Thursday, 23 January 2020

Looking Back to Earlston in the 1950s

Earlston's more recent past is the focus of this article  with a look at what topics  were making the headlines in the local press. Some issues  still sound familiar today, with items ranging  from concerns on the state of roads, and  a village hall venue,  to housing in the village, and leisure activities.

 "A Petition on the State of the roadway bordering the Green  was considered at the Berwickshire West District Meeting  with the  claim that:
"The road was in a disgraceful condition and the state of the drainage was disgusting. It was suggested that the balance of   £230 in the  Wallace Trust* could be used."  (Berwickshire News:  31st January 1950)

 The Berwickshire West District  Committee also discussed:
"The acquisition of a village hall for Earlston   as there were two church halls for sale.  It was left to local members of the committee to see if  the inhabitants would  raise funds to buy one". (Berwickshire News:  31st January 1950)

GAS SUPPLIES  - Berwickshire News:  4 January 1950



 This was the claim at a meeting of BerwickshIre Health Committee, with the housing of agricultural workers the focus of this discussion.
" People are being denied the essentials of life such as water".
(Berwickshire News:  31 January 1950)

The housing issue remained a key topic of concern at council meetings  with the comment:
"The housing situation is most acute.   There are 390 houses in Earlston and 230 workers coming into the village every day to work with the desire to live here.  18 houses are only one room, sublet to a families;  57 have two rooms sublet and 28 homes are overcrowded.  16 families are living in caravans  ............It was proposed a site be selected with a plan for the development of 50 houses."  (Berwickshire News: 16th May 1950)

At the same meeting, it was suggested that in the more populous villages, including Earlston:
"A handyman be employed  - his duties to include street cleaning etc , burial grounds, water,  lighting, drainage and public conveniences. he scheme was agreed on in principle."  (Berwickshire News:  31st January 1950)


Advertisement in the Berwick Advertiser:25th July 1957

 Below:  Two photographs of the workers c.1950s - from the Auld Earlston Collection

 Berwickshire News:  28th June 1958.
"Six  buses conveyed to Spittal 150 children from Sunday Schools at Earlston, Redpath, Fans, and Mellerstain, together with 100 adults.  A "Tide Fight" was held at Spittal  along with paddling, races and a sandcastle competition.  The outing  was favoured with brilliant sunshine."
"There was a large attendance at the West Green Garden for its official opening by the Earl of Haddington, accompanied by the Countess of Haddington. .......All this had been made possible by the generosity of a very kind benefactor Miss Wallace,* who had left a fund to make Earlston a pleasant to live in.  Grateful thanks were also extended to Lord Haddingon for the gift of the land." (Berwickshire News:  4th August 1953)

 The small stone plaque (across from the War Memorial)
acknowledging Isabella Wallace's * generosity 

 Other newspaper editions of  the  decade abound with reports on leisure activities -   Corn Exchange concerts and dances, rugby and football matches, the Bowling Club, and Tennis Club, etc., plus groups that  we no longer hear about such as the:
  • Weekly Whist Drive Club
  • Earlston  Budgerigar Society
  • Earlston Ornithological Society
  • Earlston and District Ambulance Association


    Tennis Club Dance, held in St. John's Church Hall, 1959. 

    And Finally:


    the references to the Wallace Fund and to Miss Isabella Wallace:

    Isabella Wallace (c.1854-1920) was the unmarried daughter of John Wallace, joiner.  In her will she left money to Earlston Parish Council for   "For the purpose of improving the amenities of the Town of Earlston including footpaths, paving,  and lighting, and similar objects". 

    She never forgot that in 1874 a devastating fire had destroyed the family home and bushiness.  But the Earlston community rallied round and gave generously to support the family and enable her father to resume his business.   Isabella Wallace  repaid   this generosity through her will, to become "Earlston's Friend and Benefactor".


    Wednesday, 8 January 2020

    Sir Thomas Learmonth of Ercildoune - Thomas the Rhymer

    Thomas the Rhymer is probably the one historical figure that best comes to mind when  thinking about Earlston's past, with fragments of his reputed tower house  remaining the  symbol  of the  village, as seen on street signs and the primary school uniform.

    We are grateful for this article on Thomas, written by Gwen Hardie of the Friends of Thomas the Rhymer Group. 

    Mention the name ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ to most folk and they will either reply that they have never heard of him or that he was a fantasy figure who  disappeared for seven years to live with the Queen of Elfland and returned to Ercildoune with the gift of prophecy.

    There is very little factual information on the life of Sir Thomas Learmonth of Ercildoune, yet two extant documents, both written in Latin, are proof of his existence. Despite the dearth of information, Thomas the Rhymer’s role in shaping the course of Scottish history cannot, and should not, be underestimated. His prophecies included:

    • The death of King Alexander III in 1286, 
    • The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, 
    • The defeat and death of King James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513
    • the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603. 
    Thomas's  prophecies were consulted before major battles, not least the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, and a copy of his chapbook of prophecies was kept in many households in Scotland and consulted regularly. He was regarded as the greatest prophet until the time of Nostradamus - the 16th century French  astrologist, physician and reputed seer.

    What we do know is that Thomas was born in Ercildoune, now known as Earlston, to a family of nobility in or around 1220. The family home was a stone-built tower-house or castle, situated near the Leader water and included around ten acres of land. In this medieval period, the villagers would live in meagre, quite squalid accommodation; therefore the home of the Learmonths would be regarded as a grand and imposing structure.

    It  is written that Thomas was a frequent visitor to the hunting lodge/castle of the Earls of March and Dunbar; this situated further to the west of his home in a hamlet known as the ‘Earls Toun’. He, allegedly, was an ally of, and perhaps prophet to, King Alexander III. It has also been suggested that Lady Bethoc, daughter of the 7th Earl Patrick, was his lover and bore him a son. It is rumoured that they met for secret trysts at the waterfall on Goblin Brook (Boglie Burn) on the slopes of the north Eildon. It has also been suggested that Lady Bethoc was the inspiration for the now famous ‘Romance of Thomas of Ercildoune’. Apparently, her death at a young age left Thomas distraught and their clandestine affair incurred the wrath of Bethoc’s brother, ‘Pate’, 8th Earl and successor to the title, Earl of March and Dunbar, on his father’s death.

    ‘Blind Harry’, biographer of William Wallace, wrote that Thomas was a frequent visitor to Fail Monastery in Ayrshire, and, during his many visits became acquainted with William Wallace. One of the Rhymer’s many prophecies told that William Wallace would lead Scotland to victory and, by all accounts, it would appear that Thomas was a staunch supporter of his cause against English oppression. By this time, the first ‘War of Independence’, of which Thomas had  forewarned, had begun. 

    While draining the peat bog in Earlston to lay the foundations for the railway line in the mid-nineteenth century, a two-handed broadsword was unearthed. It was in pristine condition and dated by an arms expert as being from the 13th century. The old track that linked the home of Thomas to the hunting lodge of the Earls of Dunbar skirted the peat-bog. This area had been known as “Hawkes Kaim” (Hawks comb), the old Hawking ground of the Earls. It is now known as Halcombe. Apparently, the sword still exists and is part of a private collection, though its whereabouts has not been revealed. 

    Thomas disappeared twice from the land of mortals, each time in mysterious circumstances. The first is well documented in the tale of his meeting with the queen of fair Elfland at the Eildon Tree and his subsequent return after seven years with the gift of prophecy. 

    The second time, he didn’t return to mortal earth. This tale is contained in "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders" by Sir Walter Scott, entitled Thomas the Rhymer, (part third). It is also contained in ‘The Life and Times of Thomas of Ercildoune (The Rhymer) by Elizabeth Burton. This account tells of him following a white hart and hind across the raging River Leader and into the depth of the surrounding forest.

    It has also been suggested that Thomas  retired to live out his days at Fail monastery…….or, perhaps he was murdered by agents of his enemy, Earl Patrick of Dunbar, and his body disposed of in the murky depths of the peat bog of the Hawkes Kaim. Or, does he “Drie his weird” with the Fairy folk in the halls deep beneath the Eildon Hills and return at will to mortal earth? 

    With much of Thomas' life shrouded in mystery, it is strange then, that in the 21st century, some 700 years after his demise, information on his bizarre existence is still highly sought after. Indeed, ‘The Romance of Thomas of Ercildoune’, and the latter ballad versions, continues to inspire poets, authors, artists and film-makers, while stirring the imagination of lovers of mystique both locally and globally.   As Sir Walter Scott proclaimed: 

                        "Farewell my Father's ancient tower!  A long farewell, said he
                   The scene of pleasure, pomp and power, thou never more shall be!

    Some said to hill, and some to glen their wondrous course had been
                          But ne'er in haunts o'living men again  was Thomas seen".


    Sunday, 1 December 2019

    Earlston Corn Exchange Opening Events

    The 1860's was a significant decade in Earlston history

    • The Commercial Bank of Scotland opened a branch in the village  in 1864. 
    • The Berwickshire Railway from Reston reached  Earlston in 1863 and was extended  to Newtown in 1865,  with the completion of the Leaderfoot Viaduct.
    • The Corn Exchange opened in the Market Square in 1868.

    How did the Corn Exchange come into being? 
    Corn Exchanges were originally built as a venue for corn merchants to meet and arrange pricing with farmers for the sale of wheat, barley and other corn crops. With the repeal of the Corn Laws  in 1846, a large number of corn exchanges were built in town centres across Britain, coinciding with the expansion of the railways, making transportation of the corn easier.

    The buildings were also let out for many other purposes,  including public meetings concerts and dances, lectures, fund raising events, and in the 20th century as cinemas.  

    A photograph that can be dated pre 1920 
    when the pump well on the right was demolished to  make way for the War Memorial. 

    An article in “The Southern Reporter”: 28th May 1868 reported on the plans for a Corn Exchange in Earlston.

    “There is now a certainty of the long-talked of Corn Exchange and Public Hall being erected. A site on the north side of the Market Place and adjoining the Reading Room has been purchased and now the whole works have been contracted for.
    The plans and specifications have been prepared by Mr. Rodger of Rodger & Co., builders, and show shops in front and a main entrance of seven feet in width on the ground floor, with rooms which can either be used as dwelling houses or business rooms.

    Behind is the Public Hall and Corn Exchange which is to be 60 feet long by 32 feet wide, with a height of 22 feet and will be lighted from the roof.

    The hall is also to be provided with stalls, opening from the wall and which, when closed, enable the whole length and breadth of the hall to be made available for public meetings, or Volunteer drill.

    The Directors go forward in the expectation that the building will be finished for a sum not exceeding the share capital of the company which is fixed at £1400. [equivalent to £87,652.60 today]

    The mason work has been let to Messrs Rodger & Co., Earlston; joinery work to Mr. John Wallace, Earlston; slating and plumbing to Mr. Murdison, Earlston, and the plaster work to Mr. John Johnstone, Gattonside. Mr. Herbertson, builder, Galashiels has been appointed inspector over the works.

    The building, it is expected will be roofed in and the hall finished by the middle of October and the whole work completed by the middle of December.

    We may here notice the deep interest taken in the building by Mrs. Colesworth of Cowdenknowes, she having, in addition to her subscription to the share capital, presented the company with a very handsome piano.

    It is proposed to hold a bazaar on the day the hall is opened, for the purpose of liquidating any debt that may be left."

    It was May 1869 before a public dinner  was held to celebrate the opening of the Corn Exchange.

     An article in "The Southern Reporter"   gave a fulsome report on the  occasion where Mr. Balfour of the Commercial Bank was given a presentation of a "silver tea and coffee service of chaste design"  for "his unwearied labours  in connection with the Corn  Exchange"  and  "his excellent business sense, his affable and gentlemanly deportment, and his kind and obliging disposition." 

    Further reports in "The Southern Reporter" commented  on "a handsome if not actually imposing structure"........"In addition to its usefulness as a place of business on market days, it is also proving a place of amusement". 

    So what events  took place in the Corn Exchange  in the late 19th century - as reported  in the local press?  They span dramas, bazaars, concerts, balls, election and evangelical meetings. As ever with newspaper reports of the period, the style of writing is wordy - but entertaining to read.
    • In Spring 1869 a series of "Penny Readings" were held with the comment that these were  "instructive and pleasing entertainments."
    • On 4th November 1869, "The Southern Reporter"  described the formal opening of a piano donated to the Corn Exchange by Mrs Colesworth of Cowdenknowes.   

      The ceremony was slightly marred by an "unforeseen accident" in opening the piano, but this was followed by "three hearty cheers for Mrs Colesworth"  and 
      "a  grand concert of miscellaneous music......with the hall crammed in every part."  
    • Also in November 1869,  a meeting was called   in the Corn Exchange for the Electors of Earlston  to select a Liberal Candidate  to stand in the forthcoming election, on the current MP Robertson being raised  to the peerage.  The handbill for the meeting carried the headline  "Caution - Electors of Earlston - Beware!"   with Lord William Hay selected  to contend the seat. 
    • September  1869 saw  the annual show of the Earlston Cottagers Horticultural Society  taking place for the first time in the Corn Exchange.  "The hall was set off in an artistic  and pleasing manner"  with contributions from the gardens and greenhouses of Cowdenknowes, Carolside and Drygrange.
    • On a more serious note, in January1869 a series of evangelical  meetings was held  "commencing the evening of Monday and continuing nightly until Sunday", when Lord Polwarth's talk was "listened  to throughout his lengthy discourse with marked attention"  from the packed hall".
    • The September 1877   programme included  "a troup of darkies" in  the shape of Stow Christy Minstrels. 
    • In December 1881 The Earlston Tradesmen held their annual  "Show of  Roots" in the Corn Exchange.
    • In February 1882 a lengthy article reported on a lecture "Holidays in the Highland", given by local  bank manager John Mackenzie - one hopes he was a good speaker, as there would be no visual aids to enliven a long talk.
    • A concert and ball were held in September 1886 under the auspices of the Earlston Street Lighting Committee to raise  funds for winter street lighting in the village.

      "After the concert, dancing commenced to the inspiring strains of Earlston Orchestral Party and carried on with unabated zeal  to  the  advanced hours in the morning." 
    • Another fund rising event in July 1889 was on  behalf of the Bowling Club, founded six years earlier, who were looking to liquidate its debt, with"the amount taken far exceeded the sanguine expectation of the club."  A wordy description gave a picture of the stalls - along with the more usual cushions and crafts,   "live poultry" - and a painting by renowned Borders artist Tom Scott.

    • In 1892, advertisements in "The Berwickshire News" promised the  following entertainment at  the Corn Exchange  

    • Taking to the stage on 17th September 1897 was "Alone in London - a   wonderfully sensational and  realistic Drama......the greatest ever put before a Scotch audience......witnessed on several occasion by Members of the Royal Family"


    Source of Information 
    "The Berwickshire News" and "The Southern Reporter" on:  British Newspapers Online 1710-1963  at FindMyPast


    Thursday, 7 November 2019

    War Graves in Earlston Churchyard

    A sign on the railings at the entrance to Earlston Churchyard announces that there are Commonwealth War Graves within the cemetery.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was established in 1915 to honour the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars, and ensure they will never be forgotten. 

    The churchyard contains the graves of five Earlstonians who died in military service. This post was written to try to reveal something of the people behind the names.


    JAMES ARCHIBALD - died 1915 aged 18.
    James was the son of James and Robina Archibald who ran a bakery on Earlston’s High Street. The shop has long since gone and is now a dwelling house (No. 15 The High Street).  

    James had been in the Volunteers for two years before being mobilised, when war was declared. He travelled to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers garrison in the town of Cambusbarron for basic training.
    In February 1915 he was granted a short leave. When he was at home, his mother noticed that he had developed a cough and, as any concerned mother would do, suggested that James visit Dr Young for a remedy. James,however, being a teenager (he was only 18) not wishing to be delayed getting back to his regiment ignored his mother’s advice. 

    Back in Cambusbarron, James was able to perform all his regular duties, albeit that he was hoarse. However, on Thursday morning, his commanding officer, concerned for his health had him transferred to the garrison’s temporary hospital.

    Initially, James was making good progress, but by Sunday, February 14, his condition deteriorated. About mid-day his parents received a telephone message from Captain Sharpe, saying that James was seriously ill and about half-an-hour later they received the news that James had died.

    Mrs Archibald travelled to Stirling on Monday to make the necessary arrangements for James’ burial. Following a military funeral, his body transferred from Stirling Castle to the railway station. Men from the regiment, including Sergeant Louis Fisher, accompanied Mrs Archibald and James on  their journey to Earlston where it arrived in the late afternoon. The following day a large crowd of mourners gathered at the Archibald’s house for a short service before the funeral cortege made its way along the High Street to the cemetery. The hearse was flanked by an honour guard that included Sergeant Fisher and Colour Sergeant William Wilkie.

    William Wilkie (died 1916 aged 46)
    In December 1868, Andrew Wilkie, a twenty-nine-year-old blacksmith, born in Maxton, married Jane Tait, a twenty-eight-year-old spinster from Denholm. Their son William was born the following year.

    In 1871 the family moved to Earlston, first living on  the High Street, then to a
    house on Haughhead Road. By now William had two siblings, Margaret, aged
    eight, and six-month-old John.

    Ten years later, twenty-one-year-old William was living at 6 Rodger Place, close to the mill where he worked as a stake warper. The following year he married Alison Hunter, a twenty-one-year-old spinster-who lived with her parents at Leader Vale Lodge where the marriage ceremony was held. Their daughter Margery was born the year after.

    By 1901 William had left the woollen mill to work as an assurance agent, and the family had moved to the High Street.

    Sometime between 1911 and 1915, William had enlisted in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, earning rapid promotion to Colour Sergeant. In 1915 William developed Bright’s Disease, a condition which affects the kidneys and he died, at home on January 10, 1916. His grave is marked by a simple headstone which is inscribed:
    “In memory of my beloved husband WILLIAM WILKIE who died 10.1.1916
    aged 46 years also his wife ALISON HUNTER who died 24.4.1945 aged 74

    John Young (died 1918 aged 20)
    John was born in Monkwearmouth in County Durham on February 2, 1898.  His father, William, was a journeyman tailor, travelling the country to either find permanent employment or until he qualified as a master tailor which would allow him to set up his own business.

    William and his wife Margaret were both from the Scottish Borders  (Channelkirk and Melrose respectively), so it is no surprise that they should settle in Earlston  with son John and his sister, Jane, who was his elder by three years.The family lodged in a house on Station Road with three other families. The Young’s had three more children at this address, sons William and George and a daughter Mary. 

    When he left school, eldest son John took a job at the Simpson and Fairbairn tweed mill.  He enlisted in the 4th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Volunteers) in
    early January 1914.  By 1917, John’s battalion was in the Middle-East engaged in the Second Battle of Gaza which had commenced on April 17. The fighting was brutal and bloody, and at the end of the third day of action, the brigade including John’s battalion had suffered almost 50% casualties, including John who was wounded twice, in his upper right arm and on the right side of his head.

    It was three days before John was evacuated to the military hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. There, doctors discovered that John’s right humerus, the long bone in the upper arm was shattered. On a positive note, an x-ray showed no trace of the bullet in his head wound. His damaged arm caused the most concern due to the extent of the bone damage, and the injury was suppurating. On April 26, John’s condition was listed as “Dangerously Ill”, and he remained in this condition for over a month.

    On August 16, John was transferred to the UK on board the hospital ship “Formosa”. As soon as the ship docked in Liverpool, on September 5, he was admitted to a Liverpool hospital.

    It was not until February 1918 that John was considered fit enough to be transferred to the 2nd Scottish General Hospital in Edinburgh. His medical report of February 22 noted that John was “in good general health”. However, it also stated that his right arm and hand had limited movement. Also, the wounds on his arm had not healed despite having undergone five operations to drain the wound and remove bone fragments. The report also notes that “He had a wound on the right side of the face, which causes him no trouble now.”

    John was discharged from the army as being permanently unfit for military service of any sort. He left hospital on March 24 and returned to his home in Earlston to be cared for by his family. Despite the medical board’s conclusion that John’s head wound was no cause for concern, John had developed an abscess on his brain at the site of the gunshot wound. As the effects of the abscess grew, caring for John must have been a particularly difficult time for the family. The abscess would most likely have caused dramatic changes toJohn’s physical control and personality. Additionally, the infection was damaging his heart.

    A few days before his death,  his condition deteriorated, and he was transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He died on Thursday, June 20,1918. The cause of the death given on the registration of death was a temporo-sphenoidal abscess and ulcerative endocarditis (an abscess of the brain and a condition that affects the heart).

    John’s burial took place on Sunday, June 23, 1918, when the Earlston Company of Volunteers, under the command of Lieutenant Harvie, provided an honour guard and pipers and drummers from a detachment of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders played laments.

    William Barrie Young (died 1918 aged 24)
    William was the only son of Dr John and Mrs Margaret Young of The Thorn, Earlston
    He did not follow his father to medical school. Instead, he became a Motor, Steam and Mechanical Engineering apprentice at Waverley Engineering Works in Galashiels. Initially, William joined the Lothian and Border Horse, but at the first opportunity transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.

    The Royal Flying Corps did not have a training facility. Instead, William trained at the Ruffy-Baumann Flying School in Hendon just outside London and on September 6, 1915, he qualified as a pilot.

    After enlisting in the Royal Flying Corps, William was based in Brooklands Aerodrome as a member of No. 24 Squadron, the world’s first single-seat fighter squadron.

    In March 1916, he qualified as an instructor pilot before returning to front line duties. Then on October 20, 1916, while flying over the Somme, his aircraft was attacked and severely damaged. Despite being shot through a lung, William managed to land his plane at a French aerodrome only to discover that his observer/gunner 2nd. Lt. Reginald Davis had been killed.

    He was transferred to a hospital in Glasgow to start a long road to recovery. In October 1917 he was transferred to the School of Specialist Flying as an instructor and was promoted to Deputy Wing Exam Officer.

    On August 8, 1918, William took off on a training flight. What happened during the flight was never established other than there was a catastrophic failure of the aircraft,  causing it to spin out of control, killing William.

    The following week William was buried in Earlston Parish Churchyard. A guard of honour from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders accompanied the funeral cortege, and the pipe band from the same regiment played “The Land o'er the Leal” and “The Flowers of the Forest”. The “Last Post” was performed by a bugler at the conclusion of the service.

    His headstone is in the form of a Celtic cross and stands adjacent to a cross of the same design marking the grave of his father and mother.

    John Meins Wightman (died 1944 Aged 26)
    John Wightman was born in Coldingham on July 30, 1917, to Ninian and May (nee Meins) Wightman. Like his father, John became a ploughman working on various farms in East Lothian and Berwickshire.

    He married Jean Agnes Tait in 1942 while serving with the 8th Battalion Royal Scots. At the time he was a Corporal, but he would be later promoted to Sergeant.  The couple would spend their short married life living at Woodville with Jean’s parents, Bill and Jean (nee Angus) Tait.

    In June 1944 John took part in the Normandy landings, and it was while  engaged in military operations,  he was wounded, suffering gunshot wounds to his abdomen, left hand and right shoulder. He was transferred to Killearn Hospital in Stirling, one of seven Emergency Hospital Services facilities established by the government in 1940 for military casualties. 

    Despite receiving the best available medical attention, John died of peritonitis on July 16th, 18 days after he was wounded.

    John was laid to rest in Earlston Churchyard where the Rev. Peter Wylie  conducted an impressive service. John’s widow, Jean, who never remarried, died in Melrose in 2002 aged 82.

    How a person is “officially” remembered is something of a mystery. Take, for example, Captain David Colville, son of David and Elizabeth Colville of Chapel-on-Leader, Earlston. David is memorialised on the Lauder war memorial and in the Lauder Old Parish Church; he is also remembered at Melrose Holy Trinity Church and on the Earlston war memorial and church lectern. 

    By comparison, John’s name is not listed  on the village war memorial, nor on any memorialand his death is not recorded on the  Imperial War Memorials Register. Why this is so,  remains an enigma. 


    November 2018 - Earlston's Fall of Poppies,
     created by members of Earlston Parish Church 
    in remembrance of those who died in the service of their country. 


    With grateful thanks to Auld Earlston member Jeff Price 
    for researching and compiling this article. 

    Friday, 1 November 2019

    Earlston in the Headlines: A New Year Mill Festival & Other Events

    Old newspapers make fascinating reading in giving us a contemporary picture of local issues and events.  As interesting is their wordy, distinctive journalistic style - very different to the short snappy sentences of today's press.  

    Topics here range from a serious affray in the village, an advert for "the world's best cycle”, a court case for stealing stours of oats,  Reading Room discussions,  and a happy report on Mid  Mill New Year  festival. 

    In the mid 19th century, the site of Mid Mill

    The Berwickshire News:  2nd January 1876 featured a lengthy and highly detailed  account of the happy  event where the firm of Mid Mill  entertained their employees at the Corn Exchange, which was described as a "comfortable and commodious hall, well adapted for such social assemblies, with a bright and cheerful aspect."  

    The special decorations sounded very imaginative  "with emblematic designs, and  a chain of links composed  of hanks of yarn of every possible colour and hue" .

    150 work people  and their friends  "assembled to a liberal supply of tea and other refreshments," - enjoyed "with much relish and zest, hearty good humour and small talk", before "the general public were admitted at a nominal charge". .....the hall was completely filled by an intelligent and appreciative audience". 

    Mr. Charles Wilson, head of Mid Mill  gave a short welcome,  but, before the entertainment  expressed the hope that "everything would be conducted  with moderation and decorum".  

    There was little opportunity for otherwise - as no alcohol was served that night,  and the principal speaker was Mr Ward "who delivered an address with temperance as its chief subject and advocated its principles with very great ability, not to say   eloquence. "

    The evening concluded with entertainment of music, song and poetry, described in some detail, including this original verse from Mr. Clapperton

    "A serious disturbance took place in the village of Earlston between the hours of six and eight o'clock in the evening of Sunday last.  A number of Irish shearers on leaving some of the public houses in the village, where they had been drinking during the day, commenced to quarrel and fight with one another, and latterly to interfere with the  villagers, who turned out in considerable  numbers, and after some fighting, succeeded in expelling the Irishmen from the village.  One or two of the villagers were cut  rather severely with the reaping hooks in the possession of the opposite party, and several of the Irishmen did not escape altogether  from injury."
    Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh:  12th September 1850. 


    Readman's of Earlston is listed as one of the agents selling the cycle,
    Berwick News and General Advertiser Tuesday 20 January 1914 

    "Mary Gillan or McGhee and Henry McGhee of Earlston were found guilty of stealing four stours of oat straw from the stack-yard at Earlston Town Farm, occupied by Wm Anderson, farmer.  Mary Gillan or McGhee was sentenced to ten days imprisonment in Dunse prison;  but on account of his youth of the said Henry McGhee, the Sheriff admonished and dismissed him."
    The Berwick Journal:   21st Mary 1856.

    Two items in the Berwickshire News from 1914 and 1926  give us an idea of what the selection committee chose for its readers - firstly  with the wide range of magazines and newspapers available (with old editions sold afterwards to raise  income), and secondly with the choice of popular fiction.   
    "The newspapers of last quarter were continued. Pearson's Magazine was substituted for the English Illustrated Magazine, now defunct. The read newspapers brought the following prices:— Scotsman, 1s 6d; Glasgow Herald, 1s; Illustrated London News, 5s 7d ; Punch, 2s; Southern Reporter, 6d ; Kelso Chronicle, 6d ; Berwickshire News 3d; Berwickshire Advertiser, 3d: Edinburgh Evening News (2 copies). 6d and 9d; Dispatch, 6d; Border Telegraph 6d; Daily Mirror, 1s 7d ; Dundee Advertiser 1s."
    Berwickshire News and General Advertiser:  20 January 1914.
    "EARLSTON The quarterly meeting of the members of Earlston Reading Room and Public Library was held in the Reading Room Wednesday evening. A good attendance of members was presided over by Mr John Yule. The Treasurer’s financial statement for last quarter was submitted, and is as follows: — lncome £41 4s 2d; expenditure £31 14s 9½d; Recreation Room account £1 10s —credit balance £10 19s 4½d. The sale of newspapers and periodicals for the quarter realised satisfactory prices.

    An animated discussion took place regarding the issuing of the supply new books, voted in last January, and recently come to hand these, mainly fiction, comprise such popular authors as Ruby M. Ayres, J. M. Barrie, Marie Corelli, Guy Boothby, Rex Beach, Charles Dickens, A. Conan Doyle, Alex. Dumas, Zane Grey, Peter B. Kyne, Patrick McGill, A. E. W. Mason, E. P. Oppenheim, Baroness Orczy, Joan Sutherland, Margaret Pedlar, W. M. Thackeray, J. Laing Waugh, H. G. Wells."

    Berwickshire News and General Advertiser:  20 April 1926
     Enjoying a break in the Reading Room - late 1960s


    With thanks to Auld Earlston members Richard Smith and Jeff Price 
    for finding these little gems on life in Earlston in times past.