THE past, the present and the future of Peebles were brought into focus on Friday evening at the annual Guildry Corporation of Peebles Supper.

As has become customary, the Tontine Hotel provided the perfect setting for fine dining and just as fine thought and deliberation.

The Guildry welcomed key speakers Professor Sir Hew Strachan and Stuart Wilson.

Sir Hew, who is the Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale, is one of the country's leading lights on the First World War.

And began his fascinating address to the Town and Trade of Peebles with the recent centenary of Armistice - honoured across Peeblesshire as with the rest of the country on November 11.

Sir Hew reminded the gathering that close to one third of the 1800 or so soldiers who left from Peeblesshire never returned during the 1914-18 conflict.

But he told the Guildry that it was the returning soldiers who he wanted to concentrate on - and the challenges they faced.

Sir Hew said: "One hundred years ago, on February 8 1919, our predecessors faced their Brexit equivalent - the complexities of reconciliation, peace-making, and peacekeeping.

"They did so in an era of populism, political extremism and domestic division.

"The challenges were not just global - they were local. When the war had broken out in 1914, men from rural areas in Scotland enlisted in disproportionate numbers, and in the more remote areas of the British Isles, where horses still pulled ploughs, the army's needs literally sucked the lifeblood of labour from the land.

"But these losses were soon offset by the opportunities the war brought.

"In 1914 about 60 percent of Britain's grain was imported and at any one time Britain only had enough food for the next six weeks.

"In practice the threat from German cruisers, and increasingly from submarines, exposed not so much the vulnerability of British food stocks as the resilience of British farming.

"In Peeblesshire most land was unsuitable for anything other than hill grazing, but by 1918 2,400 acres of managed pasture had been converted to the production of oats and potatoes."

Sir Hew further reminded the Guildry of the additional benefits war had brought to the town.

He added: "Initially the outbreak of the war caused unemployment as trade collapsed and businesses were left short of hands by the rush to join up.

"On August 7, 1914 the mills in Peebles were closed.

"But by the end of September they were back in full production and two months later orders for uniforms from France and Russia meant that workers were on overtime."

Sir Hew along with fellow main guest Stuart Wilson had been welcomed to the Supper by Dean of the Guild Alasdair Dodd.

And, as tradition dictates, the Guild's newest member Leslie Turnbull was sworn in under the supervision of Clark, David Kilshaw MBE.

Before supper, the Rev Calum Macdougall said grace.

Fellow main guest Mr Wilson, who is the secretary of St Ronan's Borders Games and a past Standard Bearer, toasted the relationship which has been built up between Peebles and Innerleithen over the decades.

And he championed the very company he was in.

The investment operations manager said: "What place does the Guildry play in 2019 and indeed is it still relevant?

"I believe the result is a resounding yes.

"Now more than ever, Peebles needs a strong voice to represent its best interests.

"At a purely symbolic level The Guildry Corporation represents tradition and the rich histories of a Royal Burgh of Scotland.

"But it also represents the opportunity to speak out against changes that are detrimental to the Burgh and the County and apply balance to any debate, backed up by experience and passion.”

While Mr Wilson illustrated his own fears for the future of Peeblesshire due to proposed boundary changes and more greenfield housing developments, it was the reply by Keith Brunton which was more scathing about recent political decisions.

Despite his usual wit, the chairman of the Peebles Beltane Committee, took a few swipes at the current local governance of both Peebles and Innerleithen.

He said: "Our towns have a lot in common.

"At points in our history were both mill towns attracting many incomers to come and work who then stayed on to be future stalwarts of our towns.

"Our children share the same High School, although it may be more accurate to say our children share the same over-populated-in-need-of-replacement High School.

"It’s such a shame we don’t have anyone high in the Council who could help with that problem.

“What I despair of most are Scottish Borders councillors - nowadays they are political with a capital P.

"Party comes before Peebles and its people.

"Snipping at each other in the local press about political points that only matter in their own little world.

"It didn’t used to be like that. Councillors had our town at the heart of what they did and not party politics.

"Our community council are far more vocal about local issues than our paid elected councillors, unfortunately they are virtually powerless.

"They can object to developments but in the main they are then ignored.”

Mr Brunton also highlighted problems with policing and the amount of vandalism and unruly behaviour which was blighting his hometown.

While the message was heavy, the tone was mostly light.

And it was further lightened by musicians Robert Harrison on keyboard, Peter Gilmore on guitar and John McGrath on vocals with interval entertainment.

John Fairless, who had entertained at many Guildry Suppers, was presented with a token of appreciation by Dean Alistair Dodd.

While many of the addresses and toasts were broad-sweeping, Graeme Murray's reply to the toast of the Town and Trade of Peebles was aimed straight at future housing proposals for Peeblesshire.

And he lamented the individuals and groups who hold developers and planning committees to account.

In his rousing speech Mr Murray said: "We must demand for any expansion of the town to be properly managed.

"We need a long-term plan for Peebles, setting out a number of matters like, road improvement plans, an infrastructure plan for all domestic services, and we need school roll projection figures and health matters relating to patient and doctor numbers.

"Our councillors must be challenged and made to be accountable for any proposals which they will make in the months ahead.

"Peebles is a town under development pressure and the proposals in the Main Issues Report for additional housing both in the short-term and the long-term, will create that pressure, and if left unchallenged, will cause damage to the town."

It was left to Arthur Crittel to propose the toast to new member, Leslie Turnbull, who has returned to the town from Lincolnshire.

And the Vote of Thanks was very ably delivered by Neil Hughes.