FORMER Boy Scout Neil Johnson tried to settle a 59-year-old debt for a “free lunch”, with the two shillings and sixpence he’d saved up as a child.
He was just eight when he went for a meal with his parents at Jenners.
They somehow forgot to pay, but Neil diligently put a few coins in a purse, with a note that read “For my lunch at Jenners”.
Decades passed and Neil forgot all about it, until he stumbled upon the purse last month, and decided it was finally time to clear the slate.
He got in touch with the managers at the Princes Street store, who politely declined his offer but said he’d be very welcome to return.
Neil, 67, who lives in Holywood, Dumfries, had been on a trip to the Capital with his parents in 1959 when they stopped for lunch.
He said: “l’d forgotten entirely about the debt until a few weeks ago.”
“l was visiting Edinburgh on holiday with my mum and dad when we stopped in Jenners for lunch.
“Afterwards, on the bus journey to the zoo, my dad announced, ‘They’ve forgotten to charge you for your lunch. That’s half a crown you owe Jenners next time you’re here’. He was smiling but I was too young to know if he was joking or not.”
So Neil, a diligent Boy Scout, where the first rule is honesty, began to save up. “I didn’t tell anyone but took a coin or two out of my sweet allowance or pocket money to help repay Jenners,” he said.
“My intention was to go back with the half crown and offer my apologies.
“I never did reach half a crown though.”
Over the years Neil forgot about his repayment fund, and only rediscovered it last month. “I was trawling through my archives when I came across my old coin purse with the faded face of Roy Rogers stamped on the leather. The stitching had perished over time but inside was the grand total of two shillings and sixpence in small coins. There was a spidery note in my handwriting saying, ‘For my lunch at Jenners’.
“I thought it was about time I got in touch to clear my debt. A Scout is to be trusted.”
Neil, now a grandfather, contacted Jenners, and they immediately wrote back.
“Their letter said, ‘Rest assured there is no need to settle the bill, but we very much appreciate the sentiment’.
“The manager said he’d love to welcome me back at some point.”
Alan Thomlinson, Jenners store manager, praised the former Scout’s honesty.
“We doubt if many people would be brave enough to come clean about a mistake that happened nearly 60 years ago,” he said.
“We are more than happy to wipe the slate clean and would be pleased to welcome Mr Johnson back any time.”
Neil said he plans to return to Edinburgh soon with Marion, his wife of 25 years, and their first stop will be Jenners for a meal.
He said: “At least now I know I can go back without a security guard tapping me on the shoulder.”