PART II: 1900 - 1950
In the same year, the skill and enthusiasm of Peebles Fire Brigade was tested to the full. The fire which destroyed the Hotel Hydropathic was apparently caused by an electrical fault started in the roof space. In consequence, the fire was almost out of control before the fire brigade was in attendance, although they turned out very quickly. In fighting the fire they were hampered by a lack of water-pressure, the sheer size of the Hydro building and the shortage of hoses which would have been required for such a situation. Despite assistance from other brigades, the fire literally burned itself out. All this was duly minuted along with the thanks conveyed to Peebles Fire Brigade for their efforts. Within two years, the Hotel Hydro had been rebuilt albeit in a different architectural style. The present building is substantially the same as the one rebuilt and reopened in 1907.3
Provost Peter Dalling had not long been in office when the First World War broke out. Since the council were on summer holiday, no mention is made of this world event until later the same year. First mention, indeed, marks the departure for France of 1/8th Battalion The Royal Scots who left Haddington for overseas service in late October 1914. The battalion, which numbered a company from Peebles and one from Innerleithen/Walkerburn in its ranks, was the first Territorial Army unit from Scotland to be sent for active service in France.
Despite this early response to the outbreak of war, the initial reaction in Peebles was to follow the Government's guidelines, 'business as usual'. However, the settled pattern of the town's economy was disturbed as the textile industry of the Borders, including Peebles, was immediately affected. Some raw materials and markets were cut off, enlistment reduced the labour force, and there was an immediate increase of up to 40 per cent in freight and insurance charges which affected textile exports to the Americas.
In agriculture the drive was to be for production. As in the Napoleonic War a vast Army and Navy had to be supplied and a home population maintained. In response to soaring shipping losses, land was put under the plough which had lain fallow for a hundred years. As elsewhere, both in farming and in industry, recruitment and later conscription forced up wages. More important for the future, governmental bodies increasingly took charge of industry through a network of advisory bodies and governmental boards.4
The war reached a conclusion in 1918 and it was the task of