Tuesday, 12 June 2018

More Memories of Earlston People and Places

The West End of Earlston,  Haughhead and Craigsford, Thomas Weatherly, stationer & printer, John Gray, photographer, Dr. Robert Riddell and the well known Whale Family - they all feature in this the second of two posts on the memories of the Rev. William Crockett (1866-1945). 

Part One of Rev. Crockett's memories you will find  HERE. 

William Shillinglaw Crockett was born in Earlston in 1866.  On leaving school, he worked as an apprentice chemist in the village, before training in Edinburgh for the Church.  He spent most of his ministry in Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire and was a prolific writer of  many publications on Borders life and literature. 

William Crockett never forgot his birthplace and in  a series of articles, written between 1937 and 1942 for  local magazines, he gives us a picture of Earlston life, people and places, with snippets from his pen  highlighted below. He died in 1945 and was buried in Earlston Churchyard.   


"This is the most ancient part of Earlston,  for long it remained as a little village of its own - a community in itself.  Its weavers' cottages, its crofts, its gardens of beauty, were just an ideal old fashioned hamlet in days gone by.   Now of course, everything is changed.

Who ever heard today of "The Acre Barn" , that so popular rendezvous  for dances, kirns and penny-weddings, at which a plate w
as passed around to pay expenses with a gift for the bride.

One place I remember well was Mag Forrest's tramps' howff,  scene of many a grim fight or drunken  brawl.

In a house behind the White Swan (once the Beehive) pend, Thomas Bayley, who had lost a leg in the *Peninsular Campaigns,  taught his small "side school", one of many in Earlston then.  And in it Robert Carter  of New York, founder of  of the most famous bookshop in America,  began life as a teacher."

 West End, c. early 1900's

HAUGHHEAD CORNMILL "functioned  as such from a remote period .....for generations it was occupied by the Shields, a notable family in the district of whom came  Alexander (born 1661) and  Michael,  both  valiant heroes of the *Covenant.....Both brothers joined the *Second Darien Expedition  in 1699 and they never again saw Leaderside, perishing amidst the hardships of that ill-fated adventure."  
 The site of Haughhead Mill, June 2018

CRAIGSFORD  was a sort of village in itself in those distant days,with a row of cottages, beginning  with that in which James Blaikie lived. 

"A ravine of the burn hard by - the Clattering Ford,  was used  by the body snatchers,  of Burke and Hare  time, for concealment of newly buried corpses  taken from the kirkyard.  Here it is said that the body of Nance Kerss lay before it came into the hands of the notorious Dr. Knox.  When the alarm was raised, David Walker, the parish  schoolmaster and another  Earlstonian  were sent to  identify  the body at the Surgeon's Hall, Edinburgh,  "Eh, Nance, Nance", said the latter, "Ye never thocht ye wad ever be in Edinburgh".

"A printer from Berwick, he migrated to the west of the shire (about 70 years ago) and had his  stationer's and bookseller's shop on the High Street. 
Weatherly's enterprise took him into the publishing and  newspaper field, with an eight page weekly "The Border Beacon",  followed by a second, having the rather high sounding title "The South of Scotland Live Stock Journal".  I fancy that very few, if any copies,  have survived, apart from those I have myself kept  in file those many years.  As Weatherly discovered, Earlston was scarcely the place  for a successful venture into the journalistic sphere

In the 1901 census, John P. Weatherly was described as a 40 years old Postmaster of 73 High Street, living with his wife, mother-in-law and  children Edward, Ellen and Margaret.  The Trade Directory two years later adds to his role that of bookseller, stationer, and printer. 

"A printer and photographer, he was the first to popularise this art in Earlston, especially with his carte de visite  portraits. which had wide vogue at that time."
This photograph came into the Auld Earlston collection and was identified on the reverse as David Swanston, Post Runner, here adverting the business of James Gray, photographer in the Square.  It is one of the oldest photographs in the group's collection, as David died in 1874.  

"Here was  a man skilled in diagnosis, a very capable servant, responsive to every phase of human distress. Even if (because of his slightly humped back),they spoke of him as  "Humpy"  Riddell, it was never with any feeling of disrespect.The doctor was endowed with a big brain;  poor people said he had a heart of gold. He showed his queer habits on occasions   - a street fight fascinated him for instance.  Dr  Riddell believed in prayer and once told the minister "I always pray before I start an operation."   

"Two of Andrew Whale's sons cut notable figures in active manhood - Lancelot, Rector of the Grammar School in Kelso, where Sir Walter Scott was his most eminent pupil;  and Thomas,   originator of an enterprise which gave to his native town, a prime distinction  in the realm of commerce - the gingham industry.
It is safe to say that no article of wearing apparel  was so fashionable  in its time. Over 140 hand looms (mostly in private houses)  in Earlston and the surrounding area wer engaged in the  manufacture of these finely woven and cotton fabrics.   They were worn by all classes and in every quarter.
Much of the prosperity of the trade - and indeed its high watermark - indeed, came after Whale's day, when his two daughters - Marion and Christian succeeded to the business, extending  clientele  throughout many parts of England - and even exporting their wares across the Atlantic.
Rhymer's Lands (some nine and a half acres) was acquired by those two enterprising women, Christian and Marion Whale, of gingham celebrity. by purchase from Dr. Francis  Home of Cowdenknowes. In 1842 they rebuilt the mill on its present site,  the old structure having been destroyed by fire the previous year."


* Peninsular Campaigns 
The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire (as well as the allied powers of the Spanish Empire), the United Kingdom and  Portugal, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars.

* Covenanters were people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638 to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

*The Darien Scheme  was Scotland's ambitious attempt to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "Caledonia" on the isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darien  in the late 1690s. Thousands of ordinary Scots  invested money in the expedition, to the tune of approximately £500,000. Five  ships sailed from Leith in July 1698 with 1,200 people on board. 

But  the project was beset by poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership and finally disease. 
Seven months after arriving, 400 Scots were dead.   More ships set sail from Leith in November 1699 loaded with a further 1,300  pioneers,unaware of the fate of the earlier settlers. The colony  was finally abandoned in 1700 after a siege by Spanish forces, 

Only one ship returned out of the total of sixteen that had originally sailed.  With the  loss of the £500,000 investment,  the Scottish economy was almost bankrupted. 

  • The Rhymer's Town:  Some Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W.S.Crockett. In "The Southern Annual: 1937. 
  • The Rhymer's Town:  More  Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W. S. Crockett.  In "The Southern Annual:1941. 
  • The Rhymer's Town:  Further Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W. S. Crockett. In "The Southern Annual:1942. 
  • The Rev. W. S. Crockett:  Preacher and Litterateur (interview and biographical notes), by John North. In "Border Magazine" July 1905.

Do you have memories of growing up in Earlston or 
know stories passed down by your parents or grandparents.  
If so, we would like to hear from you.  
 E-mail: auldearlston@aol.com

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

1898 - First Car Sighted on Earlston High Street

Reader Dr. John Burns  came  across this  snippet on Earlston life in  “The Southern Reporter” of 24th March 1898.
"MOTOR CAR - A motor car passed through the village on Sunday morning.  The two gentlemen who were driving it left Newcastle-on-Tyne the previous day en route for Edinburgh. In this neighbourhood one of the tyres got damaged  and it was resolved to put up at the Red Lion. 
This was done and the  car when it reached the hotel, being stopped for a little while was quickly surrounded  and examined with no small degree of curiosity, this being the first time  such a machine  has been seen  in operation here. "

This little  news item is complemented by advertisements from the  "AA Illustrated Motoring Annual and Motorist Year Book. 1904", held by reader Cynthia Sinclair whose grandfather had a car hire business in Edinburgh.  



More motor car photographs from the Auld Earlston Collection 


Ten years on from this the first sighting of a car in the village,  this is the official car used by Prime Minister Asquith when he visited Earlston in 1908.

 A vintage  car on Thorn Street at the west end of the village, c.1920's.

The Quiet Market Square, c.1920's


Have you come across an interesting story or item from the past 
that can be shared with others on our blog?  We would  like to hear from you. 

 Please contact us at:     auldearlston@aol.com 


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Early News of our Next Exhibition - Earlston in War and Peace 1914-1949

"Earlston in War and Peace 1914-1949" is the theme of the next Auld Earlston Exhibition and Slide Show to be held in the Church Hall on  October 20th and 21st 2018. 

Auld Earlston Chairman,  David Lothian,  said “November 11th 1918 marks the end of the First World War and we thought it appropriate to look at what life was like in Earlston around the time of the two world wars, also in the inter-war years and the  aftermath in the late1940's.  most noted locally for the harsh winter and Berwickshire floods.  

Much of  the material on show we have not displayed before and we anticipate  it will be of interest to our visitors, who have given us  great support to our previous events."

Complementing the Exhibition will be the popular slide shows,   with the key feature this year  a fascinating old cine film, now digitised, of Earlston in the 1930’s and 1940’s".

We would welcome your help!  
Do you have any photographs, postcards, memories and memorabilia  of this period?   

If so, we would be pleased to hear from you, with a view to it being featured in the exhibition.  Items  can be copied and returned to you, or can be  donated to the Auld Earlston Collection.  

For further information contact:

Tel. 01896 848240:  E-mail auldearlston@aol.com 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank You  


Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses from the First World War  outside the  Manse, Earlston.   
Can anyone identify the nurses? 

This colourful patriotic certificate was issued to schoolchildren during the First World War, often at Christmas, or a variation of it on Empire Day   

This was the first time that the whole nation had been mobilised to play a part in the war effort, and here young Mary Denham, mother of David Lothian, was commended for helping  " to send some comforts and happiness  to the Brave Men who are Fighting to  uphold the Freedom of our Glorious Empire". 


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Memories of Earlston People & Places, by Rev. William Crockett. (1866-1945)

William Shillinglaw Crockett was born in Earlston in 1866, the youngest child of William Crockett and Margaret Wood.   On leaving school, he worked as an apprentice chemist in the village, before training in Edinburgh for the Church.  He spent most of his ministry in Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire and was a prolific writer of  many publications on Borders life and literature. 

William Crockett never forgot his birthplace and in  a series of articles he wrote for local magazines, he gives us a picture of Earlston life, with snippets from his pen  highlighted below. He died in 1945 and was  buried in Earlston Churchyard.  


"My father conducted the postal affairs of the parish and district until his death in 1872.  Dauvit Swanson ran the outgoing mail to Melrose  twice daily, bringing back the incoming mail, my father delivering  the letters around the town.   Dauvit Trotter was the country runner  with whom I (a little lad) was often taken in his crudely built pony-trap  to Morriston and Legerwood. He had been a joiner and had had a bad accident to his left hand, necessitating immediate amputation, performed (without anasthetic) by Dr. Riddell.  
"In 1870 the telegraph was introduced.  An official from Edinburgh taught my father the manipulation of the old Morse instrument. The trial messages  were frequently news of the Franco-Prussian War  then raging.  This was my furthest back recollection". 
 "I went to Earlston School when I was four years old.  Mr Daniel Aitkenhead was the teacher, one of the best of the "old Scottish parochial" who has done, perhaps more than any other tvo mould the Scottish character that has so many admirers over all  the world.  He was a strict disciplinarian and many a good round of the tawse I have had from him" 
I left school when I was fifteen years old and was keen to become a medical missionary. For four years I was apprenticed to a chemist and had the ignominious fate of being plucked more than once for what was chiefly my bad handwriting.  I suppose then I was a "stickit druggist”. At last, I turned my back on the chemist's  life and entered Edinburgh University".

"Earlston must always be proud of its Square - the centre and heart of the little town.  Around its ancestral green, laid down when   the place became a burgh of barony  in the time of James IV, the village saw its row of thatched cottages springing up  until a complete square was formed and fairs were the order  of the day.   Robert Burns  was here in 1787, when he dined at an inn kept by a miller."
"On the Corn Exchange site  stood a two-storied inn, tenanted by James Shiels, who moved into "The Swan"  a few yards from his door and renamed it "The Red Lion"  with a flamboyant representation of the Lion Rampant as his sign."
"If the Pump Well  of 1815 was a bit of an eyesore to the moderns, it had happy memories to the boys and girls who gambolled round its old grey stones, and who jumped the "poles"  which then circled the Green".

The Old  Pump Well in Earlston's Market Square.    
The Well was demolished  in 1920 to make way for the War Memorial.

"Poles" around the Square 

"Aitkenhead's School  was just across the Square,  and out of its unforgettable walls, the Co-operators constructed  their emporium."

"What is now New Street and Arnot Place  was open ground - little more than a broad  green meadow stretching  up from the Leader and known as "Wilson's Lands”. In olden times it went but a short distance to the Leader.

Arnot Place was named after Margaret Arnot,  wife of Thomas Kerr of Craighouse,  who came to reside in Earlston after her husband's death.  She built the house in New Street  known as Kinneswood.  I recollect  her well - a tall masculine  looking woman,  kenspeckle in her always sombre garb of widowhood with  its white streamers waving in the wind. What a deep voice she had!" 

Arnot Place,  on the A68 road, in the 1930's. 
 "The Black Bull Inn was the first house on the present long  street, with the Manse opposite, built in 1814 - restored since.  Thorn House was built by John Spence, a Melrose lawyer. 

New Street/Thorn Street, with Thorn House on the corner
"Kirkgate  (very ancient people called it the Kidgate) was by far the prettiest In part of Earlston with its thatched cottages  and gardens of delicious  blooms"

Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   
All Rights Reserved

"Until the coming of the railway in 1863, there were few comings and goings between  the nearest towns in the neighbourhood  and to the vast majority of inhabitants Edinburgh was a veritable 'terra incognita".
 Earlston Station
"The making of new and better highways  within the Tweed and Leader valleys, as well as the completion,  by way of Mellerstain Estate,  of a more direct route to Kelso were other happy undertakings which opened up the district to commerce and travel.   Such roads that had  existed before were so poorly surfaced, hilly and winding that one wonders that they had ever been conceived of." 

Further snippets of William Crockett' s memories will focus on People, including the Whale Family of Earlston Gingham fame, James Gray, photographer, and Dr. Riddell. 


  • The Rhymer's Town:  Some Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W.S.Crockett. In "The Southern Annual: 1937. 
  • The Rhymer's Town:  More  Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W. S. Crockett.  In "The Southern Annual:1941. 
  • The Rhymer's Town:  Further Notes on Earlston's Past, by Dr. W. S. Crockett. In "The Southern Annual:1942. 
  • The Rev. W. S. Crockett:  Preacher and Litterateur (interview and biographical notes), by John North. In "Border Magazine" July 1905.


Click HERE or on the News & Events Tab at the top of this page
 to see a listing of the blog posts, published so far this year.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A Holiday, Curling & Bowling make the Earlston Headlines in the 1880's

Reader Richard Smith came across these headlines on Earlston in "The Berwickshire News" of the 1880's.    Old newspapers make fascinating reading for anyone interested in local history, as they  reflect life,  in all its aspect, as it was at the time.   

Read about:
  • News,  given at short notice, of the New Year shopkeepers' holiday, 
  • Activities of the Curling Club.
  • The early days of the Bowling Club and an impressive fund-raising bazaar - among the more unusual items for sale were clerical photographs, a Tom Scott painting, and live poultry.

NEW YEAR HOLIDAY - 20th December 1881.

"The shopkeepers have agreed to hold the New Year Holiday on Saturday December 31st inst., as New Year's Day falls on a Sunday. and Monday is an unsuitable day, being Market Day.  The Volunteers hold their annual ball on the Friday  evening the 30th  and their shooting on the Saturday following"

CURLING  -15th February 1878
"Nearly every day last week the members of the Curling Club enjoyed a game on Mr. Allan's pond at Georgefield. Thursday which was the Fast Day was necessarily an off-day,  and it is possible that the keen curlers begrudged letting it slip,   as the day was very favourable for this pastime.  Besides going to Dunse on Friday and beating the Dunse men, the Club played for the Silver Cup presented by Mrs Coteworth  of Cowdenknowes. The ice from the heat of the sun in the middle of the day was very soft,  and great difficulty was felt by some in getting their stone over the hog score.  The cup was won by Mr George Henderson with a score of 7, Mr J. P Smith and Mr. James Sharp  came next with 5 points each.  The weather was rather fresh and it is not unlikely that curling for the season is nearly over."
*Fast Days  were a tradition of the Presbyterian Churches,  whereby a special day was marked as a public holiday,and set aside for  a time of reflection,  ahead of attendance at the service of Holy Communion.   
More than 100 years later,  and members of Earlston Curling Club play out of doors at Lauder,  December 1995.     

BOWLING CLUB - 20th December 1881.
"This club now numbers over 50 members and they have resolved to the formation of a bowling green on the site of the old curling pond. This work is to be done by Mr. Smith, Hawick whose estimate for the work we understand to be £150.  Some farmers interested in the formation of the bowling green will do the  necessary driving of materials gratuitously.  If this bowling club proves a success, Earlston will be amply provided with means of recreation.
An early photograph of Earlston Bowling Club members
 BOWLING CLUB BAZAAR - 16th July 1889
A lengthy article reported  on a Bazaar in the Corn Exchange, held:
"To liquidate a debt.....The club was formed in 1882 and the formation of the Green, together with a recent enlargement,  cost between £300 and £400  of which £80 remained to be paid....An energetic committee, consisting of Mr Dunn, Mr Murdison, Mr. Steedman, Mr Tait, Mr Aitkenhead,  and Mr Wallace (secretary) was formed  to carry out the arrangements;  the ladies of the town and neighbourhood  readily gave their cooperation and the result of their united exertions was the Fancy Fair opened on Wednesday.
There were six stalls  furnished abundantly with the usual cushions, scrapbooks, dolls, paintings,  clerical photographs,  live poultry,  firescreens,  shawls,macrame work etc. etc...... The paintings were a particularly excellent collection and included work by Tom Scott A.R.S.A. There were also some fine etchings.  The drawings over the two days  rather amounted to over £260.  The stalls were distinguished by the names of flowers....... There was also a refreshment stall and a flower stall  attended to by Mr. Gray,   gardener, Gladswood and Mr. Robertson,gardener, Cowdenknowes."


Have you come across an interesting story or item from the past 
that can be shared with others on our blog?  We would  like to hear from you. 

 Please contact us at:     auldearlston@aol.com 


Friday, 23 March 2018

Have you an Interesting Story on Earlston - We Would Like to Hear From You

Our  Auld Earlston blog aims to give its readers a variety of short items, photographs on a theme and longer articles on the village's past.  It  features:
  • Life in all its aspects  in Earlston down the centuries, both at work and at leisure.
  • Profiles of Local People who have made their mark at home and abroad.
  • Personal Memories of more recent times.

We would very much like to include  more items from  readers.
Have you come across an interesting story from the past 
that can be shared with others? 
Contact us at:     auldearlston@aol.com 


82, 895 page-views have been recorded since the blog was first launched in March 2015.  So in case you missed first time round, here are six more popular posts from the past three years. 

Click on the headline to read  the full article with  images from the Auld Earlston collection and the local press. 

Earlston - the First with an Aerodrome. 
In 1931  local papers (plus The Scotsman) reported that Earlston had become the first place in Berwickshire to have an aerodrome  where
"A large number of Earlstonians were entertained to a succession of thrills by the advent of an aeroplane, the property of Messrs W. Rodger  & Sons which gave several aerial exhibitions at a newly constructed aerodrome at Purveshaugh, Earlston".

Dr. Young (1859-1934) - Serving Earlston for over 50 years
Dr. Young was a colourful character, who was widely remembered for his warm, if sometimes irascible personality. His work was his life and he had few hobbies apart from his horses.  His sudden death in September 1934 received wide tributes

Shopping in Earlston in an Earlier Era
A nostalgic look at Shops in Earlston in the early 20th century, Slater's Directory of Berwickshire for 1903 noted that the population of Earlston was 1677 (as per 1901 census), and shops  in the village included:
6 grocers/spirit dealers/ironmongers

5 tailor/drapers/ clothiers
3 butchers 
3 watchmakers/clockmakers/jeweller
3 dressmakers/milliner 
2 bakers
1 confectioner
1 chemist 
1 fish man & earthenware dealer. 


Sharing Memories of the Spittal Trip 
A colourful account  from the 1920's of the annual trip by train to the seaside at Spittal. 

Two trains in Earlston station
Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   

All Rights Reserved

Isabella Wallace - Earlston's Friend and Benefactor
Two plaques in the village,  at the Mill Meadow Gate and in the gardens in the Square,  give testimony to Isabella Wallace, who in her will left money for the benefit of her local community,  


Earlston on the Dance Floor 
Dances were a regular feature of social life in Earlston in the 20th century  and the local press give many accounts of the events  involving the Bachelors' Ball, Earlston Jazz Band, the Earlston Rhythm Band, an Ankle Competition and a "Spectacular Rumba Competition". An entertaining read!
Taking a break from the dance floor 


Press Cuttings Source - Newspaper Archives Online at www.findmypast.co.uk