A little indulgence, if I may, while suggesting this small memorial as part of our occasional remarks on stones …
Linlithgow is an ancient burgh and contains many historic sites. For example, this was where James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray was assassinated on 23 January 1570 by James Hamilton– an assassination notable not only for the planning and audacity, but for the fact Moray was shot. On a more benign note, Linlithgow Palace, although still impressive in its decine, was a renaissance glory in its prime, and Sir Walter Scott makes mention of it in Marmion:
Of all the palaces so fair
Built for the royal dwelling
In Scotland, far beyond compare,
Linlithgow is excelling
But let us turn to our stone …
On what is now Friar’s Brae, above the houses of Priory Road, a wall stands and embedded in it is a stone plaque which reads ‘WJD The Dream 1888’. It is not so very legible now, but during my childhood, most children of the area knew exactly where it was. The Dream was the name of a grey horse owned by Mr W. J. Drybrough, and the feat the stone recalls occurred on a run of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt of 8th December 1888. Let us turn to Chapter X of the publication ‘The History of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt by James H. Ruhterford, W.S., for an account of the proceedings.
It was in this run that Mr W. J. Drybrough, riding his horse The Dream, leaped the Preston march-wall, a performance so remarkable that it deserves description, and “Croppie Boy” shall tell the tale as he told it at the time. “But what is this in front? The Preston march-dyke, a wall like the side of a house, built with mortar and with square, uncompromising coping stones on top. There is no disgrace in turning from this obstacle, for it is all but utterly unjumpable, so we go round. But the well-known rider of the grey means to have a whet at it, and with three mighty bounds the horse, with 16 st. on top of him, launched clear over nearly six feet of solid masonry. On the other side is a drop, measured next day, of fourteen feet some odd inches, so of course they fall—in fact, the horse’s hind legs never touched the ground, but he landed on his fore legs and head and rolled over, sending his rider prospecting, but on the right side of the fence—no mean feat early in the day before the first gloss is off horse and man, and when the performance is towards the close of a hard day [as this was], the merit is enhanced … It should be added perhaps, that when coming down to the wall, Mr Drybrough called out to a man who was sitting or standing upon it, “What’s on the other side?”, that The Dream, who never hesitated an instant, was in the air before his owner received the reply, “Ye canna jump here,” and that after their fall horse and rider picked themselves up at once, and went on to the finish.
I should add, that during my childhood, there were several accounts which were at odds to this: the horse fell and died, the rider was thrown and died, both horse and rider perished. And it was a given understanding that, at midnight on the date every year, the phantom pair would reappear to attempt the jump once more. To date, I have not put this supernatural theory to the test.