Industry, Trade and Commerce
Town and Elcho Street Brae and in the 1930s had branches in Rosetta Road and the Northgate. The co-operative movement over the years provided groceries, meat, baking, furniture, clothing and footwear for many local families. By 1900, there were 628 members.
There was an intention to take the 'co-operative' idea a stage further when, in October 1899, the Border Counties Co-operative Conference Association met in Galashiels and a proposal was made to establish a co-operative tweed-mill in Peebles. It was suggested that the providers of the capital, labour and consumption would share in the profits. The resolution was passed but the venture did not materialise. The success of the local tweed industry in the years towards the end of the nineteenth century had no doubt encouraged the supporters of the co-operative principle that they should get involved in an expanding and profitable business. The local mills, however, were fully entrenched, and the Thorburns and the Ballantynes too highly experienced in the business of woollen manufacturing for a co-operative mill to have had any chance of success.
The Peebles mills were well established as producers of high quality tweed, and as good, reliable employers by the time the century was drawing to a close. A South of Scotland Chamber of Commerce representative told a Royal Commission on Labour in 1892 that its ninety-five woollen manufacturers had 'fairly regular trade' and that 'work is very plentiful'. Apparently, the producers of tweed for the more expensive market were less concerned about the effect of foreign competition which was proving to be a problem in the other sectors of the textile trade at this time.
Equally important was the fact that the mill workers of the Border counties of Peebles, Selkirk and Roxburgh were well placed in the earnings league-table, as their rates of pay for both men and women were higher than the rest of the United Kingdom in the textile industry. This was confirmed in the Census of Wages for 1906, when the weekly rate for men was 27s 7d (£1.38) whilst in the rest of Scotland it was 23s 11d (£1.20) and in England 26s 10d (£1.34). For the women of Peebles, the rate was 18s 6d (93p) whilst women in the rest of Scotland earned 11s 8d (58p) and in England 13s 10d (69p).
As the county town, Peebles had established and developed a range of professional and medical services from the middle of the nineteenth century, and this aspect of the history of the town is contained in Chapters 13 and 14 below. There were also a great many professional and business agencies