Former Kelso provost honoured 50 years late

SBSR Ann Drummond
SBSR Ann Drummond

A former Provost has been honoured in Kelso’s Town hall - over 50 years after he held the position.

It drew to a close a process that had begun last year, when Anne Underwood realised that there was no picture of her father, David Ferguson who had been Provost of Kelso between 1960 and 1964.

On Friday, March 4, David’s portrait was hung between those of Jim Bews and Tom Plenderleith.

David was co-opted on to Kelso Town Council in 1949 in recognition of the work he had done for the town during WWII, when he had raised some £3,000 for the War Comfort Fund by running dances in St Mary’s Hall.

He had noticed that the troops stationed in Kelso had only the two picture houses for their entertainment. Having searched in vain for a hall to hold dances in, he met the priest Father Birnie, who offered his Church Hall, and so began a most successful enterprise.

Anne remembers how David’s wife, Minnie Ferguson, walked up Roxburgh Street in all weathers on a Saturday night carrying a basket containing the Reid’s pies for the band’s half time break and to take her place at the doors behind the entrance desk.

Anne said: “Admission was 1/9d for the chaps and 1/6d for the girls – not much profit there! She had a ‘bouncer’ in the person of Frank Symington (a baker at the local co-op) who kept an eye open for any trouble which might arise.”

The dances were “TT” and the only refreshments available were glasses of Middlemas’ Lemonade.

Anne continued: “The dances were most popular from the start. At that time Kelso had a laundry and the girls there looked forward to treading the light fantastic with the young men stationed in the town.

“Many romances blossomed and when the Polish troops arrived with their charming manners (and hand kissing!) the local lads and British soldiers alike sat up and took notice and the girls enjoyed all the attention.

Profits from the dances went to fund the Toc H canteen in Roxburgh Street. The canteen was staffed by wives of Toc H members and local girls pleased to give their time. The only other canteen in the town was in the British Legion.

There were two cinemas, the Playhouse in Bridge Street and the Roxy at the bottom of Horsemarket.

There were usually long queues along Havannah Court and Horsemarket to see the latest films and Movietone News.

Anne recalled: “Saturday afternoon saw local children enjoying the matinee performance including serials – these could become quite noisy with the enthusiastic participation of the youngsters urging on the cowboys and Indians.

“Looking back one realises that life has never been dull in Kelso and long may this continue.

“On the way home it was the habit to call in to Allan’s chip shop; fighting one’s way past the heavy blackout curtain into the smoke filled fug to order fish and chips or maybe a black pudding – such choice! Really life in war time Kelso was not all bad.”