1868 Church Minister’s opinion on walking speed

Dear blog reader

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that David Borland, the Cairneyhill Church minister in 1868, felt the need to write to The Scotsman about walking speed and so this week I share this quirkiness with you.






Cairneyhill U P Manse, March 19, 1868

Sir – I notice in today’s Scotsman an extract from a Yankee newspaper (the Boston Advertiser), in which a dinner was eaten and an ovation held by Mr Dickens and his friends over the astounding feat of performing twelve miles’ walking in two hours and forty-eight minutes. You will observe this is just 168 minutes to twelve miles, or one mile in fourteen minutes.

Now, we can scarcely conceive of a person who can do his thirty miles ‘on end’ calling this ‘pretty tall pedestrianism’. We fear Yankee nerve and muscle must have lost somewhat of their elasticity on the other side of the pond. I remember once, after a walk of over twenty miles on a hot July day, doing an additional eight, just by way of finish, within an hour and three-quarters; and I have a vivid recollection of once, when a lad of sixteen, cutting a caper at the half-way milestone between Edinburgh and Lanark, having accomplished that distance – sixteen miles – in just forty-two minutes more than these tall Yankees took to their dozen. But what I consider a greater feat that either of these was a ten-mile walk accomplished in two and a half hours on soft snow, eighteen inches deep; and after that, with fifteen minutes’ breathing, conducting with my usual comfort a double diet of worship in a country church, preaching twice without an interval.

I do not make such statements to make folks stare and cry, ‘Bravo! What a pretty fellow he must be;’ but simply to prick this wind-bag of Yankee bounce.

I am, &c,


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