11 June 2010


I was walking up the cobbled street that leads to Stirling Castle. It was noontime after a party in Edinburgh and I was with a young woman I had met there. I can't even remember her name. It was in the late spring of 1975 or 76.

We had our arms round each other and the sun was warm. Perhaps we both thought that this might be the start of something. I remember that her skin was milk-white. We walked up that cobbled hill where kings and kilted soldiers had walked. A figure came towards us on the pavement. An old woman with a shuffling gait and a black shawl over the back of her head and shoulders.

I edged my brand new partner to the kerb to allow the old woman to pass but as she came level with us, she grabbed my sleeve. I stopped. The old woman with bleary blue eyes looked into mine and said very deliberately, "You will be very lucky". Then she let go of my arm and went on her way down the hill. The Edinburgh girl and I paused for a moment as a car passed by.

It was at this precise moment that I noticed something rolling down the pavement towards me. Where it came from I have no idea. I watched it coming closer then I stopped it with my foot, picked it up to examine it. The girl said, "What is it?" but I couldn't say.

It was made of wood with a turned base in the shape of a large wine glass and with a wooden spout but that description might depend on how you looked at it for on the turned section there was a primitive carving of a man and a woman in historical garb holding hands in a rural setting.

I pocketed the object then guided my pretty guest around Stirling Castle, looking east to the Wallace Monument and south to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.

In later years, I used the object to hold incense sticks and for a while tried to find out what it was. I wondered if it had come from an old piano but never confirmed that. To this day it remains as mysterious as how it came to be rolling down that hill and I continue to connect it with the strange old woman who grabbed my arm moments before. Do you know what it is or would it be better to continue to treasure such a delicious mystery?


  1. Elizabeth7:50 am

    Gosh, what an interesting tale.

    Is the main part hollow? Does the hole go all the way through the object or just the spout part? Is it heavy?

  2. It's certainly a very interesting object and I wouldn't have a clue what it is but, given the extent of the internet, it should be possible to identify it, or could your local museum help?

  3. Elizabeth10:12 am

    Do you happen to remember if there were any pipers at the castle that day(I have a reason for asking - not just idle curiosity)?

  4. ELIZABETH. The spout part is hollow - that's where I put the joss sticks and at the other (base) end there is a turned round hole about 2cm across and 1cm deep. The middle is solid.... As I recall it was a Saturday. We were still fifty metres from the castle entrance and there were no special events that day. No pipers.
    JENNY It's true, I have never taken it to a museum. Oddly the carving appeared quite fresh and naive - not ingrained with years of dirt.

  5. Elizabeth12:49 pm

    Thank you - that helps. I had realised that you put the joss sticks in the 'spout' part, but I think that that may actually be the wrong way up - hence the carving being upside down. I think the 'spout' may slot into a longer piece of pipework (not sure whether I've explained that well). Like you, I suspect those carvings are contemporary. On very first sight, my immediate thought was that it was a home-made drone, but, as the hole doesn't go all the way through, that is ruled out. I have another possibility in mind, but need to do some further investigating. x

  6. ELIZABETH Are you really Miss Marple in disguise? Thanks for trying. I appreciate it.

  7. Full of extra-info in your retirement aren't you Puddo?

    Long may it continue!

    What we really want to know is what happened to the Milky Bar Girl of Stirling?

  8. Elizabeth1:26 pm

    Of course, it could just be that the old woman does this every other week and has her son secreted behind a wall to roll peculiar objects down the hill to the one whose arm she touches ;-)!!

  9. It sort of looks like one of those things mums suction out their babies' noses with.

    People who think prepositions are things you shouldn't end a sentence with don't know what they are talking about or what language is for .

  10. My first thought was that it looked like the decorative end of a curtain rail, but that wouldn't explain the hole at the spout end.

    That old woman didn't have a wooden leg did she?

  11. Elizabeth2:22 pm

    I think the curtain pole principle may apply to the bulbous end though, with something resting in the turned hole, but I'm thinking vertical rather than horizontal.

  12. Something like a spindle?

  13. The more I think about it, the more it looks like it has something to do with spinning, possibly tweed.

  14. Elizabeth3:31 pm

    That's exactly what I'm thinking. I think it is the middle section of one of the maidens - the 'spout' fits into the extended bottom piece of the maiden and the maiden tip - shaped like a coned hat slots in the top. I've been searching google images and found many similar shapes but not quite, but they are all different, anyway.The second maiden would be constructed in exactly the same way and parallel to it, with the cord stretching between the two.

    I think the 'carving' is a bit of a red herring.

  15. I haven't a clue what it is! Just thought I'd add my ignorance to the debate. But I really enjoyed the blog post!

  16. THANKS for the various inputs everyone!

    BOO!THE.. The Milky Bar Girl is undoubtedly still embroidering hearts in a lofty turret pining for her Yorkshire lover and singing melancholic folk songs.
    RHYMIE Perhaps in America mothers suction out babies' noses but here in the UK we use tissues to wipe the little darlings' runny noses - not goblet shaped pieces of wood!

    MR PARROTS AND DAME ELIZABETH Thanks for the thoughtful consideration. I had never dreamtt of it being associated with spinning. I have looked at some images of spinning wheel "maidens" and can see where your idea is coming from but I haven't spotted anything that absolutely confirms the link.
    DAPHNE Thanks. Your ignorance is much appreciated.

  17. Elizabeth11:05 pm

    I suggest you contact one of the spinning societies if you want to follow that thought through. I have now found one almost identical, but my reservation is that this is slightly bigger than most, suggesting an industrial machine rather than a domestic one. But, you need to decide whether you really want to know conclusively ... the mystery will be gone for ever once you do know.

    Incidentally, something to ponder as you wend your weary way up the wooden hill. The part of the spinning wheel that holds the two maidens is called the 'mother of all', and the 'maiden's tip' is so called because it supposedly resembles a young lady's aroused clit!

    Thank you for involving us in your search - it's been interesting. x

  18. ELIZABETH Nice! Now I realise why that sixties folk group - The Spinners - were always smiling!

  19. Elizabeth1:52 pm

    Bet their ladies had even bigger grins!!


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

Most Visits