Walter Elliot discovers tale starring famous detective in collection of short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in effort to save his favourite bridge in Selkirk
An historian has unearthed the first unseen Sherlock Holmes story in more than 80 years that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to help save a town bridge.
Walter Elliot, 80, found the 1,300-word tale starring the famous detective in a collection of short stories written for a local bazaar.
The wooden bridge in the Scottish town of Selkirk was destroyed by the great flood of 1902 and locals organised a three-day event to raise funds for a new one in 1904.
As part of the event, organisers sold a collection of short stories by locals called The Book o’ the Brig.
The book is now on display at the Selkirk Pop Up Community Museum (SWNS)
Mr Elliot has now unearthed a copy of the book and spotted his story “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar”.
He was given the 48-page pamphlet more than 50 years ago by a friend, but forgot about it until recently when he looked in the attic.
Mr Elliot was prompted to dig out the rare papers – tired together with string – and put it on display as part of an upcoming local pop-up museum.
It is believed the story – about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk – is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over 80 years ago.
Mr Elliot, a great-grandfather, said: “In Selkirk, there was a wooden bridge that was put up some time before it was flooded in 1902.
“The town didn’t have the money to replace it so they decided to have a bazaar to replace the bridge in 1904. They had various people to come and do things and just about everyone in the town did something.
Bannerfield’s bridge in Selkirk which features in ‘The Book o’ the Brig’ (SWNS)
“The local MPs and landowners and everyone in two days I think took in £560, which was quite some sum then.
“The Saturday was opened by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He had written a wee story about Sherlock Holmes and Watson and this was in the book.
“I can’t remember how much they raised but they wanted it to be a carriage bridge but they didn’t get quite enough for that, but they built an iron bridge and it’s still there today.
“He really must have thought enough of the town to come down and take part and contribute a story to the book. It’s a great little story.”
The book – around ten inches long and three inches wide, with a soft brown paper cover – contained stories from local people as well as the famous author.
“I have no idea how many they made and sold,” said Mr Elliot. “I’ve had this book for about 40 or 50 years. I must have got it from a friend because I can’t remember buying it from anyone.
“Usually people would throw out these books or sell them off. It has been in my family for quite a while now.
“I have no idea if it has ever been published – I’ve never seen it. I’ve always been interested in history and my family has always passed on stories and I suppose this was one of the stories that was passed down.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes
It was not the last time Conan Doyle visited the town – he returned a few months later with a cricket team to play Selkirk.
In 1905, he gifted a now-lost Border league football trophy, called the Conan Doyle Cup, last won by Kelso in 1937-38.
A year later, Conan Doyle stood as a Unionist candidate for Westminster in the nearby Hawick Burghs constituency.
The booklet will be on show at the Cross Keys Selkirk Pop-up Community Museum from Saturday, along with Mr Elliot’s painting of the replaced bridge.