Monday, 29 February 2016

Auld Earlston on Track with Open Day & Exhibition

The Open Day and Exhibition held last Saturday  by Auld Earlston attracted a large audience throughout the day at the Church Hall.

The main focus of the exhibition was the launch of the group's latest project "Remembering Earlston's Railway (1863-1965)", with forty photographs, both framed and laminated, which will shortly go on show in shops and other venues around the village. Adding to the display were information sheets on the history of the railway, contemporary accounts from old newspapers  and contributions from primary school children who were involved in interviewing grandparents and older residents on their railway memories. 

 One of the information displays on the railway project. 

 Steam train crossing the Leaderfoot Viaduct, c. 1959
Photograph by the late Rev. John Duncan of Earlston

Visitors also had the chance to browse through extensive displays of vintage photographs on the village, watch a slide show and chat over tea and coffee. 

Chairman Sheila Mackay said " We were delighted at the response and thank all who came along to support our first open day and exhibition,to make it such a success. We were encouraged by the length of time many people took to look around and exchange reminiscences. It was good to meet people we had not seen for many years and some folks who had travelled from far and wide to see what our group is doing to keep Earlston’s past alive."


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Fire at John Wallace, Joiners in 1874.

The Southern Reporter of 17th September 1874 reported the news of a devastating fire in Earlston at the joiner's  workshop of John Wallace. 
"The inhabitants of Earlston were at nine o' clock on Thursday last,  alarmed by the unusual and ominous cry of "Fire".    A cry which turned out to be all too true; the workshop, a wooden erection of Mr. John Wallace, joiner being discovered to be in flames. 
Plenty of willing workers, men, women and even children rushed to the scene, but all saw at a glance that  the shop and  its contents were doomed.......Hardly had some of the men withdrawn when part of the shop fell with a crash thereby endangering the dwelling house of Mr Wallace which forms one of the range of two storey houses known as New Street.   So imminent the danger that at this time most of the dwellers  had removed their household goods and chattels. And that with such a hurry and confusion to cause no  little damage.

During  the dire struggle  to save the house, the fire spread in another direction. and caught hold of a stable in the adjoining property belonging to Mr David Jameson, grocer. All that could be done was done to save it, but the flames gained their mastery, but not before, however, the livestock were got out.
The damage sustained by Mr, Wallace  is estimated as fully £500,  and is not covered by insurance.  The workmen in his employment have also lost all their tools.......
Great sympathy is expressed by the public to Mr. Wallace. and his men.....and a public meeting was held in the Corn Exchange  on Thursday night ......  A subscription was at once opened ....on Monday the sum  amounted to upwards of £140.  
It is but fair to Mr. Wallace  to say that he had  insured the property up to two years ago, but not only the office with which he had been insured,  but another to which he applied, refused to undertake the risk on any terms.   

The stable and property belonging to Mr Jamieson was insured.  
[Note:   £500 in 1874 is equivalent to £41,500 today - website Measuring Worth]

Seven  years on in the 1881 census, John Wallace was back in business, described as master joiner employing 5 men.  


The Wallace family remained very grateful for the generosity of the Earlston people.  John Wallace's daughter Isabella was 20 years old at the time of the fire.  She never married keeping house for her brother George, also a joiner. She  died in 1920 and  In her will, after bequests to her nephews and nieces and to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary,  left the sum of £3240 to Earlston Parish Council "For the purpose of improving the amenities of the Town of Earlston including footpaths, paving and lighting and similar objects."

Council records held at the Heritage Hub, Hawick confirm that the Isabella Wallace Fund was used for the provision of lighting, the upgrading of the square, with railings around the War Memorial. the removal of the air raid shelter and a gateway and railings at the riverside park of Mill Meadow, where she is still remembered today.   


Background to Searching Old Newspapers
The Heritage Hub at Hawick holds microfilm copies of old Border newspapers.  However these are not indexed, and you do need to have a good idea of a date to search for a specific item i.e. month and year.  

Three websites (subscription or pay as you view) feature searchable British Newspapers including Border titles:   


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Sharing Memories - The Spittal Trip

   Written by Inez Polson in 1991  

The excitement started  days before - "Are you gaun tae the Trip?" was on everyone's lips.  "I hope ii's no raining or misty".  (What a worry!)  "Will the tide be oot or in when we get there?". 

By Friday, the whole village was excited - not just the children, but  mothers, aunts, uncles, Sunday School teachers (from both churches), retired policemen and helpers of all ages.  Old sand shoes were hunted out and the toes cut out to make waders.  Schoolbags were washed or brushed to carry extra food, spare pants, socks and towels, Spades and pails were examined to decide if they needed replacing.  Travelling rugs were aired, Everyone scrubbed the night before and went to bed early. 

At last, it  was "THE MORNING"!  It was off to the station - a motley crew of some hundreds of all ages. Pandemonium reigned until everyone found their class, and mothers  found friends and relations.  The train came puff-puffing in, blowing steam and tooting. Station Master, Guard and Porter opened the doors as fast as they could and we all thronged in.  Doors were banged shut, the whistle blew and we were off. 

We cheered for everything we passed - the level crossing at "Gates Cottage", the wood yard and Town Farm.  There were some complaints from those who did not have windows seats and then we would cheer for Gordon Station and the quarry, for Greenlaw, Marchmont and Duns.   

There was usually another train standing at Duns and some anxious moments till we safely past by.  Even though there wasn't much at Edrom and Chirnside, we cheered for them, and because Reston was a "junction", we gave it a special cheer, even though some of us were none too sure what a junction was, as we could only see some cattle trucks and coal trucks.  

Everyone crowded to the left side windows near Burnmouth for the first glimpse of the seas, and we were sure we could catch a salty smell from it.  If we had been anxious at Duns, we were very nervous about the crossing of the Border Bridge and looking down on the Tweed.  But that was forgotten as we steamed into Tweedmouth Station, collected our picnic bags and were escorted safely over the lines for the long walk down to Spittal. (Many's the picnic bag consumed before the tea was poured.!)

When mothers, grannies and the odd father were installed on the beach to protect all the belongings, spaces and pails, were brought into action and castles built and knocked down, ball games were started and races run.  Although it was too dangerous to swim, we waded and paddled on even the coldest of days.    Before leaving the beach, we ate the last sandwiches, even though they seemed to be a little crunchy from the sand!

It was a long drag back up the hill, with tiredness, sunburn and sea air all taking their toll.  At the station we  couldn't understand how the train had turned around, but older boys used technical words like "loop lines" and "turntables" and "coupling up" to try to explain.  All back into the train with cries of "Where's Willie?" and   "You had the window the last time", and a green flag and a whistle started us homeward.

Too tired for cheers now, but we could still raise a "Goodbye Sea", "Goodbye Sand" and "Goodbye Spittal!"  And to add to the treat, we were going home a different way by Velvet Hall signal box and the other side of the Tweed.   Unfamiliar station names flashed by, but when we saw Kelso and Roxburgh,  Rutherford and Maxton, we knew that Newtown St. Boswells Station and Leaderfoot Bridge were getting nearer.    As we drew up in a cloud of steam at Earlston, the white station fence was lined with "Dads",  and friends who weren't on the trip came down to see us come home.   The train doors opened and out poured tired, sunburnt, sticky, cheering  children - the Spittal Trip was home. 

Inez died in 2009. She was born in 1914, so her memories of the trip are probably from the mid 1920s onwards.


Footnote:  The Spittal Trip took place on a Saturday in late June.  We are not sure if the switch to buses was caused by the war, or the floods of 1948 that closed the railway line east.   When was there a change of destination to North Berwick?  Has anyone any further information, on the Spittal Trip or on other train journeys.  

                 Auld Earlston would love to hear from you to share your memories.


  Photographs of the Spittal Trip from the collection of the late Rev. Duncan 



Friday, 5 February 2016

DIARY DATE - Saturday 27th Feb. Open Day & Exhibition in the Church Hal 10am-3pm


Saturday 27th February 2016


in the  Church Hall, Earlston 


Admission £2 incl. tea/coffee - children free

View the railway photographs to  be turned into display pictures for  show at venues throughout the village, as part of our project "Remembering Earlston's Railway". 

Read memories of the railway gathered by children at Earlston Primary School who have  been interviewing older residents in the village.  

Browse through an exhibition of vintage photographs of Auld Earlston. 

Watch a rolling slide show.

Chat over tea/coffee and meet members of your local heritage group. 

If you missed our main evening event last October, here is the daytime  opportunity to find out more about the activities of Auld Earlston.


 Auld Earlston acknowledges project funding from Scottish Borders Council

Borders Railway Celebration Fund and the Community Grant Scheme