Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Earlston’s World War One Tributes

As we come to mark Remembrance Sunday and the end of the First World War on 11th November 1918,  memorabilia is featured here from the Auld Earlston collection.

This colourful patriotic certificate was issued to schoolchildren during the First World War, often at Christmas, as here, 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". 
VAD nurses outside the  Manse, Earlston.  Can anyone identify the nurses?

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) referred to a voluntary unit providing field nursing services, mainly in hospitals.  It was   founded in 1909 with the help of the Red Cross  and  Order of St. John.  By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain and members eagerly offered their service to the war effort. 

However the Red Cross was reluctant to allow civilian women a role in overseas hospitals and military authorities would not accept VADs at the front line. Most volunteers were of the middle and upper classes and unaccustomed to hardship and traditional hospital discipline, but for many this was an opportunity for freedom from their restricted home environment. 

VADs carried out duties that were less technical, but no less important, than trained nurses. They organised and managed local auxiliary hospitals   throughout Britain, caring for the large number of sick and wounded soldiers. As the war went on, the growing shortage of trained nurses  opened the door for VADs to work overseas.

Well known VAD's included crime writer Agatha Christie, who said  "It was one of the most rewarding professions that anyone can follow”.   Vera Brittain was most famous for writing "Testament of Youth: an autobiographical study of the years 1900–1925".   She became a VAD in 1915 and was posted to France in 1917, writing a  vivid, moving and poignant account of her experiences. 


This little item has perforated edges like a stamp, but no information has been traced on it.  The tiny printing at the bottom says "Society of Poster Art".  From the start of the war, there was a great upsurge in charitable activities,  with many charities founded that exist today.  A National Relief Fund was set up, galvanising local communities into action.  Much of the fund raising was for "Comforts" for the troops - knitting hats, scarves  and gloves, sending books and food parcels abroad etc.  Posters and postcards were also sold  with patriotic messages as here.  


During the First World War, Earlston remembered its serving soldiers at Christmas time, with a series of cards sent over the war years.




In the 1911 census,  Earlston's  population stood at 1749,  with 801 male and 948 females. The First World War saw forty-eight men losing their lives in the conflict  - their names recorded  on the War Memorial, unveiled on Sunday 13th  November 1921.   In a service of dedication in the square, it was unveiled by Mrs Hope, wife of Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, who was chairman of the War Memorial Committee,



Earlston War Memorial, 2017

The Auld Earlston Group would be pleased to hear from anyone with war memorabilia.  Items will be scanned, copied and returned to you.  

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


Friday, 27 October 2017

Auld Earlston Show Proved a Popular Draw

Auld Earlston's recent exhibition and slide show at the Church Hall has been voted a great success by organisers of the local heritage group. 

The theme of "Horses to Horse-Power" looked at travel around Earlston in times past and drew a large audience throughout the two days.   Visitors had the chance to browse through information panels and vintage photographs of  horses, bicycles, motor bikes, cars, vans, buses, trains, vehicles in industry and farming, roads, bridges and even planes,  plus read some travellers' tales and see further material from the Auld Earlston collection. .

Throughout the event, four slide shows were held and  attracted capacity audiences who enjoyed a tour around "Earlston West to East", with the history and anecdotes  commentary  sparking lively discussion. 

Chairman David Lothian said "We were very encouraged by the favorable comments we received. Many people stayed several hours looking around, spotting relatives and friends in the photographs and exchanging reminiscences. We would like to thank everyone involved for helping our group keep Earlston's past alive for future generations".

 For further information 
telephone: 01896 848240 or e-mail: auldearlston@aol.com 


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Auld Earlston On Show in October - A Date For Your Diary

Dates for Your Diary 


Valuing the History of our Village for Future Generations

is holding 
Open Days in October on the theme

An Exhibition on Travel around Earlston in Times Past 
Saturday Oct.21st, 10am-3pm

Sunday Oct. 22nd, 12noon-4pm

in the Church Hall, High Street, Earlston

New Slide Show - "Earlston West to East"
 Sat. 11am & 1.30am.     Sun. 1pm & 2.30pm
Admission £2, Children Free.  Including Tea/Coffee


For further information telephone:
Tel:  01896 948240 or E-mail: auldearlston@aol.com 

 "Horses to Horse-Power" - Travel in Times Past" is the theme of this year's exhibition,   with displays of vintage photographs on all forms of getting about the village - horses, bicycles, motor bikes, cars, vans, buses, trains, vehicles in industry and farming, roads, bridges and even planes, plus tales of journeys from days gone by. 

Earlston Parish Church Choir Outing to Morebattle in June 1906 - 
A 20 mile hilly journey on a crowded wagonette, 
with no protection against the elements!

Throughout the two days, an hour-long new slide show will be looking at  "Earlston from West to East" - Saturday at 11am and 2pm; Sunday at 1pm and 2.30pm 

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

You also have the chance to share your own memories of village life and chat over tea/coffee with members of the Auld Earlston Group.

Do come along to our event and see what our group is doing 
to keep Earlston's past alive for future generations.


                                       Visitors browsing last year's exhibition 


Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Swanston Family of Earlston: Post Runner & Photographer

Two unrelated posts  on  his Earlston  ancestors  recently caught the attention of blog reader David  Nisbet, who has been in touch regarding his Swantson family - David Swanston, post runner and William Swanston, the official photographer for the visit of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in 1908. 

David Swanston 

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. 

In Rutherford's "Directory of the Southern Counties", published in 1866, there is an entry for David Swanston, post runner.  Somehow that term conjures up a picture of a man running around the village with his post bag, delivering the mail.  But in fact David drove a horse and cart in the course of his work.

We get a colourful account of his days  in an item published in "The Berwickshire News & General Advertiser", 21st June 1902.   It looked back at "Melrose Postmen of Olden Days", reprinting an earlier article in  "The Kelso Chronicle". 

Berwickshire News & General Advertiser: 17th June 1902
"David Swanston was the runner for Earlston, driving  a pony (called Ben) and a cart.  David's turnout was a regular institution for foot passengers on the route, and on certain days they  were packed  in the vehicle like herring in a barrel. 
On overtaking a passenger on the road, David would announce "If there's no' room the now, we will soon mak' room" and accordingly the passengers had to obey orders and creep closer together.   If on certain occasions, if he was a little jimp [?] for that time in the morning, he would  meet the scowl of the postmistress by saying that "Ben had a bad nail in his foot this mornin'".
If he should be late in Melrose  no wonder, when we recall he had to be in there in time to dispatch the letters from Earlston for the first train  in the morning.  This was a time when the railway was in a primitive state, the terminus of the North British being at Hawick.  
David stabled at The Ship Inn [in Melrose] and some days would say to his colleagues, "If anyone asks for me, just say I maun board ship for a minute or two, for mercy it was cauld coming over this morning".  In the summer, the excuse for boarding the ship was   "the heat is fair meltin' the day" ."
Clearly David was a well known "character" locally. Census Returns showed him listed   as "post runner between Earlston and Melrose", living with his wife Charlotte Thorburn   and their six children.  He  was still working in 1871,  living at 30 Main Street, but died three years later aged 58 and was buried in Earlston Churchyard.  Charlotte, his wife  died in  1877.   A plaque in the church wall sadly records the young deaths of three of their children - Agnes aged 18 months in 1867, son James aged 28 in 1871, and youngest son William died in 1875 aged just  7 years old.

Isabella Swanston

David's daughter Isabella was the second of the six children.  At the age of seventeen, on 8 January 1857, she had an illegitimate son,  William  who was to become the well-known  Edinburgh photographer.   

Four years later Isabella married in Earlston the father of her child, stone mason, William Moffat.   They went on to have six more children - Charlotte, John, Thomas, Robert, Lizzie and Richard.   Isabella, by then a widow for 22 years, died in 1909, preceded by the death of two of her children, Thomas and Robert Alexander  - all buried in Earlston Churchyard. 

William Swanston

In 1871,  thirteen year old  William was living with his grandparents post runner David and his wife Charlotte.  Ten years later in 1881  he was described as a lead pipe maker, living in Leith, married - his wife, Australian born  Helen Sutherland.  In 1891 he was in the same occupation, but at some point in the decade, he had  a major change of direction  to that of photographer.

The family photograph, c.1887-91,  shows  (from L to R) young John Alexander Swanston,  mother Helen Swanston (nee Sutherland);  baby, thought to be Isabella Swanston; father William Swanston (illegitimate grandson of David Swanston, post runner); and young William Henderson Swanston,

William's  photographic business at 302 Leith Walk, Edinburgh  seems to have prospered,   and his studio was listed in the Edinburgh & Leith trade directories,  from 1896 until 1930.  William died in 1921.  

Below - one  of his photographs from the visit to Earlston of Prime Minister Asquith in 1908.

PostScript:  William's sons both followed him into the profession.   William Henderson Swanston was attached to the Australian forces at Gallipoli in the First World War, with many of his photographs now held in  the collection of the Australian Archives.



Mr Nisbet would be delighted to hear from anyone with Swanston and Moffat connections. Please contact in the first instance:  auldearlston@aol.com

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Earlston Hunter and Young Family Connections

Blog reader John Gordon has been in touch with information on his ancestral links with Earlston. These include:

The Whale and Clendinnen families,  Gingham Manufacturers 
The Hunter family of blacksmiths 
The Young  family of joiners

John's grandmother inspired him to find out more about his family history and provided him with much of the information, that included  family trees, notes and photographs.  These are especially valuable when documentary evidence is not readily available on ancestors  born before the first census returns in 1841. 


In Earlston,  the Hunter family was traced back to James Hunter  - according to the family notes "He was the village blacksmith  - his forge stood near to where the railway station is now."

His son Andrew Hunter carried on the family business and married Isabella Bunzie (?).  They had four sons and one daughter.  Robert and James followed their father into the trade, but James died at the age of 19, kicked by a horse, according to the notes on the family tree.  Son Andrew became a joiner.

Youngest sonWilliam Hunter was baptised in Earlston Parish Church in 1792.  Like his brother Robert, he became a joiner but at one point worked as a grocer in Bristo Street, Edinburgh.  There are two notes on his tragic death at the young age of 25
"William  Hunter was engaged to Margaret Young, but he fell into bad health and died suddenly " and "He was engaged to Margaret Young and died from a cold caught on a coach on Soutra Hill."
A silhouette of William and a note amongst the family papers.  

The family gravestone (above)  in Earlston Churchyard reads:
In memory of Andrew Hunter, late smith in Earlston who died 10.4.1809 aged 53 years;  also James Hunter,  his son who died 11.1808 aged 19 years;  also Andrew Hunter, his son who died 12.5.1822 aged  27 years;  also William Hunter his son who 22.11.1822 aged 23  and Isabella Bunvae (?), his spouse who died 18.6.194-(?) aged 78 )?).
So Isabella experienced the loss at an early age of  three of her four sons.


 Only daughter Margaret Hunter was born in 1786.   At 20 years old, on 10th February 1806, she married William Young, like his father, a joiner in Earlston, who later set up business in Edinburgh.  

Margaret Hunter and William Young had seven daughters and two sons, including another William.  This William Young was in the army and in the 1851 census was a grocer in Canongate, Edinburgh.  

A copy of his undated and unsigned will  began
"I William Young  Corporal in his Majesties 55th Regiment of foot, now or lately stationed at Chinsurah Bengal, East Indies, only son and heir apparent of William Young, wright in Edinburgh.........

He makes provision for  his mother Margaret Hunter Young with life rent of properties in both  Earlston and Edinburgh - thus indicating the family were of some standing.  The document is wordy and detailed as to the dimensions of the Earlston property. 
"Two slated houses of two stories and garden and are bounded as follows:  by the property of John Long, Weaver in Earlston on the east;  the fluther park belonging to George Baillie Esquire of Jerviswood on the south;  the property of George  Pringle's heirs   and the street or green of Earlston on the west;  and the property of Agnes Long and the street or  green to the north."

The 1855 Earlston Valuation Records  for 1855  (available on line at  ScotlandsPeople  lists Margret Young of Edinburgh  as owning four properties in the village, with the tenants George Fairbairn, George Fisher, Henry Glendinning and Elizabeth Glendinning.

Margaret Young, nee Hunter,  died 20th August 1870 at 63 Dundee Street, Edinburgh, buried in the New Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh. 


The Auld Earlston Blog  welcomes contributions from readers, 
including memories of what life was like,  growing up in the village. 

Contact:  auldearlston@aol.com