A collection of short (20-25 minute) programs from the hugely popular ITV series "Out of Town" hosted by Eric Robson (and his "dog on a string," Raq), "It Shouldn't Happen to a Border Terrier" follows the pattern of other shows in this series, including "Secret Places" and "One Dog and His Man." Robson avoids the usual tourist routes to explore some of the forgotten, yet fascinating historical snippets and sites of northern England and southern Scotland. The four programs in this collection include three set in Cumbria: the Rowrah and Kelton Fell Railway, Appleby, and Orton; and one focusing on the area around the village of Biggar in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Robson and Raq first visit Rowrah in Ennerdale, one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District, but once a hive of industrial activity, the "Klondike" of Cumbrian iron mining. At its height, about 17,500 people lived and worked in this area, producing around 47,000 tons of iron ore a year, all of its transported by the Rowrah and Kelton Fell Railway, a standard gauge mineral rail line operated by William Baird and Company, of Glasgow. Rowrah is now home to one of the most important race karting tracks in Britain, where once trained Formula One drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
Robson also traces the life of Elspeth Buchan, founder of apocalyptic Scottish religious sect dubbed by some the "Buchanite Delusion." At its height the sect consisted on no more than 46 adherents but attracted a disproportionate degree of public attention, including a skeptical assessment by the poet Robert Burns. Robson visits the Dumfriesshire farm, called New Cample, where the sect members lived for a time. In another segment, set in Appleby, Cumbria, Robson visits Great Ormside, despite its name a small village in the Eden District. It was once the home of the Eden Valley Railway, but the stations in this line were among the more than 2,000 closed in the wake of the cuts ordained in the 1960s by British Railways chairman, Richard Beeching. There is some hope, Robson says, that a stretch of this line running from Appleby to Kikby Stephen will re-open in the near future.
Near Biggar, in Scotland, three members of Robson's film crew re-enact a battle celebrated by the poet "Blind Harry," involving a victory by "Braveheart" William Wallace over the forces of King Edward I of England in the year 1297. The only problem is that Edward I appears to have been in France during this time. Biggar serves as Robson's base for visits to the last town gas works in Scotland, an auto museum displaying vintage Albion cars and lorries (one of which was used in the film "Ryan's Daughter"), and the site of a vast tented encampment where 35,000 Polish troops were housed during World War II. The troops were reviewed at one point by General Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile; shortly afterwards, the general's plane crashed a few seconds after taking off from Gibralter, and speculation continues as to whether this was the result of an accident or a conspiracy. In the Biggar area, Robson also visits some of the locations of John Buchan's novel "The Thirty Nine Steps." And perhaps this area also serves as the burial ground of the wizard Merlin. (Or perhaps not.)
In Orton, revists Lowther Castle, home of the "Yellow Earl," Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl of Lonsdale (a colorful character covered more fully in "The Miller's Way," another DVD in the "Out of Town" series). Here we see the beginnings of a new set of gardens planted within the boundaries of the castle ruins. Caught in a downpour in the village of Bampton, Robson takes refuge in the red telephone box that appeared in the film "Withnail and I." At the foot of Knott Hill, Robson shows us the Gamelands Stone Circle (actually an oval), a set of 33 remaining granite stones thought to be constructed around 1,600 B.C., "part temple, part astronomical calculator, where superstition and mathematics" collide. And we've all heard of Whistler's Mother, but in the Tower of Orton Church, Robson shows us an elaborate stained glass window created by Whistler's wife, Beatrice. Also in Orton, Robson points out a building that looks like an ancient garage, but was actually built in 1822 as the village hearse house and was later converted to a field hen house (whose occupants may or may not have been disturbed by the fact that cadavers were once temporarily stored there).
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018