Charting the history of Gala’s Gathering


It has been a labour of love on most Monday afternoons for more than two years for Gala stalwarts Gordon Keddie and John Gray.

The pair spent hours ploughing through local newspaper files and other archive material in the local library.

And the result was a publication of 132 pages, entitled The History of the Braw Lads’ Gathering, which was appropriately launched in the grounds of Old Gala House just days before the start of the town’s great week.

Both men have strong connections with the Gathering. Gordon was Braw Lad in 1972 and president from 2006 to 2008, while John served as president between 1997 and 1999.

The book has been soundly researched, but has not fallen into the trap of being pedantic.

It carefully traces the history of the Gathering, the first of which was held on June 28, 1930. Its birth was prompted by the huge losses the town suffered in the Great War and a big decline in the tweed trade during the 1920s. Both shed despair and gloom.

Galashiels decided it needed a pick-me-up. Fairs had been held intermittently, but the time was now ready for an annual occasion.

The town council came on board; a special committee was formed; numerous suggestions mooted; a packed public meeting in the town council applauded the idea; the town council gave its blessing in November 1929; and just over six months later the first Gathering was held, with Henry Polson as Braw Lad and Hazel Gardiner as Braw Lass.

Gordon told us: “One of the main surprises during our research was just quickly everything moved after November 1929. That was a great credit to everyone involved.

“Strangely, there was no mention of a Braw Lass in the early discussions. The only templates the town really had was the common ridings of Hawick, Selkirk, Langhlom and Lauder, which didn’t have a lass.

“But Galashiels went ahead and put a Braw Lass in place, nominated, as was the Lad, from the five council wards.”

The book charts the changes that have taken place, but Gordon and John stress that the Gathering organisers have remained true to the original ceremonies put in place for 1930.

Much of the early material was gleamed from a meticulous scrapbook kept by Henry Polson, now in possession of the Old Gala Club. The book contains invaluable information on the Gathering, the fabric of the town and its people. The authors are to be commended.

Already 300 of the 1,000 copies printed have been sold. Profits will be ploughed back into the Gathering and organisations associated with it. Copies available from Fountain News, D.S. Dalgleish and the authors.