|Built around the Gala Water (a tributary
of the Tweed) the town of Galashiels lies in a shallow valley. Until the
late 18th century Galashiels was little more than a village. Unlike
other Border towns, it was not subject to the ravages of warfare on a
regular basis, did not have an abbey and was not a frequent haunt of
royalty. This is not to say that the town is devoid of history.
The nearby Abbey and village of Melrose
were granted charters by King David I (1124-53) in which land near Gala
Water is mentioned, possibly where the Old Town was built. In 1622, a
new church was constructed at Galashiels and the parish name was changed
Chronicled in the history document
Scalacronica is an event which is important to the history of the town.
The valley of the Gala Water was a route used by English armies heading
north and in 1337 an English force made their way towards Edinburgh to
relieve the besieged garrison in the castle. According to local
tradition they camped near Galashiels. A party of English soldiers had
become separated from the main force and was gathering wild plums. They
were discovered by the local who surprised and slew them.
During 1544 the villages of Bucjholm and
Gala were burned by the English, as were many other Border Towns. The
following year the Scots rallied around the Earl of Arran (acting as
Regent) prior to their victory over the English at Ancrum Moor near
Jedburgh. This let to further violent reprisals.
The Industrial Revolution and the coming
of the railway transformed Galashiels from a village into a thriving
town. From 1771, land within the town was feued and factories built.
Gradually houses were built on each bank of the Gala Water. In 1884 the
North British Railway (NBR) company began work on a railway from
Edinburgh and this was completed in 1849. The line was initially called
the "Border Union" but was renamed the "Waverley
Route" in honour of Sir Walter Scott. More than 100 years later,
Galashiels was a victim of the Beeching Review of the rail network and
the Waverley Route was eventually closed in 1969.
Today Galashiels is the second largest
town in the Borders with a population of approximately 14,000. It may
not, at first glance, be as historic as other neighbouring towns but
this is a living and developing community which has more to offer and
surprise the visitor than may be expected.