A ghostly tale that’s hard to beat

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The Southern Reporter is now firmly established at its new base at the bottom of Selkirk.

We used to work from a rather elegant town-house type office called The Hermitage, slap-bang in the middle of Selkirk.

It was a rambling building that once housed priests and nuns, and had some resident ghosts. Friendly ghosts.

One of them played African drums and another, less musical and more mischievous, took great fun brushing past you in some of the office’s darker corners when you didn’t expect it.

Only a few of us were accorded the out-of-this-world privilege of becoming acquainted with these spirits. We, the chosen few, were rather chuffed that we had been chosen.

I rather enjoyed the beat of the African drummer. It inspired me to be more adventurous when playing the washboard on my outings with the skiffling sensation that is the Bogie’s Close Stompers six-piece band.

I first heard the beat coming from inside the walls of The Hermitage when I was working alone at night. It puzzled me and scared me in equal measure, and I departed. I departed rapidly.

The more often I heard it the less scared and the more curious I became. Chats with people who had worked in The Hermitage during its time as a leading player in the Roman Catholic community revealed no indication that the drums had sounded during their tenure of the building.

That was until I indicated the area where my ghostly drummer was sounding out. They still declined to believe there was a ghost.

But what they told me confirmed, to me at least, that something from the past was still hanging around.

That’s because I learned that sometime in the past a local priest had gone to somewhere in darkest Africa to spread the good word as a missionary. And on his return he brought back some gifts he had received from grateful parishioners. He brought back spears and shields and headgear.

And – yes – he brought back drums.

He really did. And, what’s more, he hung them for display on the wall in what had become our newsroom. And – yes – it was that very corner, nae, that very wall, from which the ghostly beating regularly emanated.

I was now content and looked forward to the odd musical interlude. I pondered with the idea of taking in my washing board with attached cowbell and horn to add a bit of variety, and perhaps some charm, to this particular Selkirk session. But I decided against, for fear it would drive this happy spirit back across the seas.

The Southern is no longer in The Hermitage. We are housed in an area where once-mighty looms pounded, in a modern open-plan building built by Choppy Crawford from 

It hasn’t been standing long enough to attract a ghost, and I left The Hermitage negligent in not inviting the drummer – be he missionary or Zulu chief – to join us. I regret that – and that’s the gospel truth.

Enjoy your Halloween.