Review of 2015: March to June

Long-standing rail campaigner Madge Elliot has a locomotive named after her.
Long-standing rail campaigner Madge Elliot has a locomotive named after her.

March

Plans for a caravan park in Hawick are back on the table after renewed interest in the area next to the Walled Garden. A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson confirms that there has been “expressions of interest” in the land identified at Wilton Lodge Park as a proposed touring caravan and camping site.

Scottish Borders Council investigates reports of large numbers of rats at Lochpark Industrial Estate. Several traders and members of the public contact the Hawick News to report sightings of the rodents which it is thought are being fed on a daily basis.

Emtelle is investing millions of pounds at its Haughhead factory to ensure that it remains a world leader in the fibre optics industry. The firm’s Danish chief executive, Mads Hogfeldt, says the cash is being used to buy state-of-the-art equipment, and that the Hawick workforce has expanded by 53 to 190 to keep up with business which is booming.

Reverend Michael Scouler is appointed chief guest at this year’s Common-Riding. His appointment is announced by Provost Stuart Marshall at the Callants’ Club dinner. “This is a huge honour for me,” says Rev. Scouler.

Hawick is set to lose two of its six councillors at the local elections in two years’ time, under proposals by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. The commission is aiming to standardise the number of constituents a councillor represents, and the most dramatic change would see Denholm included in a huge ‘superward’ with Jedburgh and Hermitage which would take in St Boswells, stopping short of Earlston.

Top high school student Iain Rolland is chosen to join an elite group of 100 youngsters at the prestigious Space School at Strathclyde University. The fifth-year pupil vows to “work hard” to finish among the top ten students who will be selected for a seven-day visit to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston in October.

Nine new jobs are created with the opening of a local branch of Store Twenty One, the national clothing and homeware chain. The new shop breathes life into the former Poundstretchers outlet on the High Street.

April

A top police officer tells Burnfoot residents that they have not had the service from Police Scotland that they deserve. Inspector John Scott, addressing a public meeting in Burnfoot aimed at addressing antisocial behaviour on the estate, says; “The fact is that there are times when we are not giving you the level of response you deserve.”

Seventy-year-old councillor, Ron Smith, makes the bold prediction that the railway could return to Hawick in his lifetime. The former depute high school rector was responding to the news that £100,000 will be spent over the next 12 months on a feasibility study to consider the scope for the Borders Railway being extended south.

Police appeal for witnesses following a serious road traffic collision on the A698 near Timpendean which claims the life of 18-year-old Dale Whillans.

Newly-launched charity Avril’s Trust, set up by the family of the late Avril Brown, aims to raise funds and support research into the causes of sudden heart failure.

Councillor Watson McAteer deplores the fact that no arrangements are in place for elderly and vulerable residents without transport to dispose of their garden waste. “I am extremely disappointed that, a year since the green bin collections were withdrawn, nothing appears to have happened,” says the Hawick and Denholm member.

Councillor Stuart Marshall calls for an urgent meeting with roads maintenance bosses to discuss the A7 on the outskirts of Hawick, which he says looks “carpet bombed”. “The road surface between Galalaw and the junction at Synton is a perfect disgrace,” says Mr Marshall.

Townsfolk are warned to prepare for an extra wheelie bin, as Scottish Borders Council introduces a new food waste collection. Households will be required to put any leftover food into a small silver caddy which will be kept in the kitchen – before then emptying it into a large brown bin to be kept outside for weekly collection.

Fourteen new dementia beds are rubber-stamped for Hawick as part of future plans for Deanfield Residential Care Home.

The first of many improvements to Wilton Lodge Park as part of the £3.64million regeneration project sees Provost Stuart Marshall officially dedicate the new £150,000 bandstand. Named in honour of the late provost, Zandra Elliot, the Elliot Bandstand, is a “very valuable asset for our town”, says the provost.

May

The first steps to the revival of the High Street are taken at a town hall meeting, which is described by regeneration group chairman Andrew Farquhar as the start of a “new beginning”. More than 70 people attend the summit, including council officials and local traders. “It’s about people getting together to work together for the future,” says Mr Farquhar.

The SNP’s Calum Kerr sweeps aside half-a-century of Liberalism and the Lib Dems to become Hawick’s new MP.

Twenty-three-year-old Gregor Hepburn says it felt “absolutely amazing” when he accepted the honour of becoming Cornet. Gregor, a veterinary student, first followed Cornet Greg McLeod in 2003. His Lass, Lois McCredie, is a veterinary nurse. Acting Father and Mother are Richie Lynn and Lynne Gilchrist. Richie has his own building firm and Lynne is a faculty head at Borders College.

Hawick Knitwear announces 14 pay-offs – bringing the total laid off at the Liddesdale Road factory in the last eight months to 22. Managing director Benny Hartop highlights “lower levels of demand” for traditional 15-gauge plain lambswool products.

Hornshole and Denholm will form part of the new Jedburgh superward in two years’ time after four of Hawick’s six councillors – Alastair Cranston, Davie Paterson, Ron Smith and George Turnbull – back Scottish Borders Council recommendations. “We are dismayed that the other four councillors did not get behind the call to save Hornshole,” say Councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer.

Crime solvency rates in the Teviot and Liddesdale area drop almost 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

Scottish Borders Council performs a spectacular U-turn which will see Hornshole recommended for inclusion in the new Hawick multi-ward at the next local elections. Councillor Ron Smith emails all 34 SBC councillors asking for their thoughts on “altering the line” to include Hornshole in response to the “controversy in Hawick following the council meeting last Thursday”.

Crumhaugh House is set for a £2million investment which will see 13 long-term mentally ill patients transferred from Galashiels to Hawick. Consultant psychiatrist Cliff Sharp says Crumhaugh House, which has been closed since 2012, will be up and running in the summer of 2016.

June

Veteran rail supporter Madge Elliot’s contribution to the campaign to have the Waverley rail link reopened is marked at an event at Edinburgh’s Waverley station, where she has a locomotive named after her. Mrs Elliot’s elder son, Kim, says; “It’s a fitting tribute to her that the engine carrying her name has been used to build this railway and hopefully many more.”

Footfall on the High Street has fallen by a staggering 61 per cent in the last seven years, according to a report published by Scottish Borders Council. The most startling figures reveal that Hawick had a weekly footfall of 9,680 in 2007, but by 2014 that had slumped to 3,750, which, in itself, was 40 per cent lower than in 2013.

“It’s all going to take a while to sink in, but it has been the best experience of my life,” says Cornet Gregor Hepburn, as the dust settles on yet another triumphant celebration of Hawick Common-Riding.

Councillor George Turnbull is accused of misleading the public over likely boundary changes. And former town councillor Andrew Farquhar calls on Mr Turnbull to consider his position after he claims the latter “misinformed the public . . . that certain decisions had already been made regarding councillor numbers”. Mr Turbull hit back by saying the boundary commission had agreed the reduction of councillors “in principle”.

The Vertish Hill Sports is hailed “a great day” by president Frank Scott, as 330 youngsters take part in the procession.

Two lucky Teries, Kevin Ferguson and Jackie Brand, win golden tickets for one of the first history-making trains which will travel from Tweedbank to Edinburgh later this year.

Talented Hawick actress and former high school pupil, Laurie Coburn, hopes her starring performances in Spring Awakening at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre will set her on the path to London’s West End.

Barrie Knitwear issues a rallying cry to encourage youngsters to be part of the next generation of the trade. Clive Brown, the firm’s sales director, comments: “It’s very important that we push for young people to come into the industry.” Mr Brown was speaking to the Hawick News ahead of the company’s participation in the Stitch in Time Festival at Dumfries House, Ayrshire.