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The Persistence of Scott

My previous post’s title was of course a reference to the alternative title of Sir Walter Scott’s first novel Waverley otherwise known as Tis Sixty Years Since.

I am of course reading that author’s The Heart of Mid-Lothian at the moment which means he has been on my mind.

Scott’s influence continued to be felt long after his death. Edinburgh’s main railway station is named Waverley in his honour and there is of course the huge monument to his memory on Princes Street.

Scott Monument

On seeing this Belgian author George Simenon is supposed to have asked “You mean they erected that for one of us?” then added, “Well, why not. He invented us all.”

Also named after him is the main steamer on Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, the SS Sir Walter Scott, which was built by Denny’s of Dumbarton, dismantled, its pieces numbered, then the whole transported by horse cart to Stronachlachar on Loch Katrine where it was reassembled.

SS Sir Walter Scott
SS Sir Walter Scott

She is by no means the only ship with a Scott connection which I have sailed on.

The Heart of Mid-Lothian‘s main female character is named Jeanie Deans, a name previously familiar to me – at least in her second steamship incarnation – from several of those trips “Doon the Watter” that used to be so much a part of a West of Scotland childhood.

PS Jeanie Deans
PS Jeanie Deans

There was a short branch line (now long gone) off the main-line station at Craigendoran (about 8 miles from Dumbarton) which took trains right up to a platform on the pier where the ship would be waiting for its passengers to detrain and embark – usually for Rothesay. I believe something similar pertained at Wemyss Bay.

One of the delights of the trip was to descend into the lower parts of the ship to see the engines; mesmerising visions of gleaming, oiled steel and brass, powerful flywheels spinning, pistons thundering, regulators twirling. “Taking a look at the engines” was also used as a euphemism by those suitably aged gentlemen patrons who wished to avail themselves of the licensed facilities on board.

There was also an earlier PS Jeanie Deans. Indeed the North British Packet Steam Company and North British Railway seem to have named their ships almost exclusively after Scott characters. Have a look at this list of their ships, some of which were transferred to later operators.

Only one of these floating mini-palaces still exists. The second PS Waverly (built in 1949) is now the sole ocean-going paddle steamer left in the world and still carries out excursions from its base on the clyde near Glasgow Science Centre, in the Bristol Channel, from London, the South Coast and Wales under the auspices of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

PS Waverly at Ilfracombe
Waverley at Ilfracombe

If you can avail yourself of the opportunity to take a trip on the Waverley (or indeed the SS Sir Walter Scott, though she is much smaller and does not quite afford the full experience) I would urge you to do so.

St Augustine’s, Dumbarton

St Augustine's, Dumbarton

St Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Dumbarton (above; dedicated to St Augustine of Hippo) is possibly the most important building in my life. Not just because it was where I got married – though that can’t be minimised. It was the church where my grandfather (the original Jack Deighton) was the incumbent Rector in the 1930s and 1940s. The Episcopalian ministry was more or less the Deighton family business. Not only my grandfather but his brother (my great uncle,) his son (my uncle,) and his grandson (my brother) took up holy orders – or as I used to put it, “I come from a long line of penguins.” My generation was where the tradition ended though.

The church was where I spent a fair part of each Sunday in my youth as a member of the church choir. There were two accompanied services each Sunday; Matins/Morning Prayer or Sung Eucharist in the morning and Evensong in the evening.

More germane to its importance to my life is that it was where my mother first laid eyes on my father as he entered church in the choir procession and she told herself, “I’m going to marry that boy.” At the time they were both aged nine! My mother was a strong-willed woman and knew her own mind from a young age: her mother said she was so thrawn she’d walk on the other side of the road because she didn’t want to walk with the rest of the family. My father never had a choice. Still, without that I wouldn’t be here.

Since I moved to Fife the only times I have entered St Augustine’s have been for family funerals or as in Saturday’s case a memorial service for an old family friend who died earlier in the year. It was a chance to see how cruel time is to us all. One woman said to me, “I know you,” but couldn’t work out who I was till she was told. Mind you I didn’t recognise her either. My excuse is that she’d changed her hair colour.

I took the photograph below of the chancel, high altar, reredos and stained glass window at the east end; now all much more visible from the nave since the rood screen was removed during restoration. (The pictures on the lower altar are from the life of the old family friend.) The reredos is a particularly fine example of the form.

Interior, St Augustine's Episcopal Church, Dumbarton

The War Memorial to St Augustine’s congregation members used to be to the right of the entrance door. When the church was refurbished with heritage funding – the church is a grade A listed building – it was relocated to halfway or so up the left hand side:-

War Memorial, St Augustine's Episcopal Church, Dumbarton

It only occurred to me when I got home that this was probably the last time I’ll ever attend St Augustine’s. With the loss of that old family friend I no longer have a connection to the church and none with Dumbarton – except for the glorious Sons of the Rock of course. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take more photographs, especially of the stained glass windows facing the High Street.

Birthday Present

My birthday is the day before Christmas.

I don’t usually get one big present but rather small ones two days in a row.

Here’s a photo of what my eldest son gave me for my birthday this year.

An old Quality Street tin.

You’d be excused for thinking I’d be miffed but I was actually delighted. In addition to the nostalgia trip the tin provided it added to my collection of old tins, which I mentioned a few years ago.

And he did fill it:-

He also gave me the latest Pink Floyd CD. (I’m not into downloads.)

More From the West Highland Line

I forgot to include this photo of an old North British Railway Signboard at Glenfinnan Station in my previous post. The posters are modern of course.

Glenfinnan was the only long stop between Fort William and Mallaig.

This is the sea loch, Loch Ailort (Loch Ailleart) after which the next town and station up the line, Lochailort, are named:-

First proper sea view. I think this is Loch nan Uamh – looking towards the Sound of Arisaig:-

The next station, Arisaig, has a unique claim to fame as the sign on the station wall attests. The stop was a short one but handy for me to take the photo.

Glenfinnan Viaduct from Train

The most iconic piece of railway scenery on the West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which was apparently the first entirely built of concrete – by Robert McAlpine, thereafter known as “Concrete Bob.”

Here it is as viewed as from the Hogwarts Express on the outward leg.

There are great views of Loch Shiel from the viaduct. This photo was taken just after crossing it:-

The train stopped at Glenfinnan Station for about fifteen minutes to exchange tokens for the single track with a Scotrail train. If you had time you could have a meal in the restaurant car in the Station precincts.

Return journey – shows viaduct and locomotive. Someone is ignoring the “Do not lean out of the window” signs!

View down into Glenfinnan from train:-

Hills at Glenfinnan:-

Loch Shiel from viaduct:-

The Jacobite Steam Train (aka The Hogwarts Express)

This was the reason we went to Fort William.

My work colleagues had given me a voucher for two tickets on an excursion from Fort William to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam train run by West Coast Railways. This is the train that features as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.

We hadn’t been on a steam train since we took the boys on the one at Bo’ness in the long ago.

That British Railways logo is a cracker.

It’s reminiscent of the one used for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924-25.

Wembley Lion

See more images of the Wembley Lion here.

When we debarked at Mallaig Station the footplatemen were hard at work shovelling coal on the Jacobite’s coal tender.

The end of the line at Mallaig:-

Friday On My Mind 88: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I remember when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. first started it was broadcast in the UK on BBC 1 on a Thursday night at 8 pm. That meant it was a quick rush home from choir practice, which itself followed straight on from my piano lessons. Thursday nights were busy then.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. theme tune is very hard to recall. It always gets overwhelmed, at least in my head and also in those of other people of my acquaintance, by the one for Mission Impossible – a show which took over that Thursday night slot from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The first episode’s opening with explanatory introduction:-

Later colour version, with altered arrangement:-

Reelin’ In The Years 70: Ace of Wands

Ace of Wands was a children’s TV programme, broadcast by ITV between 1970 and 1972, which had fantasy elements. As well as this, another attraction was the cracking theme tune.

The tune was released as a single, Tarot, and was performed by Andy Bown. There’s some brilliant mellotron in this.

Andy Bown: Tarot

Friday On My Mind 87: Captain Pugwash

Captain Pugwash was a cartoon precursor to Sir Prancelot (see last week) and featured a similarly bumbling lead character in the shape of the eponymous captain of the ship The Black Pig.

Strictly speaking this isn’t a sixties piece since Captain Pugwash first appeared on television in the 1950s. However my folks didn’t get themselves a television till 1960 so as far as I’m concerned it belongs firmly in the 60s.

There is an urban myth that the cartoon series was a repository of filth/sexual innuendo. This is NOT TRUE.

The cabin boy was called Tom not Roger, there was no seaman Staines and it was Master Mate with an M not a B. The Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian both had to pay libel damages for printing this misconception.

The jaunty signature tune is apparently called The Trumpet Hornpipe.

Captain Pugwash (The Trumpet Hornpipe)

Reelin’ In The Years 69: The Adventures of Sir Prancelot


The Adventures of Sir Prancelot
was a cartoon series – each episode lasting only five minutes – first broadcast in 1972, about a bumbling knight who sets out on a crusade and of course gets into scrapes. As I recall it the one who always pulled his irons out of the fire was his minstrel whose voice narrated the episodes.

The minstrel of course played a stringed instrument – from the pictures it may be supposed to be a lute – and Sir Prancelot’s (but also the minstrel’s) theme tune was a belter.

The programme was broadcast at 5.55 pm, just before the early evening news. I can remember rushing home from University in order to catch it. (No iPlayer or DVD box sets in those days. No videos even.)

They don’t make them like that any more, sadly.

Sir Prancelot

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