JEDBURGH’s residents could finally see the last stage of work begin on refurbishing the ornamental Juibilee Fountain in the town’s Market Place, with this week’s expected delivery of long-awaited granite bowls.
The work was scheduled to have been completed in time for last year’s Jethart Callant’s Festival, but after eight months and several delays the repairs have still not been concluded, much to the annoyance of the Jedburgh Alliance campaign group.
The project – commissioned by Scottish Borders Council – has been plagued by problems, with the original contractor being replaced by local building firm, John Laidlaw & Son, to try and get the work finally finished.
The Jubilee Fountain was commissioned to mark the golden jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887. Designed by George Bell, it consists of an ornamental Gothic column with clustered shafts, topped by a unicorn and heraldic shield.
There are cast-iron lamp brackets with modern fittings. A plaque on the fountain states the reasons for its construction.
Local Scottish Borders councillor Jim Brown says it was sourcing the proper granite that held things up.
“But I have spoken to the contractor and the two bowls which have been reformed from the original Peterhead granite will arrive this week from Aberdeen and the fountain will then be screened off with a wooden shutter until the masonry work is complete,” he told us.
“There are two reasons for this – to prevent the workforce from being constantly held up with enquiries and to keep an element of surprise for the citizens of Jedburgh to behold when it is unveiled.”
Councillor Brown said that when he asked the contractor for a completion date, he was told “it will take as long as it takes”.
But Councillor Brown added: “He did, however, assure me that the finished article would be something that the town could be proud of.”
However, Jedburgh Alliance chairman Allan Cameron says the explanations from the council are just not good enough.
“Apparently they are expecting the marble for the base this week. But our great concern is that this project has been poorly managed and very badly executed,” he said.
“We were told it would be ready in time for the Callant’s Festival last year, then ready for New Year, then ready January/February.
“No-one seems to have taken resposibility for this project. We have taken the matter up on several occasions with Scottish Borders Council.
“But it has been one excuse after another. We have been trying to put pressure on the council. Unfortunately I don’t think Jedburgh has been getting the same level of attention that some of the bigger Borders towns do. We’re seen as a bit of a backwater unfortunately.
“I think there is a real lack of satisfaction in the town with the council. Our councillors seem intent more on party politiking than banding together for the good of the community.”
However, Richard Gordon, chairman of the local community council admits the project has dragged on but does not think anyone in particular is to blame and says problems getting materials coupled with the change in the original plan to dismantle the entire structure are at the root of the issue.
But he does want to see the fountain fully operational, as there had been speculation over whether there would be enough money to have the water supply reconnected.
“Fountains are meant to squirt water and it seems a bit daft if they only do half a job,” he told TheSouthern.
“Hopefully the job can be done properly, especially since there are working fountains in Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick.”
The fountain has long been a source of controversy when it comes to delays.
Some two years after the official jubilee celebrations, in 1889, The Building News pithily remarked that “an ornamental pillar-lamp and fountain are about to be erected ... as a tardily realised memorial of the Jubilee.”
The fountain was finally inaugurated on May 24, 1890.