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note railings later removed to "assist the war effort"
With the recent uncertainty regarding the future of Duns Volunteer Hall and question marks arising over its continuing availability to local organizations it is perhaps significant to recall its history.
We are therefore indebted to Mrs. Isobel Candlish, Society member, for submission of the following article;
“In the early 1890s the original Hall was in poor condition and was demolished to make way for a bigger, better one more suited to the Berwickshire Volunteers and for the use of the wider public.
The Hall was owned by the Ministry of Defence but administered by the local authority, latterly Scottish Borders Council.
However it was built by public subscription, work commencing on 20th. May 1894, the corner stone being laid on 30th. June of that year by Mrs. Hope of Cowdenknowes House (near Earlston), wife of Colonel Charles Hope, commanding officer of the 2nd (Berwickshire) Volunteer Battalion K.O.S.B.
Colonel Hope headed the subscription list with a donation of £100 (a sizeable sum for that time) and also granted a loan on very favourable terms to cover any balance of funds needed – the estimated cost was above £2000. Local people contributed to the list.
A local man George Farnington wrote to the Committee suggesting a performance of Handel’s Messiah by Duns’ musicians would be a suitable opening concert and this was appropriately approved. The organist at Duns Parish Church was asked to organize and agreed, calling a meeting on 27th. September 1894 inviting those interested in forming a choir to attend and from those attending a choir of 100 was formed. Leading soloists were invited from Edinburgh. The accompanist was Miss Marshall of Duns who ran the Ivy Lodge Ladies, School in Duns.
This was attended by upwards of 1000 people and was chaired by Colonel Hope who formally opened the Hall. Some of Colonel Hope’s recorded comments;
“This Hall has been built for the uses and convenience of the Volunteers. Duns has for a long time been in want of a good hall but it can no longer complain of this. I trust that the opening of this fine hall will mark a new era of prosperity in the Town. I think this meeting here tonight is an excellent prediction of the many splendid meetings which may take place here in the future and the many excellent purposes to which this hall can be applied.”
The audience of upwards of 1000 people enjoyed the subsequent performance of 'The Messiah' which was later pronounced to be the finest musical entertainment ever performed in Duns.
Architect: - George Duns (Duns)
Contractors; - Henry Steel (Greenlaw)
Slater; - John Aitchison (Duns)
Plasterer;- William Smith (Duns)
Plumber; - Peter Newbigging (Duns)
Secretary and Treasurer of Committee; - William Green (son of chief magistrate, Chemist William Green)