A RESCUE mission has been mounted to save iconic Peebles clubrooms.

The Peebles Ex-Servicemen's Club closed its doors last August after running up heavy debts.

A combination of dropping numbers, increased costs and tax bills saw the 96-year-old club run into financial trouble.

Despite efforts from several long-standing committee members to save the School Brae club, they were forced to concede defeat.

Since an insolvency meeting was held last September, discussions have been taking place behind closed doors between community groups, the Scottish government, councillors and club members regarding a takeover of the premises.

And the club’s administrator has agreed to support Peebles Community Trust in its efforts to buy the building.

Under an agreed arrangement Peebles Community Trust will occupy and manage the club until the purchase is complete.

And once the buy-out has been finalised, expected to be later this year, it will act as headquarters for the Trust, Peebles Ex-Servicemen's Pipe Band and Peebles Men's Shed.

The first stage of a grant application from Scottish Land Fund to purchase the property was completed this week.

Peebles Community Trust chairman Lawrie Hayworth praised the co-operation and support shown by French Duncan, the administrator, club members, the Scottish government, local councillors and partner organisations.

He told us: "This has been the home of the Peebles pipe band since the club opened more than 95 years ago.

"The pipers and drummers practise here and use the club to store their equipment and they are an extremely popular feature of the town’s social life.

“Meanwhile, members of the Men’s Shed have been searching for a suitable permanent site with ample storage space since it was formed in 2017.

"They have explored a number of avenues and found them dead ends but will now become anchor tenants of the building alongside the pipe band.”

Peebles Ex-Servicemen's Club - initially known as The Soldiers Club - was founded by veterans of the First World War.

They purchased the former Templars Hall on School Brae in 1922 and it was officially opened the following year by Lt Col William Thorburn.

The club boasted a membership of 500 at its opening, and all the way through to the the 1980s and 90s it remained one of the busiest venues in the region, boasting a large ballroom/auditorium, snooker tables and carpet bowls as well as a number of function rooms

As well as hosting official functions, weddings and parties, the premises were regularly used for coffee mornings and charity fundraisers.

And the club was also home to the Ex-Servicemen's Pipe Band from its initial opening.

For the past 96 years the pipers and drummers regularly practised in the hall as well as using the club to store their equipment.

This planned new chapter in the School Brae club's life is being welcomed by band members as well as members of the more recently-founded Men's Shed group.

Mr Hayworth also hopes the re-opened club will be popular with other local organisations.

He added: "We plan to create a space for a wide range of organisations to undertake their activities with the ability to store their equipment on site.

"This has been a particular difficulty for many groups for whom having access to on site storage has been extremely difficult.

"We envisage this as a community hub offering the widest possible use by groups who require both activity and storage space, whilst retaining the ability to host popular fundraising coffee mornings and other events.”

The purchase of the Ex-Servicemen's Club is just one of the developments to be discussed during a Peebles Community Trust open day next weekend.

Directors of the Trust will be available to discuss the plans, along with administrator Alex Wilson, at the Ex-Servicemen's Club on Saturday, January 19 between 10am and 4pm.

Peebles Community Trust hopes to have completed the purchase of the seven-hectare Eshiels Community Wood by the time of the open day.

And the Trust is also actively collecting signatures for a petition registering a formal Community Right to Buy on the redundant March Street Mill site.

It needs to obtain the support of 10 percent of the electorate in order to begin the process of assembling a partnership to develop 24/7 supported housing for the elderly, affordable housing and an enterprise hub as well as retaining nearly 50 former mill worker allotments on their present site.

The first stage in this ambitious bid is to get expressions of support from ten per cent of the Peebles electorate through signatures on special petition forms. These are now available on request in the Eastgate Theatre, Villeneuve Wines, The Super Store and Elmbank Print and will also be available during the Open Day on January 19.

“We’re inviting every voter in Peebles to sign a petition form and demonstrate their support,” added Mr Hayworth.

The Trust is also investigating a reuse and upcycling operation to reduce the needless burial of unwanted but re-usable items to landfill.