Back in the late 1930s some of the people of Traquair thought they should have a parish hall but because of the war the objective was shelved until 1946. Sir James Dundas, who was the driving force, set up a Planning Committee whose first task was to raise funds. Ian and Tom Miller went round the houses and shops on foot or by bicycle every Friday collecting donations. The Planning Committee organised Bring and Buy Sales, Whist Drives, Jumble Sales, concerts and dances, using local talent for the latter to minimise expenses. Lord and Lady Glenconner, in addition to running dances at Glen House, held three Garden Fetes during the summers of 1947, 1948 and 1949, and raised the sum of £1,100.

By 1951 the sum of £3,469 was raised and although this was not enough the decision to commence building was made. Cairns and Ford agreed to carry out the architectural work and in spite of the fact that four different plans were submitted before planning permission was acquired, they only charged out-of-pocket expenses. The ground for the site was gifted by Francis Maxwell Stuart. The hall was completed in 1952 at a cost of £6,754 and the shortfall in funding was met by grants of £2,285 from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust and £1,000 from Peeblesshire County Council.

Opening Of The Hall

3rd October 1952

Although the seating capacity of the Traquair Village Hall was 275, at the opening meeting 320 people, together with two rows of guests, were accommodated. The stage was decorated with flowers and when the heavy maroon and gold curtains were drawn the smiling faces of the children from the Glen and Traquair schools were revealed. Seated at the front of the stage were the Chairman, Mr J Dundas, accompanied by Col. W Thorburn DSO TD, Lord Lieutenant of the County, Lord Glenconner, Mr O Cunningham, Carnege UK Trust, and Rev. Anderson, the local Parish Minister.

Other guests attending were Lady Glenconner, Mr and Mrs T D Ballantyne, Col. Miller Richard, Captain F Maxwell Stuart, Mrs Thorburn; Lady Thomson of Kaimes, Major E G Thomson of Callands, Provost and Mrs A P Daniels, ex-Provost and Mrs W Cleland, Mr and Mrs J S Dickson, Mr John Mackie, County Clerk and Mrs Mackie, Col. Jamieson, Director of Education, and Mrs Jamieson.

Mr Dundas was greeted with a most enthusiastic ovation as he rose to address the large gathering. He welcomed all the guests, who had come from all parts of the county. He said he was sorry to announce that Sir Ronald Thomson, Convener of the County, was unable to attend because of illness but he was pleased to welcome Lady Thomson and Major Thomson. He expressed his appreciation for the work Sir Ronald had done for the parish.

Mr Dundas went on to say that at one stage it was felt the hall would not be built because of building restrictions and rising costs. Thankfully, the Carnege Trust and the Peeblesshire County Council Education Committee gave donations. He also thanked the architects, Cairns and Ford, who had to produce 4 sets of plans before Building Approval was obtained and whose only charge was out-of-pocket expenses. Mr Dundas then called upon the Lord Lieutenant of the County to open the hall officially.

Colonel Walter Thorburn started by saying he was particularly pleased to be opening the new village hall. First of all, in his mind Traquair valley was the most romantic in Peeblesshire and it was the only one in the County celebrated in national song. “The Bush Abin Traquair” was well known throughout Scotland and he was familiar with “Paddy Slacks”, which in his opinion was a corruption of “Pas des Lacs”(Pass to the Lakes). He pointed out that this pass was often used by Mary, Queen of Scots. Secondly, he spoke of his forbears who were tenants of Traquair Estate for around a hundred years. In particular, he mentioned that his grandfather lived at Juniper Bank and his late uncle, Sir Walter, lived for some years at Orchard Mains. He had happy memories of fishing with his cousins in the Quair Burn. He also mentioned the Reverend Jardine Wallace who was the minister at Traquair Parish Church .at the time. He recalled how the Rev. Wallace would always touch him on the shoulder when they met and ask: “How is your dear Mama?” But he said the Rev. Wallace asked this question once too often of a colleague whose mother had died 18 months previously. He was shattered when he received the reply: “Still dead, thank you.” Thirdly, Col. Thorburn said he was very aware of the importance of maintaining the spirit of the local community at a time when everything was being sacrificed to the idea of efficiency. He closed his remarks by saying he admired the enterprise that had gone into the building of the hall and he gave a special thanks to Mr James Dundas whose efforts brought the project to fruition.

The Reverend Anderson pronounced the prayer of dedication and the gathering sang the hymn ,”Praise my soul the King of Heaven”, with the children’s choir singing the third and fourth verses by themselves.

Mr Ord A Cunningham conveyed on behalf of the Chairman of the Carnege Trust his good wishes. He said the Trust very much appreciated the ambitions and efforts of the local people and was pleased to provide the grant.

The Chairman, thanked the Glenconners, who had travelled especially from London for the opening of the hall, for raising £1000 at two summer sales. He called upon Lord Glenconner to speak on behalf of the people of Traquair.

Lord Glenconner thanked the guests for attending and all those who took part in the official opening. He said he was honoured in being asked to speak as this was a historical occasion in the annals of the parish. He continued by thanking Mr F Maxwell Stuart for providing the ideal site in the centre of the village and he congratulated Mr Dundas for the way he led and inspired the Planning Committee. Lastly, he called upon the audience to accord their appreciation in a vote of thanks to all those who had contributed to the project.

After the official opening the audience enjoyed a concert by local talent. The first act was the school children singing “Bless This House”. Then followed solos and duets by Jean West, Margaret Armstrong, Clara Lunn, William Oliver and Steve Howitt. The piano accompaniment was provided by James Mercer.

Col. J Miller Richard moved a vote of thanks to all who took part in the concert.

The evening finished with a dance led by the local band, Tweedside Dance Band. The MC was Sandy Dalgleish.

Refurbishment

When the hall opened in 1952 there was no mains electricity so heating was provided by Calor gas and the lighting by a generator, but in 1958 that all changed. The Electricity Board brought the mains distribution to Traquair and this enabled the Village Hall Committee to dispense with the generator and arrange for the gas heaters to be replaced with electric ones. Other than maintenance work, very little was done to the hall until 1994 when the Village Hall Committee decided a major refurbishment was required.

1994 Hall repainted at a cost of £2,500 of which £2,254 was donated by the Rotary.  Hall rewired and oil-fired central heating installed at a cost of £7,037 paid in total by grants of £2,337 from Borders Regional Council(Education Dept.) and £4,700 from the Scottish Office.
1998 Improvements carried out to kitchen and bar with grants of £3,716.83 from Scottish Borders Council and £7,433.65 from Scottish Office. Traquair Village Hall Committee also contributed £3,716.83, the total cost being £14,867.31. A further grant of £2,000 by TSB went towards the fitting out of the kitchen.
2000 A grant of £32,724 was received from the National Lotteries Charities Board This was used to:

  • replace and insulate the ceilings of bar, toilets, boiler room and vestibule;
  • replace all windows with UPVC double glazing units; sand and seal the main hall floor;
  • improve the stage, curtains and lighting;
  • improve the standard of bar and toilets;
  • install ventilation in the roof space;
  • provide new tables and chairs.

The hall was reopened on Friday 21 October, 2000 after refurbishment which cost just under £60,000 – almost ten times the original building cost. The meeting was opened by Renoff Wiggins, Chairman of the Village Hall Committee, who welcomed the assembled gathering. She praised the whole committee and the contractors for their efforts in seeing the project to completion. She mentioned, in particular, Joyce Durham (treasurer) and Jean Robertson (former secretary) for the sterling work they did in obtaining grants (£53,000 in total), and Brian(Mr Fixit) Hudson for his efforts in the construction stage. The Chairman called upon Sandy Dalgleish, MC of the dance at the original opening, to reopen the hall officially. After entertaining the audience with reminiscences of the early days Sandy declared the hall reopened and wished it every success with a toast to the future.

70th Anniversary

In October 2018 every household in the Traquair area received an invitation to a party. This was to celebrate the founding of the Village Hall 70 years ago in 1948. On Friday the 2nd November 2018, over 60 people came to the hall which was colourfully lit for the occasion, bedecked with streamers, balloons and historical photographs, and a heavily laden table of good things to eat and drink.

The Chair of the Hall Committee, Joy Barlow,  in opening the proceedings described how over the years the Hall had retained the memory of a community, providing a place for successive generations to hold celebrations, concerts, memorials, regular classes, clubs and communal activities. Some of those present tonight had been instrumental in the setting up of the deed of trust for the Hall in 1948, and its subsequent opening in 1952.  The Hall had also over the years hosted many fund-raising events, the first of which had been to raise money to provide leather bag and rug-making kits for a  father who suffered from TB at the age of 18 and spent several years in East Fortune hospital – his family were with us tonight.

The Laird of Traquair, Catherine Maxwell Stuart, described the beauty and history of Traquair which made it  “a very special piece of Scotland”, and a place which had always had a strong community spirit. This underlay the gifting of the land for the Village Hall by her grandfather Frank, the subscriptions made by other leading families in the area , and the tireless fund-raising by local people. We have a different community now from the time when when the Hall was built, when every resident made their living from the land. Despite this, rural communities still need the focus that a Hall provides more than ever. She described her childhood memories of coming to the Hall to hear The Incredible String Band, for weddings, funerals, New Year Ceilidhs, and even (more recently) puppy training. The early supporters 70 years ago would probably not have envisaged whist drives and jumble sales being replaced by tai chi and meditation classes! However they would have been pleased that a 50-strong local community choir meets here weekly. it was due to the work of successive Hall committees over the years that it has survived, been so well kept and widely used.

Norman Donald, one of the Hall’s Trustees, described those involved in the initial planning and fund-raising for the Hall from 1948  onwards. As well as the local land-owners, he named all the individual farmers who had subscribed; and in particular two local men, Tommy and Ian Miller who were employed as estate joiners and took it upon themselves to raise huge sums of money by door to door collections over the extended parish on Friday nights. He remembered the use of the Hall as a school in1956, and the winter of 1980 when Traquair church suffered burst pipes, boiler and radiators and was able to use the Hall instead.

On behalf of himself and his fellow Trustees, Flora Crichton and Euan MacMillan, Norman paid tribute to the work of successive committees down the years; and they were in particular grateful to the current committee who were running the Hall’s affairs so very efficiently.

The evening’s less formal activities included a quiz on local knowledge, identifying local people from their photographs as babies; singing by local members of the Traquair choir; some accomplished accordion music by Robin Wilson,  guitar songs led by Joe Richardson, and a beautiful unaccompanied solo song by Julie Harvey (our choir director of music).

In such a dispersed community, people don’t meet each other as they used to in the 1950’s, and many Traquair residents who came to this anniversary party were meeting each other for the first time. So this was a real community event, bringing together the different groups who use the hall, newcomers to the area and old inhabitants. It seems to have been greatly enjoyed by those who came, and appreciation was expressed to Joy and her Committee for organising it so successfully.