Mid Lothian, West Lothian, Falkirk, East Lothian, Scottish Borders

Oddly, Scotland doesn’t appear to have a Reserve Bank and each Scottish bank printed their own versions of bank notes, which are valid everywhere.

I had tried several times to arrange a visit with my cousin, Janneke, who lives just outside Sheffield, it was one of those cases where the dates that suited us were not suitable at her end, then the following time it was the other way around, etc.  Well, finally we made a date that suited each of us and so after leaving Edinburgh we had to time our travels so that we would arrive at her place on the 30 August.   (This date gives you a clue as to how behind I am in my posts!The )

We had been experiencing regular problems with our TomTom not holding its charge and had taken it in to several of the branches of Maplins around the country and each time we were assured it was now fixed.  The bright young things in store had a fiddle and on occasion we had to purchase another gadget to attach to it and all this was to fix the intermittent problem that was getting steadily worse.   The day we planned to leave Edinburgh it died altogether, so back to Maplins we went.  The good news was that they were happy to replace it but only after they had sent it away to see if it could be repaired first.   The bad news was that would take up to 10 days!  No amount of frustration, tears or otherwise would change their minds with the end result we would have to continue driving without our trusty friend!  I warned Dennis that he would have to adopt a very forgiving attitude towards my map reading endeavours, it is well-known that maps and me do not agree and so we set off once again.  He did his best with me as I proved over and over again that I haven’t a clue as far as map reading goes!  For some strange reason, even though he tried to explain right and left, north and south, etc I never really learnt anything!  The solution was to stop driving often so that he could read the map himself and then proceed with clear instructions.  
I was keen to see the Falkirk Wheel, it’s one of the few things I had heard about before our trip to the UK, and it proved to be so interesting.  It’s where two canals connect but as they are 34 metres in height apart, they built this amazing machine to achieve the connection.    The original arrangement was designed by Thomas Telford, who not only built New Towns in Scotland, he also designed projects in England, Wales and Sweden.  These projects included bridges, roads, harbours, churches, the Caledonian Canals and then he also had a hand in the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals in Scotland.  The Union Canal is special because it is a contour canal, maintaining a level course around hills and over valleys and only has locks for the last part.  Here at Falkirk he designed a steep flight of 11 locks leading down to a tunnel.   Over time these locks were buried, damaged and built over and some disappeared altogether.  But in 2002 it was decided to once again connect the two canals and they have done this with the Falkirk Wheel.  In place of Telford’s 11 lock system, they built two new ones and then a tunnel that travels under a minor road, a major railway and a Roman Wall.  At the end of the tunnel is a long aqueduct which takes the canal boats directly to the Wheel.  The Falkirk Wheel has no rim, it’s simply two pairs of arms, with a large ring in each end, that are fixed to a central tube.  This in turn rotates on bearings and is driven by hydraulic motors.  It has two gondolas, steel troughs filled with water to the depth of the canal, which rest on wheels.  They roll around the ring as the wheel turns, keeping the gondolas absolutely horizontal, as the wheels rotate.  When the gondolas are filled with water, whether or not there are boats in either or both, they both weigh the same.  It’s all related to Archimedes and his “eureka’ moment, trust me.  It rotates every 15 minutes and only costs $NZ20 per day in electricity to run the 10 motors.   It takes five and a half minutes to cross this junction now, as opposed to a full day back in the old days.  I found it mesmerizing to watch and stood out in the rain for some time transfixed, whilst Dennis hollered for his dinner!

The Falkirk Wheel in action

Looking across the Forth & Clyde Canal

Looking at the map Dennis saw a place called New Lanark which he knew a little bit about and on a whim he thought we should head there.    So off we went but unfortunately because I had spent so long gazing at the Falkirk Wheel, our time would limited here as it was already around 4.p.m.  New Lanark proved to be absolutely riveting. It is a World Heritage Site.   It was founded in 1786 by David Dale, who built cotton mills and housing for the workers.  His son-in-law,  Robert Owen was a Utopian Socialist  who believed that with proper consideration and education for the workers he could develop a model that would be more productive in the long run.  And so it turned out.  He bought out his father-in-law and provided, along with the excellent housing, free medical care, free education for the young children and a subsided shop to the 2,500 workers, whom he originally gathered from the poorhouses in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  The workers not surprisingly stayed settled in their employment and rewarded their employer with fruitful and faithful service.

New Larnack was surprisingly big. It was built “using” the contours of the land, the buildings were four stories longer on one side than the other!

The river that powered the water wheels, that powered the cotton mills, etc. Using renewable energy over 300 years ago was very clever. They still use this water power to supply the whole site with electricity.

One of the remarkable things that Owen featured in all his buildings were central-heating furnaces that magically distributed the heat under the floorboards

This is a working museum in the sense that they still operate the mills full-time. Only they don’t use cotton nowadays but wool.

The original steam engine for back up power

There are times when even I am surprised with Dennis’ detours, though I should know better.  We’re driving down this road when he sees a large group of agricultural buildings, a couple of flags flapping in the breeze and the carpark overflowing with cars, Landrovers pulling trailers and sheep trucks galore.   It turned out to be a Lawie & Symington animal sales yard and today they were auctioning Texel sheep.   The place was jammed packed with smartly dressed farmers and their wives either up on the first floor looking down on the auction in progress or having a lunch break in the one of the restaurants downstairs.  We had to push our way forward through the surging crowd to see what all the fuss was about.  I’ve never heard of Texel sheep before but turns out they have the most amazing colours!   The bidders obviously were very pleased with them as well, as they were paying sums of 15,000 guineas for some of them as we watched!  That’s in excess of $NZ30,000!  Even to my untrained eye they were beautiful animals but it was so calm and orderly and no one was looking stressed spending that sort of money.  We took a wander out the back in the covered yards.  I was surprised that we could just open gates and walk on through but Dennis reckons if you look confident you can do most things and who knew that we weren’t on the lookout for a stud ram or two?

A Texel ram in the auction ring

Texel sheep come in a variety of shades from gold, dark brown and light brown

We made an abrupt turn and headed back out to the east coast again.  The old farmer Dennis spoke with back in Tarbet had told him that the country south of Edinburgh and out towards the coast is the most productive in Scotland.  It sure looked that way, every inch was planted in barley, wheat, oats or potatoes.  
Fortunately we arrived at the causeway out to Holy Island while it was still low tide.  Signs clearly explain that you may not stay overnight on the island and you must leave before the tide turns as the road is submerged twice a day.  The ruins of Lindisfarne Priory was impressive.   In 635 AD the monk Aiden came here from Ireland to reintroduce Christianity to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.  This Priory became famous in the 7th and 8th centuries for the Lindisfarne Gospels.  (The monks painstakingly copied the Bible by hand and also decorated them lavishly.)  As is usual with these “holy” sites there have been a number of take overs and battles associated with the Monastery built here: viking raiders, changes in political leaders, etc.  All in all the monastic occupation of this island lasted for 900 years.    The causeway wasn’t built until 1966 and now there is a small community living here, farming parts of the land and catering for the half a million tourists each year with B&B’s and touristy type shops and cafes.  

Please note – this is serious!

Impressive ruins on Holy Island


Amazing carving on this celtic cross at Lindisfarne

Our next stop was to be a lengthy one (by our standards) and I am very proud to tell you that I navigated all the way with no wrong turns!  Dennis’ paternal grandmother, Ella, left Hawick (pronounced Hoick!) when she was five years old in 1911.  Her father was an engineer at one of the knitting mills in Hawick, specialising in maintaining the sock knitting machine.   By the way, they started machine knitting socks in this town back in 1771.  We think he was head hunted by a new mill starting up in Dunedin, NZ who had bought a sock knitting machine from Scotland and needed a reliable man who knew how to keep the thing running.  Mr William Rodger packed up his wife and 10 children and made their way on the long and arduous journey to the other end of the earth!  Shortly after they arrived (Dennis thinks less than a year) William who was in his early fifties suddenly died, leaving his wife to care for the 10 children without the aid of any Social Welfare scheme in operation in NZ at the time!    As Nanna told us, the older children were already in the workforce and they just handed their pay packets to their mother each week and the family was supported through these means.  Other members of our extended family have been to Hawick and been photographed outside 16 Duke St which was the house the Rodger family had emigrated from but Dennis being ever inquisitive wanted to know and see more.   Hawick is the most welcoming community to “travellers” that we have come across so far!  They have provided free parking for campervans in a central location beside one of the rivers, provided free WiFi all over town and given free access to their wonderful Heritage Hub, a Scottish Borders Archive & Local History Centre.  The women there were very helpful and enthusiastic and helped Dennis get to grips with trolling through the old Census documents.  Here he found out the street where William and his parents, John and Margaret, lived when he was just two.   His father was also listed as a Woollen Frame Work Knitter in the 1861 Census.   Then he came across two other houses that William and Agnes and their ever-increasing family lived in.  Apparently,  the houses were owned by the Mills, of which there were up to 60 in Hawick at one time, and the leases were for three years.  If the head of the household changed to work for another Mill he automatically had to leave his home and rent from the new employer, also as the family grew and they needed more room that may have taken them to a new address and lastly, if the employee was given a promotion he may have been given a better house in a better position, closer to the Mill, as part of the package.   Anyhow, Dennis and I walked the streets on that first evening looking for these four addresses and other than the first one, where we only had the street name not the number of the house we found all of them.    Outside one of the addresses we looked up at this three-storied house and remarked to each other what a lovely situation it was on and how large it looked to be.    When we wandered around the back of the property we immediately saw a row of small sheds all joined together, it didn’t take long to realise that these had originally been the outside privies for this block of houses!  It wasn’t until we got back to van and Dennis was reading through the Census pages he had copied at the Heritage Hub, that he came to the realisation that the three-storied house we had admired was not what we had first assumed.  It was not only the home of the Rodger family but five other families totalling 37 people in all!  Also, at that time there was a tax on how many windows the dwelling had and it is listed in the Census papers how many windows  each family had in that house, William and Agnes Rodgers and their six children had three out of the 19 so we assume that they had just a few rooms in that house to call home.   No wonder they left!

We’re guessing here but maybe this was where William lived as a child, it’s in the right street anyway!

16 Duke St is right down the far end, next to a pub.

No.16 is through the brown door and to your left. (Those six windows) I would guess the loft is a later innovation.

Eastfields Mills is directly opposite Duke St, on the other side of the river. Maybe William worked here, it is the closest one to his house

14 Croft St, where 37 people lived

And the row of privies out the back

We were woken rather rudely at 6a.m. on the Saturday morning.   Initially a vehicle drove slowly past us and the two other campervans parked next to us, tooting his horn.  Then after parking his truck he proceeded to knock on the door of the first campervan and yell at them to move out, they were in the way!  He did the same to the next motorhome and by this stage Dennis told me not to say a word but he was not going to leave for anyone!   We could clearly hear the conversation next door, the explanation as to why they had to move was that on Saturday mornings they have a market on this parking precinct and he wanted to set up his wares.  We listened as the driver climbed into the front and drove his van some distance away.  I lay there, holding my breath, wondering what would happen when our door was rapped upon and we were yelled at.  I knew very well that Dennis was serious, he wouldn’t take kindly to the same treatment.  But nothing happened.   The truck driver got busy banging around in his vehicle, unloading the trestle tables and all his second-hand stuff to sell and we actually went back to sleep.   After we had leisurely showered and breakfasted, we bravely stepped out into the market place.  Why that man had ever woken the other two was beyond me!  He had all the room in the world to set up his stall and not go near these clearly labelled campervan parks at all.  It was a little bit of power for him, I imagine, that gave him some satisfaction.  I was so incensed by this behaviour that I wrote an email to the local Council and told them first of all how pleased we were to be welcomed so thoroughly by the thoughtful actions of the Hawick Council but I felt this man had gone out of his way to undermine their generous attitude.  Within 24 hours I had a reply, thanking me for the positive and the negative comments about Hawick and assuring me that they would look into it.

We spent quite some time in the Hawick Museum learning about the process of how the Knitting Mills worked. This is an original carding machine using the seed pods of a weed that I can’t remember the name of!

A good reminder of how hard these women worked

We also found the Church where Ella was baptised and went for the morning service there on the Sunday.  It was a surprise when the Minister came out in flowing black robes, wearing bright pink suede high heels!  The building could seat 950 parishioners but on this occasion only 30 were present and other than the Minister we were the youngest ones there.  What a sad affair that service was!  She spoke such drivel for all of ten minutes and we sang many hymns to make up the hour.  We both were convinced that she had made up the “sermon” on the way to the service in her Volvo, it had no substance whatsoever.  A few of the old ladies took a shine to us after the service and were keen to hear why we were attending their Church that day.  One of them actually took us on a tour of the Church and the many halls and chapels out the back.  She was sure that all these facilities would have been well used in Nanna’s time but today they have had to drop the Sunday School as no one comes (not having any young children in their own congregation they used to cater for the community’s children), the Scouts group has a few who still attend but other than that, the community uses the badminton courts in one hall.   The Minister was not at all interested in us, she would listen to the little lady explaining on our behalf why we had come and for each comment or statement she would turn the conversation around to herself!  For example:  “We’re here to find out more about our family’s roots” she changed the subject to “My mother told me not so long ago that MY family came from such and such, which was news to me!  She’d never told me that before, I’ll have to do some digging myself”  It actually got quite embarrassing to be standing there with one of her congregation and see her do this.  The lady commented later that the Minister had been with them for nine years.  Hint, hint.  

Wilton Parish Church was lovely inside and has the arches strangely pulled outwards

The font where Nanna was baptised

There are two Rodgers up on the WW1 commemoration list inside the Church

Large halls. kitchen and chapel were behind the main Church

We went back to the Heritage Centre early on Monday to try to find out a bit about Nanna’s mother’s side of the family.  After quite some effort Dennis came to a standstill without finding too much more.  Her family, the Bogues, had been in Scotland for 150 years in Bo’Ness prior to this time but he couldn’t find the connection as to when or why they had originally come from Belgium.  It was such a gloomy day and I commented about this to the helpful lady behind the desk there and she laughed and said,  “A good day in Hawick is when it doesn’t rain ALL day!”  That’s why the Scottish Borders are so lovely.  We really loved our stay in Hawick, the people were very friendly, the village was lovely and it was fascinating to learn more about Nanna.

We waited for this heron to get what he was waiting so patiently for, but the rain got to us. They tell us that salmon run up these rivers in Hawick so maybe that’s what he was after.

Hawick celebrates the annual Common Riding, which combines riding around the boundaries of the town’s common land with the commemoration of a victory of local youths over an English raiding party in 1514

No sooner than we had crossed the border back into England the scenery changed as well.  The border is at the top of the Cheviot Hills and once you’re on British soil it’s downhill all the way until you’re back on flat land again.  It’s quite strange really.

The last of Scotland on one side of the road and another huge boulder to mark the beginning of England on the other.

The lovely heather grows in England as well