All was bustle and confusion. . . the camp-fires glowed redly, and the booths, lit by naphtha-flares, were being hastily dismantled for the midnight journey. The lions and tigers, still excited by the rolling of the drums, roared vehemently from their cages; the caravans shook in the darkness with the sound. I found my patient in a large wagon: she was the lion-tamer's wife. She was in agony, and an immediate operation was essential, I lost no time, and having administered chloroform, operated there and then.

 

The Good Templar's Hall was used by the Ancient Order of Foresters and readings were given on Saturday evenings. That was in 1880 and it was also the year that the Peebles Amateur Dramatic Company made its first appearance with a performance in the Chamber's Institution Hall to raise funds for the Tay Bridge Accident Relief Fund. The programme consisted of Allan Ramsay's pastoral comedy, The Gentle Shepherd, and the farce, Mad as a Hatter. Mr A. Yule's orchestra played during the evening (A. Yule, violin; E. Bonong, violincello; Mr Stavert, cornet; A. Watson, piccolo).

Perhaps the most unusual event occurred one evening in September 1889 when a large crowd gathered in the High Street to witness Madame Sartis (an American lady) extracting teeth. The lady occupied a very handsome carriage in which her patients were accommodated with a chair, and where she performed all her operations in full view of her large audience. Never before - nor since - has Peebles witnessed such an exhibition.

As Peebles grew and its economic situation steadily improved, so did the number of activities. There emerged a programme of regular seasonal events involving special train excursions such as the Special Constables trip and a whole series of picnics; sporting activities like those of quoiting on Tweed Green and bowling at Walkershaugh; meetings of organisations such as the Band of Hope, Choral Union, Horticultural Society, Boys and Girls Religious Society in the Good Templar's Hall on a Monday evening - all these activities were part of a new and active social life in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The new way of life embraced the old customs - at least until the time of the First World War when many of these customs, including the Peebles Gutterbluid Club itself, faded into a past age.

63

 

Contents