MEMORIES of fun and fellowship will come flooding back to the many Borderers who recall, with great affection, Selkirk’s Railway Mission, writes Andrew Keddie.
Standing across the road from the town’s long abandoned station, the grey corrugated iron building came alive every Sunday afternoon as the Christian message was spread through songs and readings.
Originally set up for “the moral and spiritual advancement” of railway employees and their families, the interdenominational facility became a haven for many children from that part of the town. It operated both sides of the last war, latterly under the enthusiastic tutelage of Nancy Cameron, affectionately known as “Auntie Nancy”. who lived in Galashiels but was a Souter by birth.
Mary Inglis of Selkirk’s Kingsland Avenue has many fond recollections of the mission.
“It was much less formal than the Sunday School which I attended at Heatherlie Church and, while we had to learn our Bible texts and took great pride in reciting them, it was the stories and songs which I really enjoyed the most.
“We’d sing songs like ‘Sailing Home’, ‘Zaccheus Was A Very Little Man’ and, my favourite, ‘Running Over’, while Auntie Nancy always made the Christian message enjoyable. It was such a warm and friendly atmosphere.”
Mary, who is helping to organise a reunion of Railway Mission kids next month, recalls that, during the 1950s, Mr Dingwall, who worked in a chemist’s shop in Market Place, was the superintendent and Mrs Snowdon, who lived in Buccleuch Road, was caretaker.
“The children came from Ettrickhaugh Road, Bannerfield, Bridge Street, Canon Street, Heatherlie, Muthag Street and The Priory, and the mission was a way of bringing us all together. Many enduring friendships were formed,” said Mary.
“Even today, if I’m crossing the street to meet someone who was at the mission, we always break into ‘Running Over’.”
She added: “Other folk must think we’re daft, but it’s our link with a very happy time in our lives.”
A highlight for the mission children was the annual picnic to Corbie Linn on the outskirts of the town. “We’d pack into Jimmy Brown’s coal lorry and run races in a field, making sure to avoid the cowpats,” recalled Mary.
The mission closed on May 3, 1964, and many of the regularly-attending children made the move up the town to another Christian youth group, The Sunshine Corner, which operated out of the Baptist Church in The Valley.
The Railway Mission reunion, which includes afternoon tea, will be held in Connections, Lower Back Row, on Saturday, May 5, at 2.30pm.
Before that, Mary and her co-organiser, Catriona Livingstone, are on the lookout for Railway Mission memorabilia – from old photographs to song sheets and Bible texts – to display at the reunion.
Any reader who can help or requires further information should contact Mary on 720593 or Catriona (725885).