Day 80 – Coldstream

Part One – a detective story and a monument

I wanted to include Coldstream on the virtual walk as a combination sentimental journey and detective story. I’ve already mentioned my past BBC career, which took me to Outside Broadcast locations around the country. One of the earliest was near the Scottish Borders, and I booked myself into a hotel in Coldstream. That was nearly 40 years ago. My recall of those few days were mixed – parts quite clear still, others rather foggy. I could, for example, still remember the name of the hotel – the Newcastle Arms. I checked on Google Maps and yes, it was still there on the High Street.

The other part I could remember clearly (apart from buying haggis from a butcher’s shop on the opposite side of the street to the hotel – yes, still seems to be there as well) was standing in a crowd of people on the riverside with others on a steep bank rising up behind me. But that was all, apart from the time – it was dusk turning into night. What on earth had I been I doing there? A firework display seemed the most likely answer, but was it the right time of year?

Nun’s Walk – Photo © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0)

I started researching. The location as remembered looked feasible. You can turn off the High Street at a very imposing monument and walk down a steep path to a large grassed area by the river with a bank behind topped by a wall. Yes, that’s where I had been! Two pieces of music kept going round in my mind as my memory tried to make connections. They were ‘White Wedding’ by Billy Idol and ‘p-Machinery’ by Propaganda. I also remembered someone in the crowd talking about a short-lived TV show called ‘Rebellious Jukebox.’ After a good deal of internet surfing this all pointed to August 1985 (after a false start with Billy Idol, originally released in 1982 but again three years later – what relief when I discovered that!

I was pretty sure that the programme that took me to Coldstream would have involved religion or gardening (the majority did) and would have been transmitted the same week. Again, the internet came to my aid, this time in the form of the complete Radio Times archives. And there it was! On a Sunday morning in August 1985, young(ish) Marchbanks had been part of a TV crew invading some poor God-fearing household in Cornhill-on-Tweed.

The Riverbank – Photo © Jennifer Petrie (cc-by-sa/2.0)

So I knew where and I knew when. But why had I been standing on the riverbank? Not Guy Fawkes’ Night, obviously. I found the answer thanks to Ian Crofton’s book ‘Walking the Border’ which I had bought to help me plan a route. I saw a photo of a crowd on a riverbank watching a firework display. It was captioned ‘the climax to Coldstream’s civic week.’ I hurriedly looked on Coldstream’s website, knowing this had to be the answer. It was – civic week takes place every August.

You can’t imagine how delighted I was to have worked that out. I took another look on Google Maps at my route from the hotel, past the monument and down the path to the riverbank. Oh yes, the monument. Who is that standing proudly on top? You can make out the inscription – ‘Charles Marjoribanks Esq. M.P.’ I couldn’t believe it. Might he have been a long-lost relative using the less plebeian form of the family name? I peered at the smaller inscription on the plinth. ‘A man of high talents, amiable qualities and political principles.’ That sealed it – he was definitely one of us!

You don’t often see Lego Marchbanks remove his headgear, but here he is, standing just above my viewing point nearly 40 years ago, doffing his cap in tribute.

Photo © Jennifer Petrie (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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