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Discover the two books linking Lanark’s fascinating past

Frank has fulfilled a long-held ambition buy self-publishing both books

Frank Gunning has published not one, but two books telling the history of Lanark and New Lanark which are now on sale.

The first book, A Few from the Cross, details Lanark in the 90s during a time of local government reorganisation while New Lanark BC (Before Conservation) showcases growing up in what would later become a World Heritage Site.

Born in 1938, Frank grew up in Caithness Row and spent his early years exploring New Lanark and its surroundings – and getting up to mischief along the way!

New Lanark BC tells tales from Frank’s early years, including an army-style mission to steal eggs from a nearby henhouse, a story that was initially published in Scots Magazine and would go on to become the catalyst for the book itself.

“That wee story that I wrote and submitted to the Scots Magazine always stuck in my mind,” Frank said. “All of a sudden I found myself retired, with time on my hands, and I made a start on it to see if there was enough to compile a book and lo and behold we managed it. In fact, there’s probably enough to do a second book! I’ve been planning this for a long time. It took me while to get it done and I had no idea when I was doing it how many pages constituted a book, so I just kept writing and chopping and changing.”

However while writing New Lanark BC, Frank would go on to also compile A Few from the Cross at the same time after a chance meeting after the Kirkin’ of the Cornet last year encouraged him to source copies of his newspaper column submissions.

Frank added: “I had always regretted that when you get to a certain age and you’re reminiscing to people about all the stories that my grandfather, mum and dad and all the folk at New Lanark told at that time -  they should have been written down and collated. I never did it. It was my wife, a long time ago, that said ‘well you have no room to complain because you’re as bad yourself. You should be doing the same thing’ and that always stayed with me.

“What I had most difficulty with was two things. Firstly, putting the stories in a proper sequence from my early days through to being married and leaving New Lanark. I also had difficulty, and I don’t know if I succeeded, when I was writing about New Lanark aged five or six and the things we got up to down there I was trying to write it as a five or six-year-old!”

When exploring New Lanark in its current form, it is hard to imagine it as a derelict site. What was once a busy community soon turned into a desolate place when the Gourock Rope Company announced the closure of the mills in 1968, affecting around 350 jobs. New Lanark was then sold to a company that extracted aluminium from scrap metal before the New Lanark Conservation Trust was formed in 1974, with the aim of renovating the area.

Frank’s book details a time of sadness in the area and he is proud to see the restoration work that has been carried out over the years.

“The place was emptying fast in those days,” he said. “Curiously enough I worked briefly for the Gourock Rope Company. There was a group from Burnley that made all that machinery and it was in the early 60s that the Gourock Rope Company invested in brand new equipment all over the mill. That was the stuff that was all turfed out less than a decade later.

“I was 29 when I left New Lanark. Personally I thought it was tragic what was happening to it. You would have to have seen it to appreciate what I’m talking about because the guy that bought the whole village ran a company called Metex. The problem was that the metal he needed was very rare and could only be found on certain items, particularly old aeroplanes, and he only needed a small part of the plane to use for his metal extraction. He bought army surplus in bulk and he filled every road down there with old aeroplanes and it really was a disaster. It was really sad.

“Before I left, Harry Smith had wakened up to the fact of what was happening at New Lanark and he got involved with preservation. Harry had the wisdom to get Jim Arnold involved and between the two of them they took it from being something akin to the Royal Oak or the Tote building these days, and converted it to what we have today.”

New Lanark BC is on sale now at The Tolbooth and at New Lanark, priced at £10. A Few from the Cross is available at The Tolbooth, priced at £10.
Copies are also available by contacting frank.gunning@yahoo.co.uk