The Intrepid Cowboy Cyclist in his Wonderful Bicycle Leap through Space


One of the greatest pleasures of writing about the North-east involves the discovery of the strange and unexpected. I mean, who would have thought that the devil had a wife and that – while she was wandering around the village of Midmar frightening the locals – he lobbed a giant boulder at her. He missed his spouse by a mile of course and the rock now sits in the policies of nearby Tillycairn Castle at Cluny. Seemingly, and this is according to no less a source than Victorian writer Alex Inkson McConnachie, ‘the credulous may yet see the mark of the Devil’s hand upon it’.
To top the Devil’s unlikely feat, Scottish super-hero and revolutionary William Wallace seemingly chucked a 20-ton rock all the way from Mither Tap to Oldmeldrum, a distance of some six miles. Seemingly his aim was good, but the missile, known as Wallace’s Putting Stone, overshot his intended target and now sits just north of the Hill of Barra.
There are many more tales such as this in my A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire. One of my favourites is about Buffalo Bill Cody’s visit to Huntly in 1904. Honest injuns’ it’s completely and absolutely true so help me God!
Here is a wee extract from the tale:
‘Shortly after 5am, on Tuesday 30 August 1904, several hundred curious onlookers watched a trio of special trains from Peterhead pull in to Fraserburgh railway station. The assembled crowd must have been agog as an army of strangely clad men and women began to unload the contents of the boxcars before proceeding down Dalrymple Street towards the Links. Dozens of horse drawn wagons, piled high with circus tents, 80 mounted Lakota Indians in traditional dress and a contingent of blue-liveried US Cavalry led the way.
They were closely followed by columns of Cuban Patriots, South American Gauchos and Mexican Vaqueros.
On arrival at the Links, the cortège set about assembling a vast tented village complete with side shows, stables, carpenter’s shop and even a smithy. The Fraserburgh Herald reported on the “marvellously quick way that the greater part of the Links was transformed into a canvas village” and commented on the “enormous number of visitors” who had arrived from nearby towns such as St Combs, New Aberlour and Rosehearty.
Billed as “POSITIVELY THE FINAL VISIT TO GREAT BRITAIN” and “AN INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE WORLD’S ROUGH RIDERS”, the 800 performers and 500 horses of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show had arrived in town.’
Alongside a postscript involving a Lakota Indian Warrior attending Sunday worship at the local RC Church there is a mention in the newspapers of the time of a show highlight involving a stunt pedal-cyclist. Described in the pre-show flyers as ‘The Intrepid Cowboy Cyclist in his Wonderful Bicycle Leap through Space’ the Huntly Express carried a line drawing of the performer leaping through space in front of an amazed audience.
Now, I really wish I had been there to see it on the day.


There is much more of the same in my new book: The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire

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