Monday, 16 January 2012

The Vanishing Art of Drumming-Up

During the heyday of Scottish Cycling (mind you , opinions vary...) just before WW2 and just after, club runs were the thing. These usually involved an early start on Sunday morning and getting at least 80km done before stopping for refuelling, rest and a Guid Blether ( Scots for a form of social interaction ). Now unlike the English club runs, in rural Scotland, cafes and tea rooms were almost non-existant...and expensive !! Licensed premises like the occasional road-side inn were the reserve of the gentry, people who could afford to run a motor car, and they would probably be on their way to hunt and shoot and fish and generally hobnob with their fellow lairds. It took a long time for feudalism to die out in Scotland ! Mind you, there are still places with this attitude in Scotland , but that's another story !

So, what was the answer ?  The Noble Art of the Drum-Up ! Nearly all clubs had a (supposedly !) secret road-side stop, where running water, firewood and hopefully a bit of sheltering vegetation were available. Some of these places were actually quite formal, with permission granted by the land owner, but most were pretty wild. Many of the Drum-Up spots were really well established having been discovered in the Thirties. Remember, this was way before Energy Bars and Gels and questionable powders to mix into your water bottle were even thought of . A can of soup and a couple of prodigious pieces...politely known as sandwiches...were stuffed into a saddlebag along with a few matches and a few pages of your favourite newspaper This was often the comic section of The Sunday Post, still going strong, despite the loss of the wonderful Dudley D Watkins who was responsible for the classic Oor Wullie and The Broons cartoons. What are we going to do when eReaders take over and there's no newspaper left ? Newspaper was a perfect example of recycling, it was a source of information and amusement, it was used to wrap the pieces in, you would use it as a firelighter and finally, I apologise for having to mention this, but it was also the original bathroom tissue ! An eReader ? I don't think so !
When you reached the Drum-Up stop, the first thing was to get a fire going, hence the newspaper and matches.Timber was always available because if you used wood from the pile, woe betide you if you never replaced it before you left ! What often happened was that the real racing/hard riding men would sprint off the front of the bunch about 15km before the stop, get there before everyone else and get a good blaze started. So you then had a choice, you could join in with the fast men or if there was a big club turn-out, you and a few of your buddies could go and start a smaller fire for yourselves. There was one very famous Scottish rider, when he was riding with the Glenmarnock Wheelers, allegedly !  used to sit away from everyone else and light his own fire....but that's another story ! So what was the fire for actually ? This is Scotland we're talking about, it's nearly always bloody freezing !! You would open your can of soup leaving the lid attached as a sort of handle,place it carefully in the fire, then proceed to warm yourself up at the fire.There was very little danger then because most folk would be wearing good Harris Tweed plus fours or black woollen tights, real wool from sheep, not Lycra or Spandex !Once the soup was heated you would devour it with your pieces, usually mopping up the last of the soup with the remaining crusts. This was always considered a smart move because then you had to thoroughly clean out the can, fill it with water and return it to the fire with a good pinch of tea leaves and sugar.Five minutes later , tea is served ! I can still taste it ! Almost as good as garage tea and definitely better than tea room tea.  Garage tea ? Again another story !
Then the pipes and cigarettes would come out,( smoking pipes that is, I very rarely remember bagpipes being brought out, harmonicas yes, but bagpipes ...? ) the best bits of the newspaper would be read and when the timber store had been replenished for the next time the newspaper was tossed into the fire....or used in some other way ....If it looked as if you were riding well, some of the fast men might suggest that you  join their chaingang for a fast run home.Mind you, there was no quarter given in this ! If you couldn't keep up or take your turn at the front you were dropped and that was it ! A lonely, slow trauchle homewards ( a fine old Scots word, used to describe an arduous journey, Napoleon's retreat from Moscow is a perfect example of a trauchle, with the ch pronounced as in loch.....are you paying attention to this ? I suggest you do, questions might be asked later !)  your only hope being that you could ignominiously drift back into the slower bunch for some company on the road. The slower bunch by this time would have made sure that all fires were out and cans flattened and carried home and that the Drum-Up place was just as it was.

A good Drum-Up was often the highlight of the week, and stories are still being told about some of the memorable ones, but like everything else things change. Does anyone else remember the Noble Art of Drumming-Up?

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