Heartache for many, but pride in town’s effort

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When the police knocked on Ronnie and Joan Hamilton’s door in the early hours of last Saturday morning, the former Pringle frameworker who has lived at Mansfield Gardens for the last 30 years, feared the worst.

Police were advising residents to move their vehicles to higher ground and also informed locals to prepare for evacuation.

And as the River Teviot rose, so did Mr Hamilton’s concerns that for the second time in ten years he was about to be hit by another devastating flood.

Speaking in the aftermath of the weekend’s flood, Ronnie, who is currently living with his brother and is hoping to return to his home in the new year, said: “Joan is coping with this better than I am. I am on medication from the doctor for anxiety. It has been really worrying again.

“This has not been as bad as it was in 2005. We haven’t lost as much and we will be able to replace carpets. I am not entitled to any financial assistance and I will not be claiming from my insurance. The excess is £2,000.

“We will get back to normal in the new year. We are staying with my brother at the moment. Things could have been a lot worse.”

Mr Hamilton praised the efforts of the flood group, saying: “Stuart Marshall and his group have been fantastic. I can’t thank them enough.”

In an ironic twist local flood group member Marion Chrystie, who had been manning the phone at the group’s bunker at the Leisure Centre had to leave to return to her Victoria Road shop as the flood waters rose.

Marion told the Hawick News this week: “We were well prepared with sandbags and a polyurethane membrane which worked very well.

“We had all of our furniture on stilts and pallets. A community spirit as big as its heart.

“This weekend saw some amazing stories during and following the aftermath of the flooding.

“Chrysties Furnishing Centre managed to keep the flood water out, but manpower was needed to get the business up and running. An appeal went out and without hesitation the support arrived from Hawick rugby football squad ...what a team ...good on the pitch and off! Many staff members on their day off! Many friends! And above all, former staff also came to help. It simply couldn’t have got any better. But it did. The rugby boys then moved on to help others they were on a mission as did others groups and individuals. This was the pattern of community spirit throughout the town.

“The Hawick Flood Group were amazing they carried out so many amazing tasks, too numerous to mention, over a prolonged period of time.

“It was very well done. I am proud to be part of this group and I would like to offer a personal thank you so much for their support.”

Sheena and John Gillespie are still assessing the scale of damage after the house they were staying in was engulfed.

They were renting the property in the town’s Commercial Road while their own home is being renovated. Much of their belongings were packed away in boxes.

Mrs Gillespie said: “When we got the flood warning we started moving stuff upstairs. About teatime the river came right over the wall and flooded the road. The next time we looked it was half-way across the car park.

“We were still desperately trying to move as much stuff as we could. Then it just started pouring in the door.

“We had to go upstairs. The electricity went off and the burglar alarm started beeping. We just had to stay in the bedroom, but we had candles.

“The water came up to the fourth step on the stairs. It was above the radiators and the sofa was floating about in it.

“The water was all black. I can’t say how horrible it is – it’s absolutely disgusting, like a silt or sludge. Downstairs is completely ruined.”

And not only did Hawick’s volunteering and all-hands-to-the-pump mentality shine brightly at the weekend, the charitable efforts mounted since have been remarkable.

Provost Stuart Marshall says he’s been inundated with donations of cash and pledges of financial help for his flood group.

Mr Marshall said: “It was heartwarming enough to see folk phoning up at the weekend offering food and accommodation to those in need.

“We also had donations of food delivered to the bunker at Teviotdale Leisure Centre which was welcomed by everyone.”

Mr Marshall added: “The weekend storm and flood has taken its toll on the group’s headquarters which is a portakabin to the rear of the leisure centre. It has suffered very badly with the storms and is now in an extremely poor condition.

“We also used up a lot of equipment and are now very low on stocks of torches, batteries and weatherproof clothing as well as some of the flood products that we use.

“To date, I have received a donation from the Factory Shop, Hawick Taxis and AI removals, other local firms such as Chrysties, Howdens, and Morrisons have also pledged to help us and on Thursday morning I was also contacted by the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton, who has contributed financially to the group.

“I am completely staggered by the generosity and offers of support that my group has received since the events of last week end, but with our Portakabin in such a state and our stocks being used up last week end its absolutely vital that we raise further funds in order to keep things going.”

“The Baguette shop, George Harrow and local butchers as well as Sainsburys and the Heart of Hawick also kept the flood group going with food and hot drinks during the entire week end. Ex-Cornet Philip Murray also called me to offer to bring down an urn of homemade soup . It really was fantastic support by everyone.”

The local branch of Wetherspoons in Bourtree Place offered those affected by the flooding free tea and coffee and a place to rest for the night as well as cut price meals. And Morrison’s supermarket had collection buckets at the end of the tills, which prompted Facebook user Dawn McKenna to write: “I wasn’t born here but I think the kindness of the Hawick people is outstanding. Such a lovely town and the best people ever.”

On the Hawick Flood Group’s Facebook page townsfolk paid tribute to the group and offered to help those affected.

Lynn Beveridge wrote: “An amazing group of volunteers who worked tirelessly to help all of those in need in some very difficult circumstances. Well done.”

And summing the situation up, Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer said: “While the host of fantastic volunteers, emergency service professionals and Scottish Borders Council staff worked tirelessly to save life and property we must also recognise the townsfolk who showed remarkable calm and patience while under considerable duress.

“All of the elected representatives now need to work harder than ever to ensure that the Scottish Government deliver our much need flood relief scheme quicker.”