A RURAL community has extra reason to raise a toast this Hogmanay after claiming victory in their five year long fight to save a historic public house which once counted Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott among its patrons.
Campaigners in the Peebleshire village of Tweedsmuir today announced they had reached their financial target to buy over the 17th century Crook Inn, the oldest coaching inn in Scotland.
The bolthole, which has lain vacant for six years, had been under threat from plans for luxury housing but former customers of the pub, along with prominent supporters, have successfully rallied together to raise the £160,000 necessary to take it over.
Those at the helm of the campaign told The Scotsman they were “delighted” to finally meet the ambitious target, and gave thanks to people from around the world who gave donations “large and small.”
Dating back to 1604, the inn was one of the first licensed establishments in the country, and became popular as a place for drovers to rest while taking cattle from the Borders to markets in England.
The hostlery offered literary inspiration for Burns, who was a regular, and it was the place where he wrote his poem Willie Wastle’s Wife. John Buchan also frequented the pub during the time he wrote the adventure novel, The Thirty Nine Steps, and immortalised the hostelry in his short story, Gideon Scott.
However, the last pint was pulled at The Crook’s bar in November 2006 after businessman Jim Doonan purchased the property then closed it down. He applied for planning permission to convert the building into a luxury housing development, a venture which met stern opposition from residents in Tweedsmuir, and which was rejected by the local council’s planning committee.
Since then, ordinary people have waged a campaign under the banner of the Tweedsmuir Community Company with a view to purchasing the inn under the Scottish Government’s right to buy scheme, and ultimately restoring it to its former glory.
Along with community events such as music festivals and race nights, donations to the cause have come from as far afield as Canada, while well-known supporters include crime writer, Ian Rankin, who backed the community’s campaign with an undisclosed donation.
Duncan Davidson, chairman of the Tweedsmuir Community Company, said there was a feeling of relief amongst people in village that they had raised the money before the end of 2012, the cut off date for their attempts to buy over the pub.
He said: “We’re both delighted and relieved that so many people have made large and small donations, everyone has contributed to make this happen. We’ve had supporters not just in Tweedsmuir, but in nearby communities like Biggar, Peebles, and Moffat, and also from wider Scotland, England, Wales, even Canada.
“It’s just been great. We’ve also had support from Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Hydro Clyde wind farm community fund, without which we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Mr Davidson said that many people who gave money had their own memories of snug evenings in The Crook Inn, a sign of the rich social history of the pub that the community is so determined to preserve.
“Only last week, we received a modest donation from lady who recalled how she and her twin sister had enjoyed a wonderful birthday meal in the Crook Inn 56 years ago,” he explained. “Another donation came from someone who remembered a great night she had with her husband in the inn on the evening of the Queen’s Coronation.”
Now, the community company hopes to have the legal ownership documents signed early in the new year, before work begins on restoring the C-listed building.
“There are various pledges which have to be drawn in the next few weeks, and there’s a vast amount of restoration work which needs to be done, but having got the inn under our belts we’re glad to be moving on to the next phase,” Mr Davidson added. “There will be a few toasts in Tweedsmuir at the bells.”