PART TWO

1900 - 1950

 

 

CHAPTER 4

 

Industry, Trade and Commerce

 

THE NEW CENTURY for Peebles started in a most appropriate way, with Walter Thorburn, Member of Parliament for the United Counties of Peebles and Selkirk, being awarded the honour of Knighthood by Queen Victoria in the New Year's Honours List. Later, Henry Ballantyne was similarly honoured when he received the accolade from King Edward VII in 1906. These awards were warmly greeted throughout the town and were regarded as a sign that all would be well for the Thorburn and the Ballantyne Mills in the century that was just beginning.

Peebles was now a town that was better able to respond to uncertainties of the future. There was a new vigour from its greatly increased population and an economic strength that came from the town's very successful woollen-mills. Although these mills would reflect the cyclic ills of world trade in the years ahead and the town would suffer accordingly, nevertheless their contribution to the long-term economic advancement of the townspeople and the town would be immense.

It has been suggested that Peebles without its tweed-mills would be a mere village. If Thorburn's Damdale Mill had failed like its sister mill when it was under the control of Laing & Irvine, then we might well have known whether that was a reasonable assumption to make. However, it leaves out of the reckoning the impact of the railways. These had given a new status to the county's main town and had encouraged commercial enterprise with more branch-banks coming into Peebles to make it an important service and professional centre. Peebles today in the 1990s has no railway and is almost without a tweed industry, with just over one-third remaining in terms of people employed, but, despite these losses, it is far from being a 'village'. Indeed, it is a town proficient at generating wealth through all kinds of enterprise, especially

71

 

Contents