Spiffing adventure

Spiffing Adventure

London to Tolsta on Sixpence

A past edition of Seanchas carried a press report of the adventure of the two young Hertfordshire children Millicent aged 12 and Sydney aged 9, who made their way, unaccompanied, from Hitchin to Tolsta with only sixpence farthing. The children ran away from home to visit their grandparents Mr and Mrs Kenneth Campbell, Diugaidh, of 8 Hill Street, North Tolsta.

The photograph of Millicent and Sydney, which appeared in one of the national newspapers in September 1949, was taken at Inverness Railway Station as they made their way back to London.

On the return journey by steamer from Stornoway and train from Kyle of Lochalsh, they have tickets costing £3 7s 1d, each, paid out of more than £21 given to them by friends and relatives who admired their pluck.
"We've had a spiffing adventure, but we'll never run away again," they said at Inverness .

Catherine Maciver, Bantrach Dholaidh Green of 78 North Tolsta still remembers clearly that summer's evening, when Millicent and Sydney stepped off the late bus outside their house on New Street.

"The children came off the bus wearing the casual clothes they had been wearing, while playing outside at their home in Hitchin; Sydney in shorts and sandshoes and Millicent in a flimsy dress," Caitriona recalls.

"Their mother Mary Mairi Mhòr Dhiugaidh had telephoned the Stornoway police, when she realized that the children were missing. She knew how much they loved being in Tolsta and that there was a possibility, however remote it seemed, that they would try to make their way there. The policeman at Back visited the grandparents and explained to them that the children were missing. It was an anxious day among relatives and friends in Tolsta that day and so it was a relief to see the children step off the bus safe and well."

The children explained that all the way up from England and on the steamer they had kept close to any elderly travellers they saw. The other passengers assumed they were with these elderly passengers and did not ask any questions.

Millicent and Sydney had a great holiday before making their return journey, a lot wealthier than when they arrived!

A relative of their mother's, Margaret Mackay Màiread Ruairidh Staoig of 64 North Tolsta, a bus conductress at the time, gave Millicent a little blue handbag for her money and for their boat and train tickets. Sydney 's granny sewed his money to his shirt to make sure that he did not lose his.

Unfortunately the blue handbag did not make it all the way to London. Towards the end of their journey, when Millicent woke up after a snooze on the train, she realised that her bag had disappeared. It had been snatched. A bit of a sour note on which to end what otherwise had been a truly 'spiffing adventure'!