A sizeable minority of our readers have Spanish as their first language, and will be pleased to know that a new translation of Edward Lear’s limericks, by Herrín Hidalgo, has just been published in Spain by Media Vaca. I am indebted to Marco Graziosi’s excellent “A Blog of Bosh” for bringing this to my attention.
I am no student of Spanish, but it looks to be that Herrin has made a very good job of capturing the charm and spirit of the originals: a tricky task because he has had to recalibrate Lear’s exquisitely wrought rhymes. Cromer has become Vivero, Tyre has become Alxira, and Brigg has become Albarracin, which sounds much more exciting. Troy has been allowed just a short trip to Troya.
In keeping with the educational mission of this blog, readers will be pleased to learn that Sanson is considered a suitable name for parrots in Spain.
“How can I get more subscribers to our blog?” I asked Debbie.
“Well, perhaps you could try writing about something that people actually give a fxxx about.”
I paraphrase of course: Debbie is far too much of a lady to use that sort of language, but really, I think I deserve a bit more support. Nevertheless I have tried to fill this post with the sort of information that will be invaluable to hard-working families all over the world.
While staying at Ambleside, the opportunity to add another green dot to our Lear map proved too strong to resist, so we drove to Grange-over-Sands. Some way over-Sands it turns out: this is not a place to take your bucket and spade: a large expanse of treacherous marshland separates the promenade from the vast sandy reaches of Morecambe Bay.
So, sorry guys, no re-enactment this time, as it wouldn’t have been safe to carry the waterproof tub I brought with me out to the sea. Another problem is that I have so far failed to locate St. Blubb on the map: furthermore there seems to be some doubt as to whether Blubb was ever actually canonised. A cynic might think the poet simply made the place up to rhyme with “tub”, but I’m sure Lear would never have stooped so low.
The town was formerly known simply as “Grange” – the ‘over-Sands’ suffix was added in the late 19th or early 20th century by the local vicar, who was fed up with his post going to Grange in Borrowdale near Keswick.
The railway came to Grange-over-Sands in the 1850s, and the town was enthusiastically promoted by the railway company as a tourist destination. The crazy golf course is just one of the attractions, and Debbie and I tried our hand. Unfortunately it turned out to be an unfair course, which resulted in Debbie edging a victory by 37 to 43.
…which was just the start of the town’s problems with public bathing facilities. A new public swimming pool, the Berners Pool, opened in 2003 at a cost of £3.5 million. It was designed by architects Hodder Associates and won a RIBA Design Award in 2004, but closed in 2006 due to structural problems and high running costs. It was demolished in 2014. An argument, perhaps, for a five-year holding period before dishing out architecture design awards?
After carrot and coriander soup with a roll, it was time to undertake the climb of Hampsfield Fell, normally abbreviated to Hampsfell.
Next a short drive to Humphrey Head, a dramatic rocky outcrop which claims (among several other places) to have witnessed the killing (in 1390) of the last wolf in England.
Dundee has been famous for the three J’s: jute, jam and journalism.
Jute is a rough fibre from India used to make sacking, burlap, twine and canvass. By the 1830s, it was discovered that treatment with whale oil, a byproduct of Dundee’s whaling industry, made the spinning of the jute fibre possible, which led to the development of a substantial jute industry in the city, employing about 35,000 people in 1901, 70% of whom were women. Local “jute barons” became immensely wealthy, and invested heavily in Indian factories: after about 1914 imported jute started to become cheaper – an early example of globalisation. The Dundee jute industry underwent a slow decline, and commercial production of jute in the city all but ended in the 1970s.
Jam – or rather marmalade – is associated with Dundee through the firm James Keiller & Son, which has a claim to have launched the world’s first commercially produced marmalade in Dundee, although it also had plants in Guernsey and London. The brand was eventually acquired by rivals Robertsons, and production in Dundee ceased.
That leaves journalism as the only remaining J: Dundee is home to DC Thomson, publishers of the Beano, the Dandy, and the Sunday Post. Established in 1905, the company was notable for its conservatism, vigorously opposing the introduction of trade unions into its workforce, and refusing to employ Catholics.
The circulation of the Dandy plus the Beano reached nearly two million in the 1950s, but changing tastes and the internet had reduced the Dandy’s circulation to 8,000 by 2012, when the print edition ceased and the it underwent a “digital relaunch” (there’s a euphemism). It closed altogether six months later. The Beano, however, survives with a circulation of around 30,000. DC Thomson is aiming to capitalise on the comic characters in TV and film: they also own Friends Reunited (oh) and findmypast.com.
A fourth J might be jolly good ships: Dundee’s expertise in making whaling ships made it a natural choice when a ship was required for Antarctic research. Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery was the last traditional wooden three-masted ship to be built in Britain, and was launched in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition. This was some eleven years before Scott perished in his attempt to lead the first party to the South Pole.
We mounted an expedition to the expedition exhibition, then went on board.
Dundee was also the scene of the Tay Bridge disaster during a violent storm on 28 December 1879 when the first Tay Rail Bridge collapsed while a train was passing over it from Wormit to Dundee, plunging all 75 or so people aboard to their deaths in the icy water below. The bridge had been open for only 18 months, and the engineer who designed it, Thomas Bouch, had recently been knighted after Queen Victoria had passed safely over it.
The enquiry into the disaster found that insufficient allowance had been made for the effect of wind on the bridge. There were also flaws in detailed design, in maintenance, and in quality control of castings, which were found to be largely Bouch’s responsibility. His reputation was ruined, and he died within a year.
The locomotive was salvaged and repaired, remaining in service until 1919, nicknamed “The Diver” – many drivers were reluctant to take it over the new bridge.
We will let William McGonagall have the last word:
Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv’ry Tay,
I now must conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
The thing is, see, Fife isn’t a town or city. It’s a council area, and former county of Scotland. Yet it prefers to style itself more grandly as a Kingdom, perhaps arguing that it was indeed a Kingdom back in Pictish times. But, y’know, does Gordon Brown still go round calling himself prime minister?
So it’s rather challenging to track down a suitable signpost to offer you as proof of our visit.
As you can see, we eventually found an impressive, convenient and uplifting location. I suggested that one of us might pose here, and then I could do the salad thing somewhere nearby.
Debbie plucked some leaves from the weeds on the verge. “Here’s your salad. Eat it, do the photo, then we’re leaving, right away.”
No blogger in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.
Dunblane has become widely known in recent decades for two reasons.
It was the site of a tragic event in 1996 when a man, armed with four legally-held handguns, entered Dunblane Primary School, shot dead sixteen children and one teacher, and injured many others before shooting himself. The shock and anger felt at this atrocity had the positive effect of bringing about legislation to tighten laws on gun ownership.
A much happier source of fame for the city is Andy Murray, who in 2013 became the first British player to win the men’s tennis championships at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray won the title again in 2016. He was also Olympic tennis champion in 2012 and 2016. In 2015 he led the British team to its first Davis Cup victory since (again) 1936, with help from his older brother Jamie. At the time of writing he is ranked number one in the world.
Andy was born in Glasgow and grew up in Dunblane. He and Jamie were both present, taking cover in a classroom at Dunblane Primary School, on that terrible day in 1996.
After leaving Dunblane, there was still plenty of time to explore nearby attractions:
We then had the most Scottish lunch possible, sitting eating Scotch Pie on Bannockburn Field, admiring a statue of Robert the Bruce, and listening to a guide training a class of schoolchildren in spear skills and battle formations, in case the English army should suddenly reappear. However, historians dispute whether the battle was actually fought on the site celebrated here.
The Kelpies, highly visible from the M9, but with a separate visitor centre, have already proved hugely popular. Artist Andy Scott said he wanted to celebrate the horse’s role in agricultural, industry and on the canals – although the statue is named after the mythological sea-creatures who would use their shape-shifting ability to lure humans to their doom. The Kelpies myth has long been used by parents to warn their children of the danger that water can pose, so it seems likely that Kelpies have actually saved many lives.
Before returning to Edinburgh for a delicious meal with Rob and Fiona, we treated ourselves to a canal boat trip using the famous Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift:
Installed in 2002 to reunite the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, it replaces nine locks that had fallen into disrepair. It uses Archimedes’ principle of displacement to ensure that its two arms are always balanced: the weight of water plus boat on each side is always the same. This superb design means the machine needs minimal extra power to raise a 15-ton boat through 24 meters.
…and if you’re wondering where the rest of him is, the body is in Dunfermline Abbey, and the viscera were interred in the chapel of Saint Serf near Cardross. Robert died as undisputed King of Scotland, but had never fulfilled his vow to fight a crusade against the Saracens.
To rectify this omission, his heart was removed from his body with the intention that Sir James Douglas would take it on pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, however, there wasn’t a crusade on at the time, so Sir James Douglas and his company located an alternative Christianity vs Islam fixture, and sailed with the heart to Spain where Alfonso XI of Castile was mounting a campaign against the Moorish kingdom of Granada.
The brave Sir James and most of his company perished, but the survivors were able to bring Bruce’s heart back to Scotland for burial at Melrose in accordance with his wishes.
Did you know, though, that Rugby sevens was invented in 1883 by Ned Haig and David Sanderson – who were butchers from Melrose – as a fund-raising event for Melrose RFC? The first-ever sevens match was played at their Greenyards ground:
Rugby sevens made its debut as an Olympic sport in Rio in 2016, with Fiji hammering Team GB 43-7 in the men’s final, while Australia emerged as women’s champions.
For some reason Debbie is becoming less enthusiastic about screeching to a halt on dual carriageways so we can teeter on the edge of the grass verge to take a photo of the welcome sign while traffic whistles past at 50 mph. So she was quite pleased to find a spacious parking area dedicated to the Border and its sign, complete with a small refreshments kiosk, and even more pleased to be serenaded by the skirl o’ the pipes.