Obituary: Peter Keddie, Galashiels

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It was fitting that the music playing as mourners filed into Galashiels’s Trinity Church on Friday was a march well-known to followers of the town’s Braw Lads’ Gathering.

For the man to whom they had come to pay their respects and bid farewell was one of the Gathering’s greatest stalwarts and most passionate supporters.

Peter Keddie’s death at the age of 92 brought to an end a life filled with public service to the town he loved so dear.

The second of three children born to Harry and Mime Keddie, who lived in the town’s High Buckholmside, Peter remained a proud “fifth warder” all his life.

Sadly, Peter’s younger brother, John, only survived to the age of five. But for Peter, there was Glendinning Primary, followed by Galashiels Academy, and then an apprenticeship as a textile designer.

Wartime service brought great friendships, as well as hardship on the frontlines.

Peter served with the 6th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, including the liberation of the Dutch city of Tilburg.

He joined former wartime comrades on several return visits to Holland, even being granted the freedom of the town at one point.

The result was that all future holidays with wife Isa were spent visiting war graves across north-western Europe.

He married Isa Forsyth in Ladhope Church on January 4, 1949. The couple’s married life saw them move home several times, including a stint in Kirkwall, Orkney, due to Peter’s job.

It was in Kirkwall that the couple’s first son, Stuart, was born. After the family’s return to Galashiels in the 1950s, Stuart was followed by Gordon and then Harry. Peter’s parents swapped homes with Peter and Isa, figuring a newly-built house in Glendinning was just the job for a family with three young boys.

Peter was by now working in Buckholm Mill. He then moved to Laidlaw & Fairgrieve, and finally to Kemp Blair’s as yarn store manager.

He was also making a name for himself as a rugby player, occupying the hooker’s berth for Gala Star, Gala Academy FPs and then Gala.

Despite this, his proudest moment in a rugby jersey was when his team won the army cup for the KOSB’s 6th Battalion.

And Peter was equally proud when his youngest son, Harry, also wore the maroon jersey of Gala, followed by grandsons, Craig and Dean.

Another great passion was of the feathered kind and the Keddies’ homes always had a big shed out back to house Peter’s pigeons.

Isa was working all this time as a cloth passer at the mill, but also did home work, and the memory of the smell of raw wool pervading the living room lingers with her children still.

But without doubt, outside family life, his biggest passion was his long involvement with the town’s Braw Lads’ Gathering.

He joined the Braw Lads’ Executive in 1959, as a representative of the Fifth Ward Community Group, and became chairman in 1965.

He was equally proud when Stuart served as an attendant in 1970 and two years later when Gordon was Braw Lad.

Peter’s service with the Braw Lads’ Gathering was crowned in 1991, when he was appointed president for three years.

Sadly, Isa did not live to share in the occasion, having passed away nine years previously. However, Peter was well supported in office by Nessie Amos.

Then, adding to the local history, in 2006, Gordon was installed as president of the Gathering – the first time a son had followed his father in the post.

Also a committed church-goer, Peter, a former elder, had walked to church every Sunday – a familiar figure making his way down the hill as the bells rang out.

But no matter the difficulties brought with advancing age and ill health, you never heard Peter complain, a hangover perhaps from enduring the hardship of war.

And perhaps it was witnessing that suffering that saw him always ready with small kindnesses.

Such as the fact that, although no longer a dog owner himself, Peter never left the house without a pocket full of biscuits to treat any canines he may bump into.

He is survived by his three sons, his daughters-in-law, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

They and his many friends are deeply saddened that this kind and generous soul will not pass their way again.

M.C.E.