Monday, 6 July 2020

Earlston & Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club.

Earlston  and  Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club is the latest organisation to be featured  in our  series on local clubs and societies - past and present. 

 Douglas Forbes  no. 20  - August 2007

The club was formed in 1955 and quickly grew in popularity   with one newspaper citing as many as 800 spectators  to races held on the old golf course at Huntshaw. 

The reports below give a flavour of the club's activities. 

NEW CLUB FOR EARLSTON - Berwickshire News: 4th January 1955

"In the Masonic Hall, Earlston, a well attended public meeting took place in connection with the formation of a Motor Cycle and Car Club. Mr Jas.Waite introduced Mr Rodger Fish, Kelso, a past grass track and motor cycle enthusiast, who presided. Mr Fish very briefly gave the outline of the formation of such a club and dealt with his own past experiences being a member of other clubs. 

After some discussion the name of the Club was unanimously passed and will be known as “The Earlston and  Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club.” The following officials were elected:- President. Mr Rodger Fish (Kelso); chairman, Mr Jas. Waite (Earlston); hon. secretary and treasurer, Mr Wm. Kerr; committee: Mr Oliver (Denholm), Mr Sanderson (Earlston), Mr D. Waite (Earlston).

At a later date other members will be co-opted to the committee. The annual subscription was fixed at 10s per year. 

The first activity of the Club will be the showing of a motor cycle and car racing film, embracing all the world’s best championship drivers, etc. This will take place in Earlston School on January 4th."

EARLSTON NEWS - Berwickshire News:  1st March 1955.

"The Earlston and Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club held a film show in Earlston Junior Secondary School. The show was held for the members of the Club and their friends and was well attended. The films depicted various  scenes of Motor Cycle and Car Scramblers on the Yorkshire Moors, the special feature films being the 1950 Grand Prix and the 1950 T.T. Motor Cycle Race."

GARBAGE HUNT AT EARLSTON - Berwickshire News:  31st May 1955

"Members of the Earlston and Border Counties’ Motor Cycle and Car Club held a Garbage Hunt. All competitors collected the required articles in the specified time. In order to eliminate the ties a test was made for the slowest driver between two points of 100 yards apart. A further tie resulted so a second test took place in the form of parking a car six inches or nearest to that distance from the kerb. The ultimate winner was Mr Alex. Blackie with passenger, Mr John Brotherston. Second were Mr John Blair and passenger F. Brown. The Garbage Hunt was attended by a fair number of competitors and greatly enjoyed."

MOTOR CYCLE RACE AT EARLSTON - Berwickshire News:  6th September 1955 
"Earlston and Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club held an open Moto-Cross-Motor Cycle Race meeting on the old Earlston Golf course, by kind permission of Mr Jas. Oliver, Huntshaw. The event attracted about 500 spectators. At the close, Mr Jas. Waite introduced Mrs Oliver, who presented the prizes. Thereafter Mr Waite proposed the votes of thanks.

Officials of the meeting were; Judge; Mr Robert Wilson; starter Mr James Waite; hon. medical officer,Mr Hamilton; lap scorer, Mr J. Forrest; commentator, Mr Rodger Fish; clerk of the course, Mr J. Yallop; joint secretary and treasurer, Mr T. Maney and Mr W. A. J. Kerr. 

The result of event No. 1 for motor cycles up to 200 c.c.: W. Landells, Edinburgh; M. Frazer, Edinburgh; D. Gray, Glendale. Event No. 2  for motor cycles up to 350 c.c.; W. Edwards. Dumfries; C. M. Tasker; P. Hendrie, Edinburgh. Event No. 3 for cycles up to 500 c.c; W. Edwards, Dumfries; C. Allan, Midlothian; P. Hendrie, Edinburgh. Event No. 4: W. Landells. Edinburgh; D. Gray, Glendale; W. Edwards, Dumfries. Event No. 5 non-winners up to 200 c.c: G. Williamson, Edinburgh J. Jeffrey; D. B. Smart. Event No. 6 non-winners up to 350 c.c: E. Tasker; J. Gray, Earlston; J. Jeffrey. Event No. 7 was the principal race, an open all-in massed start event of 15 laps. This race caused the greatest excitement of the afternoon. The ultimate result was: W. Edwards, Dumfries; C. Allan, Midlothian; P. Hendrie, Edinburgh."

EXCITING RACES AT EARLSTON - Berwickshire News:  17th April 1956

There were approximately 800 spectators at an open race meeting organised by Earlston and Border Counties’ Motor Cycle and Car Club on Earlston golf course on Sunday last, by kind permission of Mr Jas. Oliver, Huntshaw. Officials on duty were: S.A.C.U. steward, Mr T. Dobie; judge, Mr Geo. Mack; starter, Mr Jas. Waite; hon. medical officer. Dr Sinclair; lap scorer, Mr R. Wilson; commentator, Mr T. Mc- Leod; clerk of the course, Mr J. Yallop; pit marshal, Mr J. Brotherston; secretary and treasurer, Mr A. W. Kerr.

An accident occurred during practice preceding the race meeting, when F. Murray, Edinburgh Southern, came to grief at one of the corners and broke his leg, which necessitated his removal to Peel Hospital. 

The entry of 66 competitors included R. G. Scott and I. Bell, Scottish champions. The first event, run in two heats, was more or less a procession to the final. The race from a spectator’s point of view was uninteresting and the winner was: J. Hutchings, Edinburgh Southern; L. More, Corstorphine and District; M. Fraser, Edinburgh Southern."

 John  Brotherston and Drew Taylor 

 Billy Kerr

PREMISES - Berwickshire News: 17th December 1956 announced that "Earlston and Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club have acquired premises in Station Road."

SIDE CAR RACING  - Berwick Advertiser, September 12th 1957
"What is going to be a novel innovation sponsored by Earlston and Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club, is side-car racing. The event will be staged on Sunday, September 22. Riders are coming from Newcastle and district, where side car racing has a big following."

CANCELLATION OF SCRAMBLE AT EARLSTON - West Lothian Courier: August 16th 1968
"Due to the cancellation of the Earlston Club's Championship Scramble. The Scottish Auto Cycle Union (the governing body of Scottish motorcycle sport) have allocated the final leg of the Scottish Scrambles Championship to the Melville Motor Club for their scramble at Avonbank Farm, Polmont, on 29th September. A fast and exciting course and top scrambles stars from Scotland and England should ensure that the usual high standard of keen racing at Melville Club scrambles will be maintained. Now with the added attraction of the races deciding the 1968 championship, a good crowd is expected. Practicing starts at 12.30 and the racing at 2 p.m."

Since 1968, no mention of the club has been traced in the local press.  However, some 40 years later, in August 2007 a meeting was held at Huntshaw, run by the Scottish Classic Scrambles Club.  

But Earlston  and  Border Counties Motor Cycle and Car Club,  once such a  feature on the local  sporting scene,  had come to an end. 

Steven Riddell, no. 41 - August 2007

 Jock McCrink no. 56, and Tom Forsyth  no. 73 - August 2007.


Contributed by James McQuillin of the Auld Earlston Group. 


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Cossars Building on Earlston High Street

We are grateful to Thom Young for contributing this post  on the history of his house  - Cossars Building on Earlston High Street.  It is an abridged  version of a seven page article detailing  his  in-depth research,   which has been added to the Auld Earlston Archive Collection.   

‘Cossars Buildings’ - What’s in a name? 

Three of the four terraced houses in Earlston High Street between the Church Hall and ‘South Crofts’ are called ‘Cossars Buildings’.  We bought the westmost one in 2018. I fixed a name plaque, but nobody I asked, knew the origin of the name.

Below is a sketch of all I could piece together from public records; inevitably it gives no more than sporadic glimpses of a story with a little context.  It turns out the explanation for the building name is simple and obvious. Cossar is the name of a family whose members owned the property through 5 generations from 1744/5 until the death of the last of them in 1926 and one of whose members was responsible for the construction of the present buildings.

The First Cossar in the  Story
Scotland in the 1700s was predominantly rural with a high proportion of the people living a subsistence existence.  Most of the Lowlands was open moorland with almost no roads. There were few property owners.  By 1791, out of a total population of 1351 in Earlston Parish - roughly 6 miles from east to west and between 3 and 4 miles north to south - there were only 40 ‘proprietors’ of land.  The first Cossar in the story may seem a little surprising.  

James Cossar was described as a ‘Herd in Huntlywood’, a shepherd or cattle herdsman.  He had married Margaret Marshal (or ‘Mershal’) in 1740. They had one son and three daughters.  

In 1744 James bought two ‘coathouses’ on the south side of ‘the street in Earlstoun’, together with two yards behind and also 5 acres of the ‘East Muirs of Earlstoun’ from the trustees for creditors of George Gray, shoemaker in Fans.  This property had been sold in 1721 by John Shiel of Croftrigg, Earlstoun to John Cowan, Maltman Brewer.  After Cowan’s death his daughters sold in 1735 to George Gray. In 1745, James Cossar bought an adjacent coathouse and yard from George Pringle, Merchant in Earlstoun.

‘Coathouse’ is another form of the term cottarhouse, a small, basic, single storey dwelling. In 1744 it would probably have had a turf roof with an earth floor, possibly accommodating quite a large family.

The five acres was included in the original sale in 1721 as compensation for the loss of rights in the ‘commonty’ that was available for grazing and taking of turf.  Statutes of 1695 permitted the division of arable land that had been worked on a runrig system of strips, which in Earlston were called ‘husbandlands’ and  also the division of ‘commonties’ that had been available for grazing and taking of turf.   Some time before 1721, court petitions had been submitted and granted for the permanent division of both in Earlston.   The five acres was part of John Shiel’s share.

Thomas Cossar - when James' twins, Thomas and Margret, were born in 1747, James was ‘Herd in Chapplie’, now Chapel on Leader and by the time he died, sometime before 1793, his son Thomas was a tenant farmer in ‘Birkhillside’ near there.  Thomas had married Peggy Weir in 1781 and had two sons and two daughters.  He inherited the Earlston property.  Sometime after 1805 he leased Mosshouses farm on the moor 3 miles west of Earlston, part of the Mellerstain estate. 

James Cossar - After Thomas died, the Earlston property and Mosshouses farm tenancy passed to his son James.  In 1815 he recorded the first Cossar title to the Earlston property, previously relying on unrecorded deeds, then quite common.  In 1816, James sold the five acres of the ‘East Muirs of Earlstoun’ to James Thomson, ‘labourer, Earlston’. It was sold in 1838 to George Baillie, landlord of Mosshouses.

In 1828 James Cossar married Alison Craw, daughter of the tenant of West Mains farm, Lauder. They had a daughter and 3 sons.  The first census in 1841 records James and family at Mosshouses together with 7 labourers and 2 female servants accommodate in the house and two other buildings. 

Ten years on  Mosshouses was recorded as 653 acres with 420 arable. The 1851 census records James and family with son Thomas, now 17, 4 labourers, a shepherd and a housemaid, only one from 1841.

James had suffered from heart problems for some years.  In 1855 he conveyed the Earlston coathouses to his wife, Alison, in life rent, entitling her to rental income during her lifetime, and then outright ownership to son, Thomas.  James,70, died two months later. 

James'  estate inventory gives a rare glimpse into the family’s financial standing.  A stock of 8 horses, a riding pony, 34 cattle, 417 sheep and 6 pigs valued at just under £1,000,  bank deposits of £1200 and a total of £2391 (roughly £250,000 in 2020). The farm lease and bulk of his estate went to Thomas, subject to paying £50 (£5,400 in 2020) yearly to each of his two brothers and £300 (£32,500 in 2020) to each on the death of their mother.  He left £200 to daughter Isabella who had received £100 on marriage.

The 1861 census records Thomas’s brother John and 3 ploughmen, 2 agricultural labourers, a shepherd and 2 domestic servants. None was employed in 1851.

Thomas Cossar - In 1863, not long before Alison died, she and Thomas sold the Earlston property to brother John, aged 23.  John had already demolished the coathouses and had built two two-storey houses, the one adjacent to South Croft, now ours, and the adjoining one. It has been suggested that the building was constructed by Rodger Builders of Earlston, who started up in 1847. Moray Cottage at the other end of the terrace is older, so the final part of Cossars Buildings, now known as Foremans Cottage, must have been a later infill between two gables. 

In 1867 Thomas married Elizabeth Broomfield, a grocer with her sister in Earlston. The 1871 census Shows Thomas, Elizabeth, her sister, who may have been visiting and John as well as a shepherd, a cattleman, 4 labourers, a female farm servant and a domestic servant, none other than John employed in 1861.  Two cottages housed families, one with 8 children and both provided two of the labourers each. .

Family Blows:  Thomas’s other brother, James, born 1839, qualified as a Solicitor in Edinburgh.  James married in 1867 and had a son, Thomas John Cossar, in 1872.  Any joy from that was short lived;  that same year James died of heart disease, aged 36, compounded by the death of his widow, Helen, the following year, aged 41. The infant Thomas John was taken to Mosshouses to live.  It must have been a devastating time, but the losses didn’t abate. Thomas’s sister, Isabella, who had married a widowed farmer of neighbouring Langshaw farm in 1855 and had three daughters, died in 1875 aged 43.  Two years later, brother John, the ‘developer’ of Cossars Buildings, died suddenly aged 37. The Earlston property passed back to Thomas.  

The 1885 Valuation Roll of Earlston shows Thomas as proprietor of 9 houses rented out.  The 1890 Valuation Roll shows Thomas as proprietor of 10 houses and Elizabeth as proprietor of 5 houses and a shop with total rental of £55,6s,8p per annum.  This included 3 houses and a stable in New Street (now Thorn Street).  Apart from Cossars Buildings and one house and stable in Thorn Street, I have found no evidence of them taking title to or disposing of any property in Earlston!  Unfortunately, the Valuation Roll does not give any indication of individual location other than High Street and New Street.  It is clear, however, that somehow the Cossars contributed in a considerable way to the development of Earlston.

The 1891 census shows Thomas, Elizabeth and Thomas John, who at 18 is simply ‘Farmer’s nephew’.  Employed are a general domestic servant, a farm servant and an assistant shepherd or ‘lambing man’.  Now in his own house is the same shepherd from 1871.  There are also two ‘Hinds cottages’ with two families providing 7 labourers between them.  Hind or hynd was the common term in the borders for a married agricultural employee provided with accommodation, who was obliged to provide another person, normally female, to work as a condition of being employed on the farm.  The hind was responsible for providing board and lodging and for paying the bonded person out of the payment they received from the farmer.

Ten years on the 1901 census shows Thomas, Elizabeth and Thomas John, who at 26 is shown as ‘living on own means’.  Employed are a general domestic servant, a shepherd and a labourer as well as two families housed in cottages providing a Farm Steward, a cattleman, 3 ploughmen and another 2 labourers.  The term Hind is not used.  The arrangement seems to have fallen out of favour after a good deal of general protest amongst those who were not directly employed.

Thomas, Elizabeth and Thomas John left  Mosshouses some time between 1901 and 1904 to live in Earlston.  Thomas and Elizabeth had built a house in New Street bearing Elizabeth’s maiden name, ‘Broomfield House’.  Elizabeth died in 1904 aged 70 and Thomas died in 1908, aged 74.  Ownership of what is now known as Cossars Buildings passed to Thomas John Cossar along with Broomfield House.

Cossars Building immediately right of the white house (Moray House) c.1900

Thomas John Cossar married Helen Stewart, both aged 38 in 1911 and moved to Peebles.  They returned around 1918 to live in Broomfield House. He was then designated  as a ‘retired farmer’. He died in 1926 after suffering heart disease and kidney disease for some years.  Helen, still living at Broomfield House, died in January 1930 11 days after an accident.  She died at the Edinburgh home of Lord Fleming, a Judge in the Court of Session.  It may not be a coincidence that his father had been a Solicitor and a contemporary of Thomas John’s father, James.

Thomas John bequeathed Cossars Buildings after the death of Helen to Thomas Cossar Scott, who was working for Standard Bank in Nyasaland, now Malawi.  He appears to have grown up at Cairneymount farm on the Earlston side of Mosshouses.    

Although it is easy to see how the building would have become known by the family name, the first title record of the building name appeared in 1934 after 190 years of Cossar ownership when it was sold by Thomas Cossar Scott to Adam Rodger, builder, Earlston, who had acted as agent for the Cossars for some years. His family controlled ownership of the house we now live in from then until we bought it 86 years later. 

Having discovered something of the generally unknown part the Cossars played in Earlston life, it is  gratifying that our sign now records their name, possibly the first time it has appeared on the building.