WITH changes to the committee last year, a fresh lick of paint and refurbishment, the ex-servicemen’s public hall is looking forward to becoming an integral part of the Eskdalemuir community again, hosting regular events to encourage social interaction in this rural area.
May Reid, chairwoman, welcomed members of the community and visitors to a barbecue last Sunday and talked about how the new committee had worked together to give the hall a much-needed refurbishment
Diana Lillie, secretary, contacted the Dulux paint wholesalers in Dumfries and persuaded them to supply the paint, while Greg Harkness of Lockerbie painted the hall, paid by the hall’s funds but also painted the toilets and kitchen for free.
A certificate was presented to Greg in recognition of his work and it was received by Alan McKay who was at the barbecue.
The hall was an Army barracks in Gretna during World War One. In 1919 sections of it were moved to Eskdalemuir to serve as a proper hall.
It was used by the Home Guard during World War Two. The local Home Guard was composed of shepherds who were not called to active military duty because the country couldn’t do without them.
During a military exercise one of the shepherds was killed when the charge exploded before it left the gun but the gun was not damaged. His name is on the war memorial outside the church.
In 1924 the Duke of Buccleuch gifted the hall to the ex-servicemen and the community as a space for social gatherings. In 1952 the hall was rebuilt into what it is today.
Many dances were held in the hall with visiting bands including the famous Jimmy Shand dance band.
The Eskdalonian Scottish Band started in the hall because some of the musicians were local.
Beattie’s son, who was in his 20s, played the accordion and Cecil Carmichael was a pianist who came from Langholm.
Bobby Graham played the piano accordion and William Hotson was a drummer who had been in the Army during the war. George Bell, who had been in the Army in the 1940s, was a joiner and lived where the post office used to be. He played the violin, or fiddle.
One visitor was Mary Steele of Langholm who regularly took the bus to Eskdalemuir for the dances in the early 1960s.
She said: “It was half a crown for the bus and half a crown on the door and it was packed every other weekend.
“The likes of Jimmy Shand and Ian Rankine played and people would travel from Lockerbie and Langholm as well as the farms around Eskdalemuir.”
Mary donated some photos of the dances, showing how many people packed into the hall back in the day. She was encouraged to hear how the committee were breathing new life into the hall and hoped to come back up to some of the events in the future.
Sarah Stuart, committee member, researched a copy of the deeds which said no alcohol was to be sold on the premises but the public could bring their own to events.
The committee have worked hard putting together an events plan. They currently hold indoor bowling on the first and third Friday of the month, including through the summer, which is proving to be popular.
On the first Sunday of the month they organise a walk for the community, taking them on local walks and some further afield.
May asked people to get in touch with her if they had any stories or photos of events which had been held over the years.
There is a ceilidh on Saturday, August 24 with The Outland Trio as a joint venture with the Community Hub. Tickets are on sale at the Hub or from committee members.
The new committee members are May Reid, Diana Lillie, Ian Stuart, treasurer, Sarah Stuart, promotions
Committee members are Lindsay Reid, June Adgo, Susie Lillie and Donna Souter.
Donations made towards the barbecue amounted to £233.