Alec Hamilton was the Superintendent at Talla Reservoir for over 30 years. His wife Elma was my father’s sister. The Hamiltons had moved from Edinburgh to Victoria Lodge in 1931 to succeed to Mr Watt who had been there since the early 1900s. My family lived in Surrey but we spent many holidays staying at Talla, as we called Victoria Lodge, all through the 1930s. Indeed we were at Victoria Lodge when war was declared in 1939. I remember we all stood for the National Anthem at the end of Neville Chamberlain’s speech. My mother and aunt were crying, not a usual sight. After that we walked down to the embankment to tell the news to the duty watchman on the dam. Early 1939 was a time of considerable activity by the IRA in the UK and there had been a system of watchmen for some months. They had a little watchman’s hut just below the road on the embankment and I think that they lived in the old hospital in the valley below Victoria Lodge.
The ‘wee school’, also called ‘the academy’, was a school in the Upper Tweed valley for about 40 years. It was only a small corrugated iron building with painted wood panelling in the interior, measuring about 14ft by 9ft. It opened in the late 1890s, closed in 1938-9, was said to be the ‘smallest school in Scotland’, and has an intriguing educational history.
The Crook Inn probably started as a refuge for drovers and a meeting place for local shepherds in a relatively sparsely populated and lawless Tweedsmuir. It must have been significant enough, however, to be among the first inns in Scotland to be licensed in 1604. English laws licensing pubs were introduced to Scotland after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. The Crook Inn, the Kinghouse on Rannoch Moor and the Spread Eagle at Jedburgh were the first to be licensed in 1604; ‘An Act to restrain the inordinate Haunting and Tipling of Inns, Alehouses, and other Victualling Houses’. 1604 2(1) Jac. I, c.9.
IN the 1890s engineers for the Edinburgh mad District Water Trust (EDWT) identified the area around the ancient loch at Talla in the hills above Tweedsmuir as an ideal site for a new reservoir to cater for the increasing demands of the expanding city of Edinburgh. The land was bought from the Trustees of the Earl of Wemyss and March Estates for the princely sum of £20,000. It was a big project, given the remoteness of the location so the only viable means of delivering the equipment. raw materials and men necessary to carry out the work was to build a railway.
The Talla railway was laid from the Caledonian Railway station in Broughton to the site of the construction of the Talla Reservoir at Tweedsmuir. Construction commenced in 1885 and the railway was used to transport men and materials to the reservoir site. The reservoir was formally opened on 28th September 1905. The railway was finally sold for scrap and was uplifted in 1912 despite efforts by the local populace for the railway to be retained for public use.
IN a previous article, I recorded the foundation of Tweedsmuir Parish in the early 1640s, the opening of the original kirk building in 1648 and the problems of the new parish in the turbulent times of its early decades. I shall now recount the events in the parish, mainly by reference to the ministers, during the following period up to the time of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843.
There has been an educational facility in Tweedsmuir since the end of the eighteenth century. It is thought that the feu was granted specifically for the provision for the education of children and young people. Since the closure of the Tweedsmuir School in 1978, the Scottish Borders Council has leased out the buildings and surrounding land as an Outdoor Centre, providing a base from which various groups of young people could experience the Scottish Borders countryside. The Centre is now closed and the future of the buildings and land is in doubt.