Friday, December 15, 2006

Hume Castle

Just beyond the Crosshill Cross, see previous entry, lies Hume Castle, or at least a 17th Century folly on the site of the original castle. It was destroyed in 1651 by the army of that well known counter-revolutionary and pain in the bum Oliver Cromwell.

On the day we visited the door was locked and although a key can be obtained from a nearby house, its door was also locked and no-one was answering. This is probably why Cromwell's army blew the place up, if only they'd found someone in and got the key a lot of unecessary damage could have been avoided.

I borrowed this description of the Castle from the excellent site at

Situated more-or-less centrally in the Merse, Hume Castle stands on a prominent mound visible for miles. Constructed in the 13th century, it was the seat of the Humes (a.k.a. the Homes) and conveniently placed to keep an eye on the English border stronghold of Roxburgh, just outside modern Kelso.
James II, en route to an important appointment to be blown apart by one of his own cannons in the siege of Roxburgh castle, stayed at Hume. In 1547, Lady Hume (the Humes were the Scottish Wardens of the Eastern March) surrendered the castle to the besieging English only after they started to hang her son in front of her. Finally, after being taken in 1547, 1549, and 1569, the castle - like so many - was destroyed in 1651 by the artillery of Oliver Cromwell's leading poetry critic, Colonel Fenwick, after he read these immortal lines penned by the defiant Governor of the castle:

I Willie o' the Wastle
Stand firm in my castle;
An' a' the dogs in your toun
Sanna gar me gang doun.

Talk about poetic justice.

An iron cannon ball (laminating quietly) was found in one of the neighbouring gardens a few years ago. In 1794, the Earl of Marchmont constructed the present folly upon the ruins of the old castle. There was a beacon here when, in 1804, a charcoal-burner's fire was (wrongly) interpreted as a French invasion, sending the whole border region into confusion.

Fittingly, for a place that served as a strong point in the medieval period and a beacon station in the Napoleonic Wars, Hume was also the site of a Second World War lookout post (which can still be seen).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Crosshall Cross

Journey 2 in the band's cycle tour of the Merse takes us to Crosshall, near Eccles, see map.

In stark contrast to the neat and tidy memorial to Richard Hillary, see previous entry, the 12th Century cross at Crosshall is shamefully neglected and handily kept behind a stock-proof, barbed wire, fence. Presumably to help keep it handy for local livestock and inaccessible to humans. We do, however, approve of Borders Council's policy of not building car parks at potential tourist sites, presumably because SBC want people to travel by bike or by foot and therefore not require anywhere to park their motor.

Perhaps only in the Borders could something that might attract the passing tourist be made as difficult to see as possible. This is a shame, for if it were restored it would be really quite interesting, being in the lee of Hume Castle and in a quiet area of the Merse it gives you a feel for a much older time, before roads and fences.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland ( describes the Cross thus:

Crosshall cross is situated by the side of the road approximately 300m south-west of Crosshall farmhouse.

It probably dates from the twelfth century, and is thought to be a memorial stone erected to mark the grave of an important person.

The cross is just under 3m high, and is inserted into a large block of stone that is itself over 1m in height. The shaft tapers towards the top, terminating in a disc on which a cross is carved on either side. Each side of the shaft bears carved decoration; a naked man and greyhound on the east side, and a coat of arms on the west, south and possibly the north side. On the west and north sides, there are also depictions of a carved cross. A sword is depicted on the south side.

The symbols carved on this cross suggest that the person whom it commemorates may have been to the Crusades and the coat of arms may represent the Soulis family.

In the nineteenth century, local tradition recorded that it commemorated a governor of the nearby Hume Castle who had been killed in a skirmish.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Richard Hillary

Another in our 'what to do at the weekend' series sees the pipe band recommending the healthy option of a cycle out to the Richard Hillary memorial at the former Charterhall airfield, near Leitholm. (The memorial is also well signed off the A697 for car-dependent people).

Hillary was a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain, serving with the City of Edinburgh Squadron. During the battle he was badly wounded, but survived, recovered and was determined to return to the fight. So in 1942 he was posted to Charterhall, which was a training school for night-fighter pilots but was killed in a crash near the base in early 1943.

Charterhall had something of a bad reputation as a base and was nicknamed 'Slaughterall'. Some of those who were killed were from the Commonwealth and they are buried in the cemetery in nearby Fogo village. It seems a long way to come from New Zealand to die in a crash in the Merse.

Hillary's memorial is very well done and a helpful interpretative briefing is attached to a nearby tree to give a full understanding of his story.

Quite a lot of the base remains intact and is used for agricultural storage. Some light planes also use the runways, more here:, and if you are Steven Speilberg:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Jacobs Well

The woodland at Jacobs Well (to the left of the bridge in the picture) is now part of the Scottish Woodland Trust, more at

Property for Sale

Delightful, bijou, rural residence.

Traditionally built, timber framed with original features and real fire. Ample parking space, private drive and unbroken views across the Eddleston Valley. Private forest for BBQ's and socialising with the locals.
Edinburgh in 20 mins and the bustling town of Peebles in 10.

City-types with more money than sense welcomed.

Further details: Shyster, Shyster and Conman, Solicitors.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Civic Week

The first full week in August is Coldstream's chance to let go and have some fun. Begun in the 1950's to co-incide with the Festival of Britain, civic week has continued without a break and is the focus for the Band's activities.
The Thursday of the week is Flodden Day, which is rapidly becoming a media event, partly because it is a little interesting and it's a good news story in a quiet time of the year. Nevertheless, we get on the telly and it provides a great chance for rival bloggers to give Castram a good slagging.

On a cold day in November some pictures borrowed from are a reminder of sunnier times.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Positive noises from the AGM with the idea of a monthly all-band practice to ensure that the players who live well away from Coldstream have a fixed point in their diaries when they know they have to attend a practice night. Other good ideas like less hanging around after we've played and more time spent back in Coldstream.

Regular practice nights remain on a Monday in the Primary School.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Flodden Song

Just when you thought it was all over for another year, here comes the Flodden Song, also known as 'Castrum Toon'*.

Words by R. Bell to the tune of 'MacPherson's Rant'

At 12 o'clock on Flodden Day
We leave for yonder battlefield
The Streamer heads three hundred horse
With Standard proud he leads.

O' Castrum Toon, O' Castrum Toon
Ye'll aye be dear tae me
Though I've wandered far o' ower the world
My heart is aye with thee.

Across the bridge and ower the Tweed
The toon we leave behind
It'll no be long before we see
Yon monument sae fine.


The piper plays a lament sae sad
Above the boggy Palinsburn
Where both nations men there they lie
And in peace we will return.


O' Flodden Field, O' Flodden Field
Sae quiet and sae still
There never was such a bloody day
On yonder Branxton Hill.


*Castram is the old name for Coldstream, taken, allegedly, from the Latin 'Castrum' or fort. Hmm.

** Picture courtesy of the Flodden website (

Band membership

Some new players: into the pipe core come Gareth Watson, Scott Martinson and Gavin Horsburgh, whilst the drum core is bolstered by Christopher Browne, Logan Parsons, Colin Leifer and Gemma Martinson. In addition, Frank Mount makes a welcome return to the pipe core.

Out of the band have went: Lucy Bryson, Paul Ford and Orrin Karp.

The band therefore stands as:

Pipe Major: Robert W. Bell
Drum Major: James Bell
Drum Sergeant: Alan Cockburn
Pipe Sergeant: Peter Scott

Duncan Bell, Gavin Horsburgh, Steve Hyslop, John Lauder, Bob Lillie, Frank Mount, Scott Martinson, Stewart Nelson, Gordon Thompson, Gareth Watson.
Hamish Bell, Christopher Browne, Ian Cockburn, Laura Cockburn, James Ditcham, Colin Leifer, Gemma Martinson, Neil Moffat, Suzie Nelson, Logan Parsons, Alec Thomson.
AGM Thomson (Chairman), Bob Lillie (Vice Chairman), Rob Bell (Secretary), Carol Cockburn (Treasurer)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

AGM November 2006

The band will parade as usual on 12th November to lead the ever dwindling band of ex-servicemen and women to the war memorial to join those thoughtful citizens of the town willing to brave the icy-blast to reflect on those that did not return to the town from two world wars and other, smaller and shorter though no less brutal, wars.

Following this, the band will hold its AGM in the Eildon Centre. The continued absence of so many members from practice nights, Monday if you'd forgotten, needs to be adressed so expect some straight talking from PM Bell.

It's becoming an ever harder struggle to keep a band going in this small town. With bugger all to do you'd think we could fill at least one evening a week with something more constructive than hanging around. But, homework seems an issue for the school-age members and the rapid drift of the younger adults to Edinburgh and beyond means retaining trained players is becoming really difficult.

We're not the only band in this predicament, but that makes things no easier to take when there's barely a soul turning up on a Monday night. It's your band, use it know the rest!

On a more cheery note, here's a picture of Castle Stalker in the Heilands.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yetholm Show 07 October

The Border Shepherds Show is held annually in Yetholm, a village in the Cheviot Hills, very close to the Border (

Yetholm is famous for its links to the Gypsies (, because it forms the nothern end of the Pennine Way and for its show, which is a good un.

The show includes Cumberland Wrestling , horse-shoeing competitions, crook making competitions and sheep-dog trials in addition to lots of other country-type pursuits, e.g. beer drinking and winching!

We have no pics to offer, sorry. The band did, however, feature a host of new young drummers fresh off the Cockburn Brothers production line. Sadly, the same could not be said of the pipe core, most of whom who were there can easily remember decimalisation.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Castram back when

Another from our occaisional series of ariel spy photos from the KGB archives in Moscow, via Hutton! Circa 1946.

Coldstream as was, before colour TV, rock'n'roll, Lennel Mount, Hillview, Parkside, Woodlands Park, etc. Note the worn areas at the goalmouths in the park though.

Some things never change.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

World Championships

Now that a suitable period of time has elapsed since the Pipe Band World Championships, held in Glasgow on 12th August, we can offer our congratulations to our friends in the Vale of Atholl. Their senior band came 8th and their novice-juvenile band came 4th

Good results for both bands. The senior band was one of five Scottish bands in the top ten; the other bands coming from Northern Ireland (3 bands, including the winners Field Marshall Montgomery and Canada with two bands.

If you are very patient you can find out more at the dependably baffling website of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association

The pic above is of the band at the Ortiquera festival in Galicia in 1995. With the glengarry is a baffled looking Andy Renwick, Pipe Major of the Vale, wondering why he is in Northern Spain with this rabble.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Other voices, other rooms

Not the Truman Capote novel, although it is a band favourite, but other views of our wee corner of Scotland and England that do not share the usual beer, horses and rugby outlook. These can be found in our links section on the main site, with our favourites below right.

We particularly like 'Journey to the source of the River Tweed', the Paper Shop and that perennial favourite Musings from the Merse

Other good sites include one of fishing, which is surprisingly interesting, or is that just us? And the site for Ad Gefrin, the 7th Century capital of the Anglo-Saxon Northumbrians

Finally, the Bridging the Border educational project seems a vey positive and forward looking venture, Seems to me that the words to a Dick Gaughan tune amplify the aims of this project:

Both Sides The Tweed

What's the spring-breathing jasmine and rose ?
What's the summer with all its gay train
Or the splendour of autumn to those
Who've bartered their freedom for gain?

Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

No sweetness the senses can cheer
Which corruption and bribery bind
No brightness that gloom can e'er clear
For honour's the sum of the mind

Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Think them poorest who can be a slave
Them richest who dare to be free

(Words : Trad & Dick Gaughan / Music : Dick Gaughan)

Monday, September 25, 2006

The other Coldstream

The other Coldstream in British Columbia, Canada, celebrates its 100th year this year. Learn more at

It looks a very lovely place. Potential tour material? Should we book a bus?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Big Cobes

12 Big Cobes
Originally uploaded by coldstreampipeband.
More images at our new gallery on flickr

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Flodden Memorial

Couldn't resist mentioning the recently opened memorial to Flodden.

More at the 1513 Club's website, which presumably they'll update when they're sober

The monument features a claymore, with the blade pointing to the battlefield and the handle pointing out the direction the Earl of Home and his men took, if you believe such stuff.

Meantime, here's a pic of Rob and Duncan with Frank in the foreground.

History, or dodgy nationalist shrine? We'll let you be the judge. But they've fought wars in the Balkans over less.

Here's the report from the Beeb:

Coldstream Brewery

Was your first sore head courtesy of Coldstream Brewery or Double Diamond?

Here are pictures from our good friends at the RCAHMS ( of the brewery in the Market Square, 1974.

Looks like ready for demolition or just knackered after supplying beer during Civic Week. Or maybe a bus-load of Berwickers had visited?

Any knowledge of it? Good beer or crap? Coming from Coldstream, was it mild or bitter?

Fort Augustus to Inverness

Day four:
Fort Augustus to Inverness

The other two nutters decided to take the military road over the Corrieyairrick Pass from Fort Augustus to Laggan then on to Aviemore

Having seen enough of British imperialism on the Tuesday, I took the southerly route along Loch Ness, which in time we hope to make a signed Sustrans route. This involves a long hard climb out of Fort Augustus and then quiet roads through Whitebridge, Foyers and Dores then to Inverness.

A good mornings work saw me in Inverness much earlier than planned. Hoping to take the 14.40 train to Aviemore I was refused because two bikes were booked for that train. I had to then book my bike on the 16.40, which probably meant some other poor sod was bumped from that train. Utterly ridiculous. Outdoors capital of Europe? Nonesense when a train that can take six bikes is restricted to two.

Got to Aviemore and reviewed Sustrans routes around the town. I thought Aviemore was a lot better than its reputation. We stayed at the Rowan Tree Hotel, very good Perhaps the best hotel we stopped at.

So, that was it, last day and a good tour. Took the train next day to Edinburgh, met a Sustrans supporter on the train who had just finished Glasgow-Inverness, our route 7. He gave it top marks, which was a relief.

Fort William to Fort Augustus

Day three:
Fort William to Fort Augustus

Formed an orderly queue outside local bike shop for new brake blocks, the grit and stones on the military road the day before having shredded our brakes. Incredulous staff thought we were bonkers to have done that route in those conditions and on ordinary bikes. But, there you go, a bike is a bike when you're pushing it over mountains.

An easy day's ride, mostly along the Great Glen Way, which mixes tracks alongside the Caledonian Canal with forest roads.

Stopped the night at a hotel in Fort Augustus, which was OK.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kentallan to Fort William

Day two:
Kentallan to Fort William

Left Kentallan in the pouring rain, which fell unabated all day.
We surveyed the fomrer rail line right up to its end at the former station at Ballachulish, now completely gone except for the remains of the platform. We crossed the road bridge on foot so strong was the rain and wind that it was risky to try and ride over.

Rather than continuing on the crappy main road to Fort William, which is the direct though dire route, we headed toward Kinlochleven.

The plan was to take the military road* from Kinlochleven to Fort William, which is now a section of the West Highland Way.

At this point the rain was really heavy and relentless so we stopped for a lunch break at the cafe of the Kinlochleven Seafood Centre. Have to report that this was the best place we stopped at on the tour. We were made very welcome even though we were soaking and leaving puddles all over the floor. This should not surprise too many, particularly when Lochaber boasts that it is the 'Outdoor capital of Scotland', but it was disappointing just how many places did not welcome outdoors people, had no drying rooms and nowhere to store bikes.

So, leaving the sanctuary of the cafe with its great food we stumbled our way onwards to Fort William. More like gorge walking with a bike, see pics.

The result was a really hard day. Absolutely knackered when we got to the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William, another place with no drying room and the heating turned off. Huge carry-on to get the radiators activated in our rooms so that we could dry some clothes.

* A Caufield rather than a Wade for engineering nerds.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oban to Kentallan

Day One: Oban-Kentallan
The plan was for me to arrive in Oban at 11.45 and catch up with the other two, who by that time would have met all the local cooncil worthies and would be between Oban and Connel. By 12, the train was nowhere near Oban, so I jumped off at Connel, cycled over the bridge at the Falls of Lora, see pic, and caught up with the other two on the road to Benderloch, see pic.

We then followed the route of the former Oban-Ballachulish railway (closed 1962 courtesy of Dr Beeching) with a view toward re-opening it as a dedicated walking and cycling path and a much more pleasant and less suicidal option than the A828.

That night we stopped at the Hollytree Hotel, Kentallan. Very good food. They like their rules though. Nice scenery; see pic above.

A Highland tour

Not necessarily a band event, but I recently completed a tour by bike from Oban to Aviemore, via Kentallan, Ballachulisch, Fort William, For Augustus, Inverness and Aviemore. This being what I laughingly refer to as 'work' more at

Highland Hospitality

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking."
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1896
"You're not bringing that manky thing in my Hotel and wipe your feet as you enter."
- Highland Hotel Proprietoress, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Floors Castle 27/08/06

Two gigs in one day!

After getting back from Archerfield in the wee hours, the band was off later on Sunday to Floors Castle ( for the annual massed bands of the Borders Pipe Band Association.