Nosy Wren

Recollections of Gilroy Kerr

Transcribed from a recorded interview made by Allan Guy (2001)

[GK] "In January of '63 which was, of course bitterly cold for that time and the steam engine which had taken over a night mail train from a failed diesel, itself stopped outside the box and they couldn't get any water from the tender into the boiler because the pipe feeding the system for injecting the water into the boiler was frozen. So basically they couldn't get the water from the tender to the boiler, so if they couldn't get water into the boiler they'd have had to have thrown all the fire out to stop the boiler from exploding. You see, you'd have had a fire there with no water so it would have become dangerous. Anyway, they stopped and to try and get this pipe unfrozen, they went to the oil store where the paraffin was kept for the signal lights, and they got some old rags to wrap round the pipe between the tender and the injector and set that alight with the paraffin and then they managed to get the actual pipe unfrozen so they could transfer the water from the tender to the boiler to save it from any damage, then otherwise, as I say, they would have had to have thrown all the fire out of the steam engine and then waited for something to come along and rescue them."

[AG] "I gather during this winter, you also had an unexpected visitor to the signalbox."

[GK] "Well, I was still training to take over the signalbox. I was left to run the box on the six to two turn on my own while the relief signalman who was there at that time said "Well, I'm going to get my head down and have a few forty winks". So I was sat there, on this stool, leaning on this shelf where the telephones were and this little wren come up through the frame so I immediately froze and it landed on the locker where this signalman was asleep. So it walked along the locker and I thought, "Well, what's he going to do now then I wonder". The next thing I knew it had flown down on to this signalman's nose and the wren shot off through the frame of the box back out to the outside world and the signalman got up and was asking 'Well, what, what, what, what, what was that...what, what's happened?' Well unfortunately, for about ten minutes, I couldn't tell him because I couldn't stop myself laughing enough to tell him what was happening to him. I still don't think he believes... well he probably wouldn't never believe me because he didn't believe me then I don't think. Despite the fact I explained that this wren had just walked over his nose."