Campaigners who needed to raise £160,000 before a deadline of December 31 to save Tweedsmuir’s historic Crook Inn say they’ve just reached their target with only one day to spare.
The chairman of the campaign group, Duncan Davidson, told TheSouthern: “We’ve made it! We’ve achieved the £160,000, after a lot of effort and generous donations from a lot of people.
“We’re delighted – it has been a fantastic response to save a historic inn in Scottish culture. We’ve had support from a variety of sources, both locally and nationally, and from England, Wales and Canada. We’d also like to thank the readership of The Southern Reporter for their contributions.”
The campaign’s success follows a four-year battle, after the 400-year-old Crook Inn – Scotland’s oldest inn – was closed in 2006. Two years later in 2008, the man who bought the hotel claimed the site was no longer viable as a business, and lodged plans to convert the eight-bedroom listed building into four large flats, and also construct a separate house on the site.
A 100-strong group of concerned local residents called the Tweedsmuir Community Company (TCC) was formed “to purchase, renovate and develop the Crook Inn as a sustainable business, and as a vital hub to meet the community needs for work, social interaction and learning,” the group’s website www.savethecrook.org.uk reads.
Earlier this year, the TCC announced it had secured a binding contract obliging the current owner, James Doonan, to sell the property to them – provided they can raise the agreed price of £160,000 by the end of 2012.
The TCC then launched a public fundraising appeal in March 2012, and, now the total has been reached, the campaign group will have the sole legal right to buy, renovate and operate the 17th century former coaching inn.
Before the final £3,000 was found last weekend, Mr Davidson said he was confident they’d raise the total before the Monday deadline.
He told us: “We’re optimistic we’ll be able to make it – although it may be that we just make it.
“We hope to sign the agreement at the end of January, then the work begins.
“We have a lot of people to thank.”
In November, TheSouthern reported that Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, famous worldwide for his Inspector Rebus novels, was making a donation to the campaign.
Mr Davidson explained to us at the time: “There are strong literary associations at the Crook through Robert Burns, James Hogg and John Buchan and we are keen to maintain the history.”
The historic building was the first to be licensed when licensing was introduced by James VI in 1604, which makes the Crook the oldest coaching inn in Scotland.
Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, wrote the poem Willie Wastle’s Wife in the Crook’s bar after his amorous advances to the wife of a local weaver were rebuffed.
It was also the haunt of the 19th century literati of Edinburgh, including Sir Walter Scott, and later John Buchan, who immortalised the Crook in his short story, Gideon Scott.
Earlier in October, the campaign to save the Upper Tweed Valley inn received a boost when a Clyde wind farm pledged £25,000, and Awards For All gave almost £10,000 in lottery funding.
The grant of £9,666 will pay for a community needs study into Tweedsmuir and the upper Tweed area.
Local MP David Mundell also lent his support at the news of the £25,000 grant from SSE Renewables.
He said: “This important local project is all about restoring The Crook as the heart of the community once more, and at the same time providing jobs and preserving history, and this latest grant brings that dream one step closer.”
Mr Davidson argued the inn was, and could still make, a viable business. He told us: “The Crook Inn was not a failed pub when it was closed and we believe that it can succeed as an innovative community-owned Crook Inn Hub.”
In March, the TCC’s director James Welch explained: “The TCC has ambitious plans to bring the hostelry back to life as the centrepiece of a multipurpose new tourism focus, and as a hub for community projects.”
The TCC’s newsletter expands on these future plans: “[Our] aim is to purchase, renovate and develop the Crook Inn as a sustainable business, and as a vital hub to meet the community needs for work, social interaction and learning.”
Phase one is the purchase of the hostelry in 2012, while phase two will be its renovation and redevelopment in 2013-14: “The design and organisation of the Crook Inn will be in response to feasibility studies to be undertaken this year. Funding for the renovations will be from a variety of grants and the community shares scheme.”
Finally in phase three, the group hopes to realise their vision of the Crook Inn as a viable hub for learning, activities and business.
Mr Davidson concluded by saying a lot of work still lay ahead, but he hoped this would be a 21st century renewal of the Crook Inn.