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.



Monday, 8 July 2019

Early Cable TV in Earlston

Does anyone have memories of  the early cable (relay) TV in Earlston?

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s, television was in its infancy, at least for Earlston. Nestling in the valleys of the Leader and Turfford rivers, reception was very poor and with limited channels.

A local entrepreneur called Clinkscale, came up with a plan to solve Earlston’s TV viewing publics’ woes.

He erected a domestic TV aerial on the summit of the Black Hill. Then he led a buried co-axial aerial cable down to the village and then to the houses of all his subscribers.

Everyone called it “the relay” but it was in effect very early cable television.

It had its problems of course. Ploughing time usually saw the cable cut in two and we had to wait for repairs.

Clinkscale had a shop where the Chinese Take-Away is now. In addition to paying your subscription, you could buy there TV’s, records and musical instruments.

In 1963 the BBC started transmitting via the Ashkirk transmitter tower near Selkirk and so “the relay” became redundant. 

Eventually the Clinkscale shop in Earlston  closed and moved to Melrose into the shop in the square, now occupied by  Abbey Fine Wines.  By this time, it sold exclusively musical instruments.  The business now is an Internet one only, with no retail premises, but still run by a family member – Steve Clinkscale.

The only reminder of the original cable TV in Earlston is the presence of the steel posts on the Black Hill.

 The Black Hill, Earlston


With thanks to Jeff Price of the Auld Earlston Group , 
for researching and writing this article. 

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