We were roused at six o'clock a.m. by the engine-driver, who had taken good care of us while we slept, and as we had had nothing to eat since our lunch at Hawick the day before, except the fruit purchased from the toll-keeper there, which we had consumed long before reaching Langholm, we were frightfully hungry. The engine-man told us there was a shop close by the colliery gate kept by a young man, where, if he happened to be in, we should be able to get some refreshments. He accompanied us to the place, and, after knocking loudly at the shop door, we were delighted to see the head of the shopkeeper appear through the window above. He was evidently well known to the engineer, who told him what we wanted, and he promised to "be down directly."
It seemed a long time to us before the shop door was opened, and every minute appeared more like five than one; but we were soon comfortably seated in the shop, in the midst of all sorts of good things fit to eat. We should have liked to begin to eat them immediately, but the fire had to be lit and the kettle boiled, so we assisted with these operations while the young man cut into a fresh loaf of bread, broke open a pot of plum jam, opened a tin of biscuits, and, with the addition of a large slice of cheese and four fresh eggs, we had a really good breakfast, which we thoroughly enjoyed. He said it was a wonder we found him there, for it was very seldom he slept at the shop. His mother lived at a farm about a mile and a half away, where he nearly always slept; that night, however, he had been sleeping with his dog, which was to run in a race that day, and he spent the night with it lest it should be tampered with.
He called the dog downstairs, and, though we knew very little about dogs, we could see it was a very fine-looking animal. Our friend said he would not take £50 for it, a price we thought exorbitant for any dog. When we had finished our enormous breakfast, we assisted the shopkeeper to clear the table, and as it was now his turn, we helped him to get his own breakfast ready, waiting upon him as he had waited upon us, while we conversed chiefly about colliers and dogs and our approaching visit to Gretna Green, which, as neither of us was married, was naturally our next great object of interest.
After our long walk the previous day, with very little sleep at the end of it, and the heavy breakfast we had just eaten, we felt uncommonly lazy and disinclined to walk very far that day. So, after wishing our friend good luck at the races, we bade him good-bye, and idly retraced our steps along the colliery road until we reached the bridge where we had met the collier so early in the morning. We had now time to admire the scenery, and regretted having passed through that beautiful part of the country during our weary tramp in the dark, and that we had missed so much of it, including the Border Towers on the River Esk.
Riddel Water, with its fine scenery, was on our left as we came from the colliery, where it formed the boundary between Scotland and England, emptying itself into the River Esk about two miles from Canonbie Bridge, which we now crossed, and soon arrived at the "Cross Keys Inn," of which we had heard but failed to reach the previous night. The landlord of the inn, who was standing at the door, was formerly the driver of the Royal Mail Stagecoach "Engineer" which ran daily between Hawick and Carlisle on the Edinburgh to London main road. A good-looking and healthy man of over fifty years of age, his real name was Elder, but he was popularly known as Mr. Sandy or Sandy Elder. The coach, the last stage-coach that ever ran on that road, was drawn in ordinary weather by three horses, which were changed every seven or eight miles, the "Cross Keys" at Canonbie being one of the stopping-places.
Mr. Elder had many tales to tell of stage-coach days; one adventure, however, seemed more prominent in his thoughts than the others. It happened many years ago, when on one cold day the passengers had, with the solitary exception of one woman, who was sitting on the back seat of the coach, gone into the "Cross Keys Inn" for refreshments while the horses were being changed. The fresh set of horses had been put in, and the stablemen had gone to the hotel to say all was ready, when, without a minute's warning, the fresh horses started off at full gallop along the turnpike road towards Carlisle. Great was the consternation at the inn, and Sandy immediately saddled a horse and rode after them at full speed. Meantime the woman, who Mr. Sandy said must have been as brave a woman as ever lived, crawled over the luggage on the top of the coach and on to the footboard in front.
Kneeling down while holding on with one hand, she stretched the other to the horses' backs and secured the reins, which had slipped down and were urging the horses forward. By this time the runaway horses had nearly covered the two miles between the inn and the tollgates, which were standing open, as the mail coach was expected, whose progress nothing must delay. Fortunately the keeper of the first gate was on the look-out, and he was horrified when he saw the horses coming at their usual great speed without Sandy the driver; he immediately closed the gate, and, with the aid of the brave woman, who had recovered the reins, the horses were brought to a dead stop at the gate, Mr. Sandy arriving a few minutes afterwards. The last run of this coach was in 1862, about nine years before our visit, and there was rather a pathetic scene on that occasion. We afterwards obtained from one of Mr. Elder's ten children a cutting from an old newspaper she had carefully preserved, a copy of which is as follows:
Mr. Elder, the Landlord of the "Cross Keys Hotel," was the last of the Border Royal Mail Coach Drivers and was familiarly known as "Sandy," and for ten years was known as the driver of the coach between Hawick and Carlisle. When the railway started and gave the death-blow to his calling, he left the seat of the stage coach, and invested his savings in the cosy hostelry of the road-side type immortalised by Scott in his "Young Lochinvar." He told of the time when he did duty on the stage coach for Dukes, Earls, and Lords, and aided run-a-way couples to reach the "blacksmith" at Gretna Green. He told of the days when he manipulated the ribbons from the box of the famous coach "Engineer" when he dashed along with foaming horses as if the fate of a nation depended upon his reaching his stage at a given time. He could remember Mosspaul Inn at the zenith of its fame under the reigning sovereign Mr. Gownlock - whose tact and management made his Hotel famous.
He had frequently to carry large sums of money from the Border banks and although these were the days of footpads and highwaymen, and coaches were "held up" in other parts, Sandy's Coach was never molested, although he had been blocked with his four-in-hand in the snow. He gave a graphic description of the running of the last mail coach from Hawick to Merrie Carlisle in 1862. Willie Crozier the noted driver was mounted on the box, and the horses were all decked out for the occasion. Jemmie Ferguson the old strapper, whose occupation like that of Othello's was all gone, saw it start with a heavy heart, and crowds turned out to bid it good-bye. When the valleys rang with the cheery notes of the well-blown horn, and the rumbling sound of the wheels and the clattering hoofs of the horses echoed along the way, rich and poor everywhere came to view the end of a system which had so long kept them in touch with civilisation. The "Engineer" guards and drivers with scarlet coats, white hats, and overflowing boots, and all the coaching paraphernalia so minutely described by Dickens, then passed away, and the solitary remnant of these good old times was "Sandy" Elder the old Landlord of the "Cross Keys" on Canonbie Lea.
Soon after leaving the "Cross Keys" we came to a wood where we saw a "Warning to Trespassers" headed "Dangerous," followed by the words "Beware of fox-traps and spears in these plantations." This, we supposed, was intended for the colliers, for in some districts they were noted as expert poachers. Soon afterwards we reached what was called the Scotch Dyke, the name given to a mound of earth, or "dyke," as it was called locally, some four miles long and erected in the year 1552 between the rivers Esk and Sark to mark the boundary between England and Scotland. We expected to find a range of hills or some substantial monument or noble ruin to mark the boundary between the two countries, and were rather disappointed to find only an ordinary dry dyke and a plantation, while a solitary milestone informed us that it was eighty-one and a half miles to Edinburgh. We were now between the two tollbars, one in Scotland and the other in England, with a space of only about fifty yards between them, and as we crossed the centre we gave three tremendous cheers which brought out the whole population of the two tollhouses to see what was the matter. We felt very silly, and wondered why we had done so, since we had spent five weeks in Scotland and had nothing but praise both for the inhabitants and the scenery. It was exactly 9.50 a.m. when we crossed the boundary, and my brother on reflection recovered his self-respect and said he was sure we could have got absolution from Sir Walter Scott for making all that noise, for had he not written:
Breathes there the man, with soul so
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd.
As the morning was beautifully fine, we soon forsook the highway and walked along the grassy banks of the Esk, a charming river whose waters appeared at this point as if they were running up hill. We were very idle, and stayed to wash our feet in its crystal waters, dressing them with common soap, which we had always found very beneficial as a salve. We sauntered past Kirkandrew's Tower; across the river was the mansion of Netherby, the home of the Graham family, with its beautiful surroundings, immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his "Young Lochinvar," who came out of the West, and -
One touch to her hand, and one word in
When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he spran!
"She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.
There was mounting 'mong Græmes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?
We were far more inclined to think and talk than to walk, and as we sat on the peaceful banks of the river we thought what a blessing it was that those Border wars were banished for ever, for they appeared to have been practically continuous from the time of the Romans down to the end of the sixteenth century, when the two countries were united under one king, and we thought of that verse so often quoted:
The Nations in the present day
Preserve the good old plan,
That all shall take who have the power
And all shall keep who can.
We were not far from the narrowest point of the kingdom from east to west, or from one sea to the other, where the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, built his boundary wall; but since that time, if we may credit the words of another poet who described the warriors and their origin, other nationalities have waged war on the Borders -
From the worst scoundrel race that ever
A horrid crowd of rambling thieves and drones,
Who ransacked Kingdoms and dispeopled towns,
The Pict, the painted Briton, treacherous Scot
By hunger, theft, and rapine, hither brought
Norwegian Pirates - buccaneering Danes,
Whose red-haired offspring everywhere remains;
Who, joined with Norman French, compound the breed,
From whence you time-born Bordermen proceed.
How long we should have loitered on the bank of the river if the pangs of hunger had not again made themselves felt we could not say, but we resolved at last to walk to Longtown for some refreshments, and arrived there by noon, determined to make amends for our shortcomings after lunch, for, incredible though it seemed, we had only walked six miles! But we landed in a little cosy temperance house, one of those places where comfort prevailed to a much greater extent than in many more brilliant establishments. It was kept by one Forster, a gentleman of distinction, possessing a remarkable temperament and following numerous avocations. He informed us he was the parish clerk, and that the Lord Bishop was holding a Confirmation Service in the church at 3 p.m. We had intended only to stay for lunch and then resume our journey, but the mention of a much less important person than the Lord Bishop would have made us stay until tea-time, and travel on afterwards, so we decided to remain for the service. Punctually at three o'clock, escorted by the son of our landlord, we entered the Arthuret Church, the Parish Church of Longtown, about half a mile away from the town.
It was built in 1609 and dedicated to St. Michael, but had recently been restored and a handsome stained-glass window placed at the east end in memory of the late Sir James Graham, whose burial-place we observed marked by a plain stone slab as we entered the churchyard. In consequence of a domestic bereavement the organist was absent, and as he had forgotten to leave the key the harmonium was useless. Our friend the parish clerk, however, was quite equal to the occasion, for as the Psalm commencing "All people that on earth do dwell" was given out, he stepped out into the aisle and led off with the good old tune the "Old Hundredth," so admirably adapted for congregational use, and afterwards followed with the hymn beginning "Before Jehovah's awful throne," completing the choral part of the service to the tune of "Duke Street"; we often wondered where that street was, and who the duke was that it was named after. Our admiration of the parish clerk increased when we found he could start the singing of Psalms and on the correct note in the presence of a Lord Bishop, and we contemplated what might have been the result had he started the singing in a higher or a lower key. We rejoiced that the responsibility rested upon him and not on ourselves.
The Candidates for Confirmation were now requested to stand while the remainder of the congregation remained seated. The Bishop, Dr. Goodwin, delivered a homely, solemn, and impressive address. His lordship did not take any text, but spoke extempore, and we were well pleased with his address, so appropriate was it to the occasion; the language was easy and suited to the capacities of those for whom the service was specially held. As sympathisers with the temperance movement we thoroughly coincided with the Bishop's observations when he affectionately warned his hearers against evil habits, amongst which he catalogued that of indulgence in intoxicating drinks, and warned the young men not to frequent public-houses, however much they might be ridiculed or thought mean for not doing so. The candidates came from three parishes, the girls dressed very plainly and as usual outnumbering the boys. The general congregation was numerically small, and we were surprised that there was no collection! Service over, we returned to our lodgings for tea, intending to resume our walk immediately afterwards. We were so comfortable, however, and the experiences of the previous day and night so fresh in our minds, and bodies, that we decided to rest our still weary limbs here for the night, even though we had that day only walked six miles, the shortest walk in all our journey.
Our host, Mr. Forster, was moreover a very entertaining and remarkable man. He had been parish clerk for many years, a Freemason for upwards of thirty years, letter-carrier or postman for fourteen years, and recently he and his wife had joined the Good Templars! He had many interesting stories of the runaway marriages at Gretna Green, a piece of Borderland neither in Scotland nor England, and he claimed to have suggested the Act of Parliament brought in by Lord Brougham to abolish these so-called "Scotch" marriages by a clause which required twenty-one days' residence before the marriage could be solemnised, so that although the Act was called Lord Brougham's Act, he said it was really his. Its effects were clearly demonstrated in a letter he had written, which appeared in the Registrar-General's Report, of which he showed us a copy, stating that while in the year 1856, the year of the passing of Lord Brougham's Act, there were 757 marriages celebrated in the district of Gretna Green, thirty-nine entered as taking place in one day, November 8th, in the following year there were only thirty and in the next forty-one, showing conclusively that the Act had been effectual. We could have listened longer to our host's stories, but we had to rise early next morning to make up for our loss of mileage, and retired early to make up for our loss of sleep on the previous night.
(Distance walked six miles.)
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