How the Moose...

 

                

 

HOW

THE MOOSE

CAME TO KINNESSBURN

 

By ROBIN BELL

 

As a brand new male residence in October 1962, Kinnessburn was a bit lacking in the general grot essential to student welfare. A bunch of us therefore went off to MacGregor’s Auction to buy a piano. We spotted a battered ebonised upright and when the auctioneer asked, ‘Will anyone bid Ł1?’ we shook our heads. ‘Ten shillings?’ he pleaded. We collectively nodded, had a quick whip-round, and the piano was ours. We were about to leave when we spotted a horny beast with a twisted leer. Recognising it as a kindred spirit, we bid for it too. I regret that I cannot recall how much the Moose cost, but I do remember that we were the only bidders and the auctioneer looked visibly relieved to get it off his premises.

Having bought a large moose head and an even larger piano, we were now faced with the problem of how to transport them from MacGregor’s at the Market Cross all the way out to Kinnessburn. We were too poor – or too cheap – to pay for delivery, so we plonked the moose head on the top of the piano and began to push. For those of you who have never heard the sound of a piano being pushed over cobblestones, I assure you that no other sound is quite like it.

There were five of us. The Moose was too awkward to be carried very far by just one person. If you clasped it in front of you, you couldn’t see where you were going and became a danger to elderly shoppers. When we delegated two people to carry the Moose, the remaining three kept steering the piano into the gutter. We therefore opened the piano, wedged the Moose so that it peered lopsidedly from the innards, and set off again.

It was one of those summery October days that are sent to taunt students cooped up in lecture theatres. We grunted and sweated our way towards Kinnessburn. As the piano jangled, the Moose leant further over with a quizzical expression. We persuaded Mike Dickinson to fetch his splendid old two-seater MG and gently placed the Moose in the passenger seat. It was a left-hand-drive vehicle – something rarely seen in Britain in 1962. Kinnessburn’s first view of the Moose was when it drew up at the front door apparently in the driving seat of an open-top sports car.

Mike’s car figured in another episode of horned head-hunting a few weeks later. Hepburn Hall owned a water-buffalo head, which they felt was quite superior to our beloved Moose. (It is a requirement for students to form passionate attachments to the most unlikely beings, particularly of the opposite sex, and I am happy to say I still correspond with several of them.) One Saturday night a few Men of Kinnessburn set off to Hepburn to capture their water-buffalo. We managed to remove it from above their mantelpiece and were almost out of the front door when we were spotted. For those of who have not tried, I cannot recommend trying to run while carrying a water-buffalo. We dodged into the shrubbery and I, no doubt thinking of King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester, climbed a tree and had the water-buffalo passed up to me.

I sat in the tree for some considerable time, clutching the water-buffalo. Far below, the students of Hepburn, led by Hugh Begg, beat the bushes with golf clubs, but the other Men of Kinnessburn had melted into the night. Eventually the Hepburn Men gave up and went inside. I now had the dilemma of how to get both myself and the water-buffalo out of the tree. If I climbed down first, I could not reach high enough to retrieve the beast. It would have caused unsporting damage to drop the water-buffalo out of the tree and jump down after it. Remaining up the tree, I had got to the point of thinking that the water-buffalo was no less articulate and congenial than most of my fellow students when I spotted headlights being flashed by the Hepburn gate.

I wedged the water-buffalo securely and shinned down from the tree. Sure enough it was Mike Dickinson in his MG, accompanied by Derek Kennedy. I went back up the tree and lowered the best down to the others. We then drive to the harbour and carried the beast along the pier.

I cannot think why I agreed to do what happened next, but I did. Mike and Derek held onto my ankles as I dangled upside down at the end of the pier, hammering in a piton from which I then suspended the Hepburn water-buffalo.

The following morning the traditional red-gowned column from the Chapel to the pier-head and back (do they still do that?) had a new landmark to talk about. The Men of Hepburn were faced with the task of retrieving their mascot from a piton that looked even more inaccessible in cold daylight.

I didn’t see the Hepburn faces as they discovered their beast. My duties as Cage & Chapel Convenor meant that I was always a little delayed after Sunday morning service. I had got myself elected to the SRC by the simple device of advocating a quantum improvement in visiting access to women’s residences and the post of Cage & Chapel Convenor appealed to me as a pleasant sinecure. The SRC that year had a lot of characters who went on to pursue serious political careers, becoming government ministers, quango leaders, etc. I think only two of them actually served time in prison, though no doubt more deserved to do so.

For my part, by 1963 I was cured both of big-game hunting and of politics, left Kinnessburn to live in a flat attached to the West Port, and to this day have an affection for sweet, old-fashioned hairy creatures – provided they are easy to carry.

 

 

 

Photo credits

Moose : ‘Arch’ Andrews
Kinnessburn : Gordon Roy
Robin Bell : Ian Joy Photography

Derek Kennedy & Hugh Begg reminiscing happily : Jane Begg

 

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