Scotland

Second book of 'lost' Sherlock story found, signed by 'Arthur Conan Doyle'

book o' the brig Image copyright Stuart Cobley
Image caption Arthur Conan Doyle's signature is on the second copy of Book o' the Brig

Another book containing the 'lost' Sherlock Holmes story has been discovered in Selkirk, bearing the signature 'Arthur Conan Doyle'.

Last week, it was reported that 80-year-old Scottish Borders historian Walter Elliot found a tatty, 112-year-old copy of the Book o' the Brig in his attic.

The case to be solved: did Sherlock Holmes' Scottish creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also write an anonymous short story inside, titled '"Sherlock Holmes" Discovering the Border Burghs, and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar"?

If so, this would be the first new Sherlock Holmes story unearthed in a lifetime.

In the 1,300 word tale, Holmes deduces Dr Watson is travelling to Selkirk on Saturday, in aid of a bridge.

He writes: "I ordered a tin of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved ... Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!"

"In my heart, Holmes," said Watson.

So, whodunnit?

On first inspection, Conan Doyle seems to have had the means, motive and opportunity.

The Book o' the Brig's final page reveals Conan Doyle visited Selkirk on the day in question, Saturday 12 December, 1903, to open the town's New Bridge Bazaar.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the 1,300-word Sherlock Holmes story to raise money for a bridge in Selkirk

Now this second copy, signed 'Arthur Conan Doyle' on the cover, also places the crime author at the scene.

Conan Doyle also had the means: he knew the Border terrain so well he stood, albeit unsuccessfully, as the Unionist candidate for Westminster in the Hawick Burghs constituency in 1906.

Finally, he had the motive.

The bazaar, and the 48-page collection of contributed stories called the Book o' the Brig or Bazaar Book, was organized by townsfolk to raise funds to rebuild the Wood Brig across the Ettrick Water, washed away by a flood in 1902.

Conan Doyle's presence shows he supported their campaign.

Image copyright STUART COBLEY
Image caption Sir Arthur was in Selkirk on the day of the bazaar

This year the replacement Iron Brig is itself due to be swept away by Selkirk's £31.4m Flood Protection Scheme, and a new wooden bridge built at the same crossing.

The local 'Souters o' Selkirk' are yet to settle on a new name.

The second Book o' the Brig, which surfaced this week, belonged to the late Selkirk centenarian Alex Cuthill, who inscribed his name on the inside cover.

His daughter Jean, who still lives in the Borders, told us: "My father said the signature was faint, so he was going to go over it in pencil. My husband said: 'No you will not!'"

Neither she, nor her father, knew if Conan Doyle wrote the story or not, and many Sherlock fans and experts around the world have expressed their doubts, arguing it is more likely to be a pastiche, penned in honour of his visit.

But when Jean heard her fellow local historian Walter Elliot had donated his Book o' the Brig to the community museum, she was delighted to tell him: "I've got one too - but mine's signed!"

The mystery deepens.

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