Border Bits and Pieces
Ian Landles
28th February 2007

A record ninety-five members of the Old Gala Club packed into the Upper Volunteer Hall to hear Mr. Ian Landles give a talk entitled "Border Bits and Pieces". Our Vice President, Murray Dickson, introduced Ian as an historian, teacher, singer, songwriter, poet, raconteur and archaeologist with 107 pages on the Internet to his name. Over the next hour and a half, Ian demonstrated all these talents.

Ian said that "A day out of Hawick is a day wasted" but it was always a pleasure to come and talk to the Old Gala Club. Simon Fraser, who is buried in Teviothead kirkyard died at the age of one hundred and seven in 1760. He claimed to have ridden with Bonny Prince Charlie in the ’45 so he must have done that at the grand old age of ninety-two! Another tombstone says that the gentleman below died at the age of 363! The actual explanation is that the stonemason was illiterate and used stencils for his work. He thought that he had made a bit of a mess of the first 3 so he did it again. In Canonbie there is a man who died aged 506 and another who died on the 31st of February. At Yarrow, a man died in 1695 and his son was born in 1699 - the mason had been told to use his 6-stencil twice but forgot and used his 9-stencil twice.

A Yorkshire joiner called Robert Thompson, born in 1876, was told the story of a very hungry church mouse that was standing in front of the altar at Kilburn church on the edge of the moors praying for food when the vicar dropped a piece of communion bread. The delighted mouse then prayed for a drink and straight away the priest spilt some of the consecrated wine. The congregation then watched the drunken mouse stagger up the aisle, and turn and wave before tottering out of the door. Thompson decided to make the mouse his trade mark and one is still carved on all the furniture made by his company which is now run by his grandsons. Ian showed slides of mice running up chair legs, in pews and even on top of the hymn number board. He remembered a notice in the kirk; "Tonight’s talk will be on ’What is Hell’. The women’s choir will sing." Outside there was a notice "Dog fouling prohibited. Pedestrians only". And while on the subject of notices he saw in a local shoe shop window "Buy two, get one free" and outside a café "Today’s special. Ham and Pee Soup".

Ian went to the funeral of Baroness Elliot in 1993. Her father was born in 1823 and his father had been at the christening of Robert Burns. (Did you know that the first man to court Robert’s mother was a Mr. William Fish? Had this relationship progressed, we would all be going out to a Fish Supper each 25th of January!). Ian had been late arriving at the church and it was packed, but an usher walked him up the aisle and sat him on the one spare seat in the front pew. He looked along the row and there was the man who later became Lord Archie Kirkwood, the one who later became Lord David Steel and Willie Whitelaw, Lord W. When they were all leaving the church he heard one old lady say to another "Who were those other men in front with Ian Landles?"

The next slide was of Hawick cemetery where identical headstones marked the graves of Hawick’s two motor cycling heroes, Jimmy Guthrie who died in 1937 and Steve (Hizzy) Hislop who died in 2003 in a helicopter accident in 2003. Another side showed a cavalcade of motorcyclists driving down Hawick High Street after the funeral. Flying is dangerous. Ian was told about a man who had to jump out of an aeroplane. He pulled the ripcord on this parachute - nothing. He pull the cord of the spare - still nothing and there was no one to ask till he met a man going the other way and asked him if he knew anything about parachute. The man said "No. Do you know anything about gas cookers?".

Ian then showed several slides of the Hawick flood of 12th October 2005 when the Rugby Club’s office and shop were washed away and a heavy park bench, that took three men to lift, was washed from one side of the pitch to the other. This was the worst flood that Hawick had had since 1938 when Ian’s grandfather had had to float out of a top floor window on a chest of drawers accompanied by his granny on the piano. Lastly Ian showed Harden, home of Lord Poleworth. Everyone knows the story of Will of Harden who was caught stealing cattle by Gideon Murray of Elibank and given the choice of being hanged at dawn or marrying his daughter Muckle Mouthed Meg. He wisely chose to marry Meg. There is an oil painting of Meg at Harden and in fact she is quite pretty with a very small mouth. She should have been called Mickle Mouthed Meg but why spoil a good story with the truth? Norman Houldsworth gave an extremely warm vote of thanks saying that he particularly liked a signpost north of Langholm that said "Hawick 3 Galashiels 21".

Reported by D.R.T.