PART I: 1850 - 1900

Of course there were from time to time cyclic set-backs in the tide of good fortune; for example, in 1879, when the national trade was dull and there was also a very poor harvest, and when there was a prolonged and severe winter, such as 1886, which brought great distress to the building tradesmen and labourers. These occasions would bring the town's beneficial agencies into action and the soup kitchen would be opened up. This first became available in 1817 when Sir John Hay presented a boiler and a recipe for making soup, having calculated that the boiler would be sufficient for 300 'chopins' (nearly 300 quarts).9

Despite these 'economic hiccups', the closing years of the century reflected a vibrant, growing town. It was well served by its two stations that linked Peebles with the national rail network. Travelling to other parts of the country - near or far - was now relatively easy and it was a great social advance. There were improved opportunities for employment, even allowing for a greatly increased workforce living in the town, and more people able to travel to work in Peebles from the outlying districts.

The population in 1883, gutterbluids and incomers, keenly supported social and political progress and were to the fore when a demonstration about the Franchise Bill was held on the Tweed Green. The Bill was to extend the franchise by some two million voters and, as this had been opposed by the House of Lords, some 2,000 from the county met to give their support. The Tweedside Mill workers paraded a banner of Stuart tartan with a blue centre which had on the reverse side:


First we'll have the Franchise Bill
Then Ye'll know the people's Will.


The Damdale banner proclaimed:


We weaver chaps frae Damdale Mill
resolve to hae the Franchise Bill.


There were two 'symbolic' events in the closing years of the century that were, in away, a reflection of the changed town, keenly aware of its future yet conscious of a proud past.

First, was the decision to revive the ancient custom of Riding the Marches of the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Peebles. An earlier attempt to revive this in 1874 had failed, but it seemed