Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moffat miscellany

My postal address is Moffat, although Wamphray is several miles from the town itself. It is an attractive place, which grew up as a coaching stop and 19th century spa town. Recently I counted eighteen coaches in the car park adjacent to the Moffat Woolen Mill, so the old 'coaching stop' traditions live on, although for different reasons! See the town's official website here.

On the other side of the coin, Moffat is Scotland's first 'Walkers Are Welcome' town and is a great base for walking locally, or in the hills around the town, as well as wider in Annandale. I'm looking forward to the official opening of the Annandale Way next month. Writer Linda Cracknell has walked it already, see here, and here, and here.

Local author Jim Storrar has published a couple of books, collecting lots of information about the town from all sorts of sources including old newspapers. Volume 1 of his Moffat Miscellany is called Early Visitors and Their Impressions of Moffat. I was fascinated to find in this volume a very early reference to curling!

Storrar had discovered this reference to curling in Moffat in 1780 in a book The Life of Mrs Gooch by Elizabeth Sarah Villa-Real Gooch which was published in London in 1792. It says, "We walked about the town, saw the spa, and a diversion they call 'curling' which consists of several men throwing stones over the ice with iron handles to them, and from forty to fify pounds weight."

I bought the second volume of the Moffat Miscellany recently. The cover is shown above. It has lots of stories relating to crime and punishment, accidents and disasters in the Moffat area. I couldn't put it down!

One of these stories concerned the terrorist activities of the Tartan Army (no, not the supporters who follow Team Murdoch to world curling events) which was perpetrated in Wamphray. These electricity pylons run up towards Blaze Hill on the right of this photo. On December 10, 1972, taking exception to Scotland exporting electricity to England, Donald Currie and Gerard McGuigan allegedly drove from Glasgow to Wamphray and attached two explosive devices to a leg of a pylon on Blaze Hill in what was a young forestry plantation at the time.

I should say that this is not the actual pylon, but just one on the many on this line that comes down past Abington, crosses the M74 near Beattock and continues down into England.

Currie and McGuigan had informed the newspapers hoping for publicity, but when their story did not appear, they returned to Wamphray to find that the explosives had indeed detonated and they had created, according to Jim Storrar, 'the only three-legged fully functioning electricity pylon in Scotland'!

If you are too young to remember the story of the real Tartan Army you can read all online at Electric Scotland here.

Pics © Skip Cottage

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