Bard’s bells fall silent

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Each day at 8pm the bells of the War Memorial peel tower in Galashiels chime out Braw, Braw Lads, in homage to those who gave their lives.

It was Robert Burns who gave the town the song and on May 31, 1913, a bust to the bard was unveiled at the foot of Lawyers Brae.

Thousands gathered for the occasion which also saw the water switched on at the adjacent fountain.

And on Friday, exactly 100 years to the date, a handful of folk gathered for a ceremony – organised by Galashiels Burns Club – to mark the centenary of the unveiling.

It had been neatly timed to coincide with those chimes. But after the eight chimes – there was silence. For some unknown reason the bells failed to ring out the opening bars of Burns’ work.

Council staff have carried out checks but have been unable to find any fault.

However, the commemoration went ahead. Club president Keith Cowan placed a wreath around the bard’s bust. He had earlier explained why and how funds had been raised for the memorial, including a massive cycle parade in July 1908 – a year after the local Burns Club had been founded.

Piper David Sanderson played and Grant Lees sang. This was far removed from that grand unveiling of 1913, but appropriate and fitting none the less. Those attending included descendants of Bailie George Hope Tait who was one of those at the forefront of the monument project.

Reflecting on Friday’s ceremony, the secretary of the Burns Club, Russell Robertson, commented: “It was disappointing that the bells did not chime, but it was just one of those things.

“I thought there might have been more public support, but people seem to want to stay at home and watch television.

“It was good that the descendants of George Hope Tait were present – more and more it is being revealed just how much he did for Galashiels.”

A further tribute will be paid at the Braw Lads’ Gathering when, for the first time, thistles from the Old Town Cross ceremony will placed at the bust after the Braw Lass has laid roses on the war memorial at 8pm.