Town twinning on brink

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HAWICK’S twinning relationship with Bailleul is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of interest in the town.

That was the grim truth relayed to councillors at a meeting of Teviot and Liddesdale Area Committee this week, where it was heard that after four decades the bond with the French town has almost disappeared.

Kirsty James, a stalwart of Hawick Town Twinning Association, was invited along to discuss concerns which had been raised by Councillor Ron Smith, and revealing the reality of the situation, she stated: “The last thing we want to do is severe the link with Bailleul, but we are at a point where we don’t know what to do.”

Over the years hundreds of Teries – including pupils, pipers and rugby players – have participated in exchange trips, but Miss James says since the high school stopped visiting the town, it has been increasingly difficult to attract a new generation.

She explained: “For the last five or six years it has been difficult to get hosts, and last year we only had five people willing to go over there for a visit, so it had to be cancelled. As a charity our funds are depleted, and we’ve even tried an advertising campaign and organised a public meeting to attract people and especially youths, so it’s not for a lack of trying.”

Kirsty, whose family have been instrumental in the group, added: “For my family the relationship with Bailleul is important and we have a lot of friends there, but we can’t make people go. It is disheartening, but maybe things have moved on and young people want to go elsewhere, and without an injection of money or a miracle, things are maybe coming to a natural end.”

Councillor Ron Smith commented: “We could look at other potential twin towns, but I don’t know if that would be the right direction.

“The big problem is whether there is a commitment in this town to a twinning relationship with Bailleul. I am hugely behind the merits of these cultural exchanges, but Hawick doesn’t seem to have the buy-in nowadays. It needs the whole-hearted commitment of the town.”

The plight of the association will be raised at the next meeting of Hawick Community Council, and also with the high school’s parent council.