Villages set to party as playgroup celebrates 40 years young

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Morebattle and Yetholm Playgroup celebrates its 40th birthday with a Big Birthday Bash on Saturday, February 22, to raise funds.

Anyone interested is invited to the event, featuring stalls, tombola and home baking, from 10.30am to 2pm in Wauchope Hall at Yetholm.

Play leader Melanie McEwan said: “It’s a celebration for the generations but as the play group is about children, we wanted it to centre around them. It is also an ideal opportunity to invite the communities in to see what we do at playgroup.”

The hall will be set up like a playgroup room, with toys on each table, as well as toys from over the last 40 years, a craft area and photographs of the group spanning the four decades (and they welcome more before next Saturday).

“We’re imagining grandparents sitting playing with their children and grandchildren,” said Melanie.

“It’s also a celebration of how the communities have supported this group: that’s why we are still going. We need their support – financial support and volunteers – because we get no government funding.”

In 1974, when there was no pre-school education, a group of Yetholm mothers, led by Pat Blacklock, asked the then Roxburgh District Council if they could use the woodwork room in Morebattle school.

A committee of mums was elected, with Morebattle’s Helen Cessford becoming the first play leader and soon the group joined the Scottish Pre-School Play Association. The group remains a member and follows the SPPA’s guidelines.

Melanie said: “Playgroup is not just about coming along and playing. Everything is educational, we are learning through play, developing different skills and building confidence. We get a lot of children living up the valleys and who need to have contact with other children their own age, it’s really important for them.”

Children start aged two and usually stay with the group, which meets Monday-Wednesday mornings, for a year, before moving on to nursery school.

“We have a fantastic room at Yetholm. We do so many different activities and lots of crafty arty things. We have an outdoor garden where we can play or potter around in the earth. Every day is different and we try to include all the different aspects of the curriculum and things the children are interested in.

Playgroup chairwoman Louise Dixon, of Mowhaugh, near Yetholm, attends with her two young sons, William and Angus.

She said: “Everyone in the community is so supportive of the group. I went initially because it was just what you did, but having seen the experiences Mel and Morag (Thomson, assistant play leader) provide for the children, they are just fantastic. They are so creative in how they do things with the children. There is such quality provision here for two small villages.”