Monday 29 April 2024

Chirnside pilgrimage

The weather matched the mood yesterday in Chirnside at noon. It was a grey, dreich and damp day with a large motley crowd sheltering under hoods, bunnets and brollies from the dampness. And yet there were smiles, handshakes and cheerful chatter. The occasion marked the unveiling of a small plaque which commemorated the late Ian Scott-Watson’s huge contribution to the life and career of one Jim Clark Esq, borders farmer and racing driver.

Folk had gathered from all across the country including one chap from Belgium and a healthy representation from even more ‘foreign’ lands, like England. There were even three ‘Hell’s Angels’ in attendance until the helmets were removed and grey hair revealed, more like three ‘Hell’s Rejects’ than angels!

After the pipes had called to cease the chatter and gather around a few words were spoken and the special guest was announced. Long past the first flush of youth, and yet with fierce determination, despite the dampness affecting the bones and joints of all those standing around, it was Ian’s brother George Scott-Watson who stepped gingerly up to the Jim Clark Memorial Clock tower in the village square to unveil the plaque.

After the ceremony the throng headed quickly towards the warmth and shelter of the village hall and community centre where the home baking and hot drinks offered a revival of their own. But gathered there in a very poignant display were many of the personal effects and mementos of Ian’s life in sport, and this was only a fraction of his archive. Mesmerising.

I must admit, I didn’t know Ian very well having only met him a few times and spoken briefly but there was another who was honoured yesterday and that was my prime reason for the visit. Eric Bryce also played an integral part of Jim Clark’s early and later career. Like Jim, Eric was a farmer first and foremost, but at weekends he was a photographer.

Eric passed away last November so yesterday’s memorial service was a joint commemoration of both Ian Scott-Watson and Eric’s lives and contributions. A wee tribute was published at the time on the Blog:

John Fife: Eric Bryce, 1937-2023

In addition to Ian’s memorabilia, there was a display of Eric’s photographs covering motor racing and rallying, equine sports and agricultural shows, and many, many more events in the Scottish Borders. Fortunately, he had made a point of ensuring that his photographic archive would be presented to the Jim Clark Trust, but given his photographic proliferation trying to sort out that lot will be a mammoth task for some poor archivist. At least this most valuable of archives has been saved.

And yes, I forked out the cash to buy a copy of Eric’s book – I couldn’t wait till Christmas!

If ever there was a need to establish a proper and permanent Scottish motor sports museum, yesterday’s glimpse of just these two archives further confirms that need.

Scotland has a huge and proud world-wide heritage earned on two, three and four wheels which MUST be preserved and presented to the public for future enlightenment and entertainment.

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