The first monthly open meeting of Duns and District U3A attracted around 60 people to hear a talk by local historian David McLean.The topic was the ‘Farm Servants of South East Scotland 1750 -1914’. Following on from a week of remembrance it was particularly poignant and, as the Volunteer Hall was still decorated with the exhibition to mark the 100th Anniversary of Armistice, the venue was particularly appropriate.The talk highlighted the relationship between Farm Servant and Master and the gruelling work conditions endured by the families who laboured on the land. Housing was basic at best and payment was primarily in kind for a minimum of 10 hours work per day six days a week. David also explained the concept of the Bondagers, a system peculiar to the Eastern Borders and Northumberland. For example, a skilled farm servant (hind) would have to engage another person willing to work long hours in the fields in order to get a contract of employment with a farmer. It could be his wife, daughter or even a complete stranger if his wife was unable to undertake the work because of illness or childcare.If it was a stranger, the hind was required to provide board and lodging for the woman and also pay her for work done. This system was highly unpopular with the hinds, who often had to subsidise her payment from their own meagre earnings. Fortunately this system was finally abolished and women who continued to work on the land had their own contract of employment with the farmer.The talk was extremely interesting and engaging and was illustrated with images of the living and working conditions. Many of the members of the audience could relate to the stories through their own family histories and memories of farm life.
The next monthly meeting will again be in the Volunteer Hall, Duns on Tuesday 11th December at 10.00 for 10.30 am. The speakers will be Professor Paul and Dr Janet Starkey who will talk on ‘Exploring the Middle East Past and Present’. This will provide a fascinating insight into this complex issue and we look forward to welcoming members and non members to come along.