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pulling a folder from the archives
pulling a folder from the archives

Gala Water makes history

The parish of Stow, situated on the Gala Water 8 miles north of Galashiels, is home to around 730 people with the main villages Stow and Fountainhall. Gala Water History and Heritage Association (GWHHA) collects, displays and archives local history materials for the interest, education and enjoyment of residents and visitors to the parish. It seeks to improve access to historic materials and information about the area’s rich heritage and create opportunities to strengthen community identity and involvement through working with the collections and putting on community events.

Since 2012, GWHHA has employed a part-time Community Archivist through grants from EDF’s Longpark Community Fund. The Community Archivist catalogues the archive - located at Stow Town Hall Reading Room - and records new additions to it. The Archivist also supports others locally in their heritage-related research and project work, organises exhibitions and conducts a variety of outreach and promotional work.

This professional archive service has significantly increased the accessibility of the historical collection. All items are now appropriately stored, logically organised and accessible, and the majority of the collection is now held in a digital format with much of it made available on-line.

Around 70% of the historical material has been archived to date. However, the employment of the Archivist has increased the visibility of the project, encouraging growth in donations of new material. Visits to the archive have also increased, as has the number of volunteers helping with cataloguing.

The Archivist also provides professional support volunteers, through mentoring and facilitating research and project development. Information and support have also been provided to many local groups, including the Community Council, Historic Stow, the Parish Trust, and the local primary school.

Selected projects undertaken by GWHHA, with the support of the Archivist, include:

  • Poppy Project: A commemorative installation and record of the stories of local people commemorated on the war memorial.
  • Borders Railway Booklet: A booklet of photos and local perspectives to commemorate the opening of the railway.
  • Working with local schools: The Archivist runs regular sessions for pupils, both in school and on-site.
  • The Cafe Sessions: A popular monthly reminiscence group providing a rich source of stories and social connection.
  • 19th-century cuttings books: Publication of facsimile copies of three notable 19th-century cuttings books.
  • Exhibitions and displays: these are arranged at least twice a year. For example, ‘Books and Bonnie Braes’ was held in April 2016, based on prints from a family photographic album from 1901. This attracted over 100 visitors and recruited 48 ‘friends’ who pay £5 membership to support the archive.

Approximately 150 people have benefited from the archivist's services directly each year.

The benefits of the project go beyond providing access to the archive and providing professional support to volunteers and community groups. GWHHA also cite the importance of the project in building cross-generational links, social connections and pride in the community.

Visitors’ comments:

An amazing and very interesting archive for a small (though important) place. Honestly surprised. Good job to keep memories

Well done to have so much info on the past. Thanks for all the help finding out about my grandmother’s village

Thank you for your support and time. A very informative visit