Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sunday Times Where Was I? Holiday Competition

Near as I can figure it, through the possibly flawed perceptual filters of my own reality tunnel, the most likely answers this week, seem to me to be:

Q1. Borrowstounness

Q2. John Smeaton

The initial clues seem to place us at Blackness Castle, on the Banks of the river Forth, in West Lothian. The blurb on the visit Scotland website says that it is often referred to as 'The ship that never sailed', because it looks like a great stone ship. It was constructed c 15th century. 

Travelling south from there, leads us to the 'House of the Binns'. This is, according to the National Trust for Scotland, a seventeenth century laird's house, which was built for a wealthy merchant called Thomas Dalyell, c 1612. The Binns in question are not in fact trash receptacles but the two hills which the house and estate lie between. The house was at one time home to 'General Tam o' the Binns' (aka Tam the Bam), who c 1681 started a regiment called the 'Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons' which later became known as 'The Royal Scots Greys' c 1877, on account of the type of horses they used. The general used to glug whisky and play Texas Hold 'Em with the devil, and legend has it, that one night upon beating Auld Nick, the devil apparently lost it and threw a marble table at him, which missed and ended up in the pond outside the house.

According to her bio, the author who wrote 'Our Island Story', was Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (born c 1867), and she seems to have been born in the settlement of Borrowstounness (aka Bo'ness), a few miles north west of General Tam's house. The heritage railway mentioned in the puzzle text, is most likely the Bo'ness and Kinneil railway and the two hundred acre estate, two miles to the south west, is probably the Kinneil estate, which contains the ruined cottage, where James Watt constructed his Newcomen engine (apparently, the boiler is still there). A world heritage site called the 'Antonine Wall' (designated as such c 2008 as part of the 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire' world heriatge sites) passes through the estate. The Eastender has walked along this earthworks for part of its course and was amazed to find pits there which are though to have contained punji sticks, long before another army has used them in a much later conflict, in south east asia.

Travelling north west from the Kinneil estate brings us to the site of the Grangemouth oil refinery and this used to be the site of RAF Grangemouth which opened c 1939. The airfield was subsequently demolished to make way for the refinery. A thirty five mile long canal to the west of Grangemouth is probably the 'Forth & Clyde Canal'. To call its builder (John Smeaton, born c 1724) an engineer, is a gross understatement, the guy was a member of the 'Lunar Society' and was by all accounts a polymath and a genius, he built the Eddystone lighthouse and developed a new type of concrete which would set underwater.

N.B. The Eastender has moved to moderated comments due to the number of people who normally write letters in green ink, posting on his page. Rest assured though, if you have a non abusive comment relating to solving the puzzle and possible solutions, he will publish it

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