New documentary focuses on the Tweed

Photographer and videographer Jim Gibson.
Photographer and videographer Jim Gibson.

The story of the heritage, culture and traditions of the River Tweed, its tributaries and the people who have lived and worked in its catchment are captured in a new documentary.

For more than a year, Norham photographer and videographer Jim Gibson has been capturing the essence of the Tweed in photographs and interviews and now the project, titled Our River – Stories of the Tweed, sponsored by Fallago Environment Trust, has reached the edit stage.

The Selkirk Standard bearer leads the cavalcade across the Ettrick.

The Selkirk Standard bearer leads the cavalcade across the Ettrick.

Once editing has been done and the narration and accompanying local traditional music recorded, the 60 minute film will be ready to view.

“It gives people a look at the Tweed and the chance to find out things they didn’t know about it,” Jim explained.

“We covered the whole catchment area – the Teviot, Slitrick and all the tributaries as far south as Powburn.”

Castles, abbeys and mansions houses, literature, traditions, the people, words particular to the area, the industry and the wider influence of the region are all covered in the project.

“The Tweed and its catchment has had an important place in history from the earliest times when nomadic inhabitants followed game up the valley, through pre-history to the Romans and then with its turbulent part in Anglo-Scottish border rivalry, always with the river dominating the local economy,” said Jim.

“Our River – Stories of the Tweed captures this rich past through the built heritage, including some of the most historically important castles in Britain, fine abbeys, mansion houses, and the relics of the industrial past such as the woollen mills, the sheils of the net fisheries and the buildings of bygone agriculture.

“These images are mixed with the cultural heritage – the Border ride-outs commemorating past battles or raids by the Border Reivers, the formation of the Coldstream Guards, traditional music, the unwritten folklore and the published stories and poetry of Thomas the Rhymer, through James Hogg, writing in Scots and English, to Sir Walter Scott.”

The Borderlands are steeped in tradition and there is a very clear starting point for many of those traditions – Flodden. So many of the Border towns’ traditional common ridings and festivals can be traced back to the 1513 battle.

In the past the river has formed the basis of the local economy with the woollen mills in the towns and the salmon net fisheries on the lower reaches. These industries are in decline or have disappeared altogether, and those who worked in them are getting older which is why Jim was keen to record their memories, dialect and local knowledge.

The link between the past and the present is explored, particularly when it comes to salmon fishing on the Tweed.

Jim said: “There is a propaganda war going on between the rod fishers and the net fishers. Net fishing is the longest tradition of anything on the river and I think the river would be a poorer place without that tradition.

“At the moment people are often not aware of the Tweed as a whole, just their immediate stretch of it.”

The DVD will be given to community groups and schools and both the DVD and accompanying illustrated book will be available for sale.

Copies of the DVD and digital footage will also be lodged with the archives at Berwick.