Water water – but not a drop to drink

Declaration in Jedburgh of Callant Garry Ramsay and New Herald Alan Learnmont.
Declaration in Jedburgh of Callant Garry Ramsay and New Herald Alan Learnmont.

Hope sprang at last for Jedburgh folk, as the Market Place’s Jubilee Fountain finally flowed with water after four years of repairs, and decades running dry.

Jedburgh’s fountain, constructed to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, was given an £18,000 restoration two years ago, which paid for electric lighting and renovated plumbing, but stopped short of reconnecting a permanent water supply.

To commemmorate Flodden’s 500th anniversary, immediately after he was declared 2013 Jethart Callant on Friday night, Garry Ramsay opened the new fountain by bussing the unicorn on top in Jed’s colours of blue and red.

The red sandstone Jubilee Fountain was designed by George Bell of Glasgow, and consists of an ornamental Gothic column with ermine carvings, surmounted by a rampant unicorn bearing a heraldic shield with town crest. At the base lies alternating bronze plaques and profile busts of Queen Victoria, and a four-cornered pool with pedestal cups made of polished pink Peterhead granite.

Jedburgh’s Common Good fund approved a grant of £8,537 towards the costs of refurbishment, with the balance of more than £10,000 provided by Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government. Commissioned by the council, the project was plagued by problems and delays. The original contractor, David Rumble of Greenlaw who recarved the spout heads, was followed by local building firm, John Laidlaw & Son, to finish the work.

Behind scaffolding and wooden hoarding, the contractors spent months rejuvenating the fountain back to its former glory, with electricians Scott & Foggon fixing the lighting and Jim Purdie the plumber laying the pipework, until it was revealed in May 2011, almost a year behind schedule. Now the last stage has been completed, with a 1,000 litre tank sunk underground to recirculate the water – which means it’s not safe to drink.

“Things have happened, but not as quickly as people would like,” mused Jed Community Council chairman Richard Gordon. “Moffat’s Ram was restored with water put back after four months. Jed’s fountain took nearly four years. But it’s great it’s working again. I felt if you’re doing up the fountain, it seemed daft not to spend a bit more money to get it going.”

The fountain has long been a source of controversy due 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.”

It was finally inaugurated on May 24, 1890.