Former history teacher John Smith, better known to his pupils as JD, has spent three years researching a fascinating period in Newtown St Boswells’ history.
His new book, A View of Newtown St Boswells 1840-1920, covers the development of the village over a period which included the arrival of the railway and a significant rise in its population.
In the preface to his work, Mr Smith explains why he took on the task of researching this important time in the history of the village.
“Like many Border towns, its past is becoming lost in the developments of the present.
“Many of the buildings which were links to that past are gone, and as a historian I know the importance of appreciating where we live and work.”
Even the way the name of the village was created will be a revelation to many.
When Newtown came into existence it was a new town of either Eildon or Dryburgh, not St Boswells, which was in a different parish. It only became known as Newtown St Boswells after the railway company renamed the station St Boswells from Newtown Junction, presumably in an attempt to avoid confusion with other Newtowns across the country.
The book also includes extracts from the recollections of the son of the minister, which reveal much about the local characters at the time, and his own antics as a boy.
“I came across the document and it seemed the best thing to include – someone’s recollections of how Newtown used to be with the railway there, but when people lived very different lives,” said Mr Smith.
There are many surprises in the book, including the length of time it took for an adequate water supply to be found, and for a footbridge to be put over the railway lines at the station, despite fatalities and several near misses.
The book also includes research on the sacrifices that villagers made for their country, examining the names of those men remembered on the village war memorial.
This is Mr Smith’s third book, having written others on Jedburgh’s war dead and the history of his hometown, Earlston.
The Newtown book is available from the village’s newsagents, Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells and Masons of Melrose.