Wednesday, 21 August 2019

How Earlston got its Name

An article "The Southern Reporter"  : 17 December 1896 highlighted Earlston's  place in Scottish history.
"Earlston appears to have been a place of considerable importance during the early years of Scottish History. It was frequently, indeed, a royal residence.
During a visit in June 1136, David I subscribed there the foundation charter of Melrose Abbey, and in 1143 his son, Prince Henry, subscribed, also “at Ercheldu” the confirmatory charter of the same abbey. Among local barons the family of Lindsay held at first the chief position. Then the Earls of March and Dunbar come upon the scene, and remain for some time the real owners and lords of Ercildoune.
But they in turn pass away, and so now, of the very extensive territory in Lauderdale and the Merse formerly belonging to this old Border house, not a single acre is held by  an immediate representative of the family.
In the village of Ercildoune, at the east end, they had a stronghold for long known as the Earl’s Tower, but now demolished, and a group of buildings close at hand, probably remnants of feudal residences, was called Earl's Toun.
From this circumstance the original name of Ercildoune or Ercheldun (look-out or prospect hill) gradually blended into the growing Earl’s Toun, which modern usage has transformed into one word - Earlston. "

 One of the oldest images of Earlston in a sketch of the High Street
 with the distinctive building of the old Courtroom.

With thanks to Jeff Price of the Auld Earlston Group for spotting this article.


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Isaac Wallace - from Earlston to Australia.

Scottish history is full of men and women who  stepped into the unknown by leaving their homeland behind and emigrating to far flung places.  Many of them might not be familiar names, yet they made their mark abroad, but never forgot where they had come from. They also demonstrated a sense of entrepreneurship, community involvement,  and a strong belief in their Presbyterian faith.

One such man was Isaac Wallace of Earlston (1841-1921),   who emigrated to Victoria, Australia,   where  he named his new home "Earlston", set up a butter factory, and involved himself in community affairs, both in Australia, but also on a return visit to Earlston towards the end of his life.

His Early Life
Isaac was the eldest of eight children,  born to master joiner, John Wallace and Martha, nee Brown.  His sister was Isabella Wallace. who later became known as "Earlston's friend and benefactor", with two memorial plaques around the village.

In the 1851 census, ten year old Isaac was the eldest child, with siblings John,  Mary, Robert and Hannah.  Ten years on  saw the family at No. 7 New Street (Thorn Street);  John was by this time a master joiner employing three apprentices and with four more children listed on the census entry -  Janet,  Isabella, George and Francis - but no Isaac.

An Australian Journey 
For Isaac, a 19 year old, farm  servant who could read and write, had set sail in 1859  for Launceston,  Tasmania,  aboard the ship "The  Broomielaw". 

From Tasmania, Isaac moved to the Victorian goldfields, where in 1862 he married Mary Hogarth who had emigrated with her parents from Lauder - a further  link with the Borders. 

Isaac and Mary moved to Glenlyon, near Daylesford, Isaac was a good horseman and with a number of wagons, each carrying about a ton, he carted supplies to the store keepers on the gold fields. In the next thirteen years seven children were born -  John 1862, Agnes 1864, Martha 1866, Robert 1868, Mary 1870, Frank 1872 and young Isaac 1875

Isaac Wallace's Family c.1875
Mary, Martha, John, Robert, his wife Mary with baby Isaac, 
 Earlston born Isaac, wth toddler Frank and Agnes

Isaac's wife Mary died in 1876 at the young age of 36, having borne seven children in thirteen years.    

A  year later Isaac married again - his wife, Nicholes Brown nee Rogerson, a widow with four sons. A daughter Elizabeth was born to the marriage.   Together with the twelve children, they moved to  Isaac's land allocation of 320 acres, naming it Earlston.  It was situated in  Violet Town, in the shire of Strathbogie, 108 miles north of Melbourne. Maintaining the floral theme, Violet Town's  streets were named Cowslip,Tulip, Orchard, Rose, Lily and Hyacinth. 

It was the discovery of gold in the north east of Victoria which led to large numbers of itinerant  prospectors passing through the area  and the village grew. Violet Town grew with the  railway arriving in 1873.  and had three hotels, a Wesleyan school. a bakery,  tradesmen and land developers. 

Isaac's New Business Venture
Isaac,  noticing the swing to dairy-farming,  purchased Brown's unused flour mill and dwelling in Tulip Street in February 1891, and converted the building  into a butter factory  -  the first such creamery  in the area. His son Robert, Uncle Jim, and Harry Grogan built three houses for his workmen, whilst eldest  son, John managed Isaac's other properties at Earlston. 

Creameries were  largely built by farmers in a locality where they could take their milk in a horse and cart and meet up with each other while the cream was separated from their milk and they could then take the skim milk home to feed calves and pigs while the cream was made into butter - the beginning of dairy co-operatives in Australia.

Isaac's venture flourished at first and he was greeted as a benefactor of both the town and countryside; He was inundated by demands for Violet Butter, of which he initially produced a ton a week at top prices, and expanded the machinery to meet the demand.

But success was short lived.  The railway vans carrying butter to market needed ice for the journey, so the citizens of nearby Euroa built a butter factory and ice works.  Euroa became the dominant factory in the area and it became harder for Isaac to maintain milk supply.  Circumstances were against him  with a number of wet years, followed by severe drought (1896-1903), and an  outbreak of diphtheria halting milk supplies.  Times were hard for the farmers, with many selling their dairy herds and moving to sheep farming and wool production, with  its lower labour costs. 

Isaac's creamery amalgamated with  the Australian Producers and Traders Company, but was wound up in 1906. 

                                           Mill House, Violet Town c.2015

A Community-Minded Man

Isaac involved himself  in his  community , becoming a Justice of the Peace and  was appointed a Magistrate in 1886, sitting on the bench at Violet Town.  

An active member of the Presbyterian Church, services at Earlston were held in his home from 1887.  Isaac was on the  Board of Management of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, built in 1893 and his son Frank's wedding was the first to be held in the new church.

Isaac was president of the Mechanics Institute in the 1890’s and a member of the Progress Association when the Shire of Violet Town was formed in 1895 – he stood for council but wasn’t elected - his known independence of mind may have cost him  a seat. He was also a patron and a vice-president of the new football club in 1896.

Family Life
Isaac's second wife, Nicholes died on the 19th January 1907, aged 73 years, and was buried in the Violet Town cemetery. She had made each of her daughters-in-law a quilt.  One such quilt was passed down the family  and donated to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.

In 1910 Isaac married Bertha Thompson (1884-1969) and they had a daughter, Ruth.

A Return to his  Homeland
Shortly after the death of his second wife, Isaac left  Melbourne aboard "The Runlic" in late March 1907 on a trip to the old country. 

A  news snippet was traced in "The Southern Reporter" of 20th August 1908 which reported under the Earlston District News:
"Golf:   The final tie for the Silver Challenge Cup, presented by Mr Isaac Wallace, Australia, an old Earlstonian,  was p/ayed on Wednesday afternoon."
"The Berwickshire News" of 4th May 1909 reported on a Parish Council meeting at which the provision of seats in the village was discussed. 

"It was agreed that nine of these seats should be provided at a cost of 9 shillings and 3 pence each.  The Rev. W. S. Crockett, Minister of Tweedsmuir [also an Earlstonian], and Mr Isaac Wallace, Australia  agreed to defray the expenses of one each and these to be placed in the West Green." 
A group photograph taken on Isaac's return to Earlston
He is thought to be the tall figure on the left of the back row,
with his brothers, John,  Robert & George and sister Isabella.

Isaac's Continued Interest in Politics
Australia did  not  use conscription during the First World War, but with the large number of casualties and difficulties getting volunteers to enlist, a plebiscite was called to gauge the public’s thoughts on compulsory overseas military service. A furious debate ensued during 1916 and the plebiscite was narrowly defeated in October.

 A report of a meeting at Violet Town appeared in the Euroa Advertiser on Friday the 30th March 1917, when
Mr. W. Lane, J.P, in an appropriate speech, moved the following resolution:
“That this meeting of the residents of Violet Town and district, realising the present situation of the war as being serious, and that the number of recruits is far below what is required urges that every eligible man should volunteer, and thus prove to the brave lads who are now risking their lives for the welfare of the Empire that we will do our utmost to supply the necessary reinforcements until peace is proclaimed.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Isaac Wallace, J.P., who was accorded hearty rounds of applause when he vigorously declared:
That although he was now an old man, if they would take him he was prepared to go. As it was, he was well represented at the war, having five grandsons and six nephews in the ranks, three of whom had paid the price.

The motion was carried enthusiastically, complimentary votes to speakers, singers, and chairman bringing a highly successful meeting to a close”.

Isaac died on the 22nd February 1921, aged 80, and was buried with his second wife, Nicholes  in Violet Town cemetery.  His estate, real and personal, was valued at 7,291 pounds, 13 shillings and 5 pence (£211, 880 in British money) and included Mill House on one acre in Violet Town and approx. 947 acres at Earlston. 

 Isaac and Nicholes Gravestone in Violet Town Cemetery


With grateful thanks to Garth Grogan, descendant of Isaac Wallace, through his daughter Mary, for this detailed account of Isaac's life. 


In case you missed earlier posts:  Isaac's Earlston family links are told below:

Other Earlston emigrants,  who made their mark in their new ,  feature on the Auld Earlston blog:

  • John Redpath (1796-1869), stone mason,  who emigrated to Monreal, Canada in 1816.  He opened the first sugar factory in Canada and gained a reputation as an  industrialist and philanthropist,  who donated to Earlston the clock above the Corn Exchange.  Two blog posts HERE and HERE.
  • Robert Carter (1807-1889) was a self-taught man, who after a hard  childhood,  became a teacher and emigrated to New York in 1831.  There he established a bookshop and publishing business,  in a life  based on Christian principle.   He  made regular visits back to Earlston with his family. Two blog posts HERE and HERE.

Monday, 29 July 2019

How the Telephone came to Earlston

In 1878 The Telephone Company Ltd, was set up in London to exploit Alexander Graham's Bell patent - called at one time "a mechanical  acoustic  device".  Few statistics exist on subscribers in the early years.  Glasgow and Edinburgh opened small exchanges in 1879 and six years later Glasgow had 1300 subscribers and Edinburgh 400.

In rural areas at least until the 1920's subscribers were connected by manual exchanges by a telephone operator. 

How did Earlston take to this new technology?  
Trade directories and advertisements which quoted a telephone number give us an indication on who was at  the forefront of  introducing telephones into their business. 

The 1903 Directory had no Earlston businesses listed with a telephone number but Miss Isabella Aitchison was noted as being in charge at the Telephone Call Office.  

In 1915 and 1921 trade directories only Simpson & Fairbairn was listed with the No. 4 

Rhymer's Mill - early 1900s 

By 1928 more businesses had taken up the communication tool   as listed in advertisement in  a 1920's Earlston Guide book and listings in trade directories:
Tel. No.  4  - Simpson and Fairbairn,  Rhymers Mill 
Tel. No.  5 -  A. & R. Brownlie, Timber Merchants
Tel. No.  7  - T. Weatherly. Stationers and Post Office 

Tel. No.  9  - Donaldson. Butchers 
Tel. No. 11 - Rutherford, Grocer
Tel. No. 12 - Rutherford & Sons, Agricultural Engineers 
Tel. No. 13 - Readman, Motor Engineer
Tel. No. 14 - David Wallace, Tailor and Clothier 
Tel. No. 15 - Dr. Young, Medical Officer 

Dr. Young who served Earlston as a doctor  from 1893-1934.

Tel. No. 18 - Rodger, Builders
Tel No.  19 - Red Lion Hotel 
Tel. No. 20 - Willie Park, Grocer 
Tel. No. 27 - Mrs Alan, Georgefield.
Tel. No. 28 - Black Bull Inn

How times have changed, to when we cannot imagine our lives today
without a telephone, whether for business or personal use! 


Sunday, 21 July 2019

A History of Earlston's Clock

How often have you looked up  to check the time on  the clock above the Corn Exchange in the Market Square?   

Have you ever wondered how the clock came to be there? 

Its history stems back to Earlston-born John Redpath (1796-1869)  who emigrated to Canada, became a noted industrialist and philanthropist,  but never forgot his birthplace. 

Jeff Price of the Auld Earlston Group has looked  at the background to  John Redpath's early life in a story that spanned: The Lowland Clearances, The Battle of Waterloo and Sugar.
Scotland's Agricultural Revolution
The Scottish agricultural revolution started in the early 1700s. In 1723 a group of landowners,  300 strong,  formed the Society of Improvers. The aim was to modernise farming techniques thereby improving productivity. It is undoubted that the improvements were successful, with Scottish agriculture progressing from one of the least to the most modern and productive in Europe. 

But this advance was at a terrible human cost. Thousands of tenant farmers, farm servants and cottars and their families were driven from the land to be replaced by sheep. Many would seek work in cities, while others would migrate to the Americas. Small wonder then that the “Improvements” were to become known as the Lowland Clearances.

It was into this state of affairs that Peter Redpath was born in 1741. His parents, John Redpath and Mary (nee Johnston) lived in Duns. Peter was employed as a farm servant when he met and married Helen Melros(s). We know that the couple had three children (it was not until 1855 that births, marriages and deaths were required to be registered). Their eldest son, Robert, was baptised in 1775, his brother James in 1784 and daughter, Elspeth was baptised on June 5, 1789. Their mother, Helen, died on September 29, 1786, and it is possible that she died in childbirth or as a result of complications arising from the birth of Elspeth.

Peter remarried in 1791 to Elizabeth Pringle. Together they had three children, George (his baptism was unregistered), John (baptised in 1796) and sister Ellen (1801). 

Like his father Peter, John faced an uncertain future in farming until his mother intervened. From the available information, Elizabeth had a relative, Margaret, who, in 1810, married George Drummond, an Edinburgh building contractor.

Elizabeth persuaded her relative and her husband to offer John an apprenticeship as a stone mason. John left his home near Earlston and went to live with his new family in Jamaica Street in Edinburgh.

The opportunity provided John with the possibility of a more secure future than agriculture could offer.

The Return of Demobbed Soldiers after the Battle of Waterloo
However, in 1815, as John finished his apprenticeship, the Battle of Waterloo signalled the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Tens of thousands of demobilised soldiers returned to Great Britain, driving unemployment up and wages down. By 1816, faced with further uncertainty, John elected to migrate to Canada in the hope of a better future. He was to be richly rewarded. 

Life in Canada
In 1818 John married Janet McPhee a native of Glengarry in Ontario. By the early 1820s John, now living in Montreal and with business partner Thomas McKay, won a significant contract to supply stone for the new Notre-Dame Church and the Lachine Canal. These and other contracts established John’s reputation.

In 1834 Janet Redpath died from cholera. John remarried the following year, to Jane Drummond, George and Margaret Drummond’s second eldest daughter, whom he knew from his apprentice days at the family home.

The Impact of a Move into Sugar 

John would have remained one of Montreal’s successful building contractors,  had he not decided to construct the first sugar refinery in the Province of Canada. Sugar refining went on to  establish him as a major businessman and philanthropist. 

                                          John Redpath's Sugar Refinery

By 1854, John invited his brother-in-law, George Alexander Drummond, to Montreal to manage the technical side of the sugar refinery. George would go on to become an industrialist, financier and senator.

Back in Earlston - the Building of the Corn Exchange.

 In 1868, it was announced in "The Southern Reporter":28th May 1868, that a new building which  became known as the Corn Exchange,   was to be erected in Earlston on the north side of the Market Place adjoining the Reading Room.  It  would consist of shops along the front elevation with rooms above. The rooms could be used for apartments or business rooms. Behind the Corn Exchange, a Public Hall would be built. The hall would be sixty feet long, thirty-two feet wide and twenty-two feet high.  

 The masonry work was let to Messers Rodger's & Son,  the joinery work to Mr John Wallace and the slating and plumbing work to Mr Murdison -  all Earlston firms. The plasterwork was let to Mr John Johnstone of Gattonside, and the overall inspector of the works was Mr Herbertson, a Galashiels-based builder.

The newspaper noted "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]

Work commenced in June 1868 and was completed by December of the same year

Earlston Market Square with the clock and tower on the Corn Exchange. On  the right of the photograph is the Waterloo Memorial (a drinking trough for horses), to be replaced by the War Memorial in 1921.

John Redpath's Visit to his Birthplace  
The following year, John Redpath returned to Earlston on  his last visit to Scotland.  He offered to finance the building of a spire complete with a clock to be installed on the new Corn Exchange.  A plaque, mounted on the chassis of the clock mechanism, reads:

“The gift of John Redpath Esq. Montreal
To his Native Town of Earlstoun. A.D. 1869” 

 The Plaque mounted on the clock mechanism

John Redpath did an immense amount of philanthropic work in Canada, but it is only in Earlston that there is an hourly reminder of that good work

  • The Lowland Clearances, by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell. 
  • Gentleman of Substance:  The Life and Legacy of John Redpath (1796-1869) by Richard Feltoe.   Natural Heritage, Toronto. 
  • Redpath:  The History of a Sugar House.  Natural Heritage, Toronto. 1991.
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography Volume I.
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography Volume XIII.
  • Scottish Agriculture Revolution - Wikipedia. 
  • The Southern Reporter newspaper.
  • National Archives Currency Converter. 

In Case You Missed:
An earlier blog post from 2016 focused on the life in Canada of John Redpath. 
Read it HERE.