TWEEDDALE researchers are hosting a special event in Walkerburn to remember the history of the Walkerburn Mills.

As well as highlighting the important history of the village, the talk at the public hall next week will also share stories from a teenage girl's diary.

A 14-year-old Walkerburn schoolgirl’s recollections of a visit to a woollen mill in the early years of the 20th century is one of the treasures unearthed by Peebles Civic Society in its researches into the industrial revolution that once transformed Tweeddale from a sleepy backwater to a hive of industry.

Kitty King was related to the Ballantyne family – one of the dynasties that built and developed the Mills of Tweeddale – and the society has received a local a £4,300 grant from the Neighbourhood Support Fund of Scottish Borders Council to collect folk memories of all the factories and the men and women who worked there.

One of Kitty’s diary entries remembers a mill visit with her father.

“I do love the big engine and next the waterwheel, spinning jennys and carding machine,” she wrote.

“The 'yankies' are funny little machines with knives and brushes to take the rough off the cloth and we went into the drying room where the cloth goes over hot pipes after it is washed and where it is so hot one can only stay a minute or two at a time. I do like the big engine.

"Father has promised to take me there again. I really think I could get quite affectionate towards it.”

Catherine 'Kitty' King wrote and illustrated her diaries between the years 1901 and 1906.

She lived in Walkerburn with her parents Alfred and Grace King, and Alfred worked at Tweedvale Mill.

The diaries, courtesy of the King family in Kirk Yetholm and Edinburgh, provide a unique and charming account of Kitty's life and her adventures growing up with her brother Jock in Walkerburn during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.

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“This is one small example of the fantastic response we’ve had to our Mills of Tweeddale project and the amazing new material we have to show at the Blether," said Peebles Civic Society spokesman Stephen Scott. "The project has really taken off."

The society is heading up a partnership with Peebles Library, Museum and Gallery, Innerleithen Community Trust, and Walkerburn Community Development Trust to preserve the history and heritage of the industry that made Tweeddale a world centre of textile manufacture from the mid-19th century to recent times.

The Mills of Tweeddale have left us with only a few old buildings along an eight-mile stretch of the River Tweed valley and in the names of a series of housing estates on former factory sites.

But perhaps the greatest legacy is the village of Walkerburn itself.

The village takes its name from the banks of the burn where Henry Ballantyne bought land to build a Tweed mill in 1846. The settlement was founded a few years later in 1854 to accommodate mill workers, many of whom then lived in Galashiels.

His sons, George Henry and James succeeded their father and by the end of the 19th century there were also Ballantyne mills in Innerleithen and Peebles.

Next Saturday’s Walkerburn Blether event invites former mill workers to share their experiences and contribute to an eventual archive of interviews, videos, photographic and other ephemera, an exhibition, and a fully illustrated book.

It’s not just for former workers. There will be much to interest everyone, with a wealth of maps and photographs illustrating Walkerburn’s earliest days and development powered by the woollen industry.

But there’s a special welcome to anyone who was involved with the Tweeddale textile industry who wants to help preserve the story of the mills before they fade into history.

The project team will be on hand and light refreshments will be available free of charge. If you’re unable to attend you can learn more about the project and make contact through the society’s website:

The Walkerburn Blether takes place at Walkerburn Public Hall from 11am to 4pm Saturday, August 19. Free admission for all.