Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

The Gateway of Scotland
Chapter XIV. Upper Lauderdale


LAUDERDALE is in Berwickshire, but it is a region unto itself, and justifies on this account the geographical ambiguity of our narrative. It is the western flank of the county, running north and south, and is cut off from the Merse proper by spurs of the Lanimermoors, and by the stretch of half-tamed, high, thin country, we touched about Gordon and Greenlaw. It is more easy of access, too, by road from that corner of East Lothian to the west of Haddington, and thence over the striking pass of Soutra, which has a fine road, and is indeed an Anglo-Scottish highway. By train it is rather more easily reached from Edinburgh than from Berwick, via the line to Galashiels and Melrose, primitive though the tortuous and leisurely little railroad is, by which the old borough of Lauder has within recent years attached itself to this through route down the Gala valley. More, however, than all these topographical conditions in determining the order of our movements here, which after all matters nothing, is the fact that I spent most of the latter end of my long revisitation of these counties in Lauderdale. Lastly, this region, so far as I was concerned, both gained and lost something, inasmuch as it was entirely new ground to me, and offered none of those fatal temptations to reminiscent philandering. As this is not a guide book, and under no obligations whatever of that nature, I shall say nothing about the Micf-Lothian or Edinburgh side of the county of Haddington. Prestonpans, with its battlefield around the railway station and its monument to Gardiner, verges on the Tranent coalfields; while apart from these disfiguring features

on a landscape undistinguished of itself, the immense material growth of Edinburgh within a generation or two has thrust out buildings of an industrial character far into the Mid-Lothian country, that not long ago was at least rural.

The last ten miles of rail or road approach to the Scottish capital from this side were never inspiring. But they are now almost depressing—from the train assuredly so—and painfully out of harmony with the striking qualities that when once within its bounds stamp the modern Athens as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The more inland portions of West Haddingtonshire and Mid-Lothian towards the hills are free of all unsightly enterprises below or above ground, and are distinguished by the high-water mark of Lothian agriculture interspersed with stately and often historic country seats entrenched amid noble woods. But rich as they are in historic memories, it is not amiss, perhaps, that the exigencies of space compel us to climb the Soutra Pass, to enjoy the three or four miles of level open solitary moorland the highway traverses at a height of a thousand or so feet, and drop down the folding hills to where the piping voice of the infant Leader proclaims the head of Lauderdale. Or we might follow the more normal alternative and take train from Edinburgh, breaking the brief journey with profit at Gorebridge, where, having admired the fine dominating pose of the old tower of Borthwick, restored and occupied by the present owner of that name and race, we might proceed on foot by tortuous ways to the great high-perched ruins of Crichton Castle. Borthwick, among other memorabilia in its long story, was the refuge, till driven out of it, of Bothwell and Queen Mary on their flight to Dunbar. Skilfully converted to present use from floor to lofty battlement, without any structural alteration from the ancient form, it stands above a gorge through which the railroad runs, and the infant streams of the

Mid-Lothian Esk fret their way. Crichton, as Scott, who was greatly attached to the spot, reminds the reader:-

"Rises on the steep
Of the green vale of Tyne;
And far beneath where slow they creep
From pool to eddy still and deep,
Where alders moist and willows weep,
You hear her streams repine."

For this is near the source of the East Lothian Tyne. Both castles are in Mid-Lothian, and from both, their owners—a Borthwick, then eighty years of age, and a Hepburn—marched to Flodden and the grave. From Fountainhall Station, just beyond, where the Gala Water is already making merry music in its narrow meadowy vale, a little railroad of recent construction burrows away through a labyrinth of high grassy moorish hills, keeping company in their deep clefts with roaring burns, that till lately must have lifted up their voices in profound seclusion. Three or four times a day, however, the little train now accomplishes its five miles of rather laborious pilgrimage, through these pastoral solitudes at the leisurely rate of ten miles an hour. But the progress is spasmodic, interludes of agony followed by hilarious rushes. I seem to remember the guard getting down to open a gate somewhere. But it is all very picturesque. At the close of the quite unconventional ride in a train, the traveller will find himself landed in the leafy outskirts of Lauder, the little capital of the upper half of Lauderdale, and Lauder will, I think, captivate him if not at first, certainly at second, sight. It is emphatically an old-world, dead-alive, slumberous country town, "side tracked," as the Americans would say, and, I believe, almost regrets the new railroad, since its leading industry, that of taking its own citizens and a few summer visitors over tremendous hills to the main line and back, has been destroyed. It is even picturesque in itself, after a severe stony northern fashion, with a single wide silent street, and a town-hall standing in the midst of it. No trade other than an occasional stock market goes forward in Lauder, so the serried ranks of grey or brown houses flush with the wide street upon either side, a few of which are absent-minded-looking shops, have a resigned and restful look about them. Lauder is really delightful, and I never thought I could ever come to lavish such an epithet on a Scottish country town. Some are prosperous, some are neat, many are dour; but Lauder, though sombre in a way too, and without a touch in its whole long street of colour, foliage, or architectural amenity, is nevertheless a place of character, and quite obviously one of traditions, where racy things other than mere Border fighting have happened. For its very wide-open serenity, its calm upon a sunny afternoon, broken only by occasional wild men on motors from far countries, you get fond of it, and are quite glad to pursue its length on your goings out and your comings in. The situation of Lauder, in the heart of its famous and secluded vale, is delightful, but that is another thing. In itself it has as a whole a something about it, a flavour of attaching sentiment, which neither Greenlaw nor Earlston, nor Duns nor Haddington, nor Dunbar have any outward suggestion of.

The Soutra Pass leaps the Lammermoors at a narrow neck, where the range begins to assume its inappropriate westerly designation of the Moorfoot Hills. For the shadowy heights that loom to the westward beyond the infant waters of the Esk, the Gala, and the Tyne surpass the actual Lammermoors by a little in stature, and from afar display rather bolder outlines. They belong to Mid-Lothian and continue unbroken into Peeblesshire, and through that county, giving to the Upper Tweed its semi-mountainous character; while Lauderdale, from what may be accounted its head, where several burns, breaking from Lammermoor glens into a wider trough, form the Leader Water to its junction with the Tweed, pursues an almost straight course, a little east and south, and of less than twenty miles. Bordered upon both sides by wild breezy hills of a thousand to twelve hundred feet, the upper half of the dale in which Lauder lies spreads open and Ievel between the woody feet of its high green walls; the lower half is, for the most part, compressed into a deep trough, through which the Leader frets in rocky channels or chafes the feet of red sandstone cliffs, amid a maze of woods; while for some miles the road edges its way along the breast of the steeps far above, giving occasional but delightful glimpses of flashing waters amid the leafy depths below.

If as regards actual river scenery the lower half of Lauderdale, around Earlston, is more striking, the upper half, otherwise the Lauder neighbourhood, is infinitely better to make sojourn in; not so much because Lauder itself, for its quaintness and character, wins your regard, but that there is more scope for attractive enterprises, in many directions, on foot or by road. Personally, I felt that nearly a month of unbroken fine weather, interrupted by an occasional day on the river, had nothing like exhausted the possibilities of Lauder, either by road or moorland. I put it this way for conventionalities' sake, and merely in regard to those definite objects of visitation which more immediately stimulate one's energies. Personally, this is one of many places I could mention that I should never willingly go away from once I had unpacked my trunks till approaching winter drove me out. The house on the moor of a former chapter is another.

A ridge of upland, only five or six miles through, and frequently touching an elevation of 1200 feet, divides the Leader from the Gala Water. A fine highroad down Lauderdale lands you in fourteen or fifteen miles at Melrose, Abbotsford, or Dryburgh. Prehistoric camps crown many of the high-rounded outlines of the Lammermoors, which in long procession look down on Lauderdale, as well as others far removed from sight. Pele towers and the wreck of castles associated with famous names, and sometimes with doughty deeds, keep ghostly watch over green ferny glens that wander up by pastoral farms into the wilds. From here, too, you can pierce the very heart of the westerly Lammermoors, if you so choose, without an undue test of average walking powers. Or you can cross them on foot from the head of the dale, stand upon Lammer Law, and look out. over East Lothian, and be back again in Lauderdale in less than twenty miles. You can fish for trout, of which there arc plenty of most sizes, over nine or ten miles of the Leader, amid always charming scenery, and as many more miles again of tributary burns, if you prefer small deer and enjoy exploration. You can take it easy, too, quite pleasantly in Lauder—can saunter in the woods close at hand, among which the Leader sings melodious airs, or loiter upon the ivied bridge, where Archibald Bell-the-Cat of Tantallon and elsewhere created a notable incident in history and earned his soubriquet, by hanging in cold blood several men of might and fame for whom he had no use. To-day tall trees whisper here, and birds sing from the dense leafy harbourage of the castle woods beside the quiet lane, and the river, with its clear, silvery streams, comes out of it all and purls away over shining gravel into the wide lush meadows beyond. You can sit in a garden if you are lazy at the Arcadian entrance to the little town, or crack over the fence with passing natives in the road. 'There is lots of time in Lauder—it isn't the least like East Lothian—and plenty of eloquent souls, who have doubtless outlived ambition, and are only too glad to recount the past glories of Lauder, its coaching fame, its flourishing livery business before the railroad came and killed it and depressed the local shopkeepers. But, as related, Lauder stands on one of the international motor routes, though you would not think so to look at it. This, however, is, I fancy, a cause of more dust and entertainment than profit to the burghers ; for these cosmopolitans take it, so to speak, in their stride, and probably only the pilot, who is almost obliged to, can even grasp its name. But after all, save for the first fortnight of August, this does not amount to so very much. I was sitting in mine inn, however, one September day near the Iuncheon hour, when a big car of the through traffic order pulled up at the door and deposited an amiable-looking, round-about, elderly Californian (as it proved), together with his lady and a son. In the car I noticed as many sheaves of golf clubs, and after the first possible moment the Californian—not the shining hero of the story-books who intimidates buck-jumpers and bad men alike, but a harmless-looking, bow-windowed gentleman, obviously of the commercial variety—thus addressed me: "Say, there are golf links, ain't there?" I was taken aback at such a query from an individual who was equipped at all points for making the world his footstool, and was about to reply in the negative, when I remembered that there was a tousely nine holes somewhere up on the moors, a recent concession to modern custom, towards which I had observed occasional young men and maidens wending light-hearted steps. I soon saw, however, that my Heavily-armed friend had only such interest in the matter as might easily be awakened in the breast of an ingenuous enthusiast from over sea making his first acquaintance with British soil, by the mere sight of a finger-post inscribed "To the Golf Links." He came at once to the point, and abruptly demanded the distance to St. Andrews. There seems nothing untoward in the query as here set down, but as delivered in that particular place, it suggested a man of one idea, and of a mind oblivious to the very elements of British topography, and so it proved. It was as if a motorist stopped you on the highway near Tonhridge Wells, and asked you how far it was to Cambridge, ignoring the little interlude of London. Well, I said, it's so many miles to Edinburgh, and, at a rough estimate, so many more beyond.

"Edinburgh," said the Californian vaguely. "Do we go near Edinburgh? I hadn't reckoned to take that in."

"you go through it," I replied, "and if you have never been there (which was too obvious), it will be a good opportunity to stop over and have a look round."

But Edinburgh apparently conveyed nothing but a name, of bothersome significance, which intervened somehow between the pilgrim and his shrine. Such a pilgrim, too, to such a shrine ! A short man, suggestive of prosperous commerce, with gold-rimmed spectacles, a full rosy face, and a still fuller waist, he had evidently no use for Edinburgh, and I had again to give the best estimate I could, which a map would have done better, of the distance from Lauder to St. Andrews. I asked him how he had come. He replied that he did not know, but that he had undoubtedly slept and had breakfasted in Newcastle.

"Did you come by Berwick?"

Berwick! Berwick! How do you spell it?

I furnished him with the information, and being now much interested in such a very absent-minded specimen of the well-groomed and well-endowed American genus, I asked him where he crossed the Tweed. His son, who, by the way, was acting chauffeur, now carne in, and to him the bewildered parent turned.

"Tom, did we come by Berwick?"

"No, Pa."

"Have we crossed the Tweed?"

"Yes, Pa. We came over it at a place higher up, I don't just remember the name of."

"Coldstream," I suggested.

"Yes, that's it, or some such name."

I couldn't resist improving the occasion a little, and possibly extracting yet another pearl from the older gentleman, and I got it, for when I intimated to him, taking a slight geographical liberty, that he must have come through the Scott country, he replied:

"I don't know whose country it was, Sir, but it seemed a mighty bare one anyway." He was probably thinking of Northumberland.

The real preciosity of this engaging person, however, lay in the unswerving deliberation, regardless of aught else apparently in the three kingdoms, and looking neither to the right nor to the left, with which he was heading for St. Andrews. If he had been the amateur champion of the United States, one might just conceive the condition of mind, though in such case it would never have been revealed with such delightful and unabashed ingenuousness. But the pilgrim, one might confidently make oath from his appearance, would require a stroke a hole from opponents who were nothing like amateur champions. What he wanted, undoubtedly, was to play a round at St. Andrews, so that he could refer to the achievement for the rest of his life at the club at San Francisco or Los Angeles. I suggested that he should have a look at Gullane and North Berwick on the way back, but lie had obviously not heard of either, though the word Berwick, with which he had so recently wrestled, provoked a fleeting expression of puzzled inquiry and even fear lest more geography should be required of him. He was a man possessed, for the moment at any rate, of one idea, a curious monomania for a type of individual who was about as capable of understanding the traditions and significance of that Beat golfing Mecca he was bound for as of winning the amateur championship itself. I heard him in the car at the door, as a last word, asking the boots how far it was to St. Andrews, to which unprecedented demand in his experience that functionary replied bluntly, without excuse or apology, "I dinna ken."

The town of Lauder was a royal burgh in the days of William the Lion, and as a corporate owner of property, and in the matter of its civic regulations concerning its lands, according to Sir Henry Maine, is the most interesting town in Scotland. Like Berwick and Greenlaw, its freemen participate to the full in these good things, but to the greater extent for a very small town of about 1700 acres. The arable land lies upon the lower slope of the hills to the west of the town, and the common pasture spreads away beyond it. There are fifty Burgesses, and 105 "Burgess acres," but the acre here is a figurative term. Of these portions the Earl of Lauderdale—of whom and whose seat anon—has thirty, the rest being distributed in proportions not calling for particularisation here. But what is curious are the three divisions into which the civic common land is partitioned. First, there is the larger stretch of high pasture to which the cows are driven daily, and that carries, of course, certain individual rights and limitations. Secondly, there is a tract of arable land, farmed in common by a steward for the benefit of the Burgesses; and lastly, there are the individual plots which each owner looks after himself. There seems quite a hearty sense of esprit de corps, and even pride, in being on the hereditary roll of Lauder freemen. The well-to-do widow of a deceased Lauderite, resident in Edinburgh, told me with quite a touch of local patriotism and sentiment that she was a Burgess, and was bringing her son to Lauder to go through the necessary formalities for stepping into his father's vacant lots.

The privilege can be, and, I believe, has been occasionally purchased by an outsider, the value being assessed, I fancy, at from four to five hundred pounds. The manner in which these old Burgess rights, however, take most picturesque effect are in the going out and the coming in of the cows with the town herd. At six every morning in summer this functionary stands in the wide silent street and blows his horn with unrelenting vigour. Many a literally-minded theologian, stopping overnight in Lauder, in the carousing days of old, who had been pushing the bottle too briskly, must have fancied in the fuddle of his waking moments the trump of Gabriel sounding, as did the immortal citizen of Kirkcaldy when lie heard the coach horn. It is the return of the cows in the evening, however, that most engages the interest of the stranger, as they come back trooping down with full udders to the warning notes of the horn that the milk pails should be in readiness. It is curious then to see each one of them seeking out with knowledge and confidence its own abode in the town.

Two families dominated Lauder throughout the Middle Ages, one on the west, and the other on the east of the river. They were never on good terms, and then gradually in the early Stuart period the one supplanted the other, and, speaking figuratively of course, reigns supreme to-day. Both of these families we encountered, it will be remembered, in East Lothian, with a hint to the effect that we should meet them again here, to wit, the Maitlands, Earls of Lauderdale, and the Lauders, whom they gradually pushed out of their native dale, to take fresh root elsewhere. There are old towers and other fragments around Lauder, relics of both families, and their respective chronicles begin to take hold of one, as is so often the case in wandering among scenes that are eloquent of particular names, and closely identified with their fortunes. They were, in truth, at very close quarters, and the town of Lauder must often have cried in despair that it could not serve two masters. An old Lauder tower stood somewhere, though of uncertain site, in the town itself ; but three miles up a glen where the Lauder folk in their leisure hours, or in their courting days, follow for a space the windings of a moorland burn, though beyond their reach, stand the remains of a chief fortress of the Lauders. There is not much left of it, a deep moat choked with brush, and some fragments of ruined wall upon a green mound overshadowed by ancient trees—a solitary place, secluded, unvisited, hardly known. Three miles downwards from Lauder, by the left bank of the river, and almost concealed by foliage on a high green ledge, is a pele tower, still about thirty feet high, and surmountable by a broken stairway from a vaulted basement. 'This is another stronghold of the vanished Lauders, who, it will be remembered, were also " Lauders of the Bass." The end of them here, or virtually so, was tragic. For in 1590 William Lauder of Lauder, or Will-of-the-West, had been at such odds, not only with his powerful neighbours the Maitlands, but with the Pringles or Hopringles (of Gordon, I presume), the Cranstouns of Corsbie, a fine well-preserved tower in the middle of a drained marsh near Ledgerwood, and well worth visiting, and with the ubiquitous Homes, that he came to a violent end at their hands. He was sitting in the old Tolbooth at Lauder, apparently administering justice, when a company of these unfriendly neighbours burst in upon him with such murderous intent that he shot and killed one of them, whereupon he was himself hacked to pieces, and as no Border row was quite complete without a fire, the building was committed to the flames by the Homes. His son, however, succeeded, but only to perpetual quarrels, and finally a duel with James Maitland, whom he crippled for life. Financial troubles, as well as many enemies, seem to have dogged the steps of the last of the Lauders. The duel and money matters gave a Home, who happened to be sheriff of Berwickshire, the opportunity no doubt he relished to outlaw the last laird of Lauder. He only came back in his old age to bury his son in the churchyard, and to erect over his grave a tombstone that, though removed to the present churchyard, still remains with an inscription no longer legible, but which was copied by Sir Andrew Dick Lauder of Fountainhall, near Edinburgh, a hundred years ago:

"Hic Jacet
Robertus Lauderius filius
Unicus Robert Lauderii
Antigncn Domus Donnini
Bone spei alolesceus
Obiit anno Domii 1649."

Thus ended the Lauders of Lauder, and the headship of the clan passed to the Lauders of Fountainhall.
But the Maitlands, who had gradually ousted them, were not by any means intruders or anything approaching it. Indeed, they seem to have been here on the other side of the river as long as the Lauders, for the ancestors of both come first into notice, and were both at Lauder in the wars of Edward I. In the old Thirlestaine Castle, whose ruins still stand in a grove high perched above the Brunton Burn, an old ballad celebrated how gallantly a veteran Maitland here defied Edward I., or possibly his grandson:—

"As they passed up the Lammermoor,
They turned both up and down,
Until they came to a darksome tower
Some ca' it Leader town.

'Wha hauds this house?' young Edward cried,
'Or wha gi'es it o'er to me?'
A grey-haired knight set up his head
And crackit right crouselie.

'Of Scotland's King I haud my house,
He pays me meat and fee,
An' I will keep my good auld house
While my house will keep me.'

Full fifteen days that braid host lay
Sieging auld Maitland keen.
Syne they ha'e left him hail and fair
Within his strength of Stane."

The Maitlands removed from their "darksome tower" of old Thirlestaine in the time of the Chancellor Maitland, Lord of that ilk, while James VI. and I. was on the throne, and erected the first portion of the huge old sombre mansion between Lauder and the river, transferring to it the name of the, old rude keep above the Brunton Burn. They divided their time between this castle and Lethington, across the Lammermoors in East Lothian, so intimately and indelibly associated with the most brilliant bearer of that name, Queen Diary's chancellor. The baneful, but glittering memories of the powerful Duke of Lauderdale linger here, as upon the East Lothian house, and an old oak in the grounds bears his name, and drops a limb when things are going to happen. But later on this was the chief

residence of the Earls of Lauderdale, and the "yirl," till recent times, was the personification of might and majesty and power to generations of youthful Lauderites. Something of a break came in recent years, when the direct line ran out, and a lawsuit between collateral Maitlands had to drag its length before the succession was settled. This was followed by another suit on the part of the successful claimant with a rival house for the office of hereditary standard-bearer of Scotland. But law, whether in Scotland or England, is a costly enterprise, and its shadow broods over Thirlestaine Castle, its lawns and woods and park lands, and its frequently untenanted halls. But it is an inspiring old pile in the Scottish taste of that period, blended with the Jacobean and southern flavour, which naturally influenced the taste of men familiar with the court of St. James's.

Lauderdale is emphatically a pastoral country. Dairy cows and young cattle tramp the broad green meadows of the valley, or in hot noons stand knee-deep in Leader's pellucid streams, which curve and fret between ruddy banks from one side of it to the other, while great sheep farms wave indefinitely into the hills behind. There are fields of grain and roots, too, but they are comparatively intruders, and there is nothing in the landscape here to worry the aesthetic sense with over-precision, or too complete a triumph over nature. A Wiltshire sheep farmer might traverse the whole dale without any sense of abasement whatsoever. Neither the oats, the barley, nor the roots would make him feel in the least uncomfortable, nor would the sound of the rents paralyse him, as they certainly would in East Lothian. This is an easy-going, wide-open, low-rented country, though flock-masters of renown in the north are perched in snug tributary valleys or Upon windy braes on the Lammermoor side of the dale. There is ample space, too, for wild flowers to bloom in the hedgerows, and by the burn sides in Lauderdale, and there are woods and copses and tangled thickets, where in September the willow herb and the meadow-sweet, the tansy and the ragwort, the loosestrife and the modest but ubiquitous little harebell still bloomed amain. There are "dowie denes" and "broomy knowes" galore, even in the lowlands of Lauderdale. The old pastoral ballads that somehow in the low country of the Merse and Lothian seem to paint the landscape of another age, are all in order here. But then Lauder itself is something of a survival. It is written of a local Iass, that when she went to Edinburgh for the first time, and saw the Firth flecked with small white waves, she exclaimed, "Lord save us, yon's a bonnie flock o' sheep."

There is a bridle track, already alluded to, which trails right over the Lammermoors from Carfrae Mill, at the head of Lauderdale, to Gifford, a matter of ten miles or thereabouts. A level open road runs to the dale head, skirting the haughs of Leader upon one side, and the long up-sloping fields, now mildly engaged upon their late harvest upon the other, and before it faces the fearsome climb of the Soutra Pass. Compassing these five flat miles one day upon a cycle, and with some relief that the two-mile push up the Soutra was not in my day's programme, I left the invaluable assistant to many a long hill walk at the snug hostelry at Carfrae Mill, and borrowing a stout ashen staff from the landlord, took the farm lane that follows the windings of the Killhope Burn into the hills. By narrow rushy meadows, and mossy heathery bottoms, and little groves of alder and native oak and mountain ash, and over rustic bridges of precarious support, the way was easy, and both the air and the heart felt light. For it was a radiant morning, with a brilliant sun illuminating yet more but far steeper harvest fields upon one side of the glen, while the opposing hills were still wrapped in shadow, and the burn, the best of the company, sparkled beside me. I reached in due course the foot of the long ascent, and a climb of a few hundred feet brought me to the brim of the long rolling plateau of heather, where the virgin heart of Lammermoor waves away towards East Lothian.

Up here, on the very brink of the wild, stands the little old homestead of Tollis Hill, the ultima Thule of civilisation on this side the moors, and now but an outlying shepherd's cottage on a great sheep farm. But on the patch of greensward that opened to the moor the goodwife was removing the weekly wash from the lines, with the satisfaction, no doubt, evoked by such an operation in a week of radiant days and drying winds, a thousand feet above sea level. In these altitudes, however, there is another side to the picture, and we talked of the snowstorms of the preceding winter. There was a walled garden outside the house, and the whole thin walls and all she told me, had upon a recent occasion been entirely buried; while, pointing to the drying-poles, from whose lines some of the family garments were still swaying high in air, she remarked that you could just see "a teenie bit o' the tops above the snow." And the sheep! As one looked at the wild dark ravines cleaving the moor on all sides, and pictured one of these mid-winter blizzards, a sheet of heaping-up snow, and many score of sheep anywhere beneath it, I thought again of those laconic entries in the weather report of my morning paper: "Heavy snowstorms reported from Berwickshire, causing much anxiety among Lammermoor flock-masters. Hundreds of sheep are said to be buried," and so forth. "Aye, it's a sair time for the herds then." But they can tell their own stories, and they are men of sense, of restraint and admirable conversation these Lammermoor shepherds—none better upon the earth. For herself, she said it was awfu' lonesome sometimes in winter, but she got used to it.

There was once an elderly couple—that is to say, a bachelor shepherd and a spinster to do for him—sent up from a farm on the Whiteadder to spend a lengthy season in a shieling somewhere in the wilds by the Fasney water. They were neither of the marrying sort, but there had always been a vague tradition, or perhaps something more, that the two solitaries would some day make it up together. The lady was understood to have been not averse to the scheme for the past twenty years or so, but the gentleman remained obdurately silent. Whether it was to give them a chance of coming to an understanding, or whether it was merely in the way of business that my informant despatched them to spend six months together in the wilderness does not matter. But on their return to the farm the inevitable query was put to the lady by her mistress.

"Well, have you and Jamie made it up together?" A mere negative, not conveyed, so far as I am aware, with the coyness meet for the occasion, was not sufficient for the curiosity of the mistress. "What in the world did you two talk about all the evenings, then, sitting on each side of the fire?"

"We didna talk."

"Didn't Jamie say anything?"

"Na. He jes' sat an' glowered an' glowered at me."

"Didn't he propose?"

"Na, he didna propose; he jes' sat glowerin' and glowerin'."

Thus ended the love story, after the fashion of some American novels, when the young woman, after three hundred pages of introspection apparently favourable to the suitor, proceeds with her mamma to a further round of Continental hotels, while the gentleman, equally ripe for domestic happiness, and on the point of proposing, departs on business for San Francisco; both of them to live happily, and single, so far as we know, ever after. But Tollis Hill is noted as the scene of the well-known story of " Midside Maggie " and the Duke of Lauderdale, related at length in Wilson's Tales of the Borders. It is very long, and will not well bear compression—not, one is constrained to add, from the thrilling nature of its incidents.

There was nothing now upon the pack-horse path till it dropped down into East Lothian, but heathy moorland to the right and to the left, and as far as the eye could see. Peewits cried, long-lingering curlews called, and grouse, with an instinct perhaps of what was coming, gave uneasy utterance to their suspicions, or sprang wide of the path with a September caution that served them so well in former days, and scudded over the tawny and purple waste with a strength of flight that would be little -help to them in these guileful days. I had walked for perhaps an hour along the narrow hard strip of greensward that had clothed this hundred years no doubt the old worn tracks of the horses' feet. I had followed it curving around the head of glens above the spongy cradles of incipient burns, or dipped with it into some trough between the hills, where others in brown infancy were already gurgling among rushes, mosses, and wild cotton-flowers, when all at once round the sharp curve of a hill fifty yards ahead a human form appeared. And then, instead of the solitary shepherd which naturally jumped to the mind, it proved to be but the first of a shooting party extended in more or less single file, and straggling out, I daresay, over fifty yards, though the party, guns, beaters, &c., numbered perhaps half that amount of persons all told.

The prophetic souls of the old stagers among the grouse had not dreamed dreams in vain. By the time I had reached the top of Lammer Law, and was eating my sandwiches, with my back against the cairn, and my vision wandering once again over the old familiar outlook, with the woods of Yester, and the beechen glens of Hopes at my feet, and half Scotland from St. Abb's to the Grampians spread out beyond, sharp-cut in the translucent balmy air, I heard the distant fusilade opening from the further butts. This procession, it needs no saying, would have staggered a shepherd on the Lammermoors, when I used to know them—the day of small stocks and long heather and setters, and much hard work, and small companies. A terribly trite subject of contrast this, I am painfully aware. But to any one who is old enough to have broken ramrods over unruly spaniels' backs, which impatient youth I fear often did, or to have wrestled with swollen pinfire cartridges on a wet clay, the transformation does seem marvellous. The prodigious gregariousness of modern shooting, and the paraphernalia required to bring the grouse and partridge to the guns, and the number of guns required to account for it when it gets there; all these things must have altered the very temperament of the average sportsman. There was assuredly a sense of comradeship associated with the gun, and a sentiment associated with tramping the fields and moors, besides many other more practical accessories which need no telling, and that, save in odd corners now regarded as belated, have gone by the board. There must nowadays be quite a large number of shooting men whose entire experience of field or moor, from their first season's shooting, is limited to standing in butts or behind hedges, and firing at game brought to the gun from haunts they hardly see, and by men and methods entirely outside their purview, while the physical effort is reduced to a minimum. The greater demands on mere marksmanship seem hardly concerned with this point of view at all, and suggest a highly skilful game with all the limitations of a game, rather than a field sport. All this is of no earthly consequence. But one cannot help sometimes wondering what a considerable number of the rank and file of this school would do if they were dropped into a strange country, dependent wholly upon themselves for finding sport, and for every detail connected with it, in the absence of all opportunity for cultivating those instincts of the chase and an eye for things which the youngster of a past generation could hardly help more or less acquiring if he had the taste.

The stock of grouse, however, with heather burning and driving, has increased enormously, I believe, on the Lammermoors, and, curious to relate, the white hares have travelled down there within recent times from the Highlands, to the no little disturbance of the native breed, and with scant welcome, no doubt, from the shooting owners.

Another long day was expended with profit and pleasure in an effort to penetrate the heart of the hills in an easterly direction with various definite intentions and a vague ultimate design on Twinlaw Cairn; not because this is of more physical distinction than its fellows, but for the famous tragedy that by repute was there enacted. My companion upon this, as upon some other occasions, was the accomplished occupant of the manse of Lauder, whose taste for natural history, antiquity, and local lore of all kinds, through the medium of a felicitous method of expressing it, is familiar enough to Edinburgh readers. We drove out on this occasion to one of the large farms which look down over civilisation and Lauderdale and open their back gates upon the wild. In this case it was on to the grass-grown remains of one of the many prehistoric camps that crown this line of hills. My companion was anxious to trace out one of the "herring roads," by which in ancient days when Scotsmen fared hardly, the salt herrings used to be brought on pack horses across the hills into the interior.

The day was bright at starting, but dark clouds, borne on a brisk north-west wind, crossed the sun betimes, and sent black shadows scudding over the tawny moors, from which the last glow of purple had now faded. We flushed a small pack of black game, an old cock in all his pride of tail and plumage giving the alarm, followed by some young grey-hens, and a juvenile male or two. It was just the place for them; a rough grass enclosure at the edge of the heather—what Northumbrian sportsmen call the " white grass country." We found the track of the old road, whatever it was, British or herring, far into the heart of the hill. This unmistakably Saxon land, its laws and riggs, lay all about, hogs Law, Riddel Law, Hart Law, Hunt Law, Wedder Law, and but little above us, with their rounded knobs, fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen hundred feet above the sea. After a protracted quest we found the scant remains of some small huts, concerning which the hill shepherds had Stirred the interest of their own spiritual shepherd no little. We had scarcely discovered them, however, three or four on the banks of a "wee black Burnie," when we saw, not undismayed, the tawny ridges that guard the infant streams of the Dye water, turning almost white for the black curtain that unregarded had reared itself behind them. We had scant time to draw conclusions from our find; whether, that is to say, the rude foundations of the little huts were British, or merely some ancient shielings beyond the reach of oral tradition. Twinlaw Cairn soon faded out of the day's programme, and within the next ten minutes we were grateful for the protection of a row of butts that we had heartily abused beneath the sunshine, as, like the rest of them, an ugly blot upon the virgin solitude of the waste.

But the skies in good time lifted, and only moderately dry—for a butt in a driving storm is not as useful as a cow-shed or even a sheep-stell—taking a wide circuit homewards, and with it our chances of further storm, we arrived in time at what is perhaps the prehistoric gem, as regards mysterious origin, of all this country. For here, in a low flat valley, are great circles of stones some sixty yards in diameter, and originally eight or ten paces apart. Great numbers, however, are in situ, and the scheme suggests on a smaller scale the great temple of Avebury in Wiltshire. But this is entirely in the wilds ; no village, as there, has made a quarry of the sacred stones, though a stone dyke adjoining may account for such ravage as has taken place. We didn't quarrel with it on this account, however, as it sheltered us from another tempest. With the expiring efforts of the sun we crossed the moor homeward. The wind was keen, and the grasses shivered, and the rain-drops blew from the wet heather. The tawny landscape was sad and autumnal, for October was at hand. A grouse clucked occasionally, and a golden plover piped by on the wings of the wind. But the summer birds had all left the moors, the curlews mostly to their seashore haunts, the wheatear, and the stonechat, and the shy rock-ousel (Scottice mountain blackbird) had fled our shores for Heaven knows where. It was getting dusk as we reached the friendly farmhouse and its welcome hospitalities, and nearly dark as we got into the trap and pitched down apace behind a sure-footed horse the steep lanes that brought us once more into the vale.

Among the many camps which crown the long procession of heights overlooking the dale are those of Addinstone and 1)odd's Head. They confront one another across the deep-cut lateral valley of the Soonhope Burn, where the old homestead of Longeroft within its grove of trees Iies beautifully placed with its back to the steel) up-springing hills, and its face to meadowy flats that expand into Lauderdale. Addinstone is an important and clearly defined post, the interior, which is rectangular, measuring 300 feet by about half that distance in breadth. In the centre of this interior space is a curious raised earthen platform sonic 90 feet long. The camp is defended by two lines of ditches and ramparts which are still of considerable size. The opposite fort of Dodd's Head is even more finely placed, as it crowns the summit of a lofty cone-shaped hill, which rises sharply above Longeroft, and the angle where the Soonhope and the Whallplaw burns meet, looking, therefore, straight down the level narrow vale of the united streams. This camp is circular, its ditches and ramparts being also still well defined and clearly marked from most points below against the skyline. A Roman road passes a little west of Lauder, and many Roman coins and relics have been found in the neighbourhood. The occupant of Longeroft, the hill pastures of which extend over to East Lothian, is himself an antiquary, and showed inc a large number of quern's millstones and pieces of pottery that his observation or his men's ploughs have brought to light. The most curious find of all was a large copper bowl discovered in a steep pasture above the house. It seems that a fragment of it, discoloured of course, had been lying for some time unknown above the surface, and that the sheep for some reason had taken a fancy to rubbing themselves against it, till it took on a bright polish, and one day with the sun on it caught their owner's eye. It is almost more singular that since encountering the bowl and its history at Longcroft, I should have come across a practically similar case in the mountains of Merionethshire, where the Romans have left so many traces. There, too, a farmer well known to me has a brass bowl that was not long since disclosed on a hillside in the same manner, by the rubbing of his sheep, and the

glitter therefrom. To catalogue the hill camps within an easy walk of Lauder would be simple, but irrelevant here. It will be enough to say that there is, at least, one worth visiting for every day in the week. Here, as elsewhere, the visitor may amuse himself with futile conjectures as to the races who raised, adapted, or readapted them. Picts and Gaels, Cymri and Saxons, Danes and Romans, no doubt attacked and defended most of them in turn. The Roman occupation between the famous wall of Hadrian and Severus, and the turf wall of Antoninus was probably spasmodic, and not often of any long duration. The ultima Thule of Imperial Rome was on the Tyne and Solway, not on the Forth and Clyde.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast