Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cartoon Postcard of Earlston High Street

An amusing image of Earlston High Street on a  cartoon postcard has recently come into the Auld Earlston Collection.
But despite the caption,  it is not  original to Earlston.  It was penned by  Fife born artist  Martin  Anderson - you will see his pseudonym signature of Cynicus  at the bottom left of the card.  Many of his illustrations were overprinted with different titles and town names, as here.  

Martin Anderson, (1854 –1932)  studied  at Glasgow School of Art, set up the St. Mungo's Art Club and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.    In 1880 he joined  the publisher of  The Dundee Advertiser, The Evening Telegraph, People's Journal, and People's Friend - the first  such staff artist to be employed by any daily newspaper in Britain, for until then daily newspapers were not illustrated. 

He turned increasingly to satirical and political cartoons and comic postcard illustrations setting up the "Cynicus Publishing Company" in London.   After initial success, the company was forced to close.  Martin Anderson returned to Edinburgh in 1915, leasing a basement shop in York Place. Nine years later  his Edinburgh shop was destroyed by fire, everything inside it was lost, and he did not have the funds to repair and restock it. 

He retired to Fife to live in increasing poverty.  He died in 1932  and was buried in Tayport Old Churchyard, in an unmarked grave.  

A sad end for such a prolific artist who was a forerunner in  the  field of humourous postcards.  His work is still regularly available today  in auction houses and online.

Source:  Wikipedia  
Below are two more Cynicus postcards that were first shown on our blog in 2016 as part of our "Remembering Earlston's Railway Project".

Our Local Express - The Good Old Berwickshire Railway Acceleration of Trains - the Greenlaw  Corridor makes the journey from Greenlaw to Earlston  and back in twenty four hours.    Postcard franked 1906. 

The Last Train from Earlston 

If you have any postcards of Earlston, 
the Auld Earlston Group would love to hear from you.  

Your postcards can either be donated or loaned, 
scanned and returned to you.    Contact: 

More postcards on the village  can be viewed on our Lost Earlston Facebook page.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Earlston's Village Blacksmiths

We recently featured an article on Earlston Blacksmiths, focusing on the Brotherston family, who still work the Smiddy at the west end of the village today.

The Brotherston Smiddy at the east end of Earlston 

Dr. Donald Straughan contacted  Auld Earlston, with further information following his research into his great great grandfather Alexander Scott, blacksmith on Main Street.   He also looked at  other blacksmith families by the names of  Aitken,  Dickson,  Sudden, Lee,  Waldie and Wilkie.   This article is based on his work,  with his full contributions added to the Auld Earlston Archive Collection.  

Blacksmiths were a vital part of the community in the nineteenth century, as in earlier times. Depending on the local demand, they would still be doing traditional metal -smithing for domestic use or agricultural and light industrial use. Additionally as the  horse still prevailed for local transport and haulage, they were very likely to be farriers.  

Directories, census returns and valuation rolls shed light on the blacksmiths of Earlston in this period.

Piggot's Directory of 1837 was a good starting point and  listed three blacksmiths in the village - Alexander Scott (1787-1860) who was my great great grandfather, Thomas Suddon, and Andrew Lee.  

The 1841 Census showed Alexander Scott living at an unspecified address in Earlston village in a large household of ten people - his wife Janet, five children under 9 years of age (Margaret, Robert, Ann, William, and George), two apprentice blacksmiths Andrew Mann and Thomas Wood, and a farm servant Mary Hall. 

Ten years later in the 1851 Census,  54 year old Alexander Scott  was described as a smith and ironmonger, with two new daughters in the family, Mary and Jessie, a journeyman blacksmith Thomas Henderson, apprentice blacksmith  Robert Wilkie and a 15 year old servant girl  Margaret Wright. 

The next  entry on the page showed George Wallace Innkeeper,  - thought to be the Commercial Inn.  This helped identify the Scott premises as being,  what later became,  the old Post Office in Earlston.  A smiddy is clearly identified at this location on an 1855 map of Earlston, and  the Valuation Roll for 1855 confirmed Alexander Scott as being proprietor and occupier of house and smithy.  

The white building on the right was once the Commercial Inn, with the old Post Office next door, thought to be the site of the Scott family business of smith and ironmongery 

Alexander Scott died intestate  in 1860  and the inventory of his personal estate was valued at £216.5s.5d (£18.320 in today's money) of which cash, furniture and stock in trade comprised £117.14s5d. (£9,972 equivalent today),  while the difference is accounted for by debts owed to the deceased.  These debts detailed  by individual name  throw light on the range  of Alexander Scott's business activities - money was due from Mellerstain House, Cowdenknowes,  mill owners, the minister and the doctor, through  to farmers, joiners, builders, shops, and  the gas works.

The 1861 census indicated that  Alexander's eldest daughter  Margaret, aged 29, took over the ironmongery business as she was described as Head of Household and her occupation given "of the firm of A. Scott."  Also living there was 19 year old apprentice blacksmith James CarrieMargaret was a woman of substance, according to  the Valuation Roll of 1865,  as  she was  recorded as  owning five properties. 

Alexander had two surviving sons  - William (my great grandfather) was an ironmonger initially and moved to north east England, whilst George qualified as a vet in Edinburgh and returned to Earlston to practice.  In 1901 he was living in a cottage at Mellerstain and opened up a blacksmith's business there.   Daughter May married Earlston schoolmaster Morrison Scott Berrie.
Being a blacksmith was in the family's genes.  Alexander had married Janet Dickson in 1824 - her father William Dickson (1763-1845) was blacksmith at Mellerstain as was her brother - also William (1800-1872) This Dickson family may prove to have a long pedigree as smiths, as William Dicksone, father and son, were so listed in the  Hearth Roll Assessments for Earlston in 1684.  


The Lee Family.  In the 1841 census Andrew Lee was assisted by his two sons apprentice blacksmiths Robert Lee (1825-1906) and Alexander Lee .  By 1861 Robert was at no. 3 Main Street (close to the Black Bull),  with one blacksmith journeyman John Redpath and apprentice William Clark.  By 1871 there were two new assistants - Robert Jerden and John Cochrane, with Robert now living at 18 Main Street, next door to Andrew Leslie, a prominent draper in the village. Ten years on Robert's son Alexander Lee  had joined the family  business as apprentice blacksmith. The 1905 Valuation Roll showed that Robert, by now 80 years old,  still owned s smithy and yard.

Thomas Sudden   The 1871 Census for 116 Main Street, Earlston, showed Thomas Sudden, blacksmith age 69 born Earlston,  living with  son John Sudden  age 21, a journeyman blacksmith. John died a few years later at the age of 24. In the 1855 Valuation Roll, Thomas Sudden was  listed  as the tenant occupier of a small house and land in Earlston,  but  there was no mention of a smiddy  . so where did he work?  He has not been found as yet in the 1861 Census, or in the 1865 Valuation Roll. Thomas Sudden, blacksmith died in 1876 and was buried in the local  churchyard.

Robert Waldie (1836-1909)  was living at 27 Main Street, Earlston in the 1861 census, with the Valuation Roll of 1865 showing that Margaret Scott (see above) owned the property, By 1871, Robert, aged 35 was living at the former house and smithy of Alexander Scott, but with no resident apprentices or blacksmith for assistance,  Ten years on Robert was a widower, following the death of his wife Jessie Brown.  His only son died in 1878 at the young age of 17.  The 1891 census revealed that Robert had an apprentice Alexander Scott, most likely the grandson of  his namesake, and at some point as journeyman handyman  Alexander  Aitken. 

William and James Wilkie   - again father and son  were part of a  family business of blacksmiths, joined also by other son, Andrew Loch Wilkie. By 1881, James  Wilkie, aged 50 was at the Smiddy on the Green,  employing two men, including his son John.   In May 1902 a local newspaper advertised the sale by public roup (auction)  of the whole stock in trade  of James Wilkie, with the business acquired by  Alexander Aitken (1860-1935) who had worked previously  for Robert Waldie.

 Berwickshire News:  20th May 1902

The Old Smiddy on The Green - early 1900's
 The Old Smiddy Building Today  - 2017 

Brotherstone Family  - in the 1851 census for Earlston Parish, 49 year old Andrew Brotherston (1797-1967), blacksmith  was at Redpath with his wife Jessie and five children - Margaret, John, William, Isabella and young Andrew. Ten years on, he was still at Redpath   where in the census,  he was described as a "master blacksmith employing one apprentice".  Andrew senior died in 1867. His sons John and Andrew Brotherston followed their father's trade and by 1881 were working in the East End, Earlston as "smiths and implement  makers".  An earlier blog post on the family can be found HERE .


Blacksmiths clearly made  a significant contribution to the Earlston economy and formed a close knit community, many  of them moving from one employer to another.   

But key questions remain as  to the precise  location of the 19th century smithys on the Main Street/High Street.  A smithy would need space for forge, bellows, anvil and bench, plus space for storage.  

 Southern Reporter:  16th June 1879

Are there any traces visible today of past smithy activity, apart  from  the current Brotherston business at the East End, and the shell of the Old Smiddy on the Green ?   

House numbering in Earlston was confusing.  It appears from the 1861 census that numbers ran west to east on the north side of Main Street/High Street, but east to west on the south side.  At some point renumbering took place to complicate matters further.

I would be  very interested in finding out more.    Dr. Donald Straughan, March 2017

If you have any further information on blacksmiths in the village, we would be pleased to hear from you and will pass information on to Dr. Straughan.  
Please E-mail:

A "journeyman" is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification in a  trade or craft. He is considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee, no longer bound by indentures.