I love it how a plan comes together. I had come to Coldstream to see the Hibs, not even thinking about Loose Ends or any kind of blogging stuff. Naturally I found a link with the last place, the Bachelors’ Club, through Robert Burns. The poet visited a lot of places in Scotland but it was from Coldstream in May 1787 that Burns set foot in England for the first time, reportedly reciting a few lines for the occasion from ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’:
‘O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent,
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!’
Fair enough, like. I was walking along to the border anyway, or to the middle of the bridge, when I came across an information board about Burns’s visit to Coldstream. Link found, bish, bash, done. I walked to the middle of the bridge, looked up then down, admiring the sweep of the river in the warm July sunshine then headed to the football.
After the game I sat for a bit in Henderson Park, blessed with a braw viewpoint over the Tweed towards the Cheviots. I thought about possible connections with Coldstream. It sits on the Tweed as do quite a few other fine places like Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. The battle of Flodden happened nearby in 1513 and this could lead me to the Flodden Wall in Edinburgh or indeed back to Stirling Castle where the infant James V would soon be crowned King of Scots. The Hirsel, home of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, could take me to places linked to other Scottish Prime Ministers, Fettes where Tony Blair was educated or North Queensferry where Gordon Brown lives. The stone marking General Monck’s crossing of the Tweed on the way to restoring Charles II in 1660 might take me somewhere linked to Charles or indeed Cromwell, such as the Cromwell Harbour in Dunbar. The fact I was in Coldstream to see Hibs could lead to many Hibee-related places like St. Patrick’s Church in the Cowgate, the Meadows or Easter Road itself.
The Loose Ends series has so far led me to quite a few parts of Scotland, some deliberately planned, others – like Coldstream – not all intended. It has involved a lot of buses, trains and expended shoe leather so far. I’m excited for what happens next in this series for hopefully it will be as spontaneous as this adventure gathering the loose ends, perhaps as Hugh MacDiarmid – a Borderer himself – wrote:
‘By naming them and accepting them,
Loving them and identifying myself with them,
Attempt to express the whole’.
Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.