Musings from the Merse
Friday, February 29, 2008
Another silly gem from that Soapbox of the North: the letter column in the Berwickshire:

Like many of your readers we received a card from John Lamont with useful contact details etc which was fine by me.
However, what I strongly object to is this card being printed in Brighton, England.
Surely this work should have been carried out by a local printer, with our money being spent to support local firms.
Perhaps John Lamont had his eye on a ‘Brighton jolly’ in order to ensure correct wording etc for the art work (lovely St Abbs Harbour view).
‘Freedom of Information Act’ - so how much did this cost John and did you pay with Scottish bank notes?
Next time make sure a local firm is asked. We have an excellent exchange rate you know and we all need to support local labour.
Let’s see if John Lamont will give a reply to this open letter and an apology for his insensitive mis-use of funds by his support of the ‘Auld Enemy’.
Who’s smiling now John. (Name supplied and shredded in error)

So why does the delightful and energetic Mr Lamont, our (Scottish) Tory MSP, have his puffs printed in Brighton. Perhaps (lets go for the simple answer: no suitable printers in Scotland-after all Brighton is First World, technically speaking. But, I hear you scream 'What about Fantasy Prints?' But Fantasy Prints is in Berwick-upon-Tweed. And Berwick is in?*

Any thoughts on the back of a Scottish Twenty Pound note to the Hutton Think Tank fao Huttonian Retirement Fund

* Enough about Berwick (Blog-ed)

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Driven off the front page to his usual position in the letter column of the Berwickshire the Regent of Scotland has taken slight exception to the 'story' about him in last weeks edition

In the fine article by Janice Gillie on Berwick being already in Scotland which appeared in both the Berwickshire News and the Berwick Advertiser last week, I was designated as “self-appointed Regent”. I was only self-appointed initially as the Parliament at its first meeting confirmed me as Regent a few months later.
In this it was following the precedent of Robert the Bruce’s self-appointing himself as King of Scots with the Parliament confirming him as king a few years later.

So that's alright then. And I wonder if he saw a spider at work on his way to his coronation? Cogescenti of Alba's history will know how The Bruce took comfort from the spider's persistence in weaving its web in a drafty ould cave in Ayrshire/Rathlin Island/ Lowlands/Skye (many claimants for this honour) before finally defeating the English at Murrayfield* Anyone who knows of a 'Ritchie's Cave' somewhere in the Borders please come forward and we can add it to the list of tourist attractions in Scotland's Favourite Shortbreak Destination

* Bannockburn shurely? Blog-ed

The image is not of Michael Ritchie

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rural Isolation as its ups and downs but a real up is the practice
of the successive posties not only to deliver mail but to pick it up as well. When we had the village post office on our kitchen table, open 9-1 Mondays and Thursdays Alan the long serving postman used to march into the house, plonk our mail beside the washing up and take the post office plus private mail away with him-and the pickup and delivery was regardless of whether the post office was 'open' or not. When the post office deserted the Old Manse for the Village Hall the same service has continued with the post entering and leaving via the boot box outside our back door.

Every day, bar Sundays, for ten and a half years we have had some kind of mail delivered here. Often just junk, mostly useless catalogues (impossible to stop), but something.

Until yesterday. Nothing, And, horrors of horrors, two important missives (vital crossword entries) left uncollected. What could have happened? The BBC Blether Centre was talking about travel disruption-70mph winds and the danger of power lines collapsing, trees blown over, high sided lorries swept off the A1 but, always, come Rain,snow, Hurricane,Earthquake (and there was a small one this morning south of us),the Postie gets through.

But not yesterday

If he does not show up today we will have to consider upgrading our crossword entries to First Class. Rural Isolation indeed

AS WH Auden put it

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

But if the Postie does not turn up its all a wasted effort. Isn't it?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Berwick reaps benefits from England/Scotland debate

IAN SMITH a Berwick Advertiser (the townee cousin of the Berwickshire) reporter writes in the latest edition:

BERWICK is preparing for a surge in tourism interest as a direct result of the mass media coverage it has received over the past few days.

Television crews have beamed pictures of Berwick all over the world since the town hit the headlines in a debate over whether it should be English or Scottish.

Hundreds of newspaper column inches and hours of radio air time have also been devoted to an issue which has really caught the public's imagination.

The fact that Berwick has been bathed in glorious spring sunshine, showcasing the River Tweed and Elizabethan Ramparts at their best, has made it a marketing dream for tourism bosses.

Giles Ingram, executive director of Northumberland Tourism, said: "The amount of prime time television coverage and other media interest has been absolutely fantastic — you just can't buy it.

"We really want to try and spin it out as long as we can so we are now looking at ideas to help keep Berwick in the spotlight and maximise the benefit."

They are already working with BGB Communications, a London-based travel and tourism agency with key media contacts, to build on the publicity already generated.

"Berwick is an absolutely key part of our tourism offer but we know it has not realised its full potential.

"It's a historic town that ought to be attracting more visitors so this sort of publicity is great for us," admitted Mr Ingram.

Berwick Borough Council has been inundated with media inquiries from as far afield as the United States, Canada, Australia and even Russia*.

"There has been a huge amount of interest from the media," said a council spokesman. "We've had requests from broadcasters all over the world, including a Russian news agency.

"Closer to home we've had all the national press, television and radio interested as well as the regional and Scottish media while a production company has been in touch about doing a documentary on Berwick.

"There's no doubt that with all the sunny weather we've enjoyed recently it has helped to show the town in an extremely positive light."

I am not too sure about all the sunny weather we have been having recently-sunny yes.
Weather yes; but hardly conducive to sightseeing this latest Tourist Mecca. I took a friend on the standard visitor trail: Coffee and cake at Doolally's and then a walk around the Elizabethan walls (finished 1588 just missing the Spanish Armada, apparently) Cake good but once on the walls the horizontal wind and low eye dazzling sun made beating the bounds very hazardous especially as the top of the walls are exposed to the gale and the drop to the moat below is sheer and sometimes terminal; we have lost the odd visitor too busy reading the blurb about the Berwick Artist WS Lowry (well he did a couple of paintings here) to notice (no pun intended) where his feet were (all victims have been male they say) -a gust of wind and Bob's your bereaved uncle.

I am sure the city fathers wil be thinking of many eye catching slogans to attract new folk as visitors cashing in on the recent publicity but perhaps they should avoid

See Berwick and Die

* Why 'even Russia'? I am sure the phones have been humming with anxious Russians asking for assurance that they are no longer at war with Berwick

(The image is of a section of Berwick's wall-fall off that you remain very fell)

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Monday, February 25, 2008

At last the Berwickshire News will have some real Borders news to fill its front page next Thursday-a change from loony self styled Regents and the commemoration of Rabbi Burns one visit to Coldstream; local lass makes real good: Oscar for Tilda Swinton. How local? Certainly much more so than Jim Clarke and Duns Scotus although I am not sure how long she has actually spent in Berwickshire at her family home. Her fathers family have been Borderers since slightly before the year Dot. Tilda S lives in Nairn, a bit north of here-indeed north of most places but I am sure that she will be claimed as 100% one of their own in these parts. 100% may be a bit steep given that her mother is Australian so perhaps it will be appropriate that the Merse will be alive with the sound of music as people hum that catchy Aussie/Scottish tune:

'Waltzing McTilda'

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Sunday, February 24, 2008
'Have you flitted yet?' asked a villager in church referring to our move to Duns?'Flitted' ? Is there something surriptitious implied?

The concise Oxford dictionary may cast some light:Flit
: To migrate, depart; (esp. Scotland and North England) change one's abode' Right on. Give the man a coconut.

But wait 'change of abode; esp. to avoid creditors!'*

* Or bloggees? Blog-ed

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  Whose Move?

Whose Move?
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
A friend from Zambia sent me this image which may have liitle to do with the Merse but is very intriguing. What ever happened next and how did the Attenborough look alike get himself into this fix. Dave the Paper, of fond memory, used to see quite a lot of local wildlife on his early morning round-Bambis, as he said and even once what looked like a Panther. But never claimed a lion
Saturday, February 23, 2008


A letter to the Berwickshire puts a new angle on the 'Berwick should go back to Scotland issue:

- Regarding the recent news story about Berwick-upon-Tweed transferring to Scotland.
Another and possible more attractive proposition for a vote would be for Berwick, the city and the region to become an independent city state like for example San Marino, or even the Isle of Man.
Benefits would be control of tax and spend with innovative tax revenues from Casinos and other sources, the opportunity to hold Berwick Motor racing Grand Prix, both car and motorbike and the opportunity to have its own sporting teams in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, European and World football - and become a tax haven.
What do others think

As it happens the Hutton Think Tank has been long pondering the future status of Berwick which of course did have an autonomous position in the UK up to the end of the 18th Century: 'Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Berwick-upon-Tweed' HTT is working on a proposal to establish a slighly expanded Berwick (Tweedmouth, Spittal, Paxton and Hutton Hill) to be a British Capital Territory rather like Canberra in Australia. It would be the seat of government-parliament to meet in the Maltings(?), with diplomatic missions, scaled down ministries (Berwick Caravan Park), including the Foreign Office (Paxton House) PM's Residence (The old Governors House, naturally), and a new Royal Residence for use by HM for the opening of parliament, diplomatic receptions etc.This could be built either on Hutton Hill or in Knowe's Close in Paxton. There are some practical problems to be overcome but local lairds are already being most generous with offers of land no longer needed for agricultural purposes.

Such a new capital would cut the ground (no pun intended) from SNP's pretensions for a separate independent Scotland and being as much in Scotand as in England (or rather as much not in England as not in Scotland)it would provide the country with a near, easily accessible seat of power and patronage. Joined up government indeed.

Any snags on post cards please to the usual HTT dead letter box on the upper Paxton Hutton Road.

(The image is of a possible Diplomatic Quarter in the future Berwick Capital Area)

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Friday, February 22, 2008


It is certainly the silly season when the whole Bizarre business of returning Berwick to Scotland dominates the pages of our local organ-The Berwickshire on three successive Thursdays and when the latest utterances of one of Berwickshire's less celebrated mavericks (Huttonian does not subscribe to the epithet Loonie, however much deserved it can be at times) are moved from the letters page to the front page. To save you having to fritter away sixty pence here is Janice Gillie's article in full.

Self-appointed Regent says matter is clear

The status of Berwick was mentioned in the declaration of Duns in 1992"

THE Kingdom of Scotland already includes Berwick-upon-Tweed within its boundaries according to self appointed Regent of the kingdom, Michael Andrew Ritchie of Greenlaw.
As the debate continues about whether Berwick would be better off in England or Scotland, and whether people in Berwick would like to be part of Scotland, Mr Ritchie believes the matter is already clear.
At the time of the Treaty of Edinburgh/Northampton in 1329 Berwick belonged to Scotland, and that treaty, signed by Robert the Bruce and Edward III, declared: "The Kingdom of Scotland shall remain for ever separate in all respects from the Kingdom of England, in its entirety, free and in peace, without any kind of subjection, servitude, claim of demand, with its rightful boundaries as they were held and preserved in the time of Alexander of good memory, King of Scotland, last deceased, to the magnificent prince, the Lord Robert, by God's grace illustrious King of Scots, our ally and very dear friend, and to his heirs and successors."
And this is enough evidence for Mr Ritchie to conclude that the current interest in Berwick's position on the border, drawing attention to the benefits of being part of Scotland not England, is perhaps misplaced as the town is already in Scotland.
"The status of Berwick-upon-Tweed was mentioned in the Declaration of Duns in 1992, which affirmed that the Kingdom of Scotland is still legally and constitutionally independent,"explained Mr Ritchie.
"And this of Berwick as well as that of the Kingdom of Scotland has ever since been again and again brought out by myself as Regent and Acting Chancellor (ie Chief Minister) in material sent by me on behalf of the Kingdom's Parliament (reactivated in 2000)."
In his 1997 Declaration of Duns Mr Ritchie asserted that the Kingdom of Scotland still exists, both legally and constitutionally, under Scots law and therefore was legally and constitutionally reactivated by himself in 1997 and in 1999 he invited both noble and commoner members to represent the Sovereign People to the first sitting of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Scotland for almost 400 years.
It is Mr Ritchie's contention that both the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in 1603 and the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707 are illegal and unconstitutional under both Scots and English law.
"The so-called Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh is, of course, but an illegal and unconstitutional construct," said Mr Ritchie, who reactivated the Parliament of the Kingdom of Scotland in the same year that the new Scottish Parliament began.
Mr Ritchie's latest constitutional move on behalf of Scotland was to reactivate the High Council of the Kingdom of Scotland, on April 25, 2006 and this body according to Mr Ritchie "will soon start meeting also."

A bloggee (see comments on previous post) has suggested that Huttonian attaches himself as English Ambassador in residence to the court of HRH The Regent with observer status at the High Council. Sadly the Court has moved from Duns, the parvenu capital of Berwickshire to the 'ancient' one in Greenlaw. I don't really want a third residence in Berwickshire.

Two items of sad news for the Regent: his subjects in Berwickshire voted three to one to keep Berwick in England as rightly' being English' and the good Berwikers themselves having voted overwhelmingly in agreeing that they would be better off in Scotand-when asked a slightly different question as to whether Berwick should be part of Scotland 77% said no.

Now what does Mr Salmond make of that.

Note to Editor: Real News please that is the

'Declaration of Hutton' (2008)

(The image is apparently titled The Naked Royalist'. Is wearing the Regents
New Clothes?)

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Huttonian is off to the Uni in Embra later this day to give a public lecture on aspects of diplomatic life in the Middle East in those good old days long ago (See
http://www.eumes.co.uk/12.htm)The clientele will be, in the main, the student body-much of the same lot I lecture to as part of the Modern Middle East History 'module' The difference being that attendance at course lectures if not exactly a three line whip is regarded as a 'should do' if you are serious about a decent showing in the exam. A public lecture is very voluntary and given late liquid lunches, the conflicting attractions of Happy Hours at local hostelries or whatever the turnout could be rather derisory.

I hope not quite on the scale of minimalist audience participation as was the experience of a colleague who was asked to give the keynote address at a seminar on some fairly obscure academic topic: Shakespear's Sonnets and the advent of The M'burnish Movement in 17th Century Bakino Fasso or similar. On his arrival the platform was vacant and one person in the audience. Nothing daunted, he assumed the chair, gave his paper, acknowledged the two hands clapping and started to gather up his papers and leave the hall.:

'Please Don't Go' said the solitary guy in the body of the hall;

'I am the second speaker'

(Image is of possible attendance)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Patience and its own reward

A bloggee, with a long memory, having read Huttonian's previous post on the theme of patience with a reference to Godot has asked for a rerun of this ditty from a 1997 anthology, now out of print. Hutton Think Tank's last (and only) literary project.

The man on the bench,
behind the war memorial,
outside the kirk complained
about the view
(obscured by the war memorial)
'Its boring,waiting'.
He complained to the passing fireman.
'Waiting for Godot? Is it?, asked
the fireman (fresh from dousing
the flames under a Christmas turkey)
revealing a hitherto, unsuspected
literary bent.

'I am Godot' replied
the man on the bench.
Untruthfully, as it

No response from the fireman,
busy on another call. This time

(from Mouse Droppings in the Merse. 1997.Anthol of Verse for the Bewildered. Pub: Hutton Think Tank

No apology from www.wewillgetyourcheapmowerthereverylateifnecessary.com for its late arrival. Anyhow here it is and(eventually) assembled thanks to the Wife's technical background. The drawings in the instructions were nothing like as good as IKEA and we did wonder if they applied to a different model.'You would need a doctorate in Rocket Science to assemble this ' I suggested wittily to the Wife.

'No.It's much more difficult than that' was her modest response

(Thankyou Flickr-Vanderal-for this image'Titled 'Waiting Behind Godot'. Presumably taken on the Fishwick Bypass where you can be held up for hours?)

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Patience on a Monument

No not about extreme card games but yet another penalty of a rural existence-waiting for the bleeding carrier. This time it is our contribution to carbon neutrality :a cast iron push-if-not-sing-along-mower. Made in the UK. No Chinese rubbish and no 12,000 air miles. Not much use in the broad hectares of the Old Manse garden where one mow of our meadows empties the petrol tank of a large motor mower and a hand mow would be a painting the Forth Bridge job, but ideal for the Small House in Duns. Unusually the company-www.cheapmowers.com or similar not only offered free carriage but also a number to call to arrange the delivery on the day that suits you. I rang. Agreed Monday. Morning or Afternoon? Sorry carrier can only agree the day. If out he can leave the mower in the boiler room by the back door. Sorry, no can do. Signature required. But..oh free delivery. Agree.

Monday wore on. Lovely sunny day. Risk 9 holes? Better not and the wife has to go out anyhow. Better hang around. Phone rings 'TNT here' Asks for directions to the Old Manse. Give them. Ask TNT is they are using a smallish vehicle because of Kirk Lane and its bad bend. 7.5 Tons they say. 'Could have a problem' I say. Might be difficult to reverse up or back down.. Suggest unloading at bottom of lane and trolleying up. After all very small mower. TNT lady sounds unconvinced. Where is the driver now? No idea but he will phone if he has problems.

No Problems as no phone? Alas. No show.

Today www.verycheapbutundeliverablemowers.com unobtainable. E-mail bounces and answer machine user unfriendly. Customer Satisfaction department on half term. Thick fog sent by the BBC Blether Centre reducing visibility to weather warning dimensions. Carrier will not find Hutton never mind Kirk Lane.

Can't play golf, can't leave the house. Might as well wait. If the Carrier does not come

Godot might

(It all reminds me of the old Soviet Union tale of a man having ordered a car was suddenly told (after a three year wait) that it was coming year after next. 'Morning or afternoon' He asked and added 'I hope it is the afternoon because the plumber is coming in the morning')

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Slurry with the whinge on top.

The zephr is from the north-so is odour of pigs. Well actually slurry. AS those deathless lyrics in a great (Western) Borders Musical had it:

When we hit that road, hell fer leather,
Cats and dogs'll dance in the heather,
Birds and frogs'll sing all together and the toads will hop!
The wind'll whistle as we rattle along,
The cows'll moo in the clover,
Whiteadder ripple out a whispered song,
And whisper it over and over:

“Will that smell go on for ever
go on forever and never stop?
Surely it won’t never stop?
In that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top! “

I can see the stars gettin' blurry,
'cos my eyes are watering, my eyes are smarting
My runny nose is really hartin’
Mud on the Road, Mud on the wheels
Life in the country is down at heels.
Who gives a toss* if the Bull has mated
Life out of town is overrated

Halt the Surrey, Curse the Slurry
Get on the wagon

And have a whinge on top

* No pun intended

(Thankyou Old Grey Wolf for this image of genuine (as in 'seats are of genuine leather)Hutton Slurry.

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According to the Medja as represented in these sticks by The Berwickshire, National Express is not only launching a new diesel 125-the fifth to come into service out of the 13 high speed trains in its stable but also refurbished carriages with complete 'makeovers'. Softer seats, improved back support , folding arm rests, more luggage racks, laminated glass,sparkling vanity units in upgraded toilets ( which you can use when the train 'is standing in the station' ?) and more 'customer friendly' vestibules to read NE's promotional literature in great comfort.

We had little of that on our recent journey south- except the free Internet access. But at a download speed of 18bps (except when going down hill so it took me 15 minutes to open the National Express 'Welcome to' Website)-but even this facility was restricted by the customer indifferent, by your seat, three pin plug sockets not working. I complained to the cheery ticket inspector, aka Deputy (acting) Train Crew Leader. ' Oh you can blame GNER for that' he said. Rather lost interest with the rest of their franchise, I imagine.

No doubt all will work well in the the refurbished rolling stock. Did I say
'No Doubt' ?

Someone told me that National Express have not changed their original slogan:


(Thankyou Jenniferjlea of Flickr for the image: its title is apt:
'Overtaken by a National Express Bus)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

TV poll backs Berwick border move
Is a headline in today's BBC on line

Berwick to go to Scotland

Fishwick opts to Cross Tweed

could be the sub headings.

Full story:

Berwick has changed hands between the two nations at least 13 times
Residents in the Northumberland town of Berwick-upon-Tweed have "voted" in favour of becoming part of Scotland.
According to a poll by a TV company, 60% of those who responded wanted the town to be administered by Scotland.

Better financed public services, including free personal health care for the elderly, were the main reasons.

The referendum, for Monday's ITV1 Tonight programme, saw 1,182 voters in favour of becoming part of Scotland and 775 in favour of staying in England.

Earlier this month politicians in the town vowed to block any move to take Berwick back into Scotland.

I'm not saying that the Scots should not get what they get, but that we should get the same

Pro-England supporter Barbara Herdman

The hard-line stance came after Scottish National Party MSP Christine Grahame lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to "return to the fold".

But the town's Lib Dem MP and council leader warned it would be too complicated and cause major upheaval.

Organisers of the TV programme said the poll turnout of 1,957 votes compared to some 3,800 in the last local elections.

Former policeman Michael Ross, from Berwick, who headed the pro-Scotland campaign for votes, said: "Berwick is a very special place and I think it is largely forgotten within England.

"I believe we would be the jewel in the crown of Scotland, I believe our economy would be better understood and better looked after by the Edinburgh government than it is by Westminster."

'Grass is greener'

Former school teacher Barbara Herdman campaigned in the town for a pro-English vote and for a change in how public spending is allocated across the UK.

She said: "I think that Berwick should stay part of England because it's so unfair what is happening at the moment.

"The Scots are getting more money than we are. I'm not saying that the Scots should not get what they get, but that we should get the same."

is reported that some of the inhabitants of the bustling, car infested hamlet of Fishwick are looking to be reunited with England. "Northumberland has a much better record on traffic management than Berwickshire" said a spokesman (76) who had forgotten his name and could not be identified

(The image is of the Tweed at Fishwick. Difficult to get the village across the river but Hutton Think Tank is on the job)

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A Glimpse of Freedom?
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
Dr Johnston is supposed to have claimed that a Scotsman's favourite sight was the road to England-given how many sons of Alba had found fame and fortune 'south of the Border down Wimbledon way'. Here is lush opulent Northumbria photographed from lush opulent Paxton House. To make a quick getaway to a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness would mean getting a bit damp as the border runs down the middle of the Tweed at this point. A small price to pay, perhaps, for escaping the heavy flabby hand of a Salmond or a Sturgeon (no fishing puns intended

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Originally uploaded by xxxrmt
Thankyou xxxrmt for this nice shot of the phone box in Longformacus. I wonder if it has survived the purge of 'non-viable' (BT speak) phone boxes in isolated Borders communities. Hutton (sadly modern type) was due for the chop but saved after local protests. I have only seen one person actually using it in last two years-a lorry driver who had no charge left in his mobile-probably.
The box proudly proclaims 'You may e-mail from here' But you can't. All the hi-tech apparata have been removed to a more 'proactive community (BT Speak revisited) and we are left with the bog standard receiver. Thankgoodness we have no yoof as in ASBOs in this locality. Otherwise the bog standard Phone Box might serve as exactly that Hutton not being over supplied with public loos.

Be thankful for small mercies as Aunty Kaye used yto say
Friday, February 15, 2008

Put Out More PETS

Great news for ardent green recyclers in the Borders-a major expansion in the sort of material that is now accepted 'kerbside'-aerosol cans for example but more significantly all types of (transparent) plastic (not just PET 1 and PET 2) including cling wrap and plastic bags(although, curiously not black ones. So you can recycle your wheelie bin but not the bin liner)

Good news indeed but why so coy about it. There is a small news item on page 12 of the Berwickshire and a little self congratulatory piece on www.scotborders.gov.uk/recycling and thats it. So I suspect that not many people know about this great leap forward. So why not tell them? A letter to all households on recycled paper perhaps?

Ironically there has just been a new issue of the appropriate recycling plastic bags. But the out of date ones with the old highly restrictive categories of what was permissible:No doubt the newly labelled ones will be out in a years time. So if people have doubts as what to do with their inaccurately labelled clear plastic bags-Hutton Think Tank's (HTT) advice is :

Recycle them.

(The image is of a recent recycling exercise involving HTT's files)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

David and the Unknown construction Worker

No this is not Borders Public Art (We have no unclothed Wallaces as far as I know) but I am reverting to a recent post about the alleged outbreak of unsuitable public art. Compare and contrast the images above : the Unknown Construction Worker from Tower Hill and Micheangelo's David-apparently the UCW is inspired (?) by David-note the posture-and apparently the name on his belt is Dave (not Paddy then)

I have been ticked off by Anon of Eyemoth for not mentioning the series of statues to be erected to commemorate the Great Fishing Disaster in the 19th Century. Sorry. Huttonian is not a habitue of Eyemouth. But I was really bemoaning the lack of more contemporary stuff-like the Flasher/Angel of the North who celebrates his tenth anniversary today. A Flasher for St Valentines Day? And perhaps more akin to David in that respect than the modestly garbed UCW

Btw the top smaller image is from the Giant Snoggers in St Pancras International. Previously attracted the ire of both Huttonian and Disgruntled Commuter

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  On The National Express

On The National Express
Originally uploaded by adambowie
The chain bridge bloggee will be relieved to escape images of the grandchildren despite our three days in the big smoke. All thoughts with the tussle over Berwick-will sense prevail and the Berwikers decide to stay under the Cross of St George or will free uni education,better care for the elderly and more dog pooh bins tempt them to throw up their lot with the Saltire, Christine Graham, Mel Gibson et alios. Will Hutton be in a fever of excitement as the plebiscite approaches.

We will soon know.

In the meantime we are on the overcrowded National Express. It is on time run ning, next station stop is Peterborough and there is so far no inconvenience to b e regretted.

Early Days yet
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bye Bye Berwick?

Today's Independent has a double spread feature on Berwick upon Tweed picking up the poll on whether the town should transfer its allegiance from England to Scotland : THE ENGLISH TOWN THAT WANT TO BE SCOTTISH is the headline on Page 16.

Nothing much new except I did not know that a severed arm of William Wallace (not Mel Gibson) was once displayed here after his terminal hanging drawing and quartering as recently as 1305. It has since been removed on Public Health grounds.
It also again nails the myth that Berwick is still at war with Russia following the end of the Crimean war But I had not heard before that so prevalent was that belief that a formal (albeit Tongue in Cheek) treaty 1966 of peace was signed by the mayor of Berwick with a Soviet official in 1966. 'Now the Russian People can sleep peacefully in their beds' said the mayor thereafter.

Apparently the SNP (a bit of nationalist mischief says the Indy) bid to take Berwick back into Berwickshire has the support of the leader of the Scottish Borders Council. Think of all that extra council tax and think also of the agony of Duns if it is dumped as the county capital in favour of Ber Wick. Bad news for Dingers if good for Berwikers.

Of course its all a bit of harmless posturing and hardly does much for the SNP's pretensions to be the natural government of Scotland. Perhaps it should put its own house in order before trying to grab bits of others.

Edward 1 burnt down Berwick for daring to contemplate an alliance with France This latest bit of union bashing might lead to a similar over reaction from our friends in the South. And bits of Mr Salmond might end up on display-in Scotsgate, appropriately enough.

Or more likely the English highheidyins would not give the proverbial.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Scottish Nationalist Party has fixed its sights on the English border town of Berwick upon Tweed as its next battleground with England.

Christine Grahame, MSP for southern Scotland, has "invited" the people of Berwick to "come back into the fold" and swap their allegiance from England to Scotland.

Historically, the town has been a battleground between England and Scotland for centuries.

It has changed hands between the two nations no less than 13 times and was last won by the English in 1482.

But in a poll, organised by local newspaper the Berwick Advertiser, 77% of all those who voted said they would like to be governed by Scotland once more.

Keith Hamblin, deputy editor, said: "I was surprised by the result. I am a Berwick man born and bred and I regard myself very much as English.

"I think, though, that people feel the quality of life is better in Scotland since devolution.

"Also, we are losing our borough council next year. It's being replaced by a new unitary authority, so all our administration wil be run 60 miles away further south.

"So people feel they're going to be left out even further on the frozen north."

The town already has Scottish loyalties when it comes to football.

Its team, Berwick Rangers FC, has played in the Scottish league for years.

Ms Grahame hopes the rest of the town will also become fans of the idea of being Scottish.

Sky reports the latest bit of silliness by the SNP who are climbing on to a band wagon originally provided by a TV programme on whether Berwickers would prefer to have Scottish social services rather than English ones. Would you like free tertiary education? Yes please. Free services for the Elderly. Yes please. Would you like to pay higher taxes in an independant Scotland to underwrite what the UK government is now subsidising.

Next question.

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Dastards in Duns?

A bloggee e-mailed last night in great excitement -look at Ceefax 339-Dastardly Crime in Duns. No further details. Sadly we are in London on a grandparental visit with no access to a TV with a text facility so no satisfaction there. Google: Duns, Crime, dastardly Nothing came up to justify such excitement and indeed no crime, dastardly or otherwise recorded recently. BBC Scotland website. No mention of Duns-indeed no mention of the Borders; All lumped under Southern Scotland Then tried ITVNews Scotland -equally uninformative.

In desperation rang the bloggee-what was this crime besmirching the good name of Duns?

Break in : One Pizza and three bottles of wine stolen.

Dastardly indeed.

Would never happen in Hutton

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Public Art: THe Borders' Strike Back.

Someone of the Luvvy tendency was banging on this morning on the Today programme about the deplorable standard of 'Public Art' and the lack of any control over the erection of unsuitable and grotesque statues: one example he gave was the Giant Snoggers in St Pancras (see previous posts) and another: The Unknown Construction Worker which has suddenly appeared on Tower Hill.Not unsimilar he suggested to Michael Angelo's David-must have been modelled on a Kerryman.

Around these parts we are not well endowed with public artistic manifestations-The Angel of the North (aka the Great Gateshead Flasher) is well south of us. There is Wallace monument not too far away and a memorial to Waterloo but nothing modern and certainly nothing that could be taken as a commentary on Merse manners today. We await of course, with baited breath, a tribute to the Fighting, Drinking, Smoking Bear but that again will be historical rather than contemporary. So in the meanwhile: Perhaps in Greenlaw, could someone erect something appropriate to mark the recent history of the area: One suggestion:

The Unknown Bird Poisoner


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Would Berwick be better off in Scotland?

asks a headline in the Berwick Advertiser?

And the articles continues:

View GalleryITV is coming to Berwick to make an edition of the Tonight show.
The programme will be looking at the differences in public services available on either side of the border.

Scots have many more medical care benefits, free tertiary education and social services than the English.

In view of Berwick's extraordinary history and its special location, Tonight is going to stage a local referendum asking the question: 'Would you want Berwick to become part of Scotland to have the same free public services currently enjoyed by the Scots?'

The referendum of course is just for television and has no constitutional basis but it is hoped it will be an entertaining way of highlighting the issues.

The programme is looking for two enthusiastic local individuals who could lead the opposing campaigns for the referendum.

One of them should passionately advocate the 'Yes' vote: for Berwick to become Scottish and have the same services found there. The other should argue for a 'No' vote: to keep Berwick English, and putting the case for equality of services in both countries.

They are not looking for party-political spokespeople, but rather for local people with 'fire in their bellies' who feel passionate about the issue who are willing to devote about a week to convincing others in the town which way to vote.

If you are interested in taking part in the programme, please contact Samantha Davies at ITV Productions on (0161) 827 2686 or 07789 928 429 or by e-mail Sam.Davies@itv.com

So if you have fire in your Belly, and Rennies don't help, you know what to do about it

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sunrise river flowing
Originally uploaded by BORDERSCOT
This stunning image is from a flickr group http://www.flickr.com/groups/scottishborders/pool/

courtesy of Borderscot. It is the English Scottish border at subrise-look at largest version t o achieve full effect. Could not have been taken this morning with high pressure fog limiting visibilty to a few yards.

Border Scot describes his picture thus:

I took just before xmas on the bridge over the
Tweed at Norham. on the way down to Tilmouth p Park where i
was working you couldnt see the bridge for mist but on
returning the sun had burned some of it away leaving a
glorious sight,mist,water,sunlight and few salmon boats
resting on the water

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Duns has Jim Clarke and Duns Scotus, Paxton its connections with 'Sweet Robin Adair' but Hutton is now thrust open the world stage by its association with the Fighting, Drinking Smoking Bear: Voytek; who has his own website at:

The world medja from the Washington Post, Al Jazeera,Musings from the Merse, BBC, Daily Mail to our own Berwickshire News have been full of his exploits about to be further immortalised in a book by local (Eyemouth) school teacher Garry Paulin. The Hutton connection (claims this week is being pushed by the indefatigable Mrs Aileen Orr (SNP- as the Berwickshire labels her) who has been in touch with Holywood over a possible movie and also with Prince Charles and his two lads who are apparently Voytek buffs having seen the exhibit about the bear in the Imperial War Museum. Mrs O is campaigning for a national monument to mark the Scottish connection-and according to her and more locally : "myself and others have used our own money to finance a monument in Winfield Camp (where the Polish contingent of which Voytek was a member were stationed during the war)and I think Hutton Village Hall committee are keen to have some sort of plaque on their building"

Well there we go. Hutton and its own celeb. Wingfield Aerodrome (a bit disused) and Hutton Village Hall will be another two points of interest on the Hutton Tourist Trail so long sought after by the Hutton Think Tank (Media and Natural Resources section)Perhaps in slower time the Voytek Museum, the Big Bear Trail Much more exciting than following Paxton Ted around the grounds of Paxton House)-it might even lead to the reopening of the old pub: The Hairy Arms (or in tribute to modern phone help lines : The Bear With Me)celebrating that feature of the Polish Soldier Bear seen in this illustration from the website-seemingly shaking small change (and fag ends?) out of a comrade on its way to the NAAFI.

Some killjoy has suggested that it is most politically incorrect to promote as a role model a Fighting Drinking Smoking character:

'The Peaceful,teetotal non smoking Bear' lacks something.
Doesn't it?

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Banks and everything
Originally uploaded by GDStinx
What an endorsement for Duns! Thankyou GDStinx from Flickr. It is interesting that it should be the banks which are seemingly the most important element of this wee town. But 'and everything' What a sensible move we seem to be making. So now the good people of Duns have a choice of town mottoes:

The rather aggressive 'Duns Dings A'

or: ' Banks and everything'

What would you choose

(Certainly more apt than rather pompous Peebles' effort:

Paris for Business. Peebles for Pleasure

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

That's the Ticket
I have never seen such a sight before.

Three, yes, three National Express ticket inspectors (calling themselves Revenue officials) at the foot of the stairs leading to the Up and Down platforms (aka platforms 2 and 1 depending on your interpretation of Up *and Down). Every ticket and travel card scrutinised and clipped if appropriate. But the cordons were erected in such a way ensuring that the ticket lines had to be crossed to get to Costa Coffee, and then refreshment obtained, crossed again to mount the stairs. One poor Geezer had his ticket clipped and Senior (ugh) Travelcard scrutinised en route to a medium Latte. Then he half climbed the stairs, clipped again and inspected before he remembered that he had forgotten his Daily Telegraph. Back to the kiosk-click-back through the ticket line, click and scrutiny-needed second cup of coffee to dispel stress(Latte Large) Click and 'can I see your travel card'(again? Again?-yes we have our orders) -up the stairs and escape to Up or Down platforms (1141 to Kings Cross, 1142 to Embra-thats intergrated joined up transport for you) And the area at the bottom of the stairs now resembled the aftermath of a wedding.

* A spokesman for Hutton Think Tank explains:

'Up' usually means going 'Up to the capital' as in 'Up to London' But London from Berwick is clearly 'down' (check the map) Up to Edinburgh is geographically correct but not politically, as strictly speaking it only would be if you are travelling in Scotland ** Berwick upon Tweed is in England. So, according to correct English (if not Scottish) usage you should use the Up platform to go up to the Capital even if you are going 'down'. Clear? No?

Take the bus.

** Embra is the capital city of Scotland

(The image shows an anxious passenger checking if the Ticket collectors are still around)

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More Mud

SIR, - On behalf of all of those who live on or have to walk or drive along the narrow roads of Berwickshire may I please make a request to all drivers.
Please do not drive on to the soft verges to pass oncoming vehicles. The result whilst everywhere is so wet is that the verges are churned up and roads are covered in mud. Please use the passing places, even if you have to reverse a few yards

says a writer to the editor if the Berwickshire.


The image is not necessarily Berwickshire. But it could well be. And it is the big 4wd vehicles and the sod-you-other-drivers-tractors which are the worse offenders

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A bloggee has asked about the poisoning of a female Golden Eagle in the Scottish Borders. This happened 18 months ago and it is as follows

Breeding female Golden eagle in Scottish Borders poisoned

A joint investigation by Lothian and Borders Police, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and the Scottish Executive discovered poisoned bait on a grouse moor in the Borders. Ironically, it was found on the 'glorious twelfth', marking the start of the grouse shooting season.
The death is especially sickening given that the pair raised a chick this year, and although the chick has fledged and is now semi-independent, it was still being fed by both parents and so there is now a significant concern for its safety.

Bob Elliot, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland said: 'Despite being excellent golden eagle country, the Borders have been a real black hole in terms of golden eagle breeding in Scotland. Sadly, illegal persecution of birds of prey continues to be a shameful fact of life in parts of Scotland in the 21st Century, and the evidence shows that there is a correlation between the location of grouse moors and the incidence of raptor poisoning.

'Now, after 9 or 10 years together, one of the only breeding pair of golden eagles in the Borders is dead, and we hope that by offering a reward, a member of the public will help the police to catch the perpetrator and bring them to justice.'

PC Mark Rafferty, wildlife crime officer with Lothian and Borders police said: 'This incident goes to show that people are still willing to take a risk, and the result is that one of Scotland's finest birds has now been destroyed. This is criminal behaviour, and I'd ask for the public and particularly the gamekeeping community to come forward with information on this or any illegal wildlife crime'

RSPB Scotland is now offering a reward of £1000 for information with regards to the case, and people should call PC Mark Rafferty on 07785 248 455.

Given the apparent corrolation between the location of Grouse Moors and the incidence of poisoning of birds of prey the fact that this incident was on the Glorious 12th should not come as surprise. If you have paid several hundred quid for the pleasure of slaughtering many more birds than you and your city friends can possibly eat you really need to ensure that there is no competition from natural predators. The unnatural ones:Fat Cats come in many guises-the tweeded green wellied variety are even more deadly than their furry feline name sakes.

It seems

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Duns Roamin'

One thing we will really miss about the move to the-small-house-in-Duns is the view north from the back of the Old Manse. Especially on a crisp clear sunny February day, with the pond still frozen and a Merse horizon which stretches for ever. The horizon in Duns is confined to the backs of other peoples houses over quite a pretty garden but not as stunning as these broad acres

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Duns: The English Are Still Coming

The English burnt Duns to the ground three times within 20 years in the 16th Century and Huttonian wonders if like in Ireland (where Cromwell is still not forgotten or forgiven) some Dingers also resent any lingering indication of the English Connection. I wondered, in this context, about the availabilty of English editions of such papers as the Daily Mail in the two newsagents in Duns. (We alternate with our neighbour in Hutton on a newspaper run and his day is entirely ruined if his Mail is not of the English variety)

Today I did some research in one of the two Newsagents. They take 8 English editions of the Mail-and, to my delight, 15 of the Grudian. The latter I am told is seen as an 'English'paper-Dave the Paper who used to do a delivery service around here used to claim that there were only two Gerdiun readers in the Paxton/Hutton/Fishwick Triangle. Assuming that the other newsagent is similarly stocked that would indicate quite an English community lurking in Greater Duns.

It might also explain the availiblity of the 'Full English Breakfast' in a nearby bakery. Today it was packed with two large and voluble English blokes of the commercial travelling fraternity -from darkest Yorkshire. One spent some time talking on his mobile to a 'Scottish mate' exiled to Huddersfield. He then ordered a dozen 'Scotch Pies' (mince meat, basically) lots of scones,wheaten bread and was told that the Haggisses (?) Haggii(?) were available from the butcher up the street. 'Oh Yes' he added, after another telephonic consultation, ' A loaf of White bread'..'Sliced'added his colleague. 'Can't leave Scotland without the White Bread'

'Must be sliced' his friend warned him again.

As seen from Huddersfield Scotland is The Place for White Bread.

Now there is a tag for the Welcome to Duns Sign. 'Twinned with Zagan' is fine as far as it goes.

But ' 'The Town for White Bread (Sliced) ' Thats Cool for you

And as you enter Scotand:

Welcome to the Borders. Yorkshire's Favourite Short Bread Destination'

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Monday, February 04, 2008
Yanks that with Wallace Bled

Back to Embra for another bout of academia and a nice bright sunny day for it. My route to the uni avoids crossing the path of Embra's most photographed Mendicant Piper as judged by Flickr entries-see image above which was entitled ' Piping for Money' and taken by a rather disapproving tourist-I wonder if the 'musician'had his palm crossed with silver for allowing the photograph to be taken or was the Japanese Method used-snapped from safely across the street with a telephoto lens, out of range of the cavernous begging bowl. My route involves two Big Issue sellers, now, invariably Eastern Europeans, and a social drop out who dosses down on the Fleshmarket Steps but he is generally not at his station until the Spring.

Once going up the steps I was trapped behind an American Tour party who had brought their own Dragoman or tour guide with them all the way from Stateside. He had a very loud carrying voice and was explaining to his flock; 'This is the Fleshmarket-so called because it was a notorious hang out for local prostitutes' Cameras clicking away at the most unphotogenic part of Embra including the poor beggar who had shrunk into his sleeping bag in case he was mistaken for indulging in a trading revival.

I am not sure from which bit of WikiMacpaedia Hank. S. Dragomann had got his facts about Embra but he needs to do a bit more resaerch, methinks. I last heard him proclaiming as the Yanks reached the Royal Mile : ' We have a choice :Left to Holyrood Place where Mary Queen of Scots founded the first Scotish Parliament or right to the Castle built by the patriot William Wallace to keep out the English invaders'

They went straight on to Mc Tatt-the Scottish Souvenir Shop. Closer, their feet hurt and enough culture for one morning. Apparently

And one of the party was asking a Big Issue Vendor if he 'carried a copy of USA Today'

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Sunday, February 03, 2008
Signs of the Times

What happens to old road signs? One often asks oneself, doesn't one? At least in those rare quiet moments of reflection in our busy lives These examples, not too far from the Old Manse, have apparently been liberated from enemy territory and are now serving a useful purpose as part of a grass cuttings disposal area. Much better than ending their days in a land fill site and ecologically very sound. Better to live free in Scotland than moulder in some dump under the iron heel of Northumberland County Council.

Old road signs I think I said? Just a minute. Don't look too old to me.Some life in them yet, I would have thought.

So if anyone recently has lost their way to Hadrian's Wall from the Bellingham and W.Woodburn road-this might help

to explain why


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Early callers
Originally uploaded by old_greywolf2000
We could have done our RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch by counting and classifying the foot prints as seen 8 am this morning after a snowy night. This is our door mat.

The birds are lucky to have the wife around-to defrost their water, put out the seed, top up the nuts dust the snow off the fat ball and anything else which postpones the preparation of Huttonian's breakfast. Strictly for the birds is apt in her case

Left to my own devices I would adopt a different set of priorities.

If they can't drink their bloody water let them enjoy skating on it.

Is what I say

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Friday, February 01, 2008


Poor farmers get a lot of stick around Ber-wickshire: mud on roads, irritating tractors impeding Mr Toad's impetous progress, noisesome slurry, concreting over good farming land, that sort of thing. But poisoning Buzzards?

The top story in the Berwickshire is headed :


and describes how 25 poisoned baits to kill birds of prey have been discovered on private estates around Greenlaw, within a one square mile radius-the highest number ever recorded in one location- thus showing how, in one activity at least, Berwickshire leads the civilised world.

The poison Carbofuran was discovered in carcasses of hares and rabbits leading to the death of six buzzards, two crows and a magpie over a six month period last year. A member of the public apparently blew the whistle but 'no one was held to account' as 'it is understood that issues over land ownership may have complicated the question' Whatever that may mean: 'No Officer thats Farmer Broon's field, not mine, honest' Or something.

And its not just Buzzards, Magpies and crows. Last August one half of a breeding pair of Golden Eagles was killed by poisoning in the Borders. The RSPB says that this kind of crime is on the increse and that 'poisoning is still sadly considered par for the course by some people in Scotland' But no collar has been felt (or as my father would have put it : 'no one has been put up against the wall and shot.' Lothian and Borders Finest claim that 'these cases were notoriously difficult to prosecute due to the lack of witnesses in rural areas such as the estates around Greenlaw' One should perhaps ask whom on the 'Private Estates' has the motive and the oppurtunity and then go around breaking down a few front doors in the wee small hours.

And one might also ask why, given that the last poisoning incident was September, no publicity has been given until now. The Police Spokeswoman was asked this same question and 'could give no information'

Rural ranks closing with a resounding clang might explain it.

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