No history of Eckford would be complete without mentioning ‘the Rural’. Founded in 1926, it attracted members from the immediate area and there were few cars in those days. Unfortunately the records of the first few years were accidentally destroyed but the early meetings were held in the school until the village hall was built. The WRI here was dedicated to upholding the aims of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes, providing more social life and widening the experience of the women of the countryside. In 1966, very few of the original members were still in the neighbourhood.
Presidents and officebearers come and go and each one in her turn has contributed something of value from her own special talents to the life and well-being of the rural, which today in 1966 is as vital and energetic as it was forty years ago.
Some features change very little. The Halloween party for children is a regular event in the annual syllabus, with ‘dookin’ for apples, chappit tatties and turnip lanterns, while at Easter gifts of eggs - dyed and fresh - are sent to a children’s home. The Burns supper comes every two or three years and how simple it is now. Until a few years age it was a major operation. Cutlery and crockery had to be carried to the hall and all the neeps and tatties (swedes and potatoes) had to be cooked - maybe a mile away! - and transported piping hot. The haggis itself was an even greater problem. What if in disintegrated in the heating process? As well it might, and then there was a crisis! For what Burns Supper could be a success without the haggis being piped in in triumph?
Other activities have varied through years, just as individual members have done. Housewifery and handicrafts are always popular, both for demonstrations and competitions. Sometimes there has been an urge for drama; another time, Scottish country dancing took younger members to compete yearly at the Border Music Festival and eventually to win a cup in 1953. A very enthusiastic choir flourished for a few years too, under the inspiring leadership of a talented and musical friend, but these have both lacked support recently and the few singers join the Roxburghshire Federation Choir which meets in a central area.
Another significant change is the lapse of the annual day outing. Formerly, members travelled as far afield as St. Andrews, the Trossachs, Ayr and the Lake District. They enjoyed the company and the scenery. For some years now, however, little interest has been shown in a long journey. Perhaps all the attractive places within reach have been exhausted. Strangely enough, the annual ‘mystery’ tour of an evening is still popular, though many have been members of the institute for twenty years or more. Another popular item, though it is not an annual affair, is an outdoor meeting in June - weather permitting. With a camp fire expert among the members, a barbecue by the shore of Wooden Loch has been enjoyed on two or three occasions and sometimes meetings for tea and fun and games have been held in the pleasant grounds of Wester Wooden, Grahamslaw or Kalemouth.
Today, after forty years, the Rural is still active and vigorous and membership is around fifty. This is largely due to the fact that a Central Council recommendation is adhered to that office bearers must retire after three or four years service, thus bringing new life and energy into the bloodstream. Following on this, more than likely, the Annual General Meeting is always well attended and committee members and office bearers are elected by ballot. Seldom is there a member unwilling to accept office and what is most gratifying and encouraging is that half the present committee is around the thirty age group.
The members look forward to the future with confidence, working and playing in harmony, sympathising with less fortunate neighbours in the world and ever fostering the friendly spirit of the WRI.”
The WRI is still going in 1999 but only just. There are currently 12 members and two of those come out from Kelso. At present we do not elect a committee as we are all on the committee and office bearers are simply asked to volunteer! We meet on the third Wednesday of Jan, Feb, Mar, Apl, May, June, Sept, Oct and Nov. The second Wednesday in December is our Christmas Dinner in a hotel or restaurant somewhere and our June meeting is a visit to a place of interest eg Paxton House followed by a bar supper. The hall is so cold we have taken to having our January meeting in a member’s house. We have had occasional meetings in members’ homes to knit dollies which go to Bosnia and other war zones where there are children with nothing to call their own.
In recent years we have held two plant sale/coffee evenings to help our funds.
Once a year we have an open evening when anybody, including husbands, can come. We do this on a night when we have a subject of general interest.
The reason the day trips have ceased to be of interest is because nowadays everybody has cars and can go where they please. Foreign holidays are commonplace so the day out is not the big event it used to be. However, to celebrate our 70th birthday, some members went to York for a long weekend. To mark the anniversary there was also an article written with photographs and published in Scottish Home and Country, the WRI magazine, in January 1997. It contained many of the stories about Eckford written in this history.