Christmas lights volunteers a shining example

Councillor Tom Weatherston in front of Kelso's Christmas tree with the new festive lights behind
Councillor Tom Weatherston in front of Kelso's Christmas tree with the new festive lights behind

A Kelso councillor has come to the defence of the three volunteers who raise money for the town to have Christmas lights every year.

Community councillor Dean Weatherston praised the work of Richie Allen, former provost Margaret Riddell and his uncle, Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston, who find the annual £6,000 needed to stage the lights.

He said: “I have been disappointed by the number of people complaining. For 15 years those three have worked hard to put up lights with no public funding – £3,000 is donated by Kelso traders and the rest they find from grants and private donations. They (and Kelso Community Events who do the ‘switch-on’) do a great job and, rather than [people] being so negative about a positive community event for children, these volunteers should be commended for all the voluntary work they do.”

Councillor Tom Weatherston said people were more disappointed than critical about the lights no longer being displayed across the town-centre streets.

Health and safety officials said brackets holding cross-road lights had to be checked, at a cost about £30 each, excluding the cherry picker hire, which would have bumped costs up to more than £7,000.

Tom said: “We struggle to raise the £5,500-£6,000 needed now.”

The trio decided to display the new £20,000 coloured lights around the Square and the four main roads leading from it, rather than risk “getting into a situation that we couldn’t pay our bills”, said Tom.

“The comments I’ve had are ‘it’s not the same without the lights across the street’, and I have got to agree. But it’s better to have some lights rather than none,” he said.

The annual £6,000 pays for displaying and taking down the lights, local electricians Stewart checking and storing them, electricity charges and replacing bulbs.

The committee faced folding three years ago had it not been for financial help from Charity Begins at Home and Kelso traders. Half-funded by the Lottery, the new lights were needed after Scottish Borders Council changed sockets to low power which meant the old ones would no longer work.