Monday, 13 February 2017

Earlston Blacksmiths

Horses are absolutely necessary in this part of the country, for it is by them the farmers labour their farms and drive their corn to market.  They never work with oxen now as they did formerly" - a quote from "The First Statistical Account of Scotland" written 1791-1799.  

Sixty years on,  the 1851 census for Earlston (including Mellerstain and Redpath) lists 9 men working as  blacksmiths, 7 carters/carriers, 3 saddlers, 2  stable boys, an ostler, a farrier, a groom and a coachman - plus of course all those who would be working  with horses on the many farms in the parish.   

The Old Smiddy on the Green 

One of the most prominent families of blacksmiths in the village   were the Brotherstons who worked in Redpath and Earlston down many generations and still man  the  Smiddy  at the East End today.

In the 1851 census for Earlston Parish, 49 year old Andrew Brotherston, 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.

John and Andrew followed their father in the family business and by 1881 were working in the East End, Earlston as "smiths and implement  makers".

Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of 1882 listed three blacksmith businesses in the village:
John Brotherston - also an agricultural implement maker

Robert Lee  - also an agricultural impement maker and engineer
James Wilkie 

By the time of the 1901 census,  John Brotherston    was  at 119 High Street, with his wife Susan and young son James. John was a prominent member of Earlston Horticultural Society,   with his name featuring often in the local press reports as a prize winner at the annual shows.   

The 1903 Directory for the village showed John and  his brother Andrew As blacksmiths.  John died  two years later in December 1905. 

Continuing the family business in their ancestor's smiddy were John's son,   James,   and grandson John.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Earlston - the first with an aerodrome in 1931

This poster from  local historian, the  late John Weatherly,   is now in the collection of Auld Earlston.  Printed in Galashiels, it appears to be a "shell" poster, with space to fill in the details of date and venue. 

The event promised
"Famous pilots, aerobatics, stunts, looping, rolling, upside down flying,  crazy flying and  walking the wings at 100m.p.h. by Daredevil Draycott - the man who rides the winds" - plus passenger flights from  5 shillings a time.
But where and when  did these events take place. Did you know that Earlston once  had an aerodrome?   A search of local newspapers provided information. 
 "The Scotsman" of 1st August 1931 had a brief item under the headline "Earlston's Aerodrome" - also carried by "The Hawick News & Border Chronicle".

"The Berwickshire News" of 28th July 1931  gave a fuller account, with the revelation that the local firm of Messrs Wm Rodger & Sons owned the plane. 

"Earlston is very fortunate in being the first town in Berwickshire to witness an aeronautic display.  On Monday evening a large number of Earlstonians were entertained to a succession of thrills by the advent of an aeroplane, the property of Messrs W. Rodger  & Sons which gave several aerial exhibitions at a newly constructed aerodrome at Purveshaugh, Earlston.  The enterprising firm is lucky to have secured the services of an skilled aviator and pilot   in the person of Mr J. Hinklin of Hornchurch and late of the Royal Air Force.  They have also secured the services of a competent ground engineer  viz Mr. J. Hellon  of the Scarborough Aero Club.  The pilot gave a thrilling exhibition of  flying in the presence of a crowd of nearly 400 spectators, many of whom were desirous of "getting up".  Messrs Rodgers gave a couple of free flights which were greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  It is understood that operations are to commence immediately".  

The next week's paper of  4th August 1931 noted that
"A considerable number of spectators...visited the Purveshaugh Aerodrome , near Earlston...when about 100 persons of both sexes, mainly young people, booked flights  and were taken up in   Messers Rodgers aeroplane.  The plane had also been in commission the previous evening when 50 passengers went up. All seemed to enjoy the novel and enthralling sensation".
What was the background to this event?
Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first powered flight on December 17th  1903. 

The aeroplane came of age in World War One and tens of thousands were produced in the UK alone. But, despite there being hundreds of sites used by fixed-wing aircraft across the UK, most British people had never been close to an aircraft and it appears that a quite large proportion of the population still hadn't actually seen one.

On 24th July 1924 "The Southern Reporter" thought it noteworthy to write that:  
"Three aeroplanes  passed over the west end of Earlston about 8.30 a.m  but were observed by comparatively few persons.

Following the First World War, experienced fighter pilots were eager to show off their new skills, flying into towns across the country, as well as taking paying passengers for rides. It was men like Alan Cobham who promoted air tours to raise awareness of the importance of aviation. To attract the crowns, he included displays of not just aerobatics, but stunt' flying too.

Not all sections of society were in agreement with his intensive event schedule.   in Berwick, the Lord's Day Observance Society  objected to Commercial Air Displays and Pageants being held on a Sunday - but the council decided to take no action. on the complaint. (Reported in "The Southern Reporter": 3rd December 1931.)

"The Berwickshire News" of August  1932 reflected the interest in this new form of transport with reports~ 

"Considerable interest  was several Earlstonians of the younger generation, especially when one of Messrs Rodger's aeroplanes landed in a field adjacent to the local football pitch owned by Mr Alexander Brownlie, The machine which had just arrived from Blairgowrie after a successful series of fights, under the pilotage of Mr Wells, made  a convenient landing preparatory to being overhauled  for further service.


An optimistic  writer in "The  Berwickshire News" of 9th September 1930 expressed the hope that@
"We must concern ourselves  with the laying out of aerodromes. I thoroughly believe that it will not be long before every town planning scheme will include provision for aeroplane traffic."  

In Britain commercial air travel began with the formation of Imperial Airways in 1924 and developed in the 1930's for those people who could afford it.     A flight from London to Brisbane, Australia, for instance, (the longest route available in 1938) took 11 days and included over two dozen scheduled stops. One advisement boasted "By Air to South Africa or India in less than a week!"

1939 of course changed the face of air travel, as war became the focus.  

Never again was Earlston  to be at the forefront of the aeroplane age in the Borders.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Dr. Young - Serving Earlston for over 50 Years.

John Young was born in the village of  Lilliesleaf in 1859, eldest of eight children of William Young a Minister of the Gospel and his wife Margaret Paulin.

He studied medicine at Glasgow University and in 1883, came to Earlston. 1893 saw his marriage to Miss Margaret Brownlie, whose father gave to them a house "The Thorn" as a wedding present. Medicine regularly interfered with family life - even their wedding was delayed, as Dr. Young was amputating a leg following an accident at Bridgehaugh Mill.

The Earlston practice spread into the Lammermuirs, reached by pony and trap. One of his most demanding patients was Lady John Scott of Spottiswoode, the author of "Annie Laurie". Her opinions on medicine were firmly fixed and Dr. Young said she had not moved far from a belief in witchcraft.

With no guarantee of a settled income, wealthy patients were an important consideration. Many fees were paid in kind such as a gift of a length of tweed, or a tailored suit. 

"The Thorn"  was never without a telephone and night calls meant often rousing a driver. Obstetrics involved lonely visits to remote farm cottages and a surgeon came down from Edinburgh to perform surgery on patients in their own homes. 

                      Dr. Young's home "The Thorn" was at the corner of Thorn Street above. 

The Young's had three children including son William Barrie Young who was killed in a flying accident in 1918, buried with full military honours in Earlston churchyard and remembered on the Earlston War Memorial.

Dr. Young was a colourful character, who was widely remembered for his warm, if sometimes irascible personality. His work was his life and he had few hobbies apart from his horses. 

His sudden death in September 1934 received wide tributes.  

 Headline in "the Southern Reporter": 27th September 1934. 
Local newspaper reported: 
"The death of John Young, Earlston, while on holiday, has  removed from the Border district not only a distinct personality but a typical specimen of the Scottish country doctor." 
  "A pall  of deep gloom spread over Earlston last Thursday, when it became known that Dr John Young, The Thorn, had died suddenly, after only few days’ illness".
 The Scotsman newspaper in an obituary paid tribute to his character and dedication.

Dr. Young was buried next to his son, in the graveyard at Earlston Parish Church.  He  was the first doctor in Earlston for whom a memorial (other than a tombstone) was erected - a drinking fountain on the wall of his former home.  

                      With acknowledgement to "Three Centuries of Earlston Doctors"
                                                      by Dr. John Burns. 


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Greetings from Earlston

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 

To All Our Blog Readers  

A charming Christmas card 
from  the collection of  local historian - the late John Weatherly 



Photographs of Earlston Christmas Lights

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Earlston on the Dance Floor

   Dances were a regular feature of social life in Earlston.

Here are just a few of the accounts found in the local press from the past, featuring the Earlston Jazz Band, the Earlston Rhythm Band, an Ankle Competition and a "Spectacular Rumba Competition."   Read on!

Bachelors Ball: 25th January 1921  
"A dance organised by the Bachelors of Earlston was held on Friday evening in the Corn Exchange when over 50 couples were present. The hall was beautifully decorated and made an artistic spectacle. Excellent music was provided by the Galashiels Town Band and Messrs Henry Wallace and Robert Murdison undertook efficiently the duties of MC. The dance was continued until the early hours of the morning and was pronounced one of the most enjoyable held in times past."

Flannel Dance: 17th June 1922 

Earlston Jazz Band - 3rd January 1924  

"The Earlston Lawn Tennis Club gave a dance on Wednesday evening last in the Corn Exchange, for the purpose of augmenting the club funds. About 30 couples were present. The music was performed by Earlston Jazz Band, and Mr. Wm Rodger was M.C."

Rhymers Dance Band: 3rd October 1929

"A group of local musicians who formed themselves
into a dance band, known as the Rhymers Dance Band, gave their initial performance gratuitously on Friday night in the Corn Exchange..... Names of performers were C. Taylor, A. Stafford, D. McAndrew, J. Rankine, J. Stafford, and G. Creighton....As the dance provided such success, it was agreed to hold it annually."

New Year Dance: 10th January 1935

"1935 was ushered in in Earlston by a brief dance in the Corn Exchange under the auspices of the local Golf Club, the music being provided by the "Revellers" from Selkirk. Although the hall was crowded, the dance was very orderly , considering t he festive nature of the occasion. When the hour of midnight struck on the town clock, the company dispersed after exchanging New Year's greetings. A great deal of first footing seems to have taken place for bands of young people of both sexes were to be heard for several hours parading the streets in a more or less hilarious manner, though not necessarily in a state of inebriety."

Spectacular Rumba Competition: 24th March 1938

Anyone who follows TV's "Strictly Come Dancing" will know that the Rumba is a slow, sensuous dance! 

Dance And Ankle Competition: 24th May 1945
"Through the kindness of the following Earlston ladies Mrs Jas. Mitchell, Mrs Geo. Kerr, Mrs McQuillin and Mrs J. Amos, a very successful dance and ankle competition was held in the Corn Exchange. The music was supplied by Mrs Anderson's Band from Lauder judges for the ankle competition were: Dr. and Mrs Campbell and Mr and Mrs Wm. Hogg, Clackmae. who made the awards as follows: 1 - Mrs P. Johnstone, 2 - Miss J. Allan, 3 - Miss N. Bell. The sum of £34.11s 9d. was raised for the Earlston "Welcome Home" Fund which reflects great credit on the lady organisers. Thanks are also due to the Polish Soldiers who decorated the hall."

Taking a break from the dance floor

Victory Dance: 23d August 1945 

                                                     The Polish  Dance Band

And finally the only photograph we have in the Auld Earlston Collection of people actually dancing - the Auld Earlston Group would be delighted to receive other pictures.

Tennis Club Dance, 1959