The Flying Scotsman

In an earlier post I confessed to a youth spent hanging around sooty stations and sheds, inhaling steam, writing down numbers and underlining entries in an Ian Allan Combined Volume. Traces of that boy in a school cap, grey shorts and Clarks sandals remain.  For the last couple of weekends the Flying Scotsman has been travelling through Hexham on excursions to Carlisle; of course, I had to go and pay my respects.

I last saw this engine in steam at Doncaster when she was still in service; it would have been around 1961, a few years before she was sold to Alan Pegler.  Now she is pristine but in 1961 she was in standard BR livery, soot black and filthy.  Majestic she may be but I have fond memories of the days when not just the engines but the entire railway infrastructure was grubby, down-at-heel but workmanlike.

The first image, dated 14th August 2016,  was taken at Tyne Green on the opposite side of the tracks to the golf course.  The second image, dated 21st August 2016 was taken between Fourstones and Newbrough, on the track and crossing that used to lead down from Bull Bank:

Steaming through ... The Flying Scotsman ...

She is due through Hexham again tomorrow so I will mount the Yamaha and seek out another viewing angle. My whole life has been a landscape with machines.

Dusty roads ...


The Rest

This seems such a bad idea that it is hard to believe the proposal has gained any traction. It has echoes of Trump’s infamous Aberdeenshire golf course.  According to The Herald newspaper,   ‘Plans to build a visitor centre overlooking the old Military Road at the rest and Be Thankful, have received the backing of motorsport legend, Sir Jackie Stewart … The proposed Rest and Be Thankful Heritage Project would celebrate the road’s link to Scotland’s rich motoring history. The centre is planned to include a cafe and arts spaces within a contemporary building.

I have had a lifelong passion for the motor racing of the 1950s, 60s and 70s having witnessed many of the great drivers of the period in action, not least Sir Jackie – they have my undying admiration.  Equally I have a passion for the wild places of Scotland.  By all means celebrate Scotland’s rich motoring history but surely not at the expense of the glorious unspoiled Glencroe.  No matter how sympathetic the architecture, this is a commercial venture in a wholly inappropriate place.

While researching Golf in the Wild I made several trips to Inveraray via Glencroe and on every occasion I stopped at the summit of Rest And Be Thankful to admire the fine view down the glen and imagine the magnificent men in their racing machines ascending the old road.  Some acknowledgement of recent history would be welcome, an information board or even a replica of the Race Control shed at the summit – if I remember correctly, the foundations still exist.  The rest of Rest’s story can be told elsewhere.

This is a short extract from Golf in the Wild:

Circling Arrochar, the top of Loch Long and passing the old torpedo testing site, the road heads north west up Glen Croe. For centuries this route has been known as the Rest And
Be Thankful. The road has its origins in the Jacobite uprisings when General George Wade recommended establishment of military bases interconnected by Highland roads such that troops could be moved quickly and conveniently between locations to quell any local uprisings.  The General’s Inspector of Roads, Major Caulfield, first surveyed the route in 1743 and by 1748 the road over the Glen Croe summit was completed by troops from the 24th Regiment who erected a stone seat with the legend ‘Rest And Be Thankful’. The remainder of the road down to Loch Fyne was completed in 1749.

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The modern day A83 eventually replaced the original single track highway at the end of the 1930s and as you drive along the south western flank of Ben Arthur, stretches of the original route can be seen below on the floor of the Glen. Whilst the modern version ascends gradually by cutting a route along the mountainside, the original delays the steep ascent to the last. This had glorious consequences.

In 1949 the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC) used the final one mile ascent of the Wade-Caulfield route to establish the magnificent Rest And Be Thankful hillclimb, an event which continued almost uninterrupted for another twenty years. Jackie Stewart describes this place as ‘the cradle of my life in motor racing’ (Winning is Not Enough, the autobiography 2007), first as a spectator, watching his elder brother Jim compete in his Healey Silverstone and later, in July 1961, as a competitor in a Ford powered Marcos. Stewart has fond memories of these times, ‘the public address announcer shouting out the names of the drivers and their cars and all their split times and his voice would echo down the Glen and I used to sit there wide-eyed enjoying a spectacle as thrilling and exhilarating as any young boy could imagine, hardly daring to blink’; and so in the shadow of Ben Arthur began the drive to fame, fortune and the career-long dance with death and tragedy.

From the A83, the old road looks innocuous but in that last mile it rises over 400 feet creating a hill climb as challenging as any in Europe. Archive newsreel from the 1950 event projects a diverse array of machinery, mostly pre-war and pre-conformity, the only design constraints being the imagination. Dennis Poore in the monstrous flying Pegasus bi-wheeled 4.5 litre Alfa 8C-35, Raymond Mays and Ken Wharton in ERAs and Basil Davenport in the skinny GN Spider, all forward and trust in the Lord, a seriously strange but effective device dating from the early 1920s where the driver appears to sit astride the car in homage to its cyclecar origins. All arms and elbows, they attack Stonebridge, Cobblers and the Hairpin with true grit, determination – and no protection.

In July 1958 Jim Clark competed here in both a Porsche 1600S and a Triumph TR3, finishing first and second respectively. On his way home he called on his friend Jim Stewart at Dumbuck Garage where his younger brother Jackie raced out of the house eager to see this rising star. It would be 1962 before they were formally introduced at
Charterhall and from that moment their lives were intertwined, until that fateful day at Hockenheim on 7th April 1968.

The hairpin ...

This final image shows the hairpin prior to resurfacing in April 2012.
Many thanks to Maurice1948 on Blip for highlighting the story from The Herald.

Camera shy …

For reasons I cannot fathom, my good lady has turned camera shy.  Any attempt at the candid image will be met with “Oh, please don’t Robin!”.  Undeterred, and as with most things, I carry on regardless😀

... of my life - 'hiding' from the camera

Hey, where did we go
Days when the rains came ?
Down in the hollow
Playing a new game,
Laughing and a-running, hey, hey,
Skipping and a-jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our, our hearts a-thumping
And you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Waiting …

I am a born sceptic.  Give me the merest hint of the supernatural and I will go seeking the rational – like father, like son.  This does not stop me enjoying a good ghost story and the hairs on the back of my neck will raise just as easily as the next man.  Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, is such a good story and so well produced that a part of me wants to believe it is true.  The plot twist which references post-mortem photography, images of deceased loved ones which were a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provides a real-world reference which only serves to enhance the story’s plausibility.

I am reading Dan Boothby’s Island of Dreams which contains this remarkable passage from the artist Tom Watson, demonstrating that scientific explanation can be just as wondrous as the imagined:

Hendersen’s Bridge, built in the nineteenth century from the stone remains of croft dwellings and meeting houses on the Hebridean island of Raasay, has for generations been reputed to emit the sounds of human voices and dogs barking; a ghostly bridge. Science has proved, however, that the high iron-ore content in the stones of the bridge structure has, by way of a natural magnetic recording, trapped these sounds within, with no sense of time.  When atmospheric conditions are favourable, these sounds are released, causing this strange phenomenon to occur.

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The photograph shows my great grandfather, on the right, posing with his two brothers. I like to think their voices are somewhere trapped in stone, waiting for the right atmospheric conditions, waiting to be heard again.

Out and about …


This gallery contains 7 photos.

… in Hexham.  It will be September before we start travelling again so the summer months will be based at home: playing golf, putting miles on the motorbikes and keeping up with the endless maintenance tasks that are part and … Continue reading

We must get home …

I enjoy making connections.  The photograph of the Porsche Cars (GB) Ltd Carrera 6, 906-101 was taken at the Oulton Park Tourist Trophy on 29th April 1966 (driven by Peter de Klerk).  The panned image was grabbed at Knickerbrook using a standard lens on a Werra 35mm camera – enlarged by my dad to get closer to the action, this accounts for the ‘artistic’ grain. I was entranced by the lines of this fabulous machine, lines which are much appreciated to this day – the last time this car appeared at Bonham’s, it sold for €579,500 (£483,303).  Picking the right car in the pan can be attributed to the dumb luck of youth.

Porsche 906-101...

I was prompted to find and scan this image because I wanted to find a connection between this and the Porsche 550 Spyder.  Sure enough, both works of automotive art were produced by the one man – Erwin Komenda.   Born in 1904, he died a few months after the Tourist Trophy, on 22nd August 1966 – the Porsche 906 was thus his parting gift to the racing nation, a machine which set the Porsche design language for years to come.

Why the Porsche 550 Spyder?  Because this is the machine, Little Bastard, that James Dean drove to his death in September 1955.  All of this was prompted by watching Life, Anton Corbijn’s film based on the friendship between Life photographer Dennis Stock and James Dean.  This is Dennis Stock telling the story of his relationship with Dean and how he captured one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Corbijn’s film dramatises this friendship:

We must get home–for we have been away
So long, it seems forever and a day!
And O so very homesick we have grown,
The laughter of the world is like a moan
In our tired hearing, and its song as vain,–
We must get home–we must get home again!

We must get home: All is so quiet there:
The touch of loving hands on brow and hair–
Dim rooms, wherein the sunshine is made mild–
The lost love of the mother and the child
Restored in restful lullabies of rain,–
We must get home–we must get home again!

We must get home again–we must–we must!–
(Our rainy faces pelted in the dust)
Creep back from the vain quest through endless strife
To find not anywhere in all of life
A happier happiness than blest us then …
We must get home–we must get home again!
James Whitcomb Riley