Nothing a Sherlockian loves better than a mystery to unravel about Sherlock Holmes.
And today just such a lovely mystery came from a headline quote of a complaint about a city council's spending habits: "What's Sherlock Holmes got to do with Teesside?"
The full headline is a bit off, seeming to claim that a full 30,000 pounds was spent on putting one quote from "The Speckled Band" on the side of a building, when there are ten from different literary sources for the price. Still, 3,000 pounds to write out one quote seems a bit high. I'd have gotten a ladder and painted the quote myself for a few hundred. But the economics of the thing aren't the fascinating part of the story . . . it's the question.
What does Sherlock Holmes have to do with Teesside?
Now, there's a challenge!
Did Sherlock Holmes even go to that corner of England? Not at first glance, but when one digs a little deeper, one finds the town of Darlington about sixteen miles or so away. "The case of the Darlington Substitution Scandal," anyone? (Hmm, interesting use of capital letters, Watson.) Still, close, but no cigar, as the saying goes.
The Middlesbrough Dock there was laid out by Sir William Cubitt, who might have had some relation, be it blood or inspirational, to the tragic Mr. Hilton Cubitt of "The Adventure of the Dancing Men." The friction match was invented in one of Teesside's boroughs by a man named John Walker, who apprenticed under a doctor named Watson Alcock . . . but that thread stretches far too thinly, despite that particular surgeon's somewhat interesting name.
An industrial area dealing with iron and coal and later chemicals as the First World War took off, the towns that make up the Teesside area itself just don't seem "Sherlock-ish." It's no wonder that some of the residents are asking what Sherlock Holmes has to do with Teesside.
But if he didn't have anything to do with it before, he certainly does now. That's the thing about Sherlock Holmes . . . as much as we love to see him in London, he's not anchored to any one place and can turn up about anywhere at any time. One new episode of Sherlock, one hot new novel, and suddenly he can have everything to do with Teesside.
It sure would be nice if someone would come up with some already-on-the-books connection for the sake of those free-spending council members right now, though . . . so if you're looking for a challenge for that great Sherlockian brain of yours, have at it!