Monday, February 16, 2015

Beggars, Thieves and Whores - Talk on Sunday 22 February at Melrose

She has told us about witches and the Black Death in the Borders

Now she’s talking about beggars, thieves and whores. 

Mary Craig’s style is very lively and entertaining and Mary is going to talk about the lives and deaths of these, the ultimate medieval outsiders in the rural Scottish Borders of the 13th and 14th century. 

How did they survive in a highly class-structured and religious society ? 

What happened to them when living conditions worsened ? 

That talk is this Sunday, 22 February at the Corn Exchange and Ormiston Institute, Market Square, Melrose, TD6 9PN. Map.

I’m expecting this to be a very interesting talk and very popular; so come early to get a good seat. I warmly invite you to attend the talk whether you are a member or not. 

Doors open at 2pm; the talk begins at 2.30pm. 
We'll have a range of family history publications available to buy, and there’ll be light refreshments (donation expected) available after the talk. 

If you have a problem with your family history, please discuss it with one of our volunteers.

Speakers at meetings occasionally need to be changed at the last minute, due to circumstances beyond our control.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Quite Remarkable Man - the Life of Patrick Brydone and His Family (1736-1818)

This is a review of A Quite Remarkable Man - the Life of Patrick Brydone and His Family (1736-1818)’ by John Evans. Hardback. 384 pp. Published by Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, England at £20 (now £18). ISBN 978 1 4456 3890 4.

Patrick Brydone was born at Coldingham on 5 January 1736 to Rev Robert Brydone and Elizabeth Dysart, married Mary Robertson on 4 April 1785 and died 19 June 1818. 

Sir Walter Scott described him as our pilgrim and as "My venerable friend". 

He experimented with electric shock therapy on willing patients; as an army officer, he saw action in France, Portugal and Spain during the Seven Years' War; a tutor in Europe to William Beckford, owner of a large Jamaican sugar estate; author of A Tour through Sicily and Malta - 6,750 copies sold in under 4 years; visited France, Switzerland, Bavaria, Prussia and several other German territories, Austria, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and became comptroller-general of the London Stamp Office. 

He was obviously a scientist, explorer and a diplomat, so he clearly was a remarkable man. 

There's lots of interesting detail about Italy and Russia but rather less about other countries. Everywhere he seems to have met important people, however there are also anecdotes about peasants and more mundane events. I was interested to learn that miners at a copper and silver mine in Spania Dolina (now in Slovakia) in April 1776 received 12 kreuzers  (about 2½p) for an 8 hour day.

His daughter, Mary, married the Hon. Gilbert Elliot, eldest son of the first Baron Minto, the other 2 daughters married an admiral and a minister. There's some bits about life in the Scottish Borders and other parts of Scotland.  The notes to the book have more detail, there's a bibliography, and an index, mainly of people.

It took me a long time to read this book because, at 384 pages, it is a very long book and rather an academic book. Unlike most academic tomes, it is thoroughly interesting, lots of anecdotes about the celebrities of the day, pastiches about life in all the countries he visited, and helped me to understand events in Britain and Europe during the 17th century. There are lots of illustrations, too.

Today, we're quite used to people going off on holiday all over the world but that wasn't common except for the wealthy in the 18th century. Patrick Brydone not only visited more than 15 countries by travelling thousands of miles in horse-drawn carriages but found time to shape government policy and write about some of his travels.

As I hope the above shows, this book is well worth reading and if I had to find a criticism, it is that I would have liked a sort of "dramatis personae" so that I be reminded at a glance who somebody was when I encountered the name later on in the book. Not only was this book very interesting but it's inspired me to read Brydone's book 'A Tour through Sicily and Malta' which I've discovered is free on the web.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Freight Train to Kelso - Information Wanted

Some years ago, I gave a talk to Borders Family History Society about the Waverley Route.

My interest in Border railways hasn't diminished and I've watched original photographs of locations sell for jaw-dropping prices on an internet auction site. Sadly, these historic shots seem to disappear into a black hole never to appear again.

Recently, there was a negative of Kelso station. The description said it was part of a collection; I suspected that in the normal course of events the usual bidders would win and the collection disappear.

I contacted the vendor and after some to-ing and fro-ing of emails, agreed on a price and I went to pick up the collection. After blethering for a while, he told me to take away a sports bag containing not just the negatives but some 25 reels of ciné film. For all the world, the 'collection' has the hallmarks of a house clearance.

It was, and still is, my intention to make sure that the railway negatives will be available to view once they are scanned and locations identified properly; some 70 of them are easily identified as taken around Kelso station.

I have no facility to watch 8mm ciné, however a friend produced a viewer which was hand-powered. One of the films was, intriguingly, labelled, 'St Boswells – Kelso – Tweedmouth' - a prime candidate for watching. Part of the way through the film were shots of the last freight train to Kelso in 1968. I had had permission to travel on it, and there, on the flickering ciné was a glimpse of me!

Although it was almost 50 years ago, I can recall quite clearly a gent waiting the arrival of the last freight. He had a couple of cameras and I think, perhaps, he was wearing a brown warehousecoat. On speaking to him, he said that he worked at the foundry.

From the locations, many taken between Kelso and Sprouston, and from the subjects of the negatives, I would hazard a guess that he lived and probably worked not far from the station.

However, not only is there 8mm ciné but also 9.5mm ciné. I have only looked at the white lead-in for clues; there are obviously several reels of Kelso and one of a foundry. I would guess a date around late 1960s. I'm hesitant at watching the other reels as I could damage the ciné.

One of the reel containers has “D W K C C” on it could this be DWK and Ciné Club ?

Can you suggest a name for a pretty prolific ciné enthusiast from Kelso and who possibly worked at the foundry? I'd like to make contact with any family members.

By Bruce McCartney

Just to clarify matters, the picture shown above was taken by Bruce and appears here with his permission.

Responses below, please, or via our Contacts page (choosing Contact the Chairman).