Fellow TravellersCategory: Land + People
By H. Sutherland
“Now, that man”, said the S.S.C, (Solicitor in the Supreme Court), “has remarkable powers of observation.” “Indeed he has,” I agreed, “and it shows how unobservant most of us are.”
“It will be interesting to see the crosspieces changing as we cross the border,” said the Head Clerk.
Our conversation referred to a well-informed Scotsman who had left the train at Carlisle and to what he had told us about telegraph poles, my fellow passengers now being an elderly Solicitor in the Supreme Court and his Head Clerk.
As the express was approaching Carlisle, I had commented on the similarity of scenery on the border and on the difficulty of knowing where England ended and Scotland began.
“Yes,” said the well-informed Scot, “it’s difficult to tell from the scenery, but there is one very simple way of knowing. Just look at the telegraph posts and the crosspieces to which the insulators are fixed. In England the crosspieces are attached to the south of the posts — facing London, — but as soon as you’re over the border the crosspieces are fixed to the north of the posts, facing Edinburgh.”
“Most extraordinary!” I said.
“Not at all. It is very simple. Well, here we are at Carlisle. I get out here and motor to Dumfries. Good afternoon, gentlemen.”
“Good afternoon,” we answered cordially.
In a short time we were all peering like children through the windows. The telegraph posts on the left were being watched by the S.S.C. and myself, those on the right by the Head Clerk, who used the windows in the corridor. All of us wore glasses, and each man polished his glasses for the task in hand. Windows were wiped with newspapers. Now to watch telegraph posts passing at the speed of seventy miles an hour is no easy matter. You must look ahead, and then turn your head rapidly in order to see the post clearly for the fraction of a second. It is right to add that these ocular exercises are condemned by the majority of ophthalmic surgeons, especially in cases of myopia, astigmatism, night- blindness, and squint. Not that we cared. Each wished to be the first to call “north.”
“South — south,” I called.
“South,” called the S.S.C. “And what’s it on your side, John?”
“South”, called the Head Clerk.
At that moment the name of a station flashed past.
“Did you see what that was?” asked S.S.C.
“Yes”, I answered, “it was Springfield (a station in Scotland), and to-day is not the First of April!”
“South!” called the Head Clerk.
“Come in, John,” said the S.S.C. “We’ve all been had.” We sat upright in our seats and sought to disguise our ruffled dignities. I was the first to break the silence by saying,” I wonder if that man always tells the same story on his way to Scotland.”
“If he does”, replied the S.S.C., “he has a good reason for leaving the train at Carlisle. Anyway, he’s not a Scotsman.”
“Well, he didn’t speak like one”, said the S.S.C., who had. an Edinburgh accent, which may be detected by the pronunciation of the word “five” as “fiivf. ”
The man who left the train had a strong Glasgow accent, and although he was not a public benefactor he was certainly an entertainer.
From Hebridean Journey, Edinburgh, 1944.