef Steak Club newspaper listing

If you read the front page of the Review for 1820, what can you learn about Angus? Amongst other things, you can browse the list of contents of the sale of the goods, furniture and effects of James Inverarity, Upper Tenements of Caldhame in Brechin; read the list of subscribers to the Fever Ward on Rossie Island; anticipate the performance at the Theatre Royal where Seraphina Ferzi would perform on the tightrope; discover where to buy a lottery ticket or a second hand sloop; be informed that James Duncan had set up as a merchant in Kirriemuir; rent the grass park at Careston or Stacathro; purchase a fourth share in the East Mill in Brechin; attend a meeting of the Forfar Beef Steak Club or employ Miss Millar to teach drawing. The list is endless.

A survey of the adverts can result in a clearer understanding of various subjects, such as the history of the Theatre Royal in Montrose (compiled almost exclusively from contemporary newspapers) and the central role of inns in public life. Inns were not just places to drink. They were often the pick up point for the coach services, public meeting places for groups of creditors or factions of the town’s magistrates, the venue for Clubs such as the exclusive Montrose Club and a place for auctions and roups of real estate and assets.

The Review was joined by another Montrose newspaper, the Standard in 1837. The Review is still in existence today while the Standard ceased publication in 1964.

Angus Newspapers held by Angus Libraries

Angus newspaper titles are available on microfilm in Angus libraries. Each local title is available in its own town.

Arbroath Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Arbroath Herald 1889 - 1978 microfilm, 1979 to date Indexed to 1985
Arbroath Guide 1844 - 1978 microfilm

The Arbroath Herald has been indexed to 1985. Warning! The births, deaths and marriages columns were not indexed and only the main obituaries were indexed.

Brechin Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Brechin Advertisers 1848 - 1980 microfilm
Brechin Herald Feb. 1890 - May 1892 unbound
Brechin & District News Oct 1952 - Jan 1953 unbound

Carnoustie Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Broughty Ferry Guide and Carnoustie Gazette 1899, 1906 - 1982 Microfilm
1957 - to date Unbound
Carnoustie Leader Nov. 1989 - June 1990 Unbound
Carnoustie Times 1976 - 1978 Unbound
Carnoustie Free Press, Nos. 3 & 7 1891 Unbound

Forfar Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Angus Herald 1930 - 1933 Microfilm, Indexed
Forfar Dispatch 1912 - to date Microfilm, Indexed to c. July 1987
Forfar Herald 1884 - 1930 Microfilm, Indexed
Forfar Reformer 1883 - 1884 Microfilm, Indexed
Forfar Review 1912 - 1924 Microfilm, Indexed
1925 - 1926 Microfilm, Indexed
Forfar Times 1974 - 1978 Bound, Indexed

Kirriemuir Library

Card index for Kirriemuir newspapers is now available in Kirriemuir Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Kirriemuir Free Press 1915 - 1975 Microfilm
1885, 1904 Unbound
1913 - 1975 (Except 1914, 21, 38, 43, 47, 49,56)
Kirriemuir Herald 1971 - 1979 Microfilm
Kirriemuir Observer & Braes of Angus Reporter March 1874 - July 1874 Microfilm
Kirriemuir Observer & General Advertiser 1918 - 1949 Microfilm
Kirriemuir Observer & Local Advertiser 1884 - March 1885 Microfilm

Montrose Library

Newspaper Dates Format
Montrose Review 1811, 1839, 1844, 1864 Unbound
1864 - to date Microfilm, Unbound
Montrose Standard 1844 - 1964 Microfilm

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