Hawick railway heroine Madge Elliot is honoured

The forthcoming completion of the Borders Railway will be marked by the re-naming of a train after Madge Elliot MBE, a veteran campaigner.
The forthcoming completion of the Borders Railway will be marked by the re-naming of a train after Madge Elliot MBE, a veteran campaigner.
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Veteran Borders Railway campaigner Madge Elliot has been honoured by having a carriage named after her as the project nears completion.

The 86-year-old from Hawick was recognised yesterday in a naming ceremony at Waverley Station in Edinburgh after nearly 50 years of tireless campaigning.

Borders Railway campaigner Madge Elliot delivers a petition to No 10 Downing Street in December 1968 with her 11-year-old son, Kim,  David Steel MP, the Earl of Dalkeith and bagpiper Harry Brown

Borders Railway campaigner Madge Elliot delivers a petition to No 10 Downing Street in December 1968 with her 11-year-old son, Kim, David Steel MP, the Earl of Dalkeith and bagpiper Harry Brown

Madge led the campaign against the closure of the Edinburgh-Hawick-Carlisle Waverley line in 1969 and was a founding member of the Campaign for Borders Rail.

She was piped into Waverley Station yesterday alongside family and friends and was greeted by the cabinet secretary for infrastructure Keith Brown, Network Rail project director Hugh Wark, and Freightliner Heavy Haul managing director Paul Smart, before unveiling the name plate.

The ceremony was arranged in advance of the new route opening for driver training next week.

It also marked the countdown to the start of rail services, with just 95 days until the September 6 launch.

A giant artwork was unveiled in the station near the platforms to be used for many of the departures to the Scottish Borders. Madge’s elder son, Kim Elliot said: “For as long as I can remember, the railway has been a passion for my parents, but for my mother in particular, and it’s become a life-long interest for us all.

“We are delighted that, just days before trains start running on the railway once again, the project team has taken the opportunity to honour the role my mother played in re-establishing this link.

“It’s a fitting tribute to her that the engine carrying her name has been used to build this railway and hopefully many more.”

Keith Brown said: “We are now just a heartbeat away from seeing this historic railway come back to life, and that is undoubtedly in huge part thanks to the tireless campaigning work of Madge Elliot.

“Days from now, the first ScotRail trains in almost half a century will travel down the line as the drivers begin to learn the route.”

“This is an incredibly exciting time for the rail industry, and for the communities up and down the new railway, and I am delighted that we have been able to share this with Madge and honour the work she has done over the years.”

Network Rail’s Hugh Wark said: “None of us would be here to celebrate the impending completion of this railway without the passion and dedication of Madge Elliot and the grassroots campaigners that got this project off the ground. It’s appropriate that we mark this historic moment by acknowledging her.

“We are now in the final phase of construction works. The railway will be available for driver training next week as planned and stations will be complete within the next two weeks. There are still some landscaping, planting and finishing works required, but nothing critical to the operation of the railway. Remaining works will be completed well in advance of September.”

Freightliner Heavy Haul’s managing director, Paul Smart, said: “We are privileged to be able to pay tribute to Madge’s dedication by naming our Freightliner loco, number 66528 in her honour. We hope this will serve as a continual reminder of her passion and commitment to the railway. Freightliner is pleased to have played an important role in the completion of the Borders Railway project and we look forward to seeing the final touches being completed.”

Born in Hawick on Wednesday 20 June 1928, Madge Elliot is well known for many reasons.

She is most renowned for her fight to save the Edinburgh-Hawick-Carlisle railway line known as the Waverley Route. When it was announced the line was to close, Madge believed it should be retained and so started a petition, gathering names of ordinary people from the Scottish Borders.

On December 18, 1968, Madge with her 11-year-old son, Kim, marched up to 10 Downing Street accompanied by David Steel MP, the Earl of Dalkeith and bagpiper Harry Brown playing ‘Blue Bonnets over the Border’ to deliver the petition to the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The petition had 11,768 signatures.

When final closure was scheduled for Monday 6 January 1969, Madge and her campaign group continued their protest by having a simulated coffin placed aboard the last train to leave Hawick station travelling to London St Pancras. The coffin was emblazoned with the words ‘Waverley Line – Born 1848, Killed 1969 – aged 120 years’ and was addressed to the then Minister of Transport, Richard Marsh.

Madge is also a member of the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), through which she actively continued her fight to re-open the Waverley Line.