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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
A tale of one town
By Rachel Kerr
BBC News Online

Map showing the location of Berwick
The town lies around a mile from the Scottish border
The ongoing debate about whether Berwick should be part of England or Scotland has been sparked again with calls for a referendum for people in the town to decide.

People living in Berwick are used to the feeling of being in a tug-of-war.

The town, which is classed as Northumberland but lies just a mile from the Scottish border, changed hands between the two countries at least 13 times between 1296 and 1482.

But the 'two-country' identity of the town is not just confined to history.

Berwick is under English law and has a mayor rather than a provost, as there would be in Scotland. But the robes are purple instead of scarlet, which goes back to the town's time as a Royal Scottish Borough.

Unique flavour

But it is the only English town with a team, Berwick Rangers, in the Scottish Football League - a popular pub quiz question - and its river, the Tweed, is officially recognised as Scottish.

All this gives the town a unique flavour, which helps to attract crowds of tourists.

As Berwick councillor Mike Elliott says - 25% of the town consider themselves English, 25% Scottish and 50% Berwickers.

Martin Thompson, 39, works in The Barrels Ale House, in Bridge Street, and was born in the town and has lived there ever since. He says he would like Berwick to stay in England but could see benefits of being in Scotland.

Berwick: picture courtesy of Freefoto.com
The town changed hands at least 13 times between 1296 and 1482

He said: "It's not the first time. Everyone knows about the history and the town changing hands. A lot of people think it is in Scotland but I suppose that's what happens when you are so close to the border.

"If you look at it from a financial point of view, it would probably be a lot better for the town because of all the subsidies. But I can't see anything changing. I think there would be a 50/50 split in the town.

"I don't think it's really an issue for people in the town, but everybody is aware of the history. I think anyone who is born and bred here is quite proud of the history because it's unique."

'Recurring issue'

He said it made it interesting when there were England and Scotland games but he also said he thought Berwick was sometimes a "forgotten" part of the country.

Lorna Suthren is the tourism resource officer at Berwick Borough Council and says the issue is a recurring one.

She said: "It keeps just raising its head periodically. Berwick is in such a unique position because it is the most northerly town in England and is right on the border.

"It's never a big issue to people in the town but I am really pleased there's s lot of interest.

"I think some people treat it with a bit of humour but it is really important because Berwick and the Scottish Borders Council work well together. That's the positive side of it and both benefit."



Scots bid to win back border town
08 Oct 04 |  Tyne/Wear
Town in turmoil over map mix-up
08 Apr 04 |  Tyne/Wear
Scots offer Berwick 'ransom'
15 Apr 02 |  Scotland

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