A gripping trip down memory lane

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I was pounced upon on the bus the other day. I had boarded the X95 at Selkirk, flashed my free pass and taken a seat about the middle for the short journey to Galashiels.

I was just getting comfy when it happened. Out of the blue. From behind. No warning.

The pounce was accompanied by a scream. Well, more of a screech than a scream. And that screech contained my name. “Bob! Bob Burgess!” My assailant knew me. And now he had me by the shoulders. Shaking me and screaming my name. I knew it was a he by the strength of the grip that now held me. Pinning me into by seat.

I couldn’t turn. I looked forward to see if assistance was on its way. But bus passengers being passengers, they all totally ignored my predicament.

I was too far from the door and on the wrong side of the bus for the emergency exit. And in any case I was held in a tight bearhug by a screaming loony.

The words of Private Frazer from Dad’s Army flooded into my spinning brain. I was doomed. Doomed. No more Copshaw music festivals. No more Braw Lads’ Gathering or Great Selkirk Haggis Hunts. Doomed I was. Doomed.

I was fervently hoping someone would be boarding at The Toll and I could make a bid to escape from this manic monster that had me in its grisly grasp.

My jacket had ‘Vintage’ printed on the back. And now my assailant – we had passed The Toll and my next hope of escape was Lindean – began uttering that word from my aged garment. “Vintage. Vintage”. It was followed by “Bob. Bob Burgess. Vintage. Vintage”.

The grip loosened and screech became laughter, and my assailant sat down beside. Now, after what seemed an age, I could look into the face of the man who had put me through those minutes of terror.

I hadn’t been under attack. I was simply being greeted in a strange and unorthodox way by a former colleague and one-time councillor. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the greeting was strange and unorthodox. I was sitting face-to-face with a beaming John Ross Scott.

John, of course, is from Hawick and, in addition to his skills as a newspaper reporter, was more than a prominent – and extremely colourful – Borders councillor for 23 years.

His eccentricity and sometimes buffoon-like outlook belied a keen and shrewd political mind that saw him leader of the council from February 2002 until May 2003.

When the Hawick electorate turned against its councillors in May 2003 – the night of the long knives – I watched as John sauntered away from the count into the early-morning dawn. He took defeat badly and went to Orkney, where he was born again. He bravely started a newspaper in opposition to the long-established Orcadian and although that venture ended, he runs a successful magazine and is chairman of NHS Orkney. His allotted time with the health board is almost over and he’s sad about that.

But JR will bounce into something else. John has bounced before. As the councillor in charge of transport, he was frontman for a publicity shoot about getting people to use bikes. In front of the media – his friends – he fell off.