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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Berwick's Horrible History at Bygone Borderlands, Berwick-upon-Tweed, This Weekend

Find out about Tudor (1485 to 1603) Berwick.
Uncover the mystery of the Scottish spies.
Make a puppet of a historic Berwick character.
All this and more (mainly for children) upstairs in Berwick Jail (accessed from Berwick Guildhall).

It's part of the popular annual Bygone Borderlands event at Berwick Guildhall and it's this weekend; from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, 2 May and Sunday, 3 May.

Would you have liked to have been a medieval knight ?
  • Boys (and girls), try on the replica armour at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery at the Barracks.
  • See more of Berwick's Horrible History in the exhibition.
It's open from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 2 May; Sunday 3 May and Monday 4 May.

Download the Berwick 900 Festival's full programme of events.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Friday, 24 April 2015

Discover Berwick’s First World War Story - 25 and 26 April - Event Programme

Come to Berwick for this weekend's programme of events commemorating World War I.

As you can see, there are lots of events throughout the day from 11am to 4pm on both Saturday, 25 April and Sunday, 26 April, including living history at the Barracks and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum, an exhibition, re-enactments, films, talks, dramas performed by Maltings Youth Theatre and Lowick Heritage Group and an opportunity to handle historic objects from the First World War.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Find out about Family Members in Scotland with free credits on ScotlandsPeople

Have you got Scottish ancestry or family members in Scotland ?

If you have ancestors that lived on the English side of the Border with Scotland or in the Berwick area, it's quite likely that you had family members that lived or worked in the Scottish Borders, or possibly just got married in Scotland or on one of the bridges over the River Tweed; the bridge between Cornhill and Coldstream was famous for such marriages.

My thanks to Marjorie Gavin for spotting that you can get 20 free credits on ScotlandsPeople worth £4.50 with an offer valid until 30 April.

Register at ScotlandsPeople if you are a new user, or log in, if you already have an account.

When you're logged in, click on 'Buy more credits' at the top of the page on the right.

You will be taken to a page where you should enter the promotional code.

Under 'Do you have a voucher code?', enter the promotional code:

You should then receive 20 free credits worth £4.50.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Free Access to Ancestry's Midlands Collection until Saturday

To mark the Who Do You Think You Are ? Live show in Birmingham, Ancestry is providing free access to its Midlands Collection.  Don't delay, the offer ends on Saturday, 18th April !

As usual, you'll need to register or log in.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Robert Balmer - A Highly Esteemed Berwick Minister

Family Search lists Robert Balmer's birth on 22nd November 1787 and christening, 8 days later, at Eckford, Roxburghshire, Scotland.

According to his Academical lectures and pulpit discourses which includes a memoir of his life, his father was Thomas Balmer and his mother, Margaret Biggar and they lived at Ormiston Mains.

Thomas was probably a farmer; he had been offered a farm by the Duke of Buccleuch but he preferred to be a land-steward, first at Ormiston and later at Crailinghall. He was a member of the congregation at Morebattle, connected with the General Associate (Antiburgher) Synod.

Margaret was a granddaughter of the James Biggar mentioned in the autobiography of the venerable Boston of Ettrick. She adhered to the congregation at Jedburgh, connected with the Associate (Burgher) Synod. Family Search lists Thomas Balmer and Margaret Biggar's marriage on 6th January 1786.

They had 2 other sons, Walter (probably born 30 January 1790; later emigrated to USA) and James (probably born 14th March 1794) and a daughter, Helen, (probably born 22nd April 1796). The memoir doesn’t mention Stephen (christened 19th October 1788 in the same place as the others) or Nelly  (christened 5th August 1792 at Hobkirk).

At the age of 9, Robert went to a school at Crailing Mill, taught by Richard Scott, later one of the elders of Golden Square congregation, Berwick. Thomas died about a year later and Mrs Balmer opened a shop at Eckford-moss. Robert moved to Eckford parish school and attended Morebattle parish school to learn Latin.

At age 14, he went to Kelso Grammar School, stating during the week with his aunt at Maxwellheugh.
He went to Edinburgh University at the beginning of the session 1802-3.
In the autumn of the year 1806, after undergoing an examination by the Associate Presbytery of Selkirk, he was admitted to the study of Divinity under the Rev. Dr George Lawson, supporting himself by teaching.

He was licensed to preach the Gospel on 4th August 1812. He was offered posts by congregations in Lochwinnoch, Leslie, Ecclefechan, and Berwick, and in autumn 1813 picked Berwick (perhaps because his mother and his brother, James, lived in Berwick).

He said in a letter to a friend “My ordination took place on Wednesday, the 23rd of last month (March 1814). The person who preached first, and who ordained (presided at the ordination), was Mr Lee of Horndean, a most intimate acquaintance, and one of the best men, I believe, in the Burgher Synod. A friend and relation not less dear, Mr Paterson of Alnwick, preached after him. Mr Peddie from Edinburgh was present, and introduced me on the following Sabbath.”
He was clearly prized by his Berwick congregation; the Caledonian Mercury reported:
“on 13th July 1819, an elegant silver cup and ….. a beautiful set of table plate, value 50 guineas (£52.50) were presented by the principal members of the Burgher Associate Congregation of Berwick, ….. at the Red Lion Inn, as a token of the high esteem they entertain for him.”

On 18th July 1826, Robert married Jane Scott, daughter of Alexander Scott of Aberdeen. One of Jane’s sisters was a landlady in Slateford, Edinburgh, her brother, John wrote ‘Visits to Paris’.
No children are mentioned in the memoir.

 In 1833, he was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology to the United Secession Church.

Robert’s mother, Margaret Biggar, died in 1839.

In 1840, the University of St Andrews conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor in Divinity. He preached in many places including London, Glasgow and Edinburgh and was an active participant in the controversy that, ultimately, led to the disruption of the churches.

He died on the morning of Monday, July 1, 1844 after several weeks with a severe and painful illness and was buried on 9th July. His death was reported in many newspapers in England and Scotland. Apart from a volume of sermons in 1819, he published little during his lifetime, except in newspapers.

There's a photograph of an imposing column and its inscription in Holy Trinity churchyard, Berwick, on the Find A Grave website.

Are you related to one of Robert Balmer's brothers or sisters ?

Friday, 3 April 2015

Free Easter Weekend Access to Ancestry's UK and Canadian Records

To celebrate Easter, Ancestry UK and Ancestry Canada are offering free access to more than one billion UK family history records and images and more than 235 million Canadian family history records and images over the Easter weekend.

Their advert pages say the offer ends at 23.59 on 6 April in the UK and 23.59 ET on 6 April in Canada.

As with other Ancestry offers, you'll presumably need to log in, so if you haven't already done so, register free and log in.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Come to our Easter Family History Surgeries at Berwick-upon-Tweed

This weekend is the start of the Berwick 900 Festival that celebrates 900 years of Berwick’s history.

The theme of the Easter weekend, 3  to 6 April is “Our Christian Story” that celebrates Christian institutions, religious life and a few of the great Christian leaders in the town.

At St Andrews Church, Wallace Green, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1ED as well as the “Moments in Time” Flower Festival, inspired by the church’s history, there will be display panels about Robert Balmer, an inspirational minister at Golden Square, Dr John Cairns and Berwick’s well known physician, Philip MacLagan, a church elder.

Although all these men were born in Scotland and at times lived elsewhere, they all had strong links with Berwick. Like them, John Hamilton Hall, a freeman, was born in Coldstream, moved to Berwick as a child where his father was a doctor, left the town to fight in India, returned when he retired from the army, aged 40, got married and then moved to Edinburgh.

Did your family move into or out of Berwick ?
Why did they do that ?
If your family is associated with Berwick, Tweedmouth or Spittal, the Berwick 900 Our Families Project would love to hear your family stories.

Normally you need to visit Berwick Record Office to consult the transcripts of church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials for Berwick and Tweedmouth. However, over the Easter weekend, you can look at some of the registers in the churches where the events took place – Berwick Parish; St Andrews and Berwick Roman Catholic churches and Tweedmouth Parish Church. Look on the Berwick 900 website for opening times.

Are you wondering how to start your family history ? Perhaps you’ve started researching your family but have hit a brick wall.

If you need any help why not come along to our Family History surgeries in St Andrews Church from 12 to 2pm each day from Good Friday to Easter Monday and speak to experienced genealogists.

Family History Volunteers Needed, Please Help !

The Our Families Project is looking for volunteers to help research families and their stories for displays as part of the other themed weekends for the Berwick 900 Festival in Berwick, Spittal and Tweedmouth this year.

If you are an experienced Family Historian, we’ll provide you with advanced training on specific resources.

If you are a complete novice, we’ll train you in basic family history and provide you with resources.

We are holding an initial meeting for Beginners on Tuesday 7th April at 10am in the Berwick Record Office, Council Offices, Wallace Green, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1ED.

Do come along if you want to find out more and are keen to help us. Researching family history is fun and interesting.

For further information please contact Linda Bankier at or tweet @Berwick900.