Renwick - Gunn - Smyth

The catalogue of books published show that Robert Renwick, Dr Clement Gunn and Allan Smyth made an important contribution to the cultural life of Peebles and its shire: two notable local historians and a master printer. Robert Renwick, LL.B. (1841-1920), the great-grandson of William Renwick, a cooper and burgess of Peebles (1661-1733); and Dr Clement B. Gunn, M.D. (1860-1933), a distinguished local practitioner who set up in practice in Peebles in 1885 and who was one Robert Renwick's oldest friends in Peebles. Together they account for over twenty books published at The Neidpath Press. Robert Renwick writing about the Scottish burgal system and Dr Gunn providing histories of Peeblesshire and its Churches.

The first book published by Watson & Smyth at the Bridgegate in 1892 was Renwick's The Burgh of Peebles: Gleanings from its Records, 1604-1652 based on a collection of articles he had written for the newspaper, the handset type originally used in the columns of the Peeblesshire Advertiser was also used to print the book. It was well received and acclaimed as being 'fitly reproduced in a dignified format and issued from a Peebles press which does credit alike to Peebles and to this very meritorious and interesting volume'. A second edition was issued by The Neidpath Press in 1912.

William Renwick, LL.D., began his career with Stuart & Blackwood, a firm of Writers in Peebles that in 1884 became Blackwood & Smith, and then had a distinguished career in the Town Clerk's office in Glasgow and appointed Depute Town Clerk in 1885. His articles in the Peeblesshire Advertiser and later his books were authorative works about the medieval burghal system.


Books Printed and Published
by Watson & Smyth and
The Neidpath Press

Gleanings from the Burgh Records, 1604-52
(1892 [Watson & Smyth]; 1912)

Historical Notes on Peeblesshire Localities

Peebles During the Reign of Queen Mary:with Appendix of Historical Notes and Illustrations

It is said that William Renwick was 'constantly on the edge of subjects of controversy, but his accuracy, sagacity, and tolerant moderation steered him through, if not quite without friction at least without a bitter word of archaeological debate'.

Books Printed and Published
by The Neidpath Press


The Church and Monastery of the Holy Cross
of Peebles, 1261-1560 (1908)

The Ministry of the Presbytery of Peebles,
296-1910 (1910)

The Book of Lyne and Megget Church,
1165-1911, with St Mary’s of the Lowes

The Book of the Cross Kirk of Peebles,
1560-1690 (1912)

The Book of Linton Church, Peeblessshire,
AD1160-1912 (1912)

The Book of the Croce Kirk, Peebles,
AD1690-1784, Secular Presbyterianism

The Manual of the Cross Kirk, Peebles,
AD1261-1914 (1914)

The Parish Church of Peebles, AD1784-1885

Rait's Raving [C. B.Gunn, translator]

The Book of Remembrance for Tweeddale, Burgh ,
and Parish Book I: August 1914 - May 1917

The Book of Remembrance for Tweeddale, Burgh
and Parish of Peebles, Book II: June 1917 - July 1919

The Book of Remembrance for Tweeddale,
the Village of West Linton [Linton Roderick]

The Church of Dawyck, AD1571-1930

The Church at Drumelzier, ADI531-1930

The Church at Traquair and the Church at Kailzie
AD1170-1930 (1931)

'The nearest approach to a controversy he ever had was in relation to the position of Peebles Castle, which an eccentric opponent would fain have spirited away up river to Neidpath, albeit the tenor of a whole series of documentary references makes plain the identification of the "Castlehill" in the angle of the junction of Peebles Water and the Tweed as the true site of the royal castle which David I had founded in its pristine form, but which as a structure had ceased to be in evidence by about the middle of the fourteenth century'.

Watson & Smyth also published R. Renwick's Historical Notes on Peeblesshire Localities in 1897 and in the following year a Report on the Proceedings of the ceremony of Handing Over the Fountain Erected in Peebles in Memory of John Veitch.

In 1903 the first book to come off the press of The Neidpath Press at 19 Eastgate was Renwick's Peebles During the Reign of Queen Mary: with Appendix of Historical Notes and Illustrations. This was followed by James Watson's Peeblesshire and its Outland Borders (3rd edn, 1906) and in the same year D. Brown Anderson's Reminiscences with occasional essays (printed for private circulation, 1906); its title page reproduced below.

Dr Gunn was the son of a former asistant editor of the Edinburgh Courant and from him inherited a strong literary ability. His inclinations lay especially towards the historical and antiquarian side of literature, and his Books of the Churches of Peeblesshire provides valuable material for students of church history and the social customs in Scotland. His antiquarian interests led him to making a lasting contribution to the Peebles Marching Riding and Beltane Queen Festival. He personally instituted the open-air Church Service at the Cross Kirk which begins the week-long programme of events and also the ceremony at Neidpath Castle where he was the first Warden of Neidpath and led the way for many distinguished Peebleans to follow in his footsteps to welcome the Cornet and his Supporters as they carried out the traditonal ride round the boundaries of the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Peebles.

His Books of Remembrance of the Town and County of Peeblesshire provide a greatly valued and treasured record of Peeblesshire men who were killed in action in the Great War (1914-1918).

Dr Gunn's first book published and printed was The Church and Monastery of the Holy Cross of Peebles 1261-1560 in 1908 and fourteen more books followed over the years until 1931.


In his preface to the sixth volume of the "Books of the Church Series" Dr Gunn writes: "This volume is, like its predessors, the product of the local Press, and both it and its author owe much to the careful and laborious interest given to the whole work by Allan Smyth and his staff. The veteran master of his craft, Mr Alexander Smyth, has again supervised the proofs with undimmed eye and unabated strictness." This is a fine tribute to the Master Printer and to his Father, Alexander Smyth, who was Editor of the Peeblesshire Advertiser.

John Buchan (later Lord Tweedsmuir) writing in the foreword to Dr Clement Bryce Gunn’s Leaves from the Life of a Country Doctor, first published by The Moray Press (Edinburgh, 1935) and reprinted by Birlinn Limited (Edinburgh, 2002), said of Dr Gunn: “Medicine was his profession, but he had a score of other interests, and he made himself the ecclesiastical historian of the county, producing, in the intervals of a busy career, many valuable antiquarian studies.”

J. Walter Buchan, brother of John Buchan, and a distinguished Town-Clerk of Peebles from 1906 to 1948 and friend of Dr Gunn, paid tribute to him in the final chapter of Leaves from the Life of a Country Doctor (p194 ): “He had a passionate love of Scotland, of the Borders in particular, and of Peebles in the last degree.  And he loved – as Scott loved, and as Stevenson loved – the people of the country against the background of their national history and traditions. That was why he probed deeply into the history of Peebles.  Always it was the past that fired his imagination and made him spend laborious and delightful hours in compiling the records of the churches, and in telling and re-telling the story of Neidpath Castle and of the Cross Kirk.” 

The Compiler (now 93 years old) fondly remembers our class of boys and girls from Kingsland School exploring with Dr Gunn the ancient ruins of the Cross Kirk and climbing with him as we scaled the heights of Neidpath Castle.  Above all others he truly inspired generations of Peebles folk to love and respect the historic heritage of our Royal Burgh.  Dr Clement B. Gunn's 15 books printed by The Neidpath Press are a testimony to his love of Peebles and its County.



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