A comic book peep into Penicuik’s past

The key people and events that helped shape Penicuik’s history are highlighted in a unique set of three new cartoon comic booklets produced by the Penicuik Heritage Regeneration Project.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 5:00 am
Cover illustration from one of the Penny Toons booklets

Part of the project’s education and community engagement activities, the booklets have been drawn by project manager Rod Lugg and researched and written by project volunteers, alongside archivist Sean Watson.

Each short comic strip explores a different tale in the rich history of the town, and can be found on the project website at www.penicuikheritage.org.uk/Penny-toons/.

The booklets, under the heading ‘Penny Toons’, include ‘Valleyfields Napoleonic Prisoners of War’, which illustrates the story of French naval prisoners being taken initially to Edinburgh in 1805 and then marched off to be imprisoned in Penicuik’s Valleyfield paper mills.

Drawing of French prisoners of war, from the Penny Toons booklet

Various disasters occurred, including the upper floor of one of the mill buildings collapsing due to the weight of the number of prisoners. The story is also told of escaping prisoners being shot by local people.

‘The Professor and the Penicuik Experiments’ tells the story of James Cossar Ewart, who was born in Penicuik in 1851. Graduating from Edinburgh University as a doctor and surgeon in 1874, he returned to live in Penicuik to study genetics, famously crossing a horse with a zebra. He wrote about his findings and other discoveries in his 1899 book, ‘The Penicuik Experiments’.

‘The Victorian Staycation’ reflects on the current situation with holidays, and the restrictions resulting from the pandemic, before going on to look at Penicuik in the early 1900’s, which was praised at the time for its health benefits. These included walking and relaxing in an attractive landscape setting, away from the ills of city pollution.

Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab), Midlothian Council’s Member for Communities and Place said: “These superbly illustrated stories provide a fun way of learning about Penicuik’s fascinating history and heritage. I am sure they will be very popular with local people and visitors, adults and children alike.”

The new comic booklets will be printed by the Penicuik Press and will be available locally in the town as well as online.

The storytellers Mac-A-Story, who have been appointed by the project to work with local schools, have also had input and their work is featured in film clips soon to be launched on the project’s website at www.penicuikheritage.org.uk.