Scottish Climbs: Cadger’s Brae

I have not ridden Cadger’s Brae, which is situated in between Kennoway and Freuchie in Fife, and part of the Dave Campbell Memorial Road Race, but with that name I imagine it as a long drag that you can ‘cadge’ a tow up. This couldn’t be further from the truth- it is a steep nasty climb that can be the decisive point in the race or hurt the legs of any cyclist out for a training or leisure ride.

My misguided assumption led me to wonder why it is called Cadger’s Brae and a couple of people offered suggestions. Derek Hoy said “cadger was old Scots for a caddie or carrier”, while Dave Mackay checked the dictionary definition: “15th century origin unknown. Originally in the sense ‘itinerant peddler’, modern meaning evolved via ‘beggar, opportunist’.”

David Campbell Mem. RR 6/5/12 - Kennoway

A search online has led me to a Cadgers Brigs in Linlithgow and Biggar, a Cadger’s road in Forfar, a Cadgers Gate in the hills near Dollar and a cadgers ford in Aberdeenshire.

“This photie wis taen by Dollar in Clackmannanshire. A cadger is a body that sells fae door tae door, an thay war affen kent as packmen forby. This wis the gate that the cadgers took. The Inglis for cadgers’ gate is “travelling traders’ way or path.” [via Scots Language Centre]

So the cadgers were traders who moved from place to place, and the paths, hills and fords by which they travelled were named after them, and only more recently did ‘cadge’ come to mean ‘getting something without paying’. Perhaps after the cadgers fell on hard times.

I’m getting poetic here but I suppose bike racers could in some way be seen as cadgers – itinerant peddalers – travelling from place to place and ply their trade – but that is perhaps stretching the analogy a bit. Why a trader would want to sell things, or travel to the next place on or via such a steep slope, I don’t know. More local knowledge required.

I’m not sure if there were any opportunists in the 2012 Dave Campbell race, but from the looks of Ian Henderson’s pics (see above) various groups and attacks went. Four times up the climb sounds pretty brutal and judging by the angles of the bikes at the finish line (below) it looks like the circuit can break the best of Scotland’s amateur racers.

Hats off to James McCallum who won, Peter Murdoch 2nd, Eddie Addis 3rd and pretty much anyone else

David Campbell Mem. RR 6/5/12 - Kennoway

Incidentally there is a BMXer called Jeff Cadger.