Social Life

eminently suitable to Ride the Marches in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The ancient ceremony was proudly carried out by W. H. Williamson, the burgh's treasurer, who had been chosen to be the first Cornet. He went round the Marches in unique style, seated in a brake accompanied by mounted supporters. Two years later, the ceremonies were enhanced by the inclusion of the coronation ceremony of the Beltane Queen, and the first to be honoured was Margaret Muir.

Two years before that there was also a gesture made that indicated the awakening of the town to its future while at the same time honouring its ancient heritage. It was the initiative taken in 1895 to bring out the ancient Mercat Cross of Peebles from the Quadrangle of the Chambers Institution and place it in a site of great prominence at the east end of the High Street. This involved the removal of the octagonal shaft that dates from before 1320 and setting it on a new pedestal - a task that required the utmost skill and care.

The Mercat Cross originally stood in the market place in the Old Town and it was eventually placed in the Quadrangle of the Chambers Institution in 1807. The 'new' plinth - a magnificent base to hold the shaft proudly aloft in the centre of the new, emerging town - was given to the royal burgh by Colonel William Thorburn of Craigerne. Understandably, in 1965, the plinth had to be redesigned to allow for cars and other traffic to see over and round it.

At the close of the nineteenth century, it seemed entirely appropriate that a member of the family that had done so much to generate the change of economic fortune for Peebles and Peebleans, should make this symbolic gesture to resite the Mercat Cross prominently, showing that Peebles was indeed a market-place, not for grain but for the finest woollens.

 

Footnotes:

1
Lang, Andrew and John, Highways and Byways in the Borders
  (London, 1929) pp336-7
2 Bathgate, Alex, Reminiscences (reprinted in the Peeblesshire
  News, 1974)
3 Murray, Norman, The Scottish Hand/oom Weavers 1790-1850:
  A Social History (Edinburgh, 1978) p23
4 Pryde, George C., Scotland from 1603 to the Present Day
  (Edinburgh, 1952) p226

 

 

 

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