"Hawick & District From Old Photographs" by Alistair Redpath is a wonderful evocation of a world now lost. Or perhaps that should be a series of worlds, each in turn now gone forever. Hawick is the largest town in the Scottish Borders and the most urban-feeling of them. One visitor to the town in the 1820s described it as a sort of "Glasgow in miniature", a comparison that today would probably not be appreciated by either. It lies on the River Teviot where it is joined by the Slitrig Water: and the power its rivers provided was central to the growth of the town.
The photographs in this book range in date from the late 1800s to the early 2000s and between them encapsulate the many changes that have taken place in and around Hawick over that time. We have previously reviewed Alistair Redpath's "Hawick Through Time", which compared historical and modern views of the same subject, and the current volume really adds to and complements what has gone before. As far as we can see, an entirely new - and much larger - collection of old photographs has been used and the result is a book that brings the past to life in a very compelling sense.
It's impossible to look at a collection of photographs like this and fail to wonder about the lives of the people who appear in them. One sepia image shows a huge crowd gathered for the unveiling of the town's 1514 memorial on 4 June 1914, and as you scan the crowd it's inevitably with a sense of sadness informed by the knowledge that many of the men in the picture will die during the conflagration that swept across the world during the years that followed. The book draws together images of people, and of places and of events. Many memories will be stirred by the photographs of the Presto Food Market in 1977, and the Finefare supermarket (remember them?) in the 1980s. There are also pictures here of the annual common-riding; of prefabricated housing in the 1950s; of the fire that destroyed the historic Dangerfield Mill in 2003; of floods in 1924, 1938 and 2005; of sheep being driven through the town to the railway station in 1896; and above all else, of Hawick and its people. This is a book that should be considered essential viewing by all who live in, come from, or intend to visit Hawick. It illustrates beautifully that otherwise invisible fourth dimension, time.