Memories : Kelso, New Year’s Day, 1950

Kelso 1950

Here’s an interesting ‘Memories’ piece, submitted to AROnline by Peter S. Badenoch. Taken in the market town of Kelso in the Eastern Scottish Borders 70 years ago, it shows you just how much life has changed over the seven intervening decades. The photo is titled, ‘Duke of Buccleuch New Year’s Day Meet’, and the mixture of cars, people and horses looks alien to those viewing it through 2020’s perspective – but the setting and the buildings remain pretty much intact today.

Kelso has a long history. It’s Sir Walter Scott country, founded in the 12th century, dominated by an abbey which was ruined in 1545 when the English King Henry Vlll wreaked havoc on the Borders in a campaign known as the ‘Rough Wooing’ because Scotland was cool to a proposed marriage between Henry’s young son and the infant Scottish queen (Mary Queen of Scots), a marriage calculated –  by Henry – to make Scotland subservient to England, a concept obviously unpopular with the Scots.

However, the Scots themselves were not averse to raiding the North of England, with forays just as vicious and bloody as those inflicted on them by the English.  Scottish bands responsible for such raids were sometimes called ‘Border Reivers’, a name much later adopted by the racing team which gave Jim Clark – a Border farmer – his early start.

So, what about the cars?

As far as we can see, there’s but one US-built car in a sea of pretty much exclusively British cars. Back in 1950, we were a patriotic bunch when it came to our cars – or, at least, we were yet to benefit from the globalisation of the car industry. Starting from the first row, leading with the car nearest to the camera, we have a 1937-48 Vauxhall 10, a 1936 Buick, 1935-38 Morris 10, 1933-38 P1 Rover 10, 1937-39 Austin 12/14, 1939-40 Vauxhall 14, 1935-38 Morris 10/12, 1939-40 Vauxhall 12-4, 1938-39 Ford 7Y 8hp or 1949-53 Ford Anglia E93A (below) followed by a couple more that we can’t identify.

On the row behind that there’s a 1945-48 Standard 8; 1949 (actually to 1954) Morris Six, 1938 Morris 8 Series II, 1933-37 Ford Y-Type 8hp, 1937-48 P2 Rover 12/14, 1939-48 Standard 8 Tourer, 1938-39 Austin Big 7, 1935-37 Morris 8 Series I, 1937-39 Austin 14, 1935-38 Morris 10 followed by a commercial vehicle we can’t quite identify.

In the row across that, there’s a 1940-47 Hillman Minx Phase I, 1935-37 Morris 8 Series I, 1938 Morris 8 Series II, 1939-40 Daimler DB18, 1940-47 Hillman Minx Phase I, 1935-37 Morris 21/25, 1935-37 Wolseley 16/21. Things get a little harder to identify beyond that, but in the row behind that, there’s a Sunbeam-Talbot 80/90, a 1933-34 Morris 10-4 (and behind it a 1939-48 Morris 8 Series E) then another 35-37 Morris 8 Series I.

Ford Anglia E93A

Kelso image copyright: Hector Innes Photography, Kelso

Keith Adams


  1. Almost all cars on the roads would be British in 1950. The European car industry was only just recovering from the war and new cars in general were still rare in 1950 due to the severe austerity and a government order to export most of the country’s car production. It wasn’t until the mid 1950s that new car sales and car ownership really took and imports started to appear.

  2. Amazed to see so many cars in a sleepy place like Kelso at the turn of the 50s. The UK was still gripped by the post war slump with rationing, ballooning debt and devaluation. Car ownership was still very much a luxury that most couldnt afford. The Scottish Borders must have been an affluent hot spot.

    • Yes, a lot of well-off farmers and landowners. Consequently one of the few Scottish regions to constantly vote Tory.

    • @ PaulThe majority of them were pre war as new cars were very hard to buy until the 1950s. Hundreds of thousands of pre war cars remained in use until the later fifties when more used post war cars appeared on the market and the introduction of the MOT test in 1960 killed off most of the others. I’d imagine most of the cars would belong to farmers, where a car was a necessity, and better off people.
      Mind you in places like Glasgow, a car would be a rarity and almost non existent in working class parts of the city, and car ownership remained very low in the city until the seventies.

  3. Maybe the apparent affluence was more to do with the well-heeled nature of the race-goers.

    When Albion introduced their Albion Reiver, was that Albion raiding the North of England heartland, i.e. Leyland? Well, maybe not, given that Leyland bought Albion in 1951 and the Albion Reiver subsequently became the Leyland Reiver. Does Mike H. know anything about their naming?

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