PART II: 1900 - 1950
from tourism, and it has developed a supportive business environment that keeps the money it earns circulating in the town.
The years from 1896 to 1913 were generally good for the woollen trade and exports doubled. Apart from some short periods of recession, the mills were busy and there were long hours of work; starting at six o'clock in the morning through to six in the evening with two breaks lasting from 8.15 to nine in the morning and 1.15 to two in the afternoon. That was on weekdays but on Saturdays work was from six in the morning to twelve noon. The 58½-hour week gradually reduced over the years to forty-five hours in the 1960s and to thirty-nine hours in the late 1980s.
Remuneration was satisfactory, said the Peeblesshire Advertiser in January 1907. The March Street Mills had a profit-sharing scheme for their employees and it provided a bonus, for those who had worked the full year, of 2¾d (fractionally over 1p) per £1 on wages earned. It was an indication of the concern for the welfare of its employees. This forward-looking policy was further in evidence when a canteen was provided for the workers in 1917, and later on, in 1930, similar provisions were made in the Thorburn mills.
Sir Henry Ballantyne, speaking about trade conditions at the annual social meeting and dance in 1907 - held in the Drill Hall: doors open six o'clock; tea at seven o'clock prompt - said: 'A few years ago, every year was beating the record. During the last two or three years they had been passing through comparatively trying times and at present the results were not so good as they had been accustomed to have.' He added that the price of wool had risen rapidly during the past three years but he forecast that the following six months 'would be busier than ever'.
On the declaration of war in 1914, Peebles quickly became awakened to a changed way of life. The immediate reaction was that all the mills went on half-time that same day, Tuesday, 4 August. Damdale and Tweedside Mills then closed down completely from the Friday of that week, 7 August. Lowe, Donald & Co. had closed on the Wednesday. The March Street Mills issued a statement: 'We fear we may have to close the works from the 7th till the 17th August.' However, by the end of August the local war effort was swinging into action as orders came into the mills for yarn and cloth for army uniforms. A report in the Peeblesshire Advertiser in October 1914 confirmed that the mills were very busy with Government orders. It was also anticipated that the work