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At the crossroads of time: How a small Scottish village changed history

ScottWritten by Andrew C. Scott, Emeritus Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, this is a fascinating book, studying as it does the position and influence of a small Scottish village. Is Leshmahagow a village that changed the world? Judging from the book, it and some of its residents have certainly influenced things much more than one might have expected.

The village and surrounding area certainly has an excellent geological heritage. To the author’s immense credit, this is explained in such a way that the interested layman could pick the book up and not be put off by overly technical descriptions. The geology is set out in a logical manner and holds sufficient interest for the knowledgeable geologist, with an excellent bibliography allowing further research if required.

But this is so much more than a geological book, exploring as it does the social development of a village and the opportunities that became available to many of its inhabitants. The story of Leshmahagow’s place in the development of the pedal bike, in its own right, makes fascinating reading. But it is the wide societal context raised by Scott that make this such a worthy tome. In all honesty, I thought I would study the geology and then skim read the remainder – but due to an easy reading style, I have not been able to put the book down! 

There is a section of plates in the book, with sufficient images to illustrate many of the points of interest raised. Reading about how education evolved in the village, how communication was established with the coming of the railway, and the rise and inevitable decline of the coal industry has been fascinating. The section looking at significant people from the village was illuminating and is testament to the inspiration of the teachers involved in the village at the time.

All in all, this has been a superb read, one that once started, I found difficult to put down. It has been a book that has sought to make me look at the things that have influenced me, and the author is to be commended on the quality of his writing and the fascinating story contained within. A book to relax with, with a fascinating story to tell – what more could you want?

By Gordon Neighbour

At the Crossroads of Time – How a small Scottish village changed history, by Andrew C. Scott. Amberley Publishing 2020. ISBN: 978-1-445-69832-8. 256pp (hbk). List price: £16.00