Monday, 23 September 2019

Memories of Earlston Grocers' Shops

In the 1860s there were 10 grocers/general merchants/spirit merchants in the village, as listed in the1861 Census and Rutherfurd's Directory of the Southern Counties, published in 1866.  

But what of more recent times?   Local residents, past and present, especially members of Earlston Wednesday Club  have shared their memories of local grocers' shops. 

"Customers were very loyal to their particular grocer,
 whether it be Tom Bell, Willie Park, Forrest’s, the Co-op  or Taylor’s.” 


 "The location of the shop was on the site of a flour mill known as Huntspool Mill, which operated there in the mid to late 1800’s. The mill had a waterwheel that drew water from the burn around the area where King’s Yard was.  The derelict site of the mill and the several adjoining cottages were bought by Mr. Andrew Taylor of Pencaitland in around 1908 and the family grocery business was moved there,  after the shop was built by Rodger Builders, at around the same time as Kilnknowe and Bellevue Terrace were constructed."  (From Walter Taylor)
"The shop was there in the 1950’s - it was  an excellent grocer’s shop of the old school. Very friendly service. Walter, Tom and Charlie delivered by van after the war, and would loan a marmalade cutter at the time of year for making marmalade.  The shop sold paraffin through the back, and the family were much involved in local activities – Dramatic Society  and the Horticultural Society. "
"I worked in Taylor's grocer's shop 1953-1956". 
Note: 43 year old Andrew Taylor, a grocer, was listed in Earlston with his family in the 1911 census and in local trade directories for 1915, and 1928, continuing in business into the 1950’s, with the help of his sons.  

tTOM & ALAN BELL  on  the corner of Thorn Street,  was a general grocery and tobacco shop.  It was very handy for all the people who lived at the west end of the village."

 A Brownlie's lorry negotiating the tight bend by Tom Bell's shop on the right.


"He  was a bakery, and a grocer, selling sweets, fruit  & veg.  He went round the country area with his van selling goods  – he said no one else would put in the required effort.” 
Thorn Street. 

"He was known as “the midnight grocer” – as he went out in his travelling grocer’s van all hours "

"This was a high class grocery shop – it sold just about everything, one part electricals, HMV & Bush radio & TV dealers. Also hardware, china, fancy goods.   A Miss Hogg worked there.  One day a TV went on fire and Miss Hogg panicked.  Someone threw a bucket of water over it (while the TV  was  still plugged in), so there was an almighty  explosion." 

"The  grocer was situated where One Stop and Jackie Lunn, Bakery are now. It sold everything – paraffin, sherry, dish cloths, clogs, pots and pans." 

 "My mother would take a bottle along and ask for it to be filled with sherry."
"The shop had a large hardware dept. – you were told not to buy more nails than you needed."
"Standards were different then - the same cutter was used for cutting bacon and slicing cooked ham."

"We were a family of five children and Willie Park used to keep ends of ham and broken biscuits to give to my mother" 

 "Food was loose – not pre-packed.  A housewife could go in and ask for two slices of bacon and have it sliced and wrapped, or a small pat of butter and it would be cut off a large slab.  I thought loose sugar was great.  Mr. Park would get a strong brown paper bag, scoop up sugar, weigh the bag and deftly fold and pack the top,  so it was secure.  We would get broken biscuits as a treat for a penny or two."

    "Willie Park’s also handled the SMT parcels for the buses.  I worked at the Chemist’s and we got sent prescriptions from Gordon and Greenlaw.  I then went along to Park’s with the competed prescriptions for them to be sent back to the villages on the bus." 

Note:  Willie Park was listed in a 1928 Trade Directory for Earlston – Telephone No. 20.  He was still in business in the early 1950’s.

Willie Park's shop on the right in what is now One Stop and Jackie Lunn's Bakehouse.

  "Shoppers could hand in their order, or “message line” and leave it to be put together  and delivered  by the  message boy on his bicycle, with a large basket on the front.  All the grocers in the town offered a delivery service."
"The manager in the shop at the time was Mr. McQuillin, who sang in the church choir.  In the shop he sat in a very important little booth and handed out tokens  - unfortunately I cannot remember what the tokens were used for!"

 "Twice a year, Co-op members received “the divi”. A note was kept of the total amount of shopping done by each member and this was totalled up and paid as  a loyalty dividend. This was a particularly busy day at the Co-op as members had to queue up at the manager’s booth to collect their cash."
 "My mother relied on getting the “Divi” to buy us children our shoes."

Note:  A "Southern Reporter"  item on 21st November 1918 noted:

"At a  recent meeting of the Earlston Co-operative Society, it was unanimously agreed to adopt the proposal that the affairs of the Society be taken over by Galashiels Society.  This change will take place at the end of the present quarter .The Earlston Society was started 35 years ago [1883] and was the only society of its kind in the County of Berwick.” 


We would love to gather more memories on Earlston shops of the past. 



Sunday, 1 September 2019

Earlston's Shops and Shopkeepers in Times Past.

Take a look at how people were shopping in Earlston in times past, with photographs, advertisements and memories of jewellers and drapers.

Lochhead's watchmaker & jeweller in what is now the Tom Davidson Gallery. 
Look at the right hand window for that unusual term "cyclealities". 

David Drysdale Lochhead died in 1937 at the age of 83, with "The Berwickshire  News" paying  tribute to the 83 year old businessman for his time in Earlston.  He came to the village from Edinburgh  in 1877 and soon involved himself in community activities - amongst them the Bowling Club where he was a member from its inception in 1881.   On his retirement, in 1924  the Bowling Club presented him with a "handsome silver mounted umbrella, suitably inscribed."

Berwickshire ')News:  2nd June 1937


 Another watchmaker and jeweller in the village was George Pringle who occupied what is now the Vets on the corner of West High street and the Square.  

 An advertisement from 1898 - with again a reference to selling bicycles. 

Watchmaker John Weatherston later took over the premises from George Pringle. 

 Weatherston's, with the brown fascia on the left of the photograph, 
with the group of people outside.


Taking centre stage in the short lived  "Earlston Comet" of 1891 were promotions by the drapers and  clothiers in the village, and we get a good description of what the well dressed man or woman would be wearing in the late 19th century. 

Thomas Clendinnen & Sons, Drapers, Milliners and Clothiers announced their:

For the whole of  their stock, replete with all the latest novelties in Plain and Diagonal Serges, Homespun, Twist, Knicker Checked and Striped, Dress Tweeds,
Ladies Jackets, Braemar and Russian Cloaks,
Trimmed Hat and Bonnets in Newest Style
White, Scarlet and Shetland Flannels
 Gentleman's Tweed Suits - Made to Measure- From 37s.6p 
New Melton and Diagonal Overcoats from 30s. 

All garments carefully made and finished -  Perfect Fit Guaranteed. 

In the 1891 census, 32 year old draper  Thomas Clendinnen lived on the High Street with his 72 year old mother Jane  named as head of the household.  The drapers was very much a family business that included  Thomas, his  mother, his sister Marion, and brothers Henry and  Charles.   

Ten years earlier, in 1881 William Clendinnen was advertising further afield in the South Shields Daily News.  He laid particular stress that he was "the sole manufacturer of the real Earlston Gingham".


Also in the field of fashion was David Wallace,  with an advertisement from 1891:

"An Immense and Magnificent Collection of every New and Fashionable  Dress Material....which for Variety, Superior Quality, Good Taste and Moderate Prices is unequalled in Earlston.Tweeds in Cheviot, Homespun, Harris and Grampian makes, latest styles and newest mixtures.  Black materials in great variety.
The latest novelties in Millinery, Flowers, Feathers etc.  Bonnets composed of Velvet and Jet, from 10s.6d to 25s.  The latest novelty in hats is Gladys in French Beaver, trimmed with Feathers.  All orders for this Department made up in the most Fashionable and Tasteful Manner." 
Note the reference to "black materials" - at a time when formal mourning wear was still the custom.  Somehow the name "Gladys" does not quite conjure up an image of a French beaver hat with feathers!   

Draper David Wallace was listed in the 1891 census as at the High Street with his wife Ruth, two young children Robert and Ruth, and  eldest son Henry described as a  Draper's Apprentice.   


Miller's Drapers Establishment, offered competition with the claim:  
"The largest and cheapest collection  of Autumn and Winter drapery  goods to be seen in any warehouse in the South of Scotland. 
The constant desire is to supply goods of Reliable Quality
 suitable for all classes of the parish."  
[Note that phrase "All classes of the parish" - you could not use that now!]

 Southern  Reporter: 1894 

An 1898  advertisement announcing   that George McDonald
had taken over the former businesses of Millers 

McDonald's Shop


A later business in the Macdonald's location was Mary P. Kerr, a well known local character in the 1940s and 1950s. Members of the  Earlston Wednesday Club had fond memories of her:
"Miss Kerr was a legend in Earlston and someone you would always remember. She was very sedate lady,  with a posh   plummy voice, and very particular that the middle initial P was quoted in her name. 
    She ran  a draper’s shop selling high class ladies wear, wools, corsets, long knickers, knitting and sewing goods.  As children I am afraid we used to laugh at the window display of the large  knickers and corsets.
Miss Kerr would hold up knickers in front of her and a customary  "I Ihink these will fit you" which was quite embarrassing.

Willie Alchin from the baker’s opposite was a bit of a joker and he used to pull her leg, which she took in good heart.

Her shop was taken over by Alice Gilchrist and run on similar lines. She immediately held a sale of old stock, with people queuing outside the door to get a bargain."


To follow - more posts on shopping in Earlston in times past. 

Do you have memories to share?
Do e-mail them to us at:


Wednesday, 21 August 2019

How Earlston got its Name

An article "The Southern Reporter"  : 17 December 1896 highlighted Earlston's  place in Scottish history.
"Earlston appears to have been a place of considerable importance during the early years of Scottish History. It was frequently, indeed, a royal residence.
During a visit in June 1136, David I subscribed there the foundation charter of Melrose Abbey, and in 1143 his son, Prince Henry, subscribed, also “at Ercheldu” the confirmatory charter of the same abbey. Among local barons the family of Lindsay held at first the chief position. Then the Earls of March and Dunbar come upon the scene, and remain for some time the real owners and lords of Ercildoune.
But they in turn pass away, and so now, of the very extensive territory in Lauderdale and the Merse formerly belonging to this old Border house, not a single acre is held by  an immediate representative of the family.
In the village of Ercildoune, at the east end, they had a stronghold for long known as the Earl’s Tower, but now demolished, and a group of buildings close at hand, probably remnants of feudal residences, was called Earl's Toun.
From this circumstance the original name of Ercildoune or Ercheldun (look-out or prospect hill) gradually blended into the growing Earl’s Toun, which modern usage has transformed into one word - Earlston. "

 One of the oldest images of Earlston in a sketch of the High Street
 with the distinctive building of the old Courtroom.

With thanks to Jeff Price of the Auld Earlston Group for spotting this article.


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Isaac Wallace - from Earlston to Australia.

Scottish history is full of men and women who  stepped into the unknown by leaving their homeland behind and emigrating to far flung places.  Many of them might not be familiar names, yet they made their mark abroad, but never forgot where they had come from. They also demonstrated a sense of entrepreneurship, community involvement,  and a strong belief in their Presbyterian faith.

One such man was Isaac Wallace of Earlston (1841-1921),   who emigrated to Victoria, Australia,   where  he named his new home "Earlston", set up a butter factory, and involved himself in community affairs, both in Australia, but also on a return visit to Earlston towards the end of his life.

His Early Life
Isaac was the eldest of eight children,  born to master joiner, John Wallace and Martha, nee Brown.  His sister was Isabella Wallace. who later became known as "Earlston's friend and benefactor", with two memorial plaques around the village.

In the 1851 census, ten year old Isaac was the eldest child, with siblings John,  Mary, Robert and Hannah.  Ten years on  saw the family at No. 7 New Street (Thorn Street);  John was by this time a master joiner employing three apprentices and with four more children listed on the census entry -  Janet,  Isabella, George and Francis - but no Isaac.

An Australian Journey 
For Isaac, a 19 year old, farm  servant who could read and write, had set sail in 1859  for Launceston,  Tasmania,  aboard the ship "The  Broomielaw". 

From Tasmania, Isaac moved to the Victorian goldfields, where in 1862 he married Mary Hogarth who had emigrated with her parents from Lauder - a further  link with the Borders. 

Isaac and Mary moved to Glenlyon, near Daylesford, Isaac was a good horseman and with a number of wagons, each carrying about a ton, he carted supplies to the store keepers on the gold fields. In the next thirteen years seven children were born -  John 1862, Agnes 1864, Martha 1866, Robert 1868, Mary 1870, Frank 1872 and young Isaac 1875

Isaac Wallace's Family c.1875
Mary, Martha, John, Robert, his wife Mary with baby Isaac, 
 Earlston born Isaac, wth toddler Frank and Agnes

Isaac's wife Mary died in 1876 at the young age of 36, having borne seven children in thirteen years.    

A  year later Isaac married again - his wife, Nicholes Brown nee Rogerson, a widow with four sons. A daughter Elizabeth was born to the marriage.   Together with the twelve children, they moved to  Isaac's land allocation of 320 acres, naming it Earlston.  It was situated in  Violet Town, in the shire of Strathbogie, 108 miles north of Melbourne. Maintaining the floral theme, Violet Town's  streets were named Cowslip,Tulip, Orchard, Rose, Lily and Hyacinth. 

It was the discovery of gold in the north east of Victoria which led to large numbers of itinerant  prospectors passing through the area  and the village grew. Violet Town grew with the  railway arriving in 1873.  and had three hotels, a Wesleyan school. a bakery,  tradesmen and land developers. 

Isaac's New Business Venture
Isaac,  noticing the swing to dairy-farming,  purchased Brown's unused flour mill and dwelling in Tulip Street in February 1891, and converted the building  into a butter factory  -  the first such creamery  in the area. His son Robert, Uncle Jim, and Harry Grogan built three houses for his workmen, whilst eldest  son, John managed Isaac's other properties at Earlston. 

Creameries were  largely built by farmers in a locality where they could take their milk in a horse and cart and meet up with each other while the cream was separated from their milk and they could then take the skim milk home to feed calves and pigs while the cream was made into butter - the beginning of dairy co-operatives in Australia.

Isaac's venture flourished at first and he was greeted as a benefactor of both the town and countryside; He was inundated by demands for Violet Butter, of which he initially produced a ton a week at top prices, and expanded the machinery to meet the demand.

But success was short lived.  The railway vans carrying butter to market needed ice for the journey, so the citizens of nearby Euroa built a butter factory and ice works.  Euroa became the dominant factory in the area and it became harder for Isaac to maintain milk supply.  Circumstances were against him  with a number of wet years, followed by severe drought (1896-1903), and an  outbreak of diphtheria halting milk supplies.  Times were hard for the farmers, with many selling their dairy herds and moving to sheep farming and wool production, with  its lower labour costs. 

Isaac's creamery amalgamated with  the Australian Producers and Traders Company, but was wound up in 1906. 

                                           Mill House, Violet Town c.2015

A Community-Minded Man

Isaac involved himself  in his  community , becoming a Justice of the Peace and  was appointed a Magistrate in 1886, sitting on the bench at Violet Town.  

An active member of the Presbyterian Church, services at Earlston were held in his home from 1887.  Isaac was on the  Board of Management of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, built in 1893 and his son Frank's wedding was the first to be held in the new church.

Isaac was president of the Mechanics Institute in the 1890’s and a member of the Progress Association when the Shire of Violet Town was formed in 1895 – he stood for council but wasn’t elected - his known independence of mind may have cost him  a seat. He was also a patron and a vice-president of the new football club in 1896.

Family Life
Isaac's second wife, Nicholes died on the 19th January 1907, aged 73 years, and was buried in the Violet Town cemetery. She had made each of her daughters-in-law a quilt.  One such quilt was passed down the family  and donated to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

In 1910 Isaac married Bertha Thompson (1884-1969) and they had a daughter, Ruth.

A Return to his  Homeland
Shortly after the death of his second wife, Isaac left  Melbourne aboard "The Runlic" in late March 1907 on a trip to the old country. 

A  news snippet was traced in "The Southern Reporter" of 20th August 1908 which reported under the Earlston District News:
"Golf:   The final tie for the Silver Challenge Cup, presented by Mr Isaac Wallace, Australia, an old Earlstonian,  was p/ayed on Wednesday afternoon."
"The Berwickshire News" of 4th May 1909 reported on a Parish Council meeting at which the provision of seats in the village was discussed. 

"It was agreed that nine of these seats should be provided at a cost of 9 shillings and 3 pence each.  The Rev. W. S. Crockett, Minister of Tweedsmuir [also an Earlstonian], and Mr Isaac Wallace, Australia  agreed to defray the expenses of one each and these to be placed in the West Green." 
A group photograph taken on Isaac's return to Earlston
He is thought to be the tall figure on the left of the back row,
with his brothers, John,  Robert & George and sister Isabella.

Isaac's Continued Interest in Politics
Australia did  not  use conscription during the First World War, but with the large number of casualties and difficulties getting volunteers to enlist, a plebiscite was called to gauge the public’s thoughts on compulsory overseas military service. A furious debate ensued during 1916 and the plebiscite was narrowly defeated in October.

 A report of a meeting at Violet Town appeared in the Euroa Advertiser on Friday the 30th March 1917, when
Mr. W. Lane, J.P, in an appropriate speech, moved the following resolution:
“That this meeting of the residents of Violet Town and district, realising the present situation of the war as being serious, and that the number of recruits is far below what is required urges that every eligible man should volunteer, and thus prove to the brave lads who are now risking their lives for the welfare of the Empire that we will do our utmost to supply the necessary reinforcements until peace is proclaimed.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Isaac Wallace, J.P., who was accorded hearty rounds of applause when he vigorously declared:
That although he was now an old man, if they would take him he was prepared to go. As it was, he was well represented at the war, having five grandsons and six nephews in the ranks, three of whom had paid the price.

The motion was carried enthusiastically, complimentary votes to speakers, singers, and chairman bringing a highly successful meeting to a close”.

Isaac died on the 22nd February 1921, aged 80, and was buried with his second wife, Nicholes  in Violet Town cemetery.  His estate, real and personal, was valued at 7,291 pounds, 13 shillings and 5 pence (£211, 880 in British money) and included Mill House on one acre in Violet Town and approx. 947 acres at Earlston. 

 Isaac and Nicholes Gravestone in Violet Town Cemetery


With grateful thanks to Garth Grogan, descendant of Isaac Wallace, through his daughter Mary, for this detailed account of Isaac's life. 


In case you missed earlier posts:  Isaac's Earlston family links are told below:

Other Earlston emigrants,  who made their mark in their new ,  feature on the Auld Earlston blog:

  • John Redpath (1796-1869), stone mason,  who emigrated to Monreal, Canada in 1816.  He opened the first sugar factory in Canada and gained a reputation as an  industrialist and philanthropist,  who donated to Earlston the clock above the Corn Exchange.  Two blog posts HERE and HERE.
  • Robert Carter (1807-1889) was a self-taught man, who after a hard  childhood,  became a teacher and emigrated to New York in 1831.  There he established a bookshop and publishing business,  in a life  based on Christian principle.   He  made regular visits back to Earlston with his family. Two blog posts HERE and HERE.