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: 

 "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:

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. 



Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Milkman Memories - Jockie Stafford

Auld Earlston  is grateful to blog reader Trish Grierson for these memories of milkman Jockie Stafford.

Jockie is driving and the young man beside him is Alan Douglas (Stammy)

John (Jockie) Stafford was our milkman as far back as I can remember, delivering milk from Rae's dairy farm at East Morriston.

First of all, it was in the traditional bottles. But then (in the 1960's I think)  in an 'innovatory' move, it came in pint sized plastic bags, at huge expense to John Rae - saving glass but adding the dreaded plastic to landfill, though there was probably less awareness of the dangers and difficulties then.

Each household was provided with a blue plastic jug to put the milk bag in to stabilise everything. Instructions were given to cut one corner of the bag to allow the milk to be poured and then to pull the cut corner down through a slit where the pouring lip would normally be on a jug, thereby sealing the bag. What a palaver! No one really approved of the bags since the milk seemed to go off more quickly and the cream stuck to the sides of the bag. 

The Milk Shop,  as it was always known.  holds lovely memories for me. Just one small room in Betty and Jockie's house.  which is the house left of the Butchers Close. In my head the room was mainly white/cream and filled with jungly green plants. A counter halved the room from one side to the other with Betty, in her white overall and rubber thimble, at the business side. It seems to me that Betty always wore a strikingly orange lipstick,  which I loved because it was so different from the more usual reds of the day. 

The biggest, most official, and important book I have ever seen took up most of the counter and Betty with her thimble flicked efficiently through the top right corner of each page, bent over with this frequent action, until she found your family name. There was an overlay page on every account of, sometimes pink, blue or yellow,  perforated oblongs about the size of a commemorative stamp, (with hindsight I suppose the colour changed with the year and that there may have been 52 'stamps' per page.). A well used square of blue carbon paper was inserted under the perforated square for the current week and with some quick mental arithmetic,  the sum owed was written down, torn out and given as a receipt for your weekly payment of your milk bill. 

Jockie's Mini car ended its days in the Museum in Edinburgh. It was pale blue, reg LS 7717, He purchased it new from Purves' s garage in Galashiels and then the garage bought it back and kept the registration number which we still see frequently around our area in Gattonside. 

Jockie sadly died many years ago and Betty moved to live in Skirling to be near their only daughter, Marlene. She is now in her very late nineties. 

But the Milk Shop and Jockie's Mini remain a kind of magical memory of mine which I can picture very vividly today. 


                          Do you hold similar memories of  Earlston  in decades past?  
                                    If so we would be delighted to hear from you.
                                    Contact Auld Earlston on e-mail:

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Robert Carter- Earlston Lad to A New York Businessman: Part 2.

Part One of the Robert Carter (1807-1889)  story related his early memories of growing up in Earlston - as a child helping at the harvest, working at the loom and    witnessingan  execution of a murderer, before  studying to be a teacher,  Here Part Two tells of his journey to New York, his career as a teacher and publisher, and returning on holiday to Earlston with his family.

Robert's  daughter Annie Carter Cochrane wrote his life story and  in 1899 presented a copy of the biography  to Earlston Reading Room.  Her writings form the basis for much of  the article here. 

Arriving  in New York
Having said goodbye to his family and friends in Earlston, Robert walked via Peebles and Edinburgh to Greenock where he sailed on the ship "Francis” in April, 1831. Forty-five days were spent on the voyage, not an unusual time in the days which preceded the steamship. Robert helped to hold religious services on board ad many of the passengers that he met on the voyage became life long friends. 
New York, with its 200.000 inhabitants must have been a daunting experience after Earlston. But the letters of introduction Robert carried from Scotland secured him teaching posts, before
 he took over a small  insolvent bookseller, buying his stock. He soon moved into larger premises on Broadway  and then started up a business  as a publisher, which proved the beginning of successful  commercial career.  

Everything was read by him before he undertook to publish it. He focused mostly on religious works, and was instrumental in making Americans conversant with much of the best religious literature in Britain.

A Life Based on Christian Principles 
On the morning of his first Sabbath in America, Robert  sought out the Scottish church.  He  became a Sunday School teacher, superintendent and then an elder.   He was a leading man in many New York organizations. For 17 years he was a delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America;  he became vice-president of the Bible Society, a trustee of the Board of Foreign Missions and  helped to found the New York Sabbath Committee.

A Family Man 
Robert never forgot his Earlston roots and quickly had saved enough money to bring his parents  and their large family out to settle in Saratoga, New York State, where there was a small Scottish community.  His father Thomas died after twelve years in America, leaving eleven children and fifty  grandchildren.  Two of Robert's  brothers,  Walter and Peter,  joined Robert in the publishing business in 1848.  

It was at the church that Robert met his wife Miss Jane Thomson, one of ten children of a wealthy businessman. They married in 1834, at 6am in the morning, so that the bridal pair might reach Philadelphia before nightfall. In 1836 their first child was born and named after his maternal grandfather Samuel Thomson. Sadly he died at the age of three.

Five  more children were born and they spoke warmly of their childhood and close family life.  However it was not a household where playing cards and dancing were indulged in;   the theatre was not a place to be visited and the practice of the house was not to drink anything  intoxicating.   Yet Robert was known for his hospitable nature and the regular gatherings of extended family and friends.

Robert supported the cause of the native Indians and the fugitive slaves, remembering his father's words 
 "This government has a fearful  record to meet someday  from its treatment of the Indian and the Negro. If ever you can do a kinds service to the red man or the black man, be sure to do it."

Returning to his childhood home in Earlston
Robert was a great believer in the value of travel as a means of education and made regular visits to Europe and back to Earlston. 

His biography  gives a graphic description of  a stormy sea voyage returning  to America in 1856:

"It was impossible to move about and no meals were served.    I never witnessed so severe a storm   Each  time a sea of such magnitude and power came at the ship, I thought it was all over for us.    For 36 hours,  the wind raved  with a fury and power unknown.  thundering loudly and unceasingly around us. The sails on the fore-yards clewed down, burst from their fastenings and  roared and flapped furiously  breaking over and against the ship.  The sea broker over the main deck and into the engine room.  Portions  of wreckage rolled   deep and dark over the quarter deck  One of these struck the captain on the head  and the wave drove him insensible and  he was barely saved form an ocean grave. "
In 1856 the family spent a month in his beloved Earlston, and his daughter recalled:
 "He greatly enjoyed taking his children to the scenes of his childhood, and showing them the house where he was born, the arbor where he sat with his books overlooking the path along which his cousin walked to aid him in his studies, the old kirkyard where his forefathers slept, Rhymer's Tower, and "the bonnie, bonnie broom of the Cowden Knowes........the beautiful scenery of Berwickshire became very familiar to all. Kelso, Melrose, Dryburgh, Abbotsford, were visited.  No view that he enjoyed more was  that on Bemersyde Hill (Scott's View)  His two sons later preached in the  church of their forefathers.
 Ivy covered Rhymer's Tower and Rhymer's Cottages, c.1900


 Robert died on 28th December 1889  at the advanced age if 82, "after a life of activity and usefulness" with large numbers attending his funeral     Three sons and two daughters survived him – one son joined the family business whilst the other sons became Presbyterian ministers.  One daughter also married a clergyman.

Left -
Part of a lengthy obituary that appeared back in the Scottish Borders in "The Southern Reporter":  4th July 1895.  

Robert Carter today is remembered as  one of the many self-made men  who began life in humble circumstances,  to leave  their home in Scotland and make their mark in countries abroad.  

  • Robert Carter:  His Life and Work, 1807-1889,  by Annie Carter Cochrane.
    The full text is available HERE on the Library of Congress Internet Archive.
  • Obituary in "The Southern Reporter":  4th July 1895.
  • David McConnell - a descendant of Robert's cousin,  Elizabeth Carter.