The newly established branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) at Duns now has 145 members enrolled and over 20 groups established - a real continuing success story.
At the first of the regular monthly open meetings of Duns and District U3A around 60 people turned up to hear a talk by local historian David McLean - his topic the ‘Farm Servants of South East Scotland 1750 -1914’.
Following on from a week of remembrance it was particularly poignant and, as the Volunteer Hall was still decorated with the exhibition to mark the 100th Anniversary of Armistice, making the venue particularly appropriate for a talk that took its audience to the outbreak of war in 1914.
The talk highlighted the relationship between farm servant and master and the gruelling work conditions endured by the families who laboured on the land.
Housing was basic at best and payment was primarily in kind for a minimum of 10 hours work per day six days a week.
David also explained the concept of the Bondagers, a system peculiar to the eastern Borders and Northumberland. For example, a skilled farm servant (hind) would have to engage another person willing to work long hours in the fields in order to get a contract of employment with a farmer.
It could be his wife, daughter or even a complete stranger if his wife was unable to undertake the work because of illness or childcare.
If it was a stranger, the hind was required to provide board and lodging for the woman and also pay her for work done. This system was highly unpopular with the hinds, who often had to subsidise her payment from their own meagre earnings.
Fortunately this system was finally abolished and women who continued to work on the land had their own contract of employment with the farmer.
The talk was extremely interesting and engaging and was illustrated with images of the living and working conditions. Many of the members of the audience could relate to the stories through their own family histories and memories of farm life.
The next meeting will be in the Volunteer Hall, Duns on Tuesday, December 11, at 10am for 10.30am start. The speakers will be Professor Paul and Dr Janet Starkey who will talk on ‘Exploring the Middle East Past and Present’, providing a fascinating insight into this complex issue.
Members and non members are welcome along to the meeting. For further information a go to dunsu3a.com or follow them on Facebook.