Artist Mark Knopfler
Date Broadcast date: 4th September 2017
Source Soundboard
Format Digital Storage HDD
  1. Mark Knopfler about Mason-Dixon line


Additional comments Broadcast from BBC One – Inside Out in the North East & Cumbria featuring a film about the 250th anniversary of the Mason Dixon line. Mark Knopfler is presenting a television programme about the 250th anniversary of the Mason-Dixon line. Mark tells Dixon’s remarkable story as well as giving an exclusive performance of a song he wrote about the surveyor from Cockfield near Bishop Auckland. That famous border which separates northern states in the east of USA from the southern states, was mapped by Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason. Mason-Dixon line covers 230 miles across the United States. Milestones were marked with M for Maryland and P for Pennsylvania. The path of the line had to be completely straight regardless of the terrain but the terrain they encountered included mountains, ravines and frequent outbreaks of warfare making their job even more remarkable. Following its completion, the Mason-Dixon line went on to symbolize America’s deep divisions over slavery. The song which Mark Knopfler was wrote – “Sailing to Philadelphia” is about the two men as way of keeping their memory alive. He said:

“There are no true portraits or images or gravestones of Mason and Dixon, so in my own way I’m glad to have tried to keep them alive in a song. Their incredible achievements mean they really should be remembered as local heroes. I was very taken by the story of these two guys, one from my neck of the woods in North East England – the other from the West Country. To this day they’re famous in the States but here at home I’d think few people have ever heard of them.”

Interesting thing is that the great great great great great nephew of Jeremiah, is interviewed about his ancestor’s upbringing, and Mr. Dixon said:
“He was talented as a young boy, as a mathematician, and developed that into surveying. He was a little bit of a lad and he enjoyed socialising , carousing and he was actually put out of the Quakers in 1760 for drinking to excess and keeping loose company.”

Todd Babcock from the Mason Dixon Preservation Partnership describes what life would have been like for the two men as they mapped out the line. He said:
“The idea of trying to stay on a line for 230 miles through the wilderness with equipment that had never been used for this sort of project before is just incredible. There was more less 115 people with them, it was like a small army working through the woods.”

David Thaler engineer and Mason Dixon expert said: “Their achievement was absolutely extraordinary for its time.”

Mark Knopfler said: “It was only a few decades later that the line took on a whole new national significance and would earn a place in America’s conscience.”

Total playing time is about 10 minutes, pretty good picture and sound quality.

Pictures from the internet

Mark Knopfler with Keith Moore, librarian at the Royal Society, researching the history of Cockfield surveyor Jeremiah Dixon.




Mark Knopfler studying a journal left by astranomer Charles Mason