It has been a sad summer in Smailholm - we have had four recent deaths in the village, John Jackson on 11th May, Andrew Fairley on 12th July, Karen Lowrie on 11th August, and Derrick Jowett on 29 August. They all played a big part in village life, and will be sorely missed.
A tribute to Andrew Fairley, 1937-2018 - by his nephew
Andrew was born on 27 November 1937, arriving in Smailholm very soon after. The family have been in the area for at least 150 years. They moved to the old Smithy, now Westfield, Smailholm, Andrew, his older brothers George and Magnus, and his parents George and Jenny.
An active and happy child, he liked to sing in the bath indoors, and to the birds and animals outdoors. Early schooling was in the village school, continuing at Kelso High School till the age of 15.
On leaving school his first job was at Sandyknowe Farm, where he learnt all about crops and livestock.
At 18 he did his two years National service – mainly in Gloucestershire – and then returned home. A six week contract to help the Forsyths with the harvest turned into a 33 year association.
He also ran the village post-office from his home in Smailholm for many years, probably the only post-office in Scotland offering an armchair, tea, and cake for the price of a stamp.
Andrew was born with big hands, big lungs and a big heart – three attributes that were the tools for his trades, his pastimes, and key to his success as an individual. A hard worker, with a kind spirit, a mischievous streak and a sparkle in his eye, he believed that work maketh the man, and he could never sit still for long.
He saw plenty of changes on the land, from the hand and horse drawn, to the arrival of the motorised and mechanised. Once acquainted with the power and beauty of a tractor, combine harvester, chainsaw or lawnmower, that was it – he was smitten with those gadgets that made work easier, and more fun. He loved to be outdoors, working in garden or field, building a wall, watching wildlife, talking to his friends. Just as Andrew was drawn to nature, nature was drawn to him, instinctively animals and birds, as well as humans, knew friendship, aid, or shelter could be sought, for a moment or for a lifetime. Maybe it was his love of birds that taught him to whistle so well!
He dearly loved his large social circle of friends, and loved to help in any way he could. He had a few quirks, and liked to do things his way – preparing for village festivities, there was only one way to put up bunting, and only one way to light the village bonfire – dangerously and enthusiastically! And his neighbourly assistance sometimes went a bit awry – a large hole dug in the wrong place, a missing hedge, the wrong colour paint – however, whatever the practical expression of love you received, or the thing you lost, Andrew’s heart was always in the right place, it was only the digger, or chainsaw, or paintbrush that had been wrong.
According to his business card Andrew was a landscaper, a drystone dyker, and a Scottish balladeer and recording artist – an unusual combination.
Music was possibly the most important thing for Andrew, and he cultivated his own talents listening to singers past and present. His voice was described as a rich baritone, or deep sherry brown, whether singing solo, in a duet, or a group, it was all about lifting people’s spirits, and having a good time.
Regular live shows across Scotland, and occasional singing trips to America, led to alliances and subsequent recording opportunities. Cassette tapes first, videos, CDs and DVDs, capped off in modern times with youtube appearances. He appeared on radio stations in Scotland and Canada, and the Edinburgh festival fringe.
Andrew was pleased to maintain his independence to the end. He met his illnesses with courage, defiance and humour. A decade of chemotherapy, surgeries and heart complications can surely excuse his most colourful lyrics, sometimes lubricated by whisky, to voice his emotions when reserves were low, and things just didn’t make sense.
Time over, the Smailholm comeback kid would bounce back – again and again and again. Now he had gone, we can simply acknowledge the passing of Andrew and celebrate what he brought to the village, and the wider world.
The Rabbie Burns plate that Andrew kept on his window sill reads: “If you want a friend that’s true, I’m on your list” – and Andrew must be on many many lists.
The Border Reivers in Cross Stitch - a new village project completed
Some of you will remember that Smailholm Stitchers created two panels of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, the Border Reivers and the Modern Kilt (see Village Ventures). Our group of twelve included one of the few men involved in the tapestry. Derrick Jowett’s special talent is cross stitch and when we’d finished the tapestry, Derrick had the inspired thought that he could recreate the Border Reivers in cross stitch, with a view to it being a present for his wife initially but ultimately for it to hang on the wall in the village hall, a memento of the village’s involvement with the Great Tapestry.
Derrick was fortunate that another of our group, Sally Scott Aiton, is the owner of a very prestigious cross stitch company, Cobweb Designs (https://www.cobweb-needlework.com) . Sally supplies the National Trust, Historic Scotland and other very famous historic buildings abroad, such as Versailles in France and the Alhambra and the Prada in Spain, so she was perfectly placed, and – more importantly – willing to use her design skills to translate our Border Reiver panel into a cross stitch chart. Derrick made an excellent start to the project, demonstrating his usual high standard, but ill health forced him to accept that finishing it would be a challenge too far. So he asked the tapestry group if they would finish the work, and without hesitation everyone said yes!
Cross stitch skills in Smailholm Stitchers were varied, from the very experienced to no experience at all. However, enough people were in the former category and those who weren’t confined themselves to some of the simpler areas of the work, but everyone from the original tapestry group did a bit. With Sally project managing it, the panel was completed in April 2018 and framed ready to hang in the village hall, where Derrick had decided it should go. It’s on a smaller scale, the cross stitch version is about 16” square and the original panel three feet square, but the replica is extremely authentic in appearance.
This all seemed to call for some sort of a celebration! Completion coincided with Derrick’s birthday and we’re always up for a party. So on 29th April, we hung the picture on the hall wall, and, incollusion with Derrick's wife Marjorie, brought him up “to see the finished work”. A bit suspicious at the number of cars outside when he arrived, the ensuing birthday tea (sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones and homemade jam,lots of lovely cakes) was a complete surprise! Attendance from Smailholm Stitchers and Derrick’s friends in the village made for a lovely afternoon. We’re grateful to Derrick for his wonderful idea, we won’t be here to see it but we hope the Border Reivers will still be hanging in the village hall a hundred years from now!
Accidents on the double bend at the west end of Smailholm
The community council want to keep a record of all the accidents that happen at the double bend at the west end of Smailholm, so that we can convince the council that we need some kind of better warning. Many of the accidents don't get reported if there are no serious injuries and the police aren't called, so the figures the council have are much lower than the reality. So if you see any, can you let either Jane, Veronica, or Ian Malcolm know.
Once again, Smailholm Village Hall saw a lively Christmas Party 2016, with all the right elements - great music, lots of dancing, good company, entertainment, and lovely food, a wonderful way of getting everyone in the Christmas spirit - see the video below!
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