Walkerburn Festival Essay Winner

The winner of the Walkerburn Festival Essay competition for 2022 was Alice Shouesmith and her essay is available below.

Walkerburn Festival Essay Winner 2022

Walkerburn was founded by Henry Ballantyne and designed by Fredrick Thomas in 1846-1847. The land was bought off Thomas Horsbrugh so Henry could build a mill. Henry Ballantyne was born in 1802 in Galashiels. He was a member of a small colony of weavers and proved to be very skilled with weaving cloth.

After the mill opened houses were built for workers and their families, the first child was born in Walkerburn in 1856, children aged as low as seven worked in the mill, often losing fingers! In 1856 the area was named Walkerburn after the Waulker Burn. 

Shops started opening in 1858 and by 1861 the villagers started to raise money to build the school, the school was built by the villagers and they quickly realised the funds they had raised were not enough. So it was built in a way that it could be added to. The principal was paid £25 but collected money the children paid to go to school (4 pence) although it depended on what classes you took.

At first there was one class room with 50-60 pupils, no individual classes until the children split up due to ability, the children were aged from 5-13 years old. A while later, when there was over a hundred pupils the headmaster’s house was built. 

The Good Templar movement built the village hall in 1877.

Just before WW2 there was six teachers, on 1st September 1939 around a hundred evacuees came from Edinburgh and were booked into the school, the teachers had a different register for the evacuees with their date of birth, school they came from, and their host’s names.

Mike Tucker, an evacuee stayed in the village his whole life and married a local girl, evacuees only stayed weeks while others stayed years. (I don’t know if Mike has passed)

The railway and post office were built in 1866, while the railway closed in 1962 the post office is in the original building still!

The rugby club was founded in 1884 and the Church of Scotland was built only a year before, the rugby club was built as the 25th member of the Scottish Rugby Union.

By 1878 the first gas street lamps were introduced and there was a police station at the bottom of Hall Street built in 1882.

In addition to the post office there was a butcher, baker, greengrocer, chemist, jeweller, tailor, clothes shop, multiple sweet shops, dress makers, knit ware, fish and chip shop, and hairdressers.

In 1904 David Ballantyne built the Henry Ballantyne Memorial institute for his father’s memory, this is more commonly known as the HB Club.

During the First World War older men and woman ran the mill making over 10,000 yards of tartan a week! In 1920 the war memorial was built by public subscription.

In the 1920s-1930s the school leaving age was raised to 14 so no more young children in the mill.

A new park was built next to the river with a swing park, two tennis courts, and a putting green though now only the swing park survives.

In 1932 the first summer festival was held with a football match against Innerleithen for the ‘Paul Cup’ for the children. 

In the Second World War the mill employed refugees from Eastern Europe.

People from Glasgow came along in 1950 when the slums were cleared. Electricity came in 1950 as well! By 1961 when the railway closed, shops began to struggle and close, even though the village had the mill, wages weren’t enough and the mill closed soon after.

In the 21st century the Burning Issues was founded as a monthly newspaper for the village. And during Covid-19 a group started ‘food hugs’ to help families who struggle.


I would like to bring back more local shops such as a butchers or bakers, get more pupils at the school, more funds for the rugby club, for all the different committees and trusts to work closely so the community is together, and more clubs for the children such as a youth club.


Walkerburn has gone from a small village to house mill workers, to a busy village with lots of shops and businesses, due to supermarkets all the shops have gone but the post office, and the businesses are now Rathburn Chemical works and there is an industrial estate with small and business units.


I love playing in the park with friends, and riding up the bike path! And the duck race!


Thank you to,

The late Eric Pearce,

The late Ann Park, David Cox, And my parents!

I used Wikipedia and “A Short History of Walkerburn”

Ann Park

In 2020, I interviewed the late Mrs Ann Park for a school project. She lived here all her life and was the fourth generation in her house.  May she rest in peace.

Ann was born in 1938, she was the fourth generation in the High Cottages. She was a Brown Owl, lieutenant, and district commissioner in the guides! She also loved growing up in a community where everyone knew each other. Her dad passed when she was young so she lived with her mum, gran, and great aunt, she was an only child.  There was no electricity in the house until 1950, as well as gas, but there was frequent black outs. The water supply came from the hills and was heated by a wood fire.  In the spring the boiler tubs were taken outside, and blankets were put to be washed. Ann was lifted in and ‘danced’ to get them clean!  She used to play on the terraces and build play houses in the hollows behind Caberston Avenue. And she would sledge during the winter. Ann went to Walkerburn Primary School, she learnt to sew making knickers and underskirts! During the war there was an air raid shelter in the playground.  Ann became a TBS bank clerk and was the first female to pass the bank exams!

I hope you enjoyed my essay and maybe learned something!