Weather and politics catch us unawares


2010 began as it looks certain to end – with snow, snow and more snow.

The white ammunition for global warming deniers left many Borderers stranded after The Bells, dominated our columns for three long months and prematurely wiped out our council’s winter maintenance budget. The opening of schools after the festive break was delayed by three days and, after the snow, came the ubiquitous potholes. It was a boom time for taxi drivers, although several complaints alleging overcharging ensured joy at their good fortune was somewhat confined.

There were MBEs for Coldstream’s Lady Caroline Douglas Home and Yarrow’s Iain Prain for their respective services to charities and the Royal Blind School. TheSouthern also “claimed” the gong of pro-golfer Catriona Matthew whose husband Graeme hails from Gattonside and who had carried her bag to British Open glory in 2009.

A long-running saga ended when SBC approved a £4.5million bid by Sainsbury’s for the land it needed to provide Kelso with its first supermarket. Every little helps, and Tesco later pulled out of the protracted battle for retail supremacy.

January 19 was a sad day for rugby at all levels with the sport’s acknowledged “voice” Bill McLaren passing away in his beloved Hawick aged 86.

And the month ended on a low note for 130 workers at the former Ballantyne Cashmere mill in Innerleithen as the Italian-owned firm went into administration. Although 50 of the jobs were later salvaged, the event was symptomatic of a wider economic malaise, with an estimated 500 private sector manufacturing jobs disappearing over the year.

The public sector outlook was no less grim in when SBC approved efficiency savings of around £8million in its 2010/11 budget, agreeing to leave many posts unfilled and to increase charges across the board.

There was anger up at Fountainhall as plans were submitted to re-open Hazelbank Quarry on the A7 and the battle of the individual against the multi-national was highlighted when deaf reader Lesley Stewart of Jedburgh was refused an Easyjet flight for being unable to produce evidence of her disability. The firm later apologised.

Around 600 cannabis plants were discovered during a raid on a house in West Linton: the 12th such “farm” uncovered in the region in less than a year.

But proving not all Peeblesshire had gone to pot were Allan Beveridge and David Turnbull, joint secretaries of the Beltane Festival for 25 years, who shared the Tweeddale Citizen of the Year Award.

Meanwhile, police probed the weird case of an effigy of First Minister Alex Salmond hanging in a tableau at Waird’s Cemetery in Melrose. Suspicion fell on anti-crematorium protesters, but enquiries drew a blank.

The Borders railway project took a step forward in March when erstwhile Scottish transport minister Stewart Stevenson (don’t mention snow!) was in Galashiels to cut the first turf of £5million worth of ancillary works and announced the contract to the successful bidder would not be appointed until after the May 2011, Holyrood elections.

Over in Hawick, the young man chosen to be Cornet stood down after admitting making a text date with an escort girl, the Green Pound was launched to stimulate the trade of independent retailers, while the town’s Jean Wintrope, doyenne of the local amateur operatic circuit, announced her retirement at the age of 82.

In April, the road to the General Election took an unexpect twist in the Borders when Chris Walker, who was replaced as the Tory candidate by John Lamont in 2009, announced he was backing the Lib Dem incumbent Michael Moore in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Mr Moore held the seat and, within a month of the polls, had become Scottish Secretary in the new Westminster coalition. Samantha Cameron visited Selkirk in the run-up to the polls.

Back in Hawick, a rare 12th-century musical manuscript was discovered by Heritage Hub archivist Rachel Hosker, while bullozers moved in to demolish the Borders College to make way for a new Sainsbury’s store in Commercial Road.

Against the backdrop of a new political landscape – and George Osborne’s emergency budget – the region looked to the second half of the year with trepidation.