On February 7th 1930, Provost Wight was able to announce
a most generous legacy to the town of Kelso - £10,000 left
by William Edgar Tait for the purpose of the construction of
a hall “suitable for the needs of the community”.
William Tait belonged to a leading Kelso family. His grandfather, Captain James Tait who belonged to an old Berwickshire family from Langrigg in Berwickshire had been involved in the Indian trade. He bought Edenside House in Kelso and his only son James was born there in 1816. James Tait played a leading part in the life of the town throughout his life, as a lawyer, agent for the National Bank and founder of the law firm which still bears his name. He was also heavily engaged in public business, playing a leading part in the development of what would become Kelso Town Council. (Formerly the Town had been run by Stentmasters appointed by the Duke.) James Tait had six sons and one daughter. His fourth son David followed his father into the family law firm, as well as being involved with the Town Council. Several of the sons seem to have left Kelso and gone abroad to work. We know that Stormont Tait became a wine merchant in Oporto and John Tait went out to Perak in modern Malaysia.
William Edgar, the third son and the benefactor of the Tait Hall went out to New Zealand, where he was first of all a partner in a timber business. He later became the owner of the Woodlands Canning Factory near Invercargill. The business prospered and he sold it shortly after the First World War and retired. He seems to have returned to Scotland for the family grave records that he died in Edinburgh in January 1930, aged 75, the last of the brothers to die.
While the lawyers sorted out the transfer of the money from New Zealand, another problem was solved by the generosity of Arthur Middlemas, proprietor of the Aerated Water Factory which used to be in Roxburgh Street. He had served for many years on the Town Council including a spell as Provost. He gifted to the town the land next to his property at Charlesfield, Edenside Road as a site for the new hall. He retired soon after due to ill health and sadly died before the hall was completed.
The new Tait Hall was completed by 1935 and was officially opened on Wednesday September 25th, by Miss Margaret Tait of Edenside House, the last surviving member of the family. The occasion was marked by a civic luncheon with about 200 guests. In his address to Miss Tait Provost Scott said,
“The name of Tait has the honourable distinction of being associated with Kelso for nearly 120 years and this munificent gift will carry on your honoured name to a generation yet unborn. There they stand in spirit, clasping hand in hand, William Edgar Tait and Arthur Middlemas, rejoicing with us today on the completion of this fine edifice which will be a lasting memorial of their love and devotion for their native town.”
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: Tait Hall and the Tait Family