National Geographic : 1950 Aug
The National Geographic Magazine It was 16 miles to Moffat, and the road climbs to 1,300 feet. Nevertheless, I was glad I had resisted the temptation to ride, so mag nificent was the scenery. Near Tweedsmuir, haunt of the late John Buchan's boyhood and the name he took when raised to the peerage as Governor-General of Canada,* I crossed the Tweed, a lusty stripling issuing half-grown from its well in the hills above, to visit the late Dr. William Shillinglaw Crockett's church on its tree-fringed knoll. This poet and historian of the Covenanters' country was also known in America and Canada. A tablet on the walls of the little church commemorates his jubilee as its minister. Snow posts marking the highway led me up to the famous Devil's Beef Tub on the heights above Moffat. A roadside cairn re minded me of my unusual good luck in enjoy ing brilliant March weather; for here, in a great snowstorm in February, 1831, James M'George and John Goodfellow, guard and driver of the Edinburgh-Dumfries mail van, perished in a heroic struggle to bring the mail bags through. In the old churchyard of Moffat, where these gallant postmen are buried, lies also John Loudon McAdam, whose name is immortal ized by the type of road he popularized. A charabanc from Blackpool had just scat tered a load of Easter trippers, like bright butterflies, around the memorial to John Hunter, a Covenanter who was shot near the Beef Tub in 1685. The kindly accents of Lancashire were borne to me. "Coom on, Mother, coom and see where the jocks used to keep the meat ration." "She can't coom, 'Arry, she's wearin' 'er bedroom slippers! She'd fall down them places !" But the old lady was helped out, slippers and all, and taken to the brink of the vast caldronlike Beef Tub, hemmed by steep green walls about 600 feet high. Here it is said the Scottish reivers (raiders) used to hide the herds of fat cattle they had filched from their neighbors across the border. From the Tub the road spirals down like a revolving picture gallery to the pleasant spa of Moffat, noted for 250 years for its sulphur wells. A fountain in the market place, sur mounted by the life-size statue of a ram, ap propriately reminds visitors of a benefactor to whom this sheep-farming neighborhood also owes much of its prosperity. By the old Carlisle road to Wamphray, an unfrequented and beautiful highway, I fol lowed the Annan next day, rejoining the main road about six miles from Lockerbie. It was an unpleasant six miles. There was no footpath (for who needed it?), and at frequent intervals lorries hurtled past, carry ing prefabricated houses which by next morn ing would probably be filled with families whilst breakfast cooked in the kitchens! Where Lies Scott's Favorite Heroine What, I wondered, would Jeanie Deans have said to these? Before quitting Scotland, I had a special pilgrimage to pay to the little kirk of Irongray near Dumfries, where Sir Walter Scott's favorite heroine is buried. Jeanie's real name was the very appropriate one of Helen Walker. In 1737 she walked barefoot to London over the rough and danger ous roads of that time, accomplishing her journey in 14 days, to intercede for her sister's life. She sleeps beside the Cluden Water under a stone with a rather weighty epitaph, both the gifts of Sir Walter. Here, following a track beaten through the grasses by her many ad mirers, I found her on Easter Sunday (page 174). The church was thronged for Easter, for Irongray-once a center of the studs of the famous Galloway nags-lies in the heart of the Covenanters' country, and the blood of the Covenanters still pulses in the veins of its parishioners. "Upon an oak-tree near the kirk of Iron gray, at the foot of which they were buried," Edward Gordon and Alexander MacCubine were hanged in the dark year 1685 for refusing to abjure their religious convictions. "Both died," said Scottish historian Robert Wodrow, "in much composure and cheerful ness," leaving their wives and babes "upon the Lord and to His promise." I came quite suddenly upon a statue of Thomas Carlyle, the genius of Ecclefechan. There he sat, head on hand, gazing thought fully from an eminence down the winding road into the village. The two-storied house where he was born in 1795, son of a stone mason, now belongs to Scotland's National Trust. At near-by Craigenputtock, where Sartor Resartus was written, Emerson visited the sage, and with Emerson's help, in 1836, the work appeared for the first time in book form in America. The Carlyle house contains many interest ing relics, including two of his wide-brimmed hats-a black felt and a battered straw. Seizing a moment when the attendant's back *See "Tweedsmuir Park: The Diary of a Pil grimage," by the Lady Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1938.