9 April 1923 diary of Dr John Stewart Muir (1845-1938) of Selkirk

Weather i.s.q.1 dry : some sunshine + the bitterly cold N.E. wind. Made three town calls + cycled – on new Singer2 – to Kirkwynd3, Gibson + Lumgair4 + Shawpark.5 Then, starting about 12 I cycled to Denholm, Bedrule, Bonchester Bridge, Hobkirk, Hawthornside, + home by Horn’s Hole + Grundiston.6 I found the rear coaster brake very useful.7 My legs rather failed me + I had to walk several hills I have formerly ridden. I took a road from near Wills, via Billerwell, Hall Rule + Weens8 that I have only ridden one before, long ago with D.C.A.9 The roads were good but the cold wind rather spoilt ones enjoyment. I did about 41 miles altogether, actually 41.45.10

1 In Status Quo, normally medical or scientific: in the same state; unchanged.

2 The Singer is Dr Muir’s new bicycle which had been delivered damaged to Stark & Murray in Selkirk. This appears to be Dr Muir’s first long ride on his repaired bicycle.

3 This may refer to Sally Moran née Muldoon (about 1830-1925) whom Dr Muir had attended at 35 Kirkwynd, Selkirk on 3 March 1923.

4 Dr Muir appears to have had a role in factory safety at Gibson & Lumgair, St Mary’s Mill, Level Crossing Road, Selkirk.

5 Shawpark, Selkirk, home of John Dun Boylan (1850-1924), civil engineer, an acquaintance of Dr Muir who was present when Boylan had a heart attack on 11 March 1923.

6 Denholm, grid reference NGR NT568,184, Bedrule, NT600,180, Bonchester Bridge, NT587,118, Hobkirk, NT586,108, Hawthornside, NT569,120, Hornshole, NT533,168 and Grundiston, NT497,201, very possibly reaching this last location via Appletreehall.

7 A coaster brake is a part of a rear hub for a bicycle which combines a ‘freewheel’ function (though it does not use the same system as a modern freewheel) and a ‘back brake’ activated by turning the pedals backwards. Cyclists used to hand-actuated brakes have been known to have problems on hire bikes in the Low Countries through inadvertently applying the back brake while trying to coast.

8 Wells, grid reference NGR NT595,173, Billerwell, NT599,155, Hallrule NT593,141 and Weens, NT587,128.

9 Assume David Carnegie Alexander, ‘Carnegie Alexander’ or ‘D.C.A.’ (1856-1928), solicitor; son of David Carnegie Alexander (about 1820-1881), solicitor, and Margaret Scott Alexander née Anderson, and cousin of David Carnegie Alexander (1882-1923), M.C., M.B., Ch.B., Captain R.A.M.C., medical practitioner, who had died 17 February 1923 at South Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.A.

10 Dr Muir used a velometer, which explains the precise distances he records. In fact he must have had at two velometers because his Singer and the B.S.A. bicycles evidently had different size wheels.
On 30 June 2019 Dr Muir noted “I have no Velometer for a 28 inch wheel”. The editor suggested at the time that it was a reasonable proposition that wheel size was a consideration in the accurate measurement of distance travelled pre-GPS, presuming that it counted rotations, and that the difference in wheel size would thus have rendered Dr Muir’s device unusable on his new bike. ‘Canadian Cycling’, 15 November 2018, helpfully describes the Veeder Cyclometer (made at Hartford, Connecticut), the one that Dr Muir used, and confirms that the operating principle was wheel revolutions [see also diary entry for 21 July 1919].

[Source: Scottish Borders Archives & Local History Service SBA/657/26, Dr J S Muir of Selkirk, medical practitioner, journal for 1923]

Published by


Archivist, interests include Dr John Stewart Muir 1845-1938) of Selkirk, general practitioner, and Seton Paul Gordon (1886–1977), naturalist, author and photographer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s