Friday, 29 July 2016

Earlston's Posties of the Past

A Look at Posties of the Past 

David Swanston 
In Rutherford's Directory of the Southern Counties, published in 1866, there is an entry for David Swanston, post runner.  We get an account of David's work in an item published in "The Berwickshire News & General Advertiser", 21st June 1902.   It looked looked back at "Melrose Postmen of Olden Days", reprinting an article from "The Kelso Chronicle". 

Berwickshire News & General Advertiser: 17th June 1902

"David Swanson 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 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 in the Earlston Census Returns  as "post runner between Earlston and Melrose", living  with his wife Charlotte and their six children.  He  was still working as a post runner 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. 

  • Earlston  lies  5 miles from Melrose,
  • The North British Railway between Edinburgh and Hawick, via Melrose,  opened in 1849, and was not extended to Carlisle until 1862.  So David's memories must precede the completion of the Waverley Line.

James McQuillin 
In the 1881  census, James McQuillin was living with his wife Agnes,  and three children, and was  described as a letter carrier.  Twenty years later in the 1901 census he was listed as a postman and librarian, living at 60 High Street.   He died in 1909 aged 56.  
At the Thorn Corner post box, c.1903

Thomas Burton
    Postman Thomas Burton who delivered the post in the 1960's and 70's   

Mary Mather

A press cutting from "The Southern Reporter" (unfortunately undated) features a spotlight on "Postie Mary making  the rounds for nigh on 20 years". 
"Hail, rain or shine, Mary and her bike have trundled over hill and dale with letters and parcels. ......until 10 years ago her part-time duties meant a 10 mile daily stint in the countryside.....she recalled the times she carried messages  to farms and the free feed and shelter she received in return.

But in winter, the conditions were against the intrepid postie.  Her bike was no use and she had to plough through drifting snow and howling blizzards.  "During the infamous 1963 winter, I had to walk for 8 miles,"  said Mary,  "Conditions were terrible, with telephone lines cut  off and roads impassable." 
She used to make for Cowdieknowes  Estate, then Cowdieknowes Cottage.  Next stop was Park Farm and Cottages,  and onto the Bungalow at Redpath and Redpath itself.    She retraced her steps, crossed the swing bridge, came up through Sorrowless Field  onto the Melrose Road  and into Earlston. 
Now her round is mainly in Earlston and the uniformed cyclist  is easily recognisable.  She still stops for a blether  and enjoys the exercise.   She is up at 4. 45 each morning getting the house shipshape and and preparing for work at 6.30am".  
A presentation to Mary on her retirement


Auld Earlston would be delighted to feature short articles
 from contributors on memories of the village's past.    
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Friday, 22 July 2016

A Look at Life in Earlston in the 1860's

  What was life like in Earlston in the 1860's?
 We get a picture from two key sources:
  • "Rutherfurd’s Southern Counties Register and Directory,  containing  much useful and interesting information and very complete lists connected with the Counties of Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk", published by Rutherfurd Printers, Kelso in 1866.  

  • The 1861 Census for Earlston Parish" - with information on households, ages, occupations, and birthplace. 
  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.

    Earlston's Bank on the right
At a personal level:
  • Even in 1900, the average life expectancy for a man was only 47, and for a woman 50 - figures influenced by the prevalence of disease in crowded cities and the very high rate of infant deaths. The first annual report of the Registrar General for Scotland, published in 1861, reported that the highest proportion of deaths occurred in children under five. 
  • In Earlston Parish  in 1861,  there were 48 residents  in their 70's, 15 in their 60's and 2 aged 90 - a totally elderly population of just 3.5%. 
  • Child employment was a feature of life, as recorded  in the 1861 Census:
    From the age of 11, boys  were agricultural  labourers and girls  domestic servants. Under 14's were also employed as  a cotton winder,  a cotton factory piecer, 
     as workers in a woollen factory, a power loom weaver,  labourers in a timber yard, and as  apprentice s a shoemaker, tailor, and grocer.    

    Rutherfurd's Southern Counties Directory of 1866 
    noted that:
”The population of the parish were 825 who constituted 1399 families.  152 were living in a house with one window, 130 in houses having two windows, leaving 52 who lived in houses with three or more windows.

The principal landed proprietor was the Earl of Haddington,  who possesses two thirds of the rental. 

arlston  possesses one extensive woolen manufactory - the only one in the county  and also produces quantities of the well known Earlston gingham - There is no other place in the  country where the same class of gingham is made.
Earlston itself is remarkably healthy.  It is also thoroughly drained and it has a fine supply of water recently laid down. 
The Edinburgh and Kelso coach road intersects the parish .  This, as well as other roads,   are well kept.  Carriers travel  to Edinburgh and Kelso  and there is a conveyance to Newtown Station every morning and evening. 

Mail arrives 10.40am & 7pm and is collected 6.30am, and 6pm with the promise  that letters are delivered immediately after arrival.  Postmaster is  William Crockett  with David Trotter and David Swanston post runners. 

Few holidays are held.  Fairs are held in June and October for feeding cattle, cows and horses"
The Directory also listed organisations, office bearers and local shops and trades in the village:

Robert Smith was a busy man.  For besides  being a General Merchant,  he was  Inspector of the Poor, Kirk Treasurer, and Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. 

Daniel Aitkenhead was master of the parochial school, with a roll of 120 and also
Heritors Clerk  and  Session Clerk at the parish church.  

There were 56 residents on the poor roll                      

The entry for the three churches reflected their importance in the local community:
Rev. David Gordon was minister of the Parish Church which had seating for 800.  
Rev. John Ketchie  was minister of the United Presbyterian Church (West) where there were seats for 200.
Rev. Alexander Henderson was minister of the United Presbyterian Church (East) with seating for 400.   

  United Presbyterian Church (East)

The listing of shops and trades showed the range of services available for daily life:

28 Farmers
10 Grocers/general merchants/spirit merchants  
7 Dressmakers,/clothiers/drapers. 
5 Innkeepers  at the Black Bull Inn, Commercial Inn, Newton's Hotel, Temperance Hotel,
and White Swan inn.
3 Carriers, Fleshers/Butchers, and Medical Practitioners
2 Bakers,  Blacksmiths, Cattle Dealers and Joiners.
1 Banker, Bookseller/Stationer/Printer,  Builder, Farrier, Joiner, Mole-catcher, Painter, 
Saddler, Salter, Thatcher, Timber Merchant, Tinsmith, and Watchmaker.


The 1861 Census:
The total population of the parish was given as 1826.  The population of the village of 
Earlston itself  was given as  981 - 444 males and 537 female.  The outlying areas of the 
parish included "the village of Fans", "village and mansion house of Mellerstain", and 
Redpath, with a total rural population of 845 - 284 males and 461 females. 

Some entries catch the eye:

  •       Charles Wilson, Master Manufacturer of Blankets, and Plaidings and Tweeds, employing 28 men and 44 women, boys and young women.
  •       The Manse had eleven  rooms. occupied by the Rev Gordon, his wife, two daughters, a grandson and two servants,
  •       A 68 year old man, described as a retired post boy.  
  •       58 year old  Ann Purves described as a a stay maker(presumably corsets).
  •       59 year old Alexander Mathewson, a lamp lighter.
  •       Francis Brigleman, a 70 year old retired ship master, born in Germany, but lodging in Kidgate, Earlston.
  •       Euphemia Hislip, librarian at the Reading Room. 
  •       Widow Agnes Edmunds aged 73 whose occupation was given as "keeps mangle".
  •       Some sad entries noted  "Idiotic from birth". "imbecile" and "dumb from birth".
    The Leslie family, lived at 20 Main Street in a house with nine rooms - Andrew Leslie, (a master tailor and clothier employing 5 journeymen and three apprentices), his wife, six daughters aged 1 to 19, a servant and two apprentices.
    But at no. 23 Main Street was the Moffat family living in two rooms - James Moffat, a master flesher, his wife, two daughters and four sons, a servant and a visitor - a large household for the space.

    Many of the properties, in the higher numbers 46-98 Main Street, saw families living in only one or two rooms,

  •       On Earlston Green in the Open Air  were four men and four women  aged from 6 to 51 - but no other details given apart from one occupation as "hawker of crockery".  Bearing in mind the census was taken 7th April 1861,  they were living in  harsh living conditions.  
  •       In the rural  hinterland of the village, one room accommodation was common for agricultural workers.
  •       Fans was described as a village, with twenty-four households, At East-End was Thomas Frier, described as a "farmer of 2300 acres, employing 24 men and 33 women & boys." A widower, he shared his home with his two sons, two female servants, two shepherds, and a stable boy. 
  •       Mellerstain had thirty-three households listed  ranging from small two room cottages,  to the fifty-four rooms of Mellerstain mansion, occupied on census night only by George and Georgina Baillie Hamilton, the Earl and Countess of Haddington, and four servants.
  •       Carolside Mansion with twenty-three rooms  was home to  William Fairholme and his wife, three  small daughters and seven  servants - a butler, coachman, cook,  lady's maid. two housemaids and an under housemaid aged 15.

  •       Cowdenknows House had twenty rooms rooms, occupied by Robert Cotesworth, his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and seven  servant.   In neighbouring properties lived the head gardener, coachman,  gamekeeper, gatekeeper. farm steward, farmers and ploughman.
  •       Redpath was home to thirty-one households.  Occupations here were more varied and included a blacksmith, a woollen weaver, linen weaver,  stocking knitter, tailor,  seamstress, and mason.

In summary, Earlston was probably very typical 
of village society in mid Victorian Scotland.  

 In Case You Missed:  Click On:
Life in Earlston in the 1790's  

      Life in Earlston in the 1830's
      Life in Earlston in the Late 19th Century

Auld Earlston would be delighted to feature short articles
 from contributors on memories of the village's past.    
Please contact:   

Monday, 11 July 2016

Earlston's Sporting Life

 A nostalgic look back at sporting activities in Earlston from the early 1900's.

Earlston Rugby Club Club is thought to have been formed in the 1870s by two Yorkshiremen who were installing machinery in the local woollen mill.One  of their first games was against Kelso in 1876,   the result being a draw. On 7 March 1879, Earlston played Kelso  in one of the first matches staged under electric floodlights. The Club also played in the first Melrose Sevens  in 1883. 

In the early years the Club's pitch was located at the Georgefield Road close to where the school pitches are today. In 1921 the present pitch at the Haugh  was leased from A. Brownlie, Timber Merchants. Two years later the first Clubhouse was erected. 

During the Second World War,  the rugby pitch and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military.  One third of the pitch was dug out and concrete laid to make a "hull down" park for the tanks of the Polish Division stationed in the area,  preparing for D. Day. 

In 1968 the clubhouse was extended  with further major work carried out in 1988.

    Earlston Rugby Team, 1911-1912 
   Earlston Rugby Team, 1960

  An early photograph of Earlston Bowling Team success at a tournament in Selkirk 

 Earlston Bowling Club - but can anyone help date this photograph?

[UPDATE - We were pleased  to receive the following information from a reader:
I would say the photograph dates from the mid 1930's.  This was Mr & Mrs Stafford's golden wedding - they lived at The Terrace on the High Street.  The event was held in the Girls Club Building  on  Melrose Road,  where the filling station forecourt is now. The Club was used for many social occasions and I see The Rev  Peter Wylie (Ercildoune Church Minster) and Mrs Wylie and I recognize quite a few others].

Earlston Bowling Club Social, 1975


Earlston Rhymers Cricket Club, 1908



Earlston Rhymers Football Team, 1903-4
Earlston Rhymers, 1973 

Earlston Golf Club was founded in  August 1906, making it one of the oldest in the country. The course  was designed by Willie Park of Musselburgh on land owned by Lord Binning . The nine-hole course was situated in an area known locally as “Caldies Hill” on high ground with sandy soil. At the time of its opening,  it was stated that "there were some rough and stony parts but the course was gradually improving".

First Earlston Golf Club Gymkhana  in 1908 

The Course was closed during the First World War and was ploughed up to plant crops for food  to aid the war effort.  Play was further suspended during the duration of the Second World War.  Afterwards, however,   the Club, due to lack of funds, could not afford to maintain the course.    It was subsequently used as a motorcycle scrambling circuit. There were hopes that the golf course could be resurrected but unfortunately this never materialized

But Earlston Golf Club survived and continued to have outings and competitions to various other courses in the country.   In 2000, 91 years after its start, it launched a new initiative to create the first golf course on the moon!  Read more HERE.  



The story of curling in Earlston or as it was then known, Erciltoun began before 1756. A century later reports of curling in the village appeared in the local press, with the first pond at Georgefield.   In 1907 the Club built an artificial three rink pond “to cost £100 or thereabout, with a house for the storage of stones, etc in addition” on land granted by Lord Binning.   With Haymarket Ice Rink, Edinburgh opening in 1912 Earlston curlers started indoor curling for the first time.  In 1964 the Border Ice Rink at Kelso  was launched  and this has been the venue for the club to the present day.
Members of the Earlston Curling Club playing outdoors at Lauder, December 1995.

And finally - SPECTATING

 1953 Sports at the Haugh. 

Thank you to everyone who has donated or loaned old photographs for scanning.

Auld Earlston welcomes all contributions on the village's past. 
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