Madge finally lets train take the strain

Rail campaigner Madge Elliot
Rail campaigner Madge Elliot

Hawick’s long-time rail campaigner Madge Elliot and her family were among the first passengers to travel on the Borders Railway on Sunday.

Accompanied by her husband, Bob, sons Kim and Sean, as well as other friends and family, Madge joined a driver-training service at Tweedbank station.

Madge is famous for her battle to save the Waverley route from Edinburgh-Hawick-Carlisle, leading a petition to keep the line open and, on December 18, 1968, hand-delivered a petition to Harold Wilson, Prime Minister at the time. Sadly, her efforts were unsuccessful, and the line closed on January 6, 1969.

Not one to be put off, in 1999 Madge helped found the Campaign for Borders Rail, a grass-roots group which pushed for the restoration of rail services to the central Borders.

The Elliot family’s trip on the new line marked the start of the six-week countdown until passenger services begin running in September.

Madge said: “It was an absolutely fantastic experience.”

She added: “There really is nothing quite like travelling by rail.

“There was 13 of us in the party and my grandchildren had a great time and took it all in, although I am not sure they knew what it was all about. But it really was a great honour and we were very well looked after.”

Eldest son Kim, who joined his mum on the Downing Street journey nearly 47 years ago, said: “We’re delighted to be among the first people to travel on the new Borders line, as this railway is so important to our family.

“Experiencing the route first-hand is something we’ve all been looking forward to and it’s great to see my mother being honoured for the role she played in the reopening of the line.”

Infrastructure secretary Keith Brown said: “It was a real privilege for me to meet Madge when we named a locomotive in her honour and to put her forward to experience the route before it opens.

“Madge Elliot is a legend of the Borders and the railways, and it is absolutely fitting that she be the first member of the public to travel on this line as she was so instrumental in having it reinstated.”

Editorial: page 34