Current issue

July 2024

  • The Eric Liddell Centenary
  • Assembly 2024
Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: The Cleric on Holiday

Looking Back

Image: archives-piccropped.jpg

Looking Back: The Cleric on Holiday

From March 1913

The Cleric on Holiday 


By the Rev Andrew Benvie DD

When a’ the hills are covered wi’ snaw
It’s surely winter fairly.

For weeks since Martinmas great possibilities had been hanging in the balance. The hopes of the curling world had risen once and again, only to be blighted by a dreary drizzle and a thaw. One sharp snack in December had stiffened the Canal in twenty-four hours, and by telegram and telephone the hearts of curlers south and north had been uplifted. The rare and welcome message “Carsebreck on Tuesday” made a new world. Vain delusion! Castles in the air! On Sunday it blustered and blew, rocking the steeples; on Monday it “rained cats” and Carsebreck was ‘off’.

‘Off’ – but for the time. The day lengthened, the cold strengthened and winter was with us at last. Who could doubt it? The joy of plumbers, the gloom of masons and workers-out, and the general upspringing of mental, moral and physical activity everywhere proclaimed the undeniable and welcome fact – winter fairly!

Good luck! Our cousin from Kent was coming at the right time after all. Glenskioch was white as we motored through it that glorious afternoon to meet him at Craingellachy station.

The train, over an hour late, was considered punctual, since time by the clock counts for little in the life of the Highlands. Our Kent cousin was with it, looking like Siberia, but radiant. At dinner he gave us his first impressions of Scotland and the Scot - the one lovely even in its winter guise of black and white; the other inscrutable and odd. The former epithet he used to express his all but resentful sense of the hopelessness taciturnity of the travelling Scot. He had heard of his economy in finance, but only now he understood that this characteristic also to his use of language. From Carlisle to Edinburgh, the total linguistic expenditure of seven seat-holders had amounted to three minimum queries and two monosyllabic replies. The other adjective ‘odd’ was drawn, he told us, from what he had witnessed during an hour’s train wait in stately Edinburgh. He had seen in Princes Street what looked like gentlemen carrying quite openly and almost proudly what looked like common carpet switches. Had any man so dressed been discovered carrying even a brown-paper parcel in Piccadilly, passers-by would have started and smiled. In Princes Street they took no notice.

The reference was opportune – just what was wanted. Curling was in the air, the glass was down to seventeen degrees of frost, and the long looked-for semi-county Bonspiel on Loch Cairnie was ‘on’ for the morrow.

Extract of a longer article.

Looking Back menu

Life and Work is the magazine of the Church of Scotland. Subscribe here.