National Geographic : 1946 May
Bonnie Scotland, Postwar Style at the door and beg its wearer to bring her pink apron and herself into his color scheme. She answered my knock grasping-by a freak of chance-a pile of familiar yellow magazines. She had been a member of the National Geographic Society for some years. Such a remarkable introduction merited a celebration, and we were soon drinking tea with her and her sister in their hospitable parlor. The school children of Auchencairn, pouring homeward presently down the brae, were also interested in adventure. They were reciting The Wreck of the Hesperus: And he watched how the veering flaw did blow The smoke now west, now south. "Dinna blaw up, blaw doon!" A motherly voice interrupted the recitation, as its youth ful owner held out a very communal pocket handkerchief to "dicht" the nose of her wee sister. But the baby, her round blue eyes firmly fixed on the strange cameraman, refused (un like the "veering flaw") to operate in either direction. "Preaching Cross" Buried for 150 Years Dumfries, on the Nith, is the largest town in the border counties. Using it as a base, one might spend weeks exploring the ruined castles and abbeys of this historic region. Many of these fine buildings were "dung doun" in the name of religion by the ruthless reformers of the 17th century. Fortunately, one priceless treasure, the Ruthwell Cross, has survived by the craft and astuteness of one of its early custodians, the Reverend Gavin Young (Plate XII). This magnificent specimen of Anglo-Saxon art dates from about 680. When we pushed open the door of the little church of Ruthwell and peeped in on this treasure early one morning, it took our breath away. There it blazed like a great flower, sunk several feet in a well in the floor because its height outtopped the low roof. Before it, on the altar, pink and blue flowers shone. The light falling through the small stained windows of the apse colored the stone tenderly. The present guardian of this treasure, the Reverend M. W. McCaul, was another far traveled Scot, for he and his wife had spent many years in Mukden, Manchuria. He told us the strange story of the cross while Mr. Stewart busied himself with flash bulbs to take its picture in color for prob ably the first time in 1,265 years! This great "preaching cross" was designed by its unknown architect to tell to the gen erations the story of Christ, and marked the spot consecrated for divine worship. Around the extreme margin of the sculpture a re markable poem is inscribed in old Anglian runes, in which the cross is personified. In 1640 the reformers ordered all "idola trous monuments found in parish kirks" to be destroyed. But Mr. Young, with remarkable courage, saved his cross at Ruthwell by throwing it down, breaking it in two pieces with tender care, and burying it in the clay floor of his church. There the cross lay for 150 years, almost side by side with its preserver, who died in 1671, aged 85. He rests in Ruthwell church yard with his 48-year-old wife, Jean Stewart, a lady perhaps no less remarkable than her husband, for their epitaph states: Far from our oun Amid our oun we lie, Of our dear bairns Thirty and one us by. Torrents of rain were falling when we reached Dumfries that evening, but a mag nificent sunset tossed upon the murky sky great shovelfuls of fire, which flamed again in the "drumlie" (turbid) waters of the Nith. Crowds of children jostled along the river side where the gilded caravans of a traveling circus were assembling near St. Michael's churchyard. There Burns, who died in Dum fries, sleeps beneath his laurel wreath in a glassed-in mausoleum. The flaming skies re flected in the glass seemed a fitting symbol of the brief, tempestuous life of Scotland's warm hearted genius, the plowman poet. Misspelling Gave Tweed Its Name The name "tweed," we are told, has noth ing to do with the famous salmon river of the borders. It is a misspelling of the word "twill," which was written "tweel" in Scot land. A Selkirk firm claims to make the finest tweed in the world today, but American visi tors to the little county town may be equally interested in a tomb in an aisle of the old roofless kirk. Within lies a Scot of the Mur ray clan, known in his day as "the outlaw of Falahill," from whom the late Presi dent Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed direct descent. Selkirk also cherishes a statue of its famous African explorer, Mungo Park, and in its courtroom Sir Walter Scott, as sheriff of Selkirkshire, administered justice for almost 30 years.