Social Life

Thomson, Drew Fraser, Jimmy Raeburn, Jim Carruthers and Bill Wallace, they took steps to draw up a new constitution for a Gutterbluid Society.

The size and the composition of the population had wrought changes and there was a new atmosphere as well as an improving environment. A timely decision made in 1895 was the transfer from Dean's Wynd of the 'fleshmarket' that was originally built in 1652 as a slaughter-house; its removal from the centre of the town to South Parks at the west end of the Caledonian Road was a much needed improvement. Equally important was the decision to widen Tweed Bridge in 1897, which improved the appearance of the town and greatly facilitated the movement of traffic.

The generous gift to Peebles by Sir John Hay of Haystoun, Bart., of the beautiful Victoria Park to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria became a popular place for the family to visit during weekends and summer evenings. Another facility, started in 1898, was the building of a new Drill Hall at Walkershaugh. Costing £2,000, funds for this were principally raised by a 'Grand Bazaar'. It was built as a drilling place with a headquarters and an armoury, and the Volunteer battalions for the First and Second World War mustered there before they left for service. Happily, it is to be remembered as a venue for a wide range of social activities during the years and the scene of many dances, especially the annual 'Nicht Afore the Morn' .

The first Drill Hall was temporarily in the buildings vacated by the United Presbyterian Church (East) at the Gytes and it is interesting to note the evolving use of this site, which reflects the social history of the town. It was the location of the UP Church that was built about 1791 and then became a drill hall. In 1904 the premises, still very much in the style of church buildings, became a motorcar workshop for Laurence Bell's Peebles Motor Company, the firm having originally set up in a workshop near to the old gasworks in 1903. When Thorburn & Co. (Lowe, Donald & Co.) built their new warehouse at Station Road, their former premises next to The Green Tree were taken over in 1905 as the third-stage move by the Peebles Motor Company. The Gytes site was then redeveloped as an indoor swimming baths, and this facility was generously presented to the town by Sir Henry Ballantyne of Monkrigg in 1919. A new swimming pool has been built in more recent times at the former site of the Tweedside Mill and part of the site at the Gytes has returned to being the location of another church, the Peebles Evangelical Church at 17 Tweed Brae.