AN important part of Hawick’s history has been commemorated with the unveiling of an information board by the 1514 Club at the old curling pond at St Leonards.
The area, which was referred to as ‘Hawick Moss’, provided the people of the town with essential fuel for centuries, but by the second half of the 19th century it had acquired another purpose as a curling pond.
Hawick Curling Club moved to the site at St Leonards in 1866 and it became the official rink until 1890 when a new pond at Crowbyres was opened.
Local historian Ian Landles, who conducted the official unveiling ceremony, said: “Though curling stopped, skating continued to be popular for the next two or three generations and whenever the pond froze over, which it did far more regularly with the harsher winters of yesteryear, folk would flock here.
“The really bad winter of 1947 saw it particularly well used and then again in the severe winter of 1963 and in those days, when there were fewer politically-correct health and safety regulations, the old pond remained popular for skating until the mid-1960s.”
The photograph on the board shows the cottage, which was associated with one particular family – the Jollys. Mr Landles added: “Tom and Annie Jolly lived there for a long number of years and Annie provided cups of tea and Oxo for the skaters who would sit on the window sill of the cottage to drink them.”
In 1937 it was Ellen and her cousin Audrey who planted what’s come to be called the Jolly Tree, a Norway Spruce, along with the adjacent Rowan Tree.
Although the cottage was knocked down in the mid-1960s, a group of Westenders made sure the trees didn’t suffer the same fate.
Known as the Ponderosa Men – which included Pat McDonald, Paddy Valentine, Frankie ‘Dodo’ Bell, Jackie Robertson, Pimpo Anderson, Jake Short, Jimmy Dickey and Jim Matthews to name a few – they walked the same route every night, up the Nipknowes, past both Moor gates to the corner of Pilmuir field, round by Williestruther, on the lighter nights over the Vertish and on darker nights back down the Nipknowes.
Mr Landles explained: “When it was a walker’s birthday he had to have left a bottle tucked behind the Jolly Tree so that the occasion could be suitably celebrated.
“And it was the Ponderosa Men who stopped the forresters felling the Jolly Tree when all the trees around the pond were being cut down.
“They rescued it in the nick of time just as it was about to be felled, staving off the terrible disaster of not having their bit for the birthday drink to be hidden.”
Officially unveiled by Ellen Trotter (nee Jolly), the 1514 Club initiative was the brainchild of past-president Frank Scott and current president Dougie Rae.