This blog is to introduce you to my town - Peebles, in the Scottish Borders - just one photo at a time, with perhaps a little description and maybe some history thrown in. I hope you will find it interesting. The title comes from a historical comment made by someone who preferred Peebles to the great and famous cities. I know how they felt. It's always a pleasure to return here however long you've been away.

If you want to make a comment, ask me a question, or merely just want to say "hello, I've dropped in", you can do that by using the comment section below each entry. (Just click on the word COMMENT and follow instructions. ) I'd love to know what you think of what you see of my town.

I don't have an expensive elaborate camera so the photo quality may not be brilliant, but I'd like to think my pics will please you. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks to Mary H for the lovely designs I used for my background, and thanks too to all of you who have chosen to support my blog by becoming "followers".

Sunday, 21 June 2009

On holiday

I'll be back in a week or so, after enjoying myself visiting friends and touring in the west and south west of Ireland. I love the shape of Ireland - a bit like a bichon frise puppy I used to know, if you turn it 90 degrees to the left!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Red Letter Day

Today's the day the kids got their turn to star. The Beltane Queen and her court were chosen a few weeks ago and since then, there has been a lot of training and practising going on - all for the big day today when the Queen is crowned. Tradition based on many years takes centre stage and it is with great dignity and pomp that the ceremony takes place. Those who are not in the main entourage dress up as characters in traditional groups that have generally been part of the Saturday proceedings for many years. It is not uncommon to hear visiting ex-pats ask of each other "What were you in the Beltane?", So Andrew, I ask, "What were you?"
There are sailors and soldiers, penguins, children of other lands, flower girls, characters from Toyland, and so many others.

While the court stands at the top of the church steps, and the Queen receives her crown, all these other children have to stand on the lower steps and try not to look tired and fidgety - a tall order since the whole spectacle does go on a bit. Finally the deed done the Queen and her courtiers descend the steps and are helped into horsedrawn landaus , while the rest of the children troop off the steps in an orderly fashion to find their floats for the parade that will follow.

Pretty much everyone turns out to line the High Street for the big parade where parents, uncles and aunties, grandparents and the cousins can wave and shout Hur-ray! to their family member, throwing them a few sweets/candies/lollies as is also traditional.
After parading along the High Street and back, the lorries and landaus take a fixed route round the streets of the town, by which time the children are definitely tired and fed up! All the sweeties are gone and no-one to throw any more in the outlying parts of town. However, once they return to Tweed Green and the festival is all but over, they soon revitalise with the thought of an afternoon at the Shows, which is what we call the Fairground that has set up in a local park on the south of the river!
At night, the last event of the week was the Beating Retreat, an extravaganza of pipe bands from various towns, in Scotland and often further away. Then it is over! The bands disperse. The Shows move on, and tonight the bunting, flags and pennants will be taken down. Tomorrow it will seem like it never happened.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Nicht afore the Morn!

Friday night, the night before the next day's big culmination in the crowning of the Beltane Queen! Friday night is fancy dress night, in which anyone who is inclined to dress up, alone or with a group can do so. There are competitions held on the Green by the river in the early evening, followed by a big parade along the High Street.
Generally the fellow with the penny farthing bicycle makes an appearance, in a different costume each year of course.

There are small groups and large groups, but the largest ones are the nursery (pre-school) entries who usually hire a lorry and decorate it to their theme.
Here is the float for the littlies of one of the nursery schools!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Odds and Ends

During the week there are sports and discos for the kids, a concert, and sports for the adults, so the saying from the old Beltane Festival song is right to say "Peebles to the play" There is a lot of playing goes on during Beltane week, not all of it organised but a good deal of it taking place in the pubs around the town. I am sure there are more than a few sore heads on Thursday morning.
Here are just a few pictures from the Beltane so far!

Shops decorate their windows in red and white items from their stock - this shop is particularly clever with its window displays at the best of times, so this paper outfit is typical of the work the owners put in - and though I haven't any pictures of them many Peebleans also decorate their houses with bunting - especially if the Beltane Queen or the Cornet live along their street. If you are a main participant in the week's proceedings you may also have crepe paper flowers, and ribbons and anything else the imagination can come up with, and believe me there are some amazing displays. To add to the incentive to decorate your shop or house, competitions are held - the best dressed shop window and the best decorated house. Considering it is only a participant of the festival who goes the whole hog on their house, it is therefore one of them who wins!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Today is one of the big highlights of the week. The Cornet, our leading man, and his Lass (it's the Scottish word for a girl and can also signify a girlfriend or wife) are "sworn in" and instructed to look after the burgh standard as they ride the Marches or boundaries of the town, returning along the route that brings them through the river Tweed at the ford. "Safe oot, safe in!" (Go out safely and come back safely) being the instruction to the principals and their followers on horseback, all 250+ of them!

It's quite a sight to see as they all splash through the river in a seemingly unendless procession.

Following the Fording, the horsemen and women - horsepeople just doesn't sound right - gather on a slope below Hamilton Hill for some horse racing, the coveted big prize being the Beltane Bell.

Later in the evening the crowds gather in the High Street to see the principals of the festival dance an Eightsome Reel, a Scottish circle dance for 8 people, accompanied by the Peebles Pipes and Drums, and thereafter the prizes for the race winners are presented by the Cornet and his Lass. That's usually the end of the night for the watchers, but I am sure the parties go on well into the small hours for the principals! Hope they all have a great night.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Beltane regalia

Some of the Beltane Regalia is on display in a shop window.
There are the burgh standards, the Beltane Queen's throne, crown and cape, trophies of one sort or another, etc. Parts of this festival go back hundreds of years, most of it concerned with the tradition of riding on horseback, as was done in days of old, round the town boundaries to make sure all is well, and that the boundaries have not been encroached upon.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Flying the flags

The High Street looks very festive with the red and white bunting, the colours of Peebles.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Beltane Festival

Sunday afternoon and the heavens have opened! Typical Beltane weather! Rain, rain and more rain! To think the original Beltane was at the beginning of May, and at some time in its Peebles history -because Beltane was/is a pagan festival and is not exclusive to our town - it was put back to the middle of June because the weather was expected to be better! Huh!!

Let's hope today hasn't set the pattern for the week. It would be good if the rain could stay away on the main festival days, Wednesday for the intallation of the cornet - the leading man - and his lass, and the rideout, more of which on Wednesday, then on Saturday, when the primary school kids all get dressed up in fancy costumes for the "pomp and circumstance" of the crowning of the Beltane Queen.
Andrew, my loyal Peeblean reader in Oz, will be looking forward to a photo of the "crowning"! The festival brings many Peebleans back to their native town for a nostalgic look back to the days of their youth! Maybe one day that will include you, Andrew!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Beltane week

Tomorrow sees the start of our annual festival in Peebles! Beltane seems to come round again so quickly! So early tomorrow morning the volunteers will be out hanging up the red and white bunting that will crisscross the streets of the town centre all week.

Here's a stall I saw this morning, selling bunting, programmes, badges, and CDs, that include the well known songs of the festival and other Border songs, and generally raising money for the festival itself.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


This attractive and rather modern stone marks the burial spot of an old friend and neighbour. She was a kenspeckle character in the town for many years as she, along with husband Steve, ran The Coffee Pot Cafe in the Northgate.

Angela's family were Italian, though she herself was born in Scotland, and to hear her speak it was like she had just arrived straight from Italy. In contrast, her sister Jenny was born in Italy but spoke with no trace of an Italian accent whatsoever.

She used to tell how she met Steve while working for her relations in their cafe in Midcalder. ot was it West Calder! He had come in with some friends; Angela had taken one look at him and announced that he was the man she was going to marry - and marry him she did! They had a long and happy marriage, raising their family, and working all the hours God sent at the cafe they bought together in Peebles. It was not unknown for Angela to be doing her housework at 2.00 in the morning, having cooked a meal at the cafe after hours for some poor lost soul, then come home to start all over again with feeding the family and preparing for the following day in the cafe!

When finally her health started to deteriorate, and they were forced to give up the cafe, Angela was lost. She had worked long and hard all her life, and retirement didn't come easy. Two or three times a day I would see her pass by my house on the 3/4 mile walk into town. She knew everybody and everybody knew her, so the visits "down the street" were dotted with a conversation here and another there with old friends and former customers.

Angela would do anything for anybody, and often she would give away a huge bowl of homemade pasta because, she said, she had made too much. She was frequently asked to come along to my B&B to translate for my Italian guests who had no more English than I had Italian, at that stage. I finally went to classes, and was encouraged by her!

As I said, retirement wasn't for Angela and she struggled to find something to take up as a hobby. Eventually she took up tapestry work and completed several beautiful pieces which must be prized by her family today.

Soon it was evident that things weren't quite right. One day I met her in the street outside my house and as usual we chatted, but it was obvious she hadn't a clue who I was, and when I mentioned my friend Vina, next door, she looked puzzled and said she didn't know a Vina! Oh that was a big shock.

Finally the end came in June 5 years ago. Her funeral service in the chapel was a celebration of her life, attended by many of her old friends, and then she was taken to the cemetery to be buried alongside her sister. The other day was the first time I had been back there since then, so it was rather nice to stand there looking at her lovely stone and remember the fun, lively lady she had been.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

St Andrews Tower

St Andrews tower and an ivy-covered section of wall are all that remain of the old parish church of Peebles. Now the cemetery has grown round it and been extended several times. I took a walk through the cemetery for really the first time, barring attending burials, and realised just how interesting it is.

Wikipedia has this to say: "The oldest building in Peebles is the tower of St Andrew's Church. The church was founded in 1195. It was destroyed (along with many other Borders abbeys and priories) by the soldiers of Henry VIII. The stones of the ruins were pilfered for many other local buildings leaving only the tower standing amongst the gravestone of the churchyard."

Apparently in the 16th century, suspected witches were imprisoned in the tower until their execution! Charming!

Monday, 1 June 2009

A mile of pennies?

I think it was the Rotary Club who were actually fundraising with the help of these young Beaver cub scouts, who were having fun laying the coins along the High Street one Saturday morning! They worked in little groups, on both sides of the street, presumably in an attempt to reach the other end before they finished!