ALTHOUGH long exiled in Dumfries, Isobel Rainey keeps abreast of events in her native Galashiels via TheSouthern’s website.
And the 71-year-old gran admitted this week to a mixture of incredulity, nostalgia and despair to learn of the ongoing local dispute about what the vast 500-house development which Persimmon Homes is creating at Easter Langlee should be named.
Last week, we reported how opposition had greeted the company’s original announcement that the new estate would be called Melrose Gait and that, after much huffing and puffing, the name Ellwyn Glen had been suggested as a compromise which would find favour with both the developer and the community council.
Isobel has more than a passing interest in all this as she spent her happiest childhood days in a cottage at Easter Langlee farm where her late parents Jim and Agnes Donaldson were in service to then estate owner Edward Douglas Home, brother of Alec, the former Conservative Prime Minister.
“We had been at Buckholm on the other side of Galashiels and moved to Easter Langlee when I was seven in 1947. Dad was a gardener and mum was a cook and it was quite a thriving little community,” recalled Isobel.
With her Langlee friends, brother and sister Margot and Marshall Graham, and Joe McBeth, who lived in one of the farm cottages near the main road, Isobel became part of a gang affectionately dubbed The Four Musketeers.
“It was a wonderful place to grow up, with tractor rides at harvest time, sunny days at Ellwyn burn, swimming in the Tweed, playing in hay sheds, hiding in barns and sledging in winter down the snowy braes,” recalled Isobel.
Another young resident of the Easter Langlee Farm was fellow cottage dweller Tom “Tuck” Rainey, who went onto become a Gala rugby stalwart.
Isobel and Tuck met when both were pupils at Melrose Grammar, the farm and its environs coming within the catchment of that school in the 1950s.
Romance blossomed and Isobel and Tuck were married in 1962, eventually settling in Dumfries in 1978.
The couple had two children Linda, now 46, and Sal, 43, with Tuck working as a health and safety officer for the Forestry Commission and Isobel the practice manager at a medical practice before retiring. The couple are now looking forward to their golden wedding anniversary in December.
Remarkably, the Musketeers have kept in touch over the years, although Joe, who lives in Oxford, is a less frequent visitor to Galashiels these days. A reunion is, however, planned at Netherdale for the Gala sevens tournament on April 7.
Earlier this month, Isobel and Tuck, aware their childhood idyll was about to be transformed beyond recognition, arranged to meet up with Margot and Marshall at their old stomping ground.
“We wanted to see the glorious fields, woods and burns for the last time before the diggers moved in, but, alas, we were too late – Persimmon had beat us to it,” said Isobel.
“It was a strange feeling, very nostalgic for so many reasons and sad to see such a beautiful and varied piece of Borders countryside sacrificed on the altar of progress.
“I only hope the youngsters who end up living in the new houses will be able to enjoy even a hint of what we experienced.
“I despair, however, over the row over what to call the development.
“Perhaps it’s because, since I was a child, the region’s largest refuse recyling centre has been created to the north, or there’s a degree of snobbery now that the Langlee housing estate has grown so much since I was a child, but I see no good reason for calling it anything other than Easter Langlee – a lasting tribute to a remarkable place of which the Musketeers and I will always be proud to call home.”
With that emotional visit fresh in her mind and contemplating the latest chapter in the naming dispute, Isobel was moved to pen the poem, left.