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It’s Auld Lang Sign . . . at border cairn

By Thomas Hanley
Annan and Eskdale
It's Auld Lang Sign . . . at border cairn

AN INFORMATION sign at a border cairn, which celebrates the United Kingdom, was presumed lost forever when it was thrown into the near-by River Sark.

BACK HOME . . .  seasoned politicians Eric Martlew, ex-MP for Carlisle, and Russell Brown,  former MP for Dumfries and Galloway, with the returned sign at Gretna’s Auld Acquaintance Cairn 


But it was this week returned to its rightful home with the help of two pro-Union former Labour MPs and a strange twist of fate.
The Auld Acquaintance Cairn at Gretna was a place of pilgrimage for Better Together supporters before and after the majority of Scots voted to remain in the UK in the 2014 referendum.
Eric Martlew, MP for Carlisle from 1987 until 2010, found the sign washed up on the south shore of the Solway and was the one to return it with the help of his friend Russell Brown of Annan, former MP for Dumfries and Galloway.
The irony was not lost on the former parliamentarians as they worked together for many years before campaigning with one another for Better Together during the referendum campaign.
Mr Martlew said: “Soon after Russell was elected in 1997, he and I decided we needed to do more to get both sides of the border — Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway — working closer together because we both have so many similarities and common interests.”
Temporarily living in Silloth after being flooded out of his Carlisle home, Mr Martlew was walking his dog on the beach when he made the find.
He said: “I picked the sign up and instantly knew exactly what it was and where it had come from. It must have floated down the Solway.”
With a wry laugh, he continued: “The sign is a bit battered like the Union, but I knew it had to remain standing and I knew I had to return it.”
Mr Brown said: “The cairn has symbolic meaning and means a lot to the people in this neighbourhood as over 80 per cent voted to remain within the Union. People have travelled from all over to visit it and people are still adding to it.”
There was speculation when the sign disappeared that the removal might have been a nationalist stunt. Police later charged suspects in connection with the sign’s removal following social media discussions.
However, it has not emerged whether the sign’s unscheduled absence was the result of a simple act of vandalism or was politically motivated.
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