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“Camp” – the girnin’ dug!

We cover a fair few subjects in the Royal Burgh of Lanark Community Council meetings. You name it, we’ll debate it! (and howl at somebody to put it right if we’re not happy with it). Listed buildings; local eyesores; planning applications; human rights; badger’s rights; rights of way; the Royal Oak; the Regal; the Tote (why?); the Rotunda (it seems there is a million quid floating around in the either somewhere to secure its refurbishment, but nobody seems to be spending any of it).

No issue or cause goes undiscussed at the CC, whether it falls within the statutory remit of the CC or not! We have not yet reached the stage of demanding that Teresa May and/or Nicola Sturgeon attend our meetings in person to hear our views on Indyref2/Brexit2/or UDI for Lanark (but give it time).

As an example of this diligence from the RBLCC with regard to the commonwealth of Lanark, many hours were spent recently discussing the health, wealth and happiness of a wee Lanark treasure that many Lanark residents are completely unaware of. I speak of “Camp”! Camp is a wee stone dug that sits on a pedestal on a rooftop in the Castlegate, immediately above the “Helen Beauty Room” on the ground floor. Hundreds of folk pass under Camp’s baleful gaze daily, but few if any ever glance up to give him a wee smile as they pass. Most pedestrians in Lanark are far too intent watching where they put their feet, lest they fall victim to any of the trip hazards, booby-traps or IEDs on our pavements (don’t get me started on the roads!). So, who is Camp? How did he end up on the roof? Well, let me tell you the sad, sad tale of poor wee Camp.

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Miss Mary Inglis, daughter of Doctor Cornelius Inglis, emerged from Vere House into the sunshine of Castlegate, Lanark. Her maid Jane followed, closing the door of the family home. Suddenly Miss Inglis was knocked over by a large black and white dog chasing a cat, the burly figure of its master, Deacon John MacDonald, appeared around the corner from Wellgate breathless with running.  "Miss Inglis" he panted, "My sincere apologies for this distress. Camp is a boisterous dog but quite harmless", he reassured; assisting her to her feet.

"Jane, run to the apothecary on the corner and ask Mr. Hilston for some smelling salts", she screamed. Then, turning to the deacon, " It is a pest of a dog, always running free. Since you began the building of your new house here I have been plagued by it. When not knocking me over it is whimpering impatiently as you survey the mason's progress," she said sharply. In vain the deacon tried to console her. Camp, returning from his chase, destroyed all hope as he sat whining at his master’s feet, tail thumping on the ground raising dust. The Deacon, who was very fond of the dog, patted his head gently.

Miss Inglis raised up her eyebrows at the dog like a chicken considering a morsel, unsure if it was a mere crumb or an interesting piece of nastiness. "I fear it will come to an untimely end. I will not tolerate such behaviour when we are neighbours", she said vehemently.

The deacon spoke to the mason briefly about the building. Before leaving he looked up at the window of the principal room of Vere House where he noticed Miss Inglis watching him. Master and dog turned and walked slowly into the High Street, first crossing Wellgate, where they met Mr. Hilston.” Good Morning Deacon. I hear Camp is in trouble again with Miss Inglis", mused the apothecary. " Perhaps you should call him Scamp?"  "Perhaps, perhaps, she certainly dislikes him, harmless creature that he is and such a good companion. I have had many dogs in the past be but this one is very special. There is a bond between us!"The deacon's burly frame shadowed the scurrying people; beggars shrank back in awe while bairns clung to their mothers' skirts. This reaction was unnecessary as his family and friends would testify. The gentleman was a most affectionate and indulgent parent, firm yet benevolent.

Farm dogs herded their masters' sheep up the wide High Street, while carters led their horses to market at Lanark Moor. It was the last Wednesday of July, St. James Fair, and there was great excitement everywhere. The town burgesses walked their cattle up to graze on Lanark Moor. Suddenly some ragged bare-foot children ran out of a close into the High Street throwing stones at the dogs. This caused panic as animals scattered to avoid the barking dogs. Heaped middens opposite houses were strewn everywhere. Angry farmers cursed, and women screamed as their hens escaped.

"You little rogues!" boomed the voice of a constable whose appearance caused the children to run away. Gradually everyone began to retrieve their livestock and go about their business.  “The little tinks," remarked the deacon to draper James Birnie standing outside his shop, a twinkle in his eye as he recalled his, own youthful1 pranks. " Aye they are all that, but it is good to see some fun in the bairns considering all the gloom settling over their families.  The Weavers have a hard time with all these foreign imports. You, as Deacon of the Craft of Dyers, must be aware of their troubles?

Camp whimpered impatiently anxious to be on his way. He enjoyed his morning walks but could not thole this gossiping. Then something caught his attention across the street. He bristled with excitement. A chicken marooned upon the Bank railings following the recent stramash, was being stalked by a large tom-cat. Camp hated cats and gave chase at every opportunity. "Stay, stay", urged his master sensing his mood. It was too late. He was off across the street threading his way past carts and animals. Camp chased the cat through a narrow close. The tang of roasting malt from the brewers' vats filled his nostrils. Then into North Vennel where he momentarily lost scent of the cat. The smell of cattle and ox-hides soaking in bark at the tannery was overpowering. Noticing his prey he ran through another close and was back in the High Street.

Meantime Deacon McDonald bent down to a little street urchin. He pulled something out of his coat pocket and held it before the lad. " If you bring back the dog running there" he said, pointing to Camp “You can have this peppermint humbug."  Amidst great cheering the lad was off, followed by his friends anxious to be part of the game. There was constant traffic to and from the mills, so the roads were littered with dung and the stench was awful.  The boys ran through the narrow spaces between animals and carts upsetting the horses. Eventually Camp was returned to his master and the lad received his reward, his friends a kindly smile!

Mr. Bell, the shoemaker, emerged from his shop in Bernard's Wynd to arrange his wares around the doorway.  "Fine morning deacon," came his jovial greeting. “Tell me, what is your opinion of this proposed new railway-line from Edinburgh to Glasgow?”  “Well, if it helps trade that is good. They say that mail will be carried by train instead of by coach, which would be advantageous.” Replied the Deacon. “Yes, there is sense in that as we do a fair trade with Glasgow. Where is that rascal dog of yours this morning, isn’t he always with you?” enquired Mr. Bell.  “Why, he was here a moment ago chasing cats, and upsetting Miss Inglis again, but he is a good companion.  It will be difficult I fear, when we move into the Castlegate. I must go and find him!”

Further up the street he noticed Miss Inglis' maid Jane coming out of the milliners laden with boxes.  She approached shyly, “A word with you Sir.  Your dog is a real problem!  My mistress means her threats, take heed of them!” The Deacon stood stock still for a moment considering her words.  He turned quickly and retraced his steps to the Castlegate, meeting a neighbour on the way.  “When do you move into Castlegate Deacon?” he asked.  “Within the month, but you must excuse me, I am in a hurry!” “And will you be having piped water in your house, it is all they speak of, that and having houses realigned”, continued the man, un perturbed by the Deacon’s reply. There was a tug at the Deacon’s sleeve and, looking down, he saw the lad who had recently received the humbug.  “Sir, Sir, come quick, your dug is no’ weel!” cried the lad.  “Where is he, what is wrong with him?” cried the Deacon anxiously.

“He is awfy sick and staggering all over the place.  Someone said he is having a fit.  Someone else said he is mad and to stay away.  I said he’s no’ mad! He was just eating a bone and there was nothing wrang and then he turned all queer!” The lad beckoned the Deacon to follow him as he ran off towards Castlegate.  The red-faced Deacon did so, his brow furrowed with worry.  They turned into Castlegate but there was no sign of the dog.  Then the mason stepped out of the Deacon’s new house looking very serious!  “I think you are too late Sir, I fear he is finished”, he said, leading the Deacon into the building.

Camp lay on the stone floor, legs outstretched, eyes staring up at the ceiling, his mouth covered in foam.  "Oh Camp my friend who has done this to you? Who has poisoned you?” cried the distressed deacon kneeling before the dog, cradling his head in his lap. “He was not a bad dog, he would not harm anyone, he was not bad.” he repeated looking up into the faces of the mason and the lad.

In the doorway a crowd began to gather and there too was Jane, Miss Inglis’ maid, a handkerchief in her hand. As her eyes met those of the deacon she lowered her head and turned away. There was murmuring in the crowd as her presence was noticed. Deacon MacDonald closed Camp's eyes before rising to his full height. He coughed to clear his throat and regain his composure. Moving out into the street he gazed up at Vere House.

Miss Inglis was sitting at her window watching, he noticed. Turning to the mason, he said, “Carve me a stone statue of my faithful friend Camp. Place it upon. the corbel of my roof, looking with a snarling expression towards the end window of Vere House. There sits Miss Inglis, who is responsible for his death. Forever she will be reminded of this terrible deed!

The amazed mason complied with the deacon's wishes for mischievous, but sweet revenge!  

Today, the dog placed there around 1830 remains on the roof of number 15 Castlegate.  Alas, Vere House is no more! Author Anon 1990.

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All the characters mentioned in that sad story are long gone, except Camp’s wee statue which sits there still, staring bleakly where the bedroom of his dastardly killer’s bedroom used to be, without anyone casting as much as a glance in his direction. But how has Camp himself fared over all these years? That was the question that so occupied the minds of the RBLCC. Does Camp need TLC? Is he in danger of going walkabout after all these years? Or of leaping headfirst onto a passing cat? The next time you are exiting Lidl’s in the Castlegate, spare a glance for Camp, and perhaps a smile, but do it from the Duke’s Deli side of the road. You’ll get a much better view of Camp from that side and there is less danger of Camp dropping a little something on your nut!

But, don’t go thinking that nobody in Lanark cares about Camp. Some years ago (1984), when John Tariq’s shop occupied the building, John chose to spruce the building up a bit and when he did, Camp was spruced up too. While this was a much- appreciated civic gesture on John’s part, he did make one wee faux pas at the time! He gave Camp a new lease of life by turning him into a Dalmatian – and all hell broke loose in Lanark!

All-of-a-sudden, the long-forgotten Camp was elevated to the status of National Treasure! Rude words were muttered! Vile threats were made!  A lynch mob was suggested! But all the furor came to naught because, before the lynching posse had even sobered up, Camp had been given another makeover, the spots were all gone, and he was back to his old self again. Order, tranquility and what passes for civilization had returned to the Royal and Ancient Burgh. Another ancient “It’s Aye Been” had been restored! Lanark folks could carry on ignoring Camp for another hundred years!

PS. Next time you are in the Castlegate, have a wee glance up and give Camp a wee smile. He won’t smile back, he’s still staring malevolently where Miss Inglis’ bedroom window used to be, but he’ll appreciate you giving him a smile, you will feel much better for it and it will brighten your day no end!

Frank