Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sunday in Hawick

I have a friend, Alison,  who lives in the beautiful Scottish Borders and about once a month we meet up at some point between where we live.  This month our meeting place was Hawick, an ancient mill town famous for its cashmere and the Pringle label.  It is the largest of the many mill towns in this area which was the perfect location for weaving due to it's fast flowing rivers, being on the main road (and later railway) between Carlisle and Edinburgh and having ideal grazing for sheep on the surrounding mountains.

We first went to Beanscene cafe for lunch.   It's pleasant place, a light, airy modern building within an old Tower Mill building, some tables look out over the millrace.  Part of the ground floor is glass and you can see the old waterwheel still in place there.  The Kenneth McAllister Quartet was playing jazz.  Now, neither of us are big fans of jazz, especially the singing, but the music was not too loud and luckily there was only a little singing.  It made a nice change.

Turnbull Statue
Afterwards we headed out to explore the town a little.  Just behind Beanscene is the Turnbull statue.  Turnbull is the prominent local name and the family was one of the main Reiver families of the Border country, also known as the debatable lands.  The statue was impressive, a man grappling a bull by the horns.

We went on to the town's main street and came across the Borders Textile Towerhouse Museum, The Knitwear and Textile story.  The museum is in a beautifully restored building, part of which is Drumlanrig Tower, built in the 16th century by the Douglas family and is the oldest building in Hawick.  The rest of the building was previously the Tower Hotel until that closed and became derelict.  The £10 million Heart of Hawick project saved the building and created the museum.

Town Hall
It tells the story of weaving in the town, with parts of machinery on show, audio-visual programmes, photos and interactive displays.  It also looks at the future of textiles and there are examples of work done by students at the acclaimed School of Textiles and Design in the town. The old photos show many mills and smoking chimneys in Hawick during the boom time for textile production, people at work at the looms, factory parties etc.

One thing I remembered from the exhibition that had nothing at all to do with the mills was the uglie bonnet.  A strange hat with a wired, wide brim over the face worn by female agricultural workers to shield them from the sun.  They were not very fetching hence the name LOL!  All in all, it was a small, but interesting museum.

We walked down the main street of the town, most of the shops were shut as it was a Sunday and as this is a relatively small town that's quite normal.  We passed the lovely Town Hall with all it's turrets. Then, at the Memorial statue (which commemorates the victory of local youths over English raiders just outside of Hawick in 1514.  the English flag was captured and taken back to the town) we turned left and walked along the banks of the fast flowing River Teviot back towards the car park.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the wind strong, bracing - good fresh air!

Memorial Statue
Hawick is a town I've passed through many times, but this is the first time I've taken time to walk around it.  It obviously has had recent difficult times with demise of mills which then became derelict, they couldn't compete with overseas competition.  But the Heart of Hawick scheme seems to working well for the town as some of those wonderful old buildings have been beautifully renovated and have moved into the 21st century benefiting both local people and visitors alike.  It's always good to see old and new managing to live alongside each other in this way, well done Hawick!

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