The River Tweed Salmon Fishing Museum is situated in Kelso town hall, in the Scottish Borders.
The museum was on course for an early May opening until Covid struck. ill Quarry, the chairman of the museum’s trustees, and his colleagues had to put all their plans on hold. However, the Duchess of Roxburghe and rugby legend Gareth Edwards were on hand to declare the museum open on 3 September.
The museum traces the development of the sport of fishing for Atlantic salmon with rod and line. The displays look at this type of salmon fishing from its beginnings on the Tweed 250 years ago, the changes in the technology, and its subsequent spread as a worldwide sport. Quarry, who caught his first salmon (10lb) as an eight-year-old, and his five fellow trustees are all lifelong enthusiasts.
The museum’s artefacts are assembled from several private collections. “We all had lots of things in attics and garages,” says Quarry.
The 2,000 items on display include collections of vintage rods, reels and flies. There are several audiovisual exhibits, vintage maps of the river, an art gallery, and model casts of salmon of up to 70lb in weight.
The museum also features displays on the nature of the river, including its geology, and flora and fauna. Salmon fishing is of huge economic importance to the Scottish Borders (generating an estimated £20m annually) and the museum places the sport squarely in its geographic region.
Quarry highlights several rare items in the collection, including many 19th-century books. “Authors of that time really got the sport,” he says. There are artworks, and flies, some made with rare feathers. Pride of place is taken by a newly commissioned carving of a 69¾lb salmon caught on the Tweed by Earl Home in about 1735. It is the port’s largest British salmon for which there is credible evidence, according to Quarry.
Help at hand
Quarry and his fellow trustees run the museum, with everything done on a volunteer basis. The museum has a full-time curator, who is paid expenses. It is open seven days a week.
Entry to the museum is free. The museum is funded by the donations of founding sponsors, which include the Fallago Environmental Fund (£35,700) and the Scottish Borders Council’s Community Fund (£10,000), as well as private donations.
The delayed opening as a result of the pandemic was a huge disappointment. Survival tips “Have a good cash reserve for future running costs,” says Quarry.
The museum got off to a good start, welcoming 500 visitors in its first week. It is aiming to attract 10,000 visitors a year, once restrictions have been lifted.
To add to the museum collections and to attract further funding and donations.