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William Walkinshaw, an old Scotcb Carrier
By the Rev. George W. Taylor, M.A., Carlops


A GALASHIELS WORTHY, many years V4 ago. had the misfortune to be involved in litigation which necessitated his appearance at the Court of Session.

On his arrival home from Edinburgh, after the trial of the action, he encountered one of his cronies who anxiously enquired how the "case” had gone. In reply, the litigant vouchsafed the information that the judge had taken it to avizandum. “Whaur in a’ the world is that?” was the further query of his puzzled friend. “Weel, I hae just been thinkin’ o’ that,” came the long drawn-out answer, “and the conclusion I hae come to is that it’s somewhere in the neeberhood o' Carlops!"

I fear there are not a few people still who have equally hazy notions regarding the geographical position and surroundings of this upland village. For the information of such let me say that Carlops is on the southern slope of the Pentlands. It lies in the northwestern corner of Peeblesshire, and is distant only thirteen miles by road from Edinburgh. Near by is Habbie’s Howe, the scene of Allan Ramsays delightful pastoral—“The Gentle Shepherd.”

One of the oldest and best-known inhabitants of Carlops is William Walkinshaw, whose jubilee as a “carrier” was celebrated a few months ago, and whose honourable career is deserving of a notice in the Border Magazine.

Mr Walkinshaw was born at Carnwath in 1828. Amongst his earliest recollections is that of the enthusiasm evoked by the passing of the Reform Bill in ’32. Like most youths in those days, young Walkinshaw’s acquaintance with school-life was strictly limited, being confined indeed to three months. This was merely the “finish,” however, to a comparatively sound elementary education received from his parents at home.

At the tender age of nine he was sent out to “herd,” and he continued in farm service of one kind or another for about a dozen years. Desirous of making some headway in the world, he was first led to think of becoming a “carrier” by observing that a man of that occupation, who lodged in his mother’s house, seemed always to have a plentiful supply of ready cash. At length an opportunity of starting in this business presented itself, when his “cadger” friend retired, and Walkinshaw decided to make the venture. The route to which he thus succeeded, and which he has now traversed for over half a century, embraces the strip of country that lies between Carnwath and Edinburgh. His transactions are chiefly with farmers and shepherds, whose dairy produce, etc., he purchases and duly disposes of in the Edinburgh market. But Mr Walkinshaw’s business is not, by any means, limited to one department. He accepts parcels for delivery at his various points of call, and also supplies his country patrons, on due notice being given, with goods of any description which they may require from the city. He thus acts as a connecting link between the busy metropolis and the shepherd’s cottage on the lonely moor.

One feature of Mr Walkinshaw’s business methods is that all his dealings are for cash. He pays the seller on the spot for his merchandise and is thus able to buy on the most favourable terms. Another characteristic of the man is his regularity and punctuality. It is said that you can “time” your clock by the tumble of his cart as it passes your door, and those who have goods to despatch or receive may calculate on his arrival to a minute.

During these many years Mr Walkinshaw has not once failed to overtake his round of calls in town or country. He has faced many a “blizzard” and been well-nigh frozen in his cart, but never has he turned back, nor has he ever been kept at home through sickness. Such a record for fifty years is surely unique!

It is needless to say that the carrier has witnessed many changes since first he took to the road. Every farm along the route has changed hands—in most cases, repeatedly. Of all the carriers who made the journey between Edinburgh and Lanarkshire fifty years ago he is the sole survivor. It would appear, indeed, as if, with the extension of railways, the vocation of “carrying” or “cadging” was doomed to extinction. In 1849 thirty carriers stood in the same market at High Street, Edinburgh, selling their “produce.” Now, in spite of the greater population of the city, there are only two — Mr Walkinshaw and another.

Our friend has resided in the same house at Carlops since shortly after he started business. It was, therefore, fitting that on the celebration of his jubilee a short time ago his neighbours and customers should present him with an enlarged and handsomely-framed photograph of his abode, the carrier himself, along with his horse, cart, and dog being in the foreground. The photo is the work of one who is not unknown to readers of the Border Magazine—Mrs Robertson, West Linton (formerly of Peebles)—and it has been greatly admired.

Although Mr Walkinshaw has passed the allotted span of human life he is still in vigorous health, and plies his calling with undiminished zest—a testimony surely to the healthiness of open-air occupation. His favourite pastime for forty years has been draughts, and he is recognised as the most scientific and skilful player in Peeblesshire. He also indulges during the season in curling. In his earlier days he was fond of a game at quoits which, at one period, was an exceedingly popular form of recreation in rural districts. A proud boast of Carlopians thirty or forty years ago was that they possessed amongst them the champion quoiter of the world! This redoubtable personage was a brother of the carrier, but the game has long since fallen into desuetude in Carlops as elsewhere.

It is the hope of those who know him that the honest and kindly carrier may be spared to enjoy a green old age, and that for him the “last journey” may still be far ahead.


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