Once upon a time a young lad was out riding his pony deep in the Scottish countryside and, when they came to a lowish wall, the pony baulked and the rider flew out of the saddle and landed in an awkward heap on the other side of the wall.   When he tried to get up, he found he could hardly move without feeling a terrible pain in his right leg and he feared he must have broken it.   He realized he was in trouble.   The light was fading, the area was remote, and he feared the onset of the bitterly cold Scottish night.

Suddenly another young lad rode up on his pony and helped him on to his feet and managed to sit him astride his pony who was still waiting anxiously.   The newcomer explained that he was a crofter’s son and he and the crofter lived in a cottage not far away.   They made it to the cottage where the old man sat him down by the fire and tended to his injured leg with the gentle care he would have offered a baby.   He placed a splint around the leg and bandaged it securely.   He then gave the boy a bowl of hot gruel from the tureen hanging over the fire.

When he sensed that the boy was sufficiently recovered, the old man harnessed the pony to the trap and helped him in.   The boy gave directions and the old man was surprised to find that he lived at the Manor and that his father was the Laird.   The old man carried the boy to the massive front door which was opened by a manservant who took the boy in his arms.   Will ye come in? he invited.   I’m sure the Master would like to thank you.   But the old man wouldn’t hear of it and just set off for home.

It was a few days later that the old man heard a knock on his door and opened it to find the Laird standing there.   He invited him in.   I want to thank you for looking after my son so well, said the Laird, and I’d like you to accept this purse of money as a token of my gratitude.  

Och, no, said the man, I’ll nay tak yer money, sir.   What I did for your son I’d do for anyone with no thought of gain.   The Laird frowned and wondered what he should do next.   It was then that he noticed the crofter’s son sitting by the fire reading a book.

In that case, said the Laird, I’ll make you an offer.   That boy of yours looks to be the same age as my son.   I’ll offer to pay the same sum of money for his education as I’m spending on my own son’s education.

The crofter looked across at his son.   How do you feel aboot that, son?   The boy nodded eagerly and thanked the Laird.

The Laird was as good as his word and the crofter’s son, no stranger to hard work, was an excellent student who, several years later, became world-famous as Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

And the Laird’s son also became world-famous as Winston Churchill, the man who led our country to victory in the Second World War.

What isn’t so well known is that when Winston Churchill was a young man he was struck down with tubercolosis and would almost certainly have died without penicillin.

So, if this little story has brought a smile to your face, may you dance as if no-one is watching, and may you love as if you’ve never been hurt.   And, if you enjoyed the tale, maybe you could pass it on to someone else.


Philip Larkin



What are days for?

Days are where we live.

They come, they wake us

Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question

Brings the priest and the doctor

In their long coats

Running over the fields.

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