Historic opening of new bandstand

editorial image

Before a gathering estimated at 600-plus, Provost Stuart Marshall officially dedicated and named the new bandstand in Wilton Lodge Park on Sunday afternoon.

This the first of many major improvements in the park thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery and Scottish Borders Council, was warmly welcomed by townspeople young and
old.

As was proposed many months ago and accepted by the project board, it was named The Elliot Bandstand in memory and honour of the late provost, Zandra Elliot.

The proceedings were brought under way by the gathering of the Saxhorn Band, Drum and Fife Band and Scout Fellowship Pipe Band, each playing their musical contribution.

Invited guests included Anne Deans, Zandra’s sister; former provosts Myra Turnbull, MBE; Tom Hogg and John Ross Scott; and representatives from Future Hawick, Hawick and Burnfoot Community Councils, Heart of Hawick’s Dominic Liptrot, and Dan Lea, of Lost Art, of Wigan, the bandstand contractors; and local councillors.

Ewan Doyle, project board chair, welcoming the guests and members of the public, said: “You can spend money on roads but if there is nothing when you get there, there is no point. Without this investment and driven by the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park volunteer group, these improvements would not have been possible. And this is just the start with work soon on the new cafe and bridge which will greatly enhance the infrastructure of Wilton Lodge Park.”

Started in 2013, brought together was a design team, conservation architects and outside and local contractors for what is a five-year project. The new structure is built on the site of the original bandstand erected in 1894 and removed in 1968.

Mr Doyle paid tribute to the commitment of Gordon Webber, events manager, and Lisa Brydon, volunteer co-ordinator, who have engaged with the community in progressing with the plans.

Performing the dedication of the bandstand name and unveiling the name plaque, Provost Marshall welcomed ex-provosts, Cornet Ross Gibson, councillors and all those associated with the project, saying he was sure the day would be well recorded in the annals of the town’s history.

He continued: “How fortunate we are as a town to have many interesting ceremonies throughout the year but I think that it is fair to say that the opening of a bandstand is somewhat out of the usual course, given the fact it was 121 years ago on May 18, 1894, that Provost Walter Scott Barrie had the privilege of opening the original; and for the record it was on a very cold Saturday afternoon at a cost of £250.

“The one before you today was slightly more expensive at £150,000 but then we in Hawick don’t do anything by half – we don’t settle for half-measures. And for this bandstand to be located within a park that is certainly our jewel in the crown, a park that can boast to having an annual footfall of around 250,000 visitors, then in my mind this magnificent display of public art can only serve to be looked upon, both now and for years to come, as a very valuable asset for our town.”

Mr Marshall went on to convey his thanks and gratitude to Scottish Borders Council official Ewan Doyle, and project manager Scott Castle, of Thomas & Adamson, consultants, Edinburgh, who, along with events manager Mr Webber, richly deserved this town’s thanks for the roles that they have played in providing this outstanding and very attractive feature for the park, and to the Heritage Lottery Fund and SBC for the millions of pounds awarded.

Said Mr Marshall: “I am confident that this bandstand will be a much-loved Hawick landmark, something Teries can be proud of and its construction is a fantastic example of how working in partnership can bring the best out in any project.”

The provost then went on to relate the enthusiasm the late councillor, Zandra Elliot, had for the project, telling the assembled hundreds: “Several years ago when word was being mooted about the possibility of millions of pounds of lottery money being available to Hawick for the sole purpose of regenerating our beloved park, she said to me: ‘Stuart, if this bid is successful then it will be a huge shot in the arm for our town, this kind of money will secure the future of the park for generations to come.’

“How right she was,” said Mr Marshall, who also said Mrs Elliot lived and breathed the whole park regeneration project in the park.

He intimated that already there’s been several enquiries as to when this magnificent structure can be used as a venue for folk in the town to get married.

He continued: “By providing amateur entertainment not only for us here in Hawick but also for the many visitors who flock to our park each year, then I have no doubt that our late ex-provost would be, and rightfully so, extremely proud of having played a huge part in its instigation.”

Mr Marshall then said it gave him great pleasure to officially name and dedicate the magnificent bandstand to a lady who served our town and its community for many years.

The ceremony of cutting the ribbon to officially open the bandstand was performed by the three primary school children who contributed to the design of the weathervane: the winner, Hanna Al Khoury, from Drumlanrig school, Grace Gibb and Evan Rice, also of Drumlanrig (pictured above).

It was revealed that all the musical interludes during the afternoon’s programme were firm favourites with the late Provost Elliot, as was the singing of the Ex-Acting Father Henry Douglas, BEM, who gave a great rendition of ‘I Like Auld Hawick the Best’ that stirred the blood and sent hearts racing of many a Teri that afternoon.

The proceedings were brought to a close with Provost Marshall paying tribute to the music provided by the town’s excellent bands, all three joining for a stirring ‘Highland Cathedral’ and the serene ‘Amazing Grace’, as well as individual contributions.

Special framed medallions were presented to Provost Marshall, Mr Douglas, the primary school pupils, Mrs Deans and the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park.

John Ross Scott (provost 1999-2002), here from his home in Orkney, said: “Hawick is on the rise again. The whole project is so worthwhile and has been a great achievement.”

And another former Hawick provost, Myra Turnbull, who served two four-year terms from 1988, said she was sorry Zandra was not here to see the project come into being and was full of praise for the ceremony and dignified music.

Mrs Deans commented that she was very proud to have been there and she was sure her sister would have approved of everything. “A very fitting dedication,” she added.

Said Bet McLaren, Bill McLaren’s widow: “I am absolutely thrilled with the new bandstand.”

An enthusiastic Madge Elliot added her voice to the many favourable views: “Great, we’ve got a bandstand back, we’re very fortunate. It brings back many happy memories of the original.”

Local historian Ian Landles, BEM: “This is bringing history back to life as well as history in the making,” adding he could well imagine how delighted the townspeople were at the unveiling of the original bandstand, just as how equally delighted they are now.

Scott Castle, project manager for the five-year regeneration, said that it was a “fantastic turnout” for the first of the main projects, and events manager Gordon Webber summed up his views: “I am really pleased with how the afternoon turned out. What makes a day like this special are people, bands and weather.”

Some 500 people turned out to witness the unveiling of the original bandstand in 1894 but, of course, in those Victorian days there were not the many other attractions there are nowadays.

letters, page 14