Galashiels Railway Station

Train Stations
The Interchange next to the railway station will connect you to all parts of the Central Borders including Hawick, Jedburgh and all the towns along the Tweed

About Galashiels Railway Station

The Galashiels you see today is primarily a nineteenth century mill town. Surrounded by hills, the town crowds the Gala Water in its narrow valley and the river's sometimes ferocious speed once powered up to 20 textile mills. The main industries have gone and the hardships endured have made Galashiels a stubborn town reluctant to display its assets. But a persistent visitor can winkle out some fascinating history, a lively music scene, a 4 screen independent cinema and the nation's centre for textile design and development. The Interchange next to the railway station will connect you to all parts of the Central Borders including Hawick, Jedburgh and all the towns along the Tweed.
Within the town, Bank Street Gardens and Old Gala House Gardens are pleasant places to sit should the weather permit. Both gardens are particularly enjoyable in the spring and summer with their lovely flower displays.

The Gala Policies are woodlands once associated with a mansion house and so comprise a mixture of native and non-native tree species. A stream runs through the woodland and a pond and marshy ground has been created adding to the interest. This woodland has good access for people on foot and on wheels and is a great place for birdlife and wildflowers.

Another area of woodland is Langlee Community Woodland just north of Langlee. This is a little wilder and offers a more vigorous walk up the hill from the station. The views over the town are pleasing.

Borderlands often have to pull their own history out of the clutches of the nations on either side of the border and the Scottish Borders is no exception. From Roman times until the late seventeenth century, the area was crossed and re-crossed by countless armies. The local population were swept up in the events or took the law into their own hands, as the reiving families did on both sides of the border. Although Galashiels is relatively modern, its spirit is true Borders. One of the earliest mentions of Galashiels is in 1337 when a contingent of English soldiers passed by as they were heading north to relieve the siege of Edinburgh. A group of them went foraging for wild plums when they were surprised and attacked by locals. Many were slain and the English had to retreat back across the Tweed. This story is apparently the inspiration for the town's coat of arms, a fruiting plum tree with two foxes underneath and the motto "Sour Plums". The historical veracity of the story is irrelevant as the spirit is true!

Galashiels, the "shiels" or "shieling" by the Gala Water, emerges from the records as a distinct settlement by the fourteenth century and by the middle of the sixteenth there are the beginnings of a town. This area was held in sway to the Pringles who built a fortified house on the site of Old Gala House in 1544 and the oldest parts of the existing building were completed in1583 by Andrew Pringle. By this time the settlement was large enough to run its own affairs and in 1599 Galashiels became a burgh of barony which meant that it could run its own markets and fairs; from this point the little town prospered.

The town is dominated by the rivers and the hills. The rivers provided water power and the hills provided grazing for sheep and by the early 1580s there were two waulk or fulling mills using water power to wash the locally made coarse woollen cloth. By 1666 there were sufficient weavers to form a corporation. The town slowly grew, further encouraged by the opening of the turnpike road to Edinburgh in 1764, although the quality of the road was so bad that sometimes travellers preferred to use the river bed when possible. By 1797 there were four water powered mills for carding and spinning yarn. At this time, the town straggled untidily along the river and the old centre further up the hill was very dilapidated. Then certain conditions came together to create a great boost for the textile trade. Increased demand for cloth, new techniques in animal husbandry, developments in weaving technology and the freeing up of land purchase all made the time ripe for entrepreneurs to build textile mills. By the 1840s nine new mills had been built.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Galashiels had a population of 800; by the end of the century it had increased 24-fold to about 19,500. Most of these people were migrant workers from other parts of the Borders. The mills were first water powered and there reached a point where there was no more room to expand. Then in 1849 the railway came bringing coal to the town and allowing the use of steam power in the mills. The Galashiels textile industry boomed. In the mid-nineteenth century, Galashiels alone accounted for one fifth of the total supply of textiles from Scotland. The mill owners became rich and built themselves grand mansions on the outskirts of the town and prosperous middle classes built themselves spacious villas.

Then disaster struck. With the introduction of protectionist tariffs, the North American market for Galashiels cloth dried up, and in the last decade of the nineteenth century the population dropped by almost 25%. From then on the textile industry in Galashiels went into slow decline. The only vestige of the industry is the Scottish College of Textiles (soon to house the National Centre for Textiles) on the Heriot Watt University campus and the remnants of the old mill buildings and the mill lade that runs through the town.

The legacy of the textile industry meant that there was always a skilled workforce in Galashiels and in the 1960s this made it easier to start a new enterprise. In 1962, two Gala men, Kenneth Mill and Robert Currie, working in a modest room on the High Street, developed a method to manufacture printed circuit boards commercially. They started a company and whilst they only worked together for two years, their endeavours formed the basis for an electronics industry that flourished over 30 years and at one time employed over 2,500 people. However, unlike the textile industry, there was no slow decline but a brutal cessation when the industry's foreign owners relocated.

Times have been hard but people are amazingly resilient and perhaps the resilience is helped by the pride Gala people can summon up for their home town. The distinct nature of each of the Border towns is marked, and the rivalry between them is amicable but passionate. Galashiels celebrates its identity and sense of community by staging the Braw Lads Gathering every June. It has done this ever since 1930 and through various ceremonies it marks the key historic events of the town. It also marks the strength of civic pride and in spite of economic vagaries, Galashiels can still provide the spine-tingling sight of over 300 mounted horses charging over rivers and up hills cheered on by thousands thronging the way.

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