PART II: 1900 – 1950
Reserve in the First World War. He will be remembered for his dedication to music in the town, being organist and choirmaster of the Old Parish Church from 1921 to 1946 and conductor of the Peebles Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the late 1930s the town and townspeople were moving out of the crisis of unemployment into a more fearful climate as the threat of war gathered momentum with each passing day. The Peeblesshire Advertiser in October 1938 records the changed mood: 'The defensive measures of Peeblesshire are well under way and her people are ready to do anything human brains and human hands can do to protect their families and their countryside from armed threat.'
To stimulate recruitment for the Territorial Army and other necessary services, The Peeblesshire National Service Committee was set up. It made an early call for the re-establishment of the 8th Battalion The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment); the 228 Medium Battery of the Royal Artillery was already in Peebles. A recruitment film entitled The Gap was shown in the YMCA hall and, after an address by Lieutenant-Colonel William Thorburn, DSO, many young men, including the writer, signed an undertaking to join the 8th Royal Scots if it was re-formed. When Germany attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, the Reserve Forces, including the Territorial Army, were mobilised and once again the Drill Hall was the scene of local men mustering to the Colours. That was also the day Peebles received its evacuated children from Edinburgh and the black-out of all lights from windows and street lamps came into force.
The first air-raid alert in the town happened on the Sunday 3 September, just shortly after the Prime Minister had told the nation that Britain was now at war with Germany. The writer was on sentry duty on top of the tower that was once part of the Drill Hall buildings as the alarm sounded. The Territorial Army volunteers were dressed in the old-style uniform before the days of the 'battle dress' and their webbing equipment was similar to that used in the First World War.
Within three weeks of the war starting, members of the brave Polish community had arrived and later Polish troops were billeted in Victoria Park. They and their families quickly won the friendship of the people of Peebles.
In the town, shopping was done earlier during the day because of the black-out. Pavement edges were helpfully painted white to give guidance during the darkness. The cinemas, initially closed, were reopened after a short period of closure and many heavy lorries