THE sun shone for Prince Edward’s visit to Tweeddale, as His Royal Highness officially opened the £1.7million Newlands Centre in Romanno Bridge and visited the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles on Thursday.
Dressed in a smart suit, The Earl of Wessex was in relaxed mood throughout, having arrived in the Borders by helicopter yesterday morning.
He unveiled two plagues for the opening of Newlands Centre and to mark his visit to the adjoining primary school.
His visit heralded the end of a prolonged but ultimately successful campaign to save Newlands Primary School and create an adjoining modern facility for the surrounding communities in Upper Tweeddale.
Major John Currie, director of Newlands Community Development Trust, told TheSouthern: “It is fabulous for us.
“This has been a five year project, working closely with the council, getting funding and then bringing in builders and professional teams.
“Here we are today with a brilliant facility. The centre is vibrant, it is working and the community love it.
“Prince Edward was delighted and impressed with the centre.”
“Very excited”, “Very nervous” and “Great to see his helicopter” were among the comments from Newlands pupils who met the Prince.
And principal teacher Mary Morrison added: “The opening of the centre has given us access to a new gym hall and dining room with a kitchen, which allows cooked meals to be made, whereas previously the food was brought in by bus or taxi.
“The school has also been refurbished with bright colours in every classrooms.”
Prince Edward, who travelled without wife Sophie, earlier visited the Eastgate, and watched a short scene from Twelfth Night performed by Shakespeare at Traquair.
The amateur group is currently performing a full version of the comedy each night until Sunday, before returning to the grounds of Traquair House from May 31 to June 2.
Nine year-old Jocelyn Vandenberghen has already chalked up five Traquair appearances and was part of the cast who entertained Edward. She said: “It was really good and the weather was great for his visit.”
Fellow young thespian Charlotte Miller Stuart added: “I really enjoyed it.”
Shakespeare at Traquair director Richard Forsyth said: “It (performing in front of Prince Edward) raised their game and made it even better than their usual high standards.
“We were probably invited because of Prince Edward’s theatre background and he seemed quite interested. He was laughing away which is always encouraging.
“The first Shakespeare at Traquair programme which Richard Nisbet ran with Catherine Maxwell Stuart and Judy Steel was to raise funds for the Eastgate.
“There has been a close connection between the Eastgate and Shakespeare at Traquair and we would like that to be even closer.”
Anne Younger, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale, Captain David Younger, helped kick-start the Eastgate project in the 1990s, which eventually opened its doors in 2004.
She said: “The only facility in Peebles previously was the Burgh Hall, but we managed to secure lottery grants and European money to build the Eastgate.
“We have had highs and lows but it seems the Eastgate is now be on a level footing, with Alistair Moffat and Jeremy Purvis both involved.”
A total of 62 pupils from Peebles High also met the Prince to discuss the benefits of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, founded in 1956 to develop young people’s skills for work and life.