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Chapter VIII. In the Heart of the Lammermoors


THE Lammermoors form a long and comparatively narrow range, for a seven- or eight-mile walk would carry you through their untamed portions almost anywhere. Not reckoning the Moorfoot Hills, though, as a matter of fact, their westerly section, they might be regarded as starting from the Soutra Pass at the head of Lauderdale. Thence you might walk for thirty miles eastward, along the higher ridges, among heather and peat bogs, grouse and curlew, without crossing a road much better than a cart track or meeting any soul but a shepherd. And all the time, if the day be reasonably clear, you may Iook over half Scotland upon your left hand, and half the Border upon your right. To be literal, you will see the Ochils and the Grampians upon the north, the whole range of the Cheviots to the south—and a prospect that covers North Britain from the Grampians to the Tyne, is something more than a panoramic spectacle. It will make you think, if you are susceptible to anything more than the form and colouring of the earth's surface, for the same reason that makes the outlook from the top of the Malvern beacon the most inspiring in the southern half of Britain. For there you look from Cader Idris to Stratford-on-Avon, from the rugged part of wild Wales on the one hand, and into the gracious heart of England on the other. But no one save a shepherd ever walks along the top of the Lammermoors. No Highland mountain could approach these modest purple ridges in the significance of their spacious outlook, and of this we have already had so many partial glimpses, further elaboration seems superfluous, and would perhaps be tiresome. Mr. Belloc remarks somewhere that a man sees just so much as he is fit to see, and no more. If a vista of plain and mountain before him appeals solely to his artistic sense, he is obviously incapable of reading any deeper into it, or of responding to any other appeal, and there is nothing more to be said. No undervaluing of the elevating influence of nature unilluminated by anything but its own form and colouring, on the senses is for a moment implied. Yet this is not to "feel" a country, but only its physical surface, which might be occupied by negroes without the least disturbance of the emotions engaged. Happy is the man or woman who can enjoy landscape in its fuller sense, and perhaps they are born, not made. The poetic ingredient is, I take it, indispensable to such a temperament, which is not in the least bit, however, that of all poets, some of whom know no more of this sense than a man born without an ear feels the power of music. Such are some of those who cannot appreciate Scott, though they do not put it so modestly. Of course they cannot. How should they, with the sense that inspired his genius left out of their composition? For Scott of all men who ever wrote in English is the most luminous example of one who "felt" a country, and to whom its surface was not merely beautiful but alive with memories and with voices from the past. With that great master it was not merely a passion for his native Border district or his native country, as wherever he went he seemed to drop at once into terms of intimacy with the local genii. For him, whether it was the Tees, the Greta, the Trossachs, or the Welsh Border, all the rivers sounded their tales, the woods shook out their secrets.

The Lammermoors are by no means continuous grouse moor or open sheep-run, though you might walk from one end of them to the other over nothing else. The sparse settlements associated with pastoral life have pushed up the narrow valleys, driven the plough here and there along their sides, or laced them with a faint tracery of stone dykes between which large enclosures of improved grasses hang like curtains of vivid green from shaggy canopies of heath or fern. Big homesteads, or at any rate homesteads significant of big things in the way of sheep and acres in the wilds above, stand here and there either on the long winding course of the Whiteadder or on that of the many tortuous burns which feed it. Indeed two or three actual hamlets stand well within the fold of the moors, old abiding places where lairds live or have lived, embowered in woods, with kirk, manse, and schoolhouse, blacksmith, post office, and all such indispensable accessories, always excepting a public-house, of which there is hardly one in this whole thirty miles by ten, to quote rough figures. This will peradventure come as a shock to the southern reader, who still believes his northern neighbours to cherish a picturesque devotion to John Barleycorn. But times have changed. It came as a shock to me, I remember very well, on one occasion, before I had re-explored the Lammermoors, and had reckoned for support in the middle of a long day on a well-remembered modest hostelry. Perhaps temperance reform is not wholly responsible for this idyllic condition. Horseback travellers, as well as hard drinkers, have gone by the board, and roads that merely connect these oases with the Merse have no hereafter that travellers on wheels much care to face, though one or two trail a rough, little-beaten course over the long heathy solitudes into East Lothian.

Longformacus, which we caught distant sight of in a former chapter from Hardens Hill, is the most important of these oases, and the Dye water, spouting from the moors through the village, lends a very sensible charm to the groves, gardens, and meads of the village, and the laird's demesne, through which it urges its boisterous course, to ripple away for a subsequent two miles among moorish hollows to the Whiteadder. Ellemford, hard by, where the streams meet, is a still more diminutive, and hardly less picturesque centre of life—a mere cluster of dwellings by a modern bridge across what in my youth was the uncertain ford which took its name from a feudal family of whose very name no one but antiquaries now reek anything. Two hundred years ago Ellem was a parish with a little church of its own, the site of which used to be pointed out. It is rare on the Border, and probably anywhere in Scotland, to find places perpetuating the name of a stock that is not merely forgotten, but which in a land of Homes, Swintons, Bertrams, Hepburns, Logans, and the like, has a strange alien ring. But the Ellems were great people in their day, which terminated with the fifteenth century, owning broad domains all through this country. Certainly their blood now runs in the veins of many a Border family, gentle and simple. Curiosity concerning a spot associated with so many days of glorious youth, when place-names vexed my soul no whit, and, carried vividly in the mind through life, incited me to some brief search for the scant record of these shadowy magnates. Their doings would not prove of interest here. How they acquired and lost lands, whom they married, and how vigorously, like the rest, they laid about them is all sunk into the night of time. The shepherd never heard their name. It lives only in the notes of the serious antiquary, and every few years, when a visit hither of the county Archaeological Society falls due, the members are, doubtless, reminded of an obsolete race to which nothing attaches, even in a land seething with traditions and tenacious of the past, and they go home to forget it, no doubt, before the next day.

Ellemford almost alone retains in its name this mute trace of them. The Whiteadder in broad stony shallows churned up by generations of hard-riding farmers and of Border raiders before them, here sings through rushy flood-tortured flats. A little shooting-box or the like in a grove of sombre fir trees, stands, trees and all, precisely as it stood forty years ago. Where a burn comes prattling down a grassy dene, and beneath oak and ash trees for whom also time seems to have stood still, is the old fishing inn, almost as well known to the craft if not to bards and literary pilgrims in its day as that famous hostelry of Tibby Shiels upon St. Mary's Loch. But that one still flourishes. From this, alas, the sign—a trout, I think, and if not it should have been—had been torn down. It was now obviously a private house. I knocked at the door for the simple reason that I could not help it. For there was really nothing to be said to the damsel who responded. I could not bring myself to feign ignorance of geography I knew so well and inquire my road, and I did not in the least want a glass of water, still less one of milk, which rural hospitality is so prone to press as a substitute, to my constant confounding.

I must have appeared a futile person to the lass upon the threshold. "This used to be an inn," was the only remark I could think of. "Aye, I've heer'd folks tell o't," was her laconic reply, for words aren't wasted in Berwickshire. So I thanked her for the information, and retiring to a grassy bank over against the house, sat down, lit a pipe, and abandoned myself to the not unqualified pleasures of memory. A labourer passed by smoking a rutty pipe with a wire cover, quite after the old way, and though roadside greetings are not much the fashion in this country I was such a legitimate object of prolonged inspection in that out-of-the-way spot that my friend could hardly avoid some Border equivalent for "good day"—a word, as I have said, non-extant in the local vocabulary. "The wind seems freshnin' a bit." To which exhausting effort I rejoined: "What's come to the old inn?" "Aye, I've heer'd yon hoose was an inn once, and a gey fine yin tae; the gentles used to come there fushin' frae Edinborie an' the like o' that." "Did you ever hear the name of the landlord?" He took his pipe out of his mouth and spat, as if to clear his brain. "I've heer'd tell o' the folks who used to keep it, but I canna jes' ca' their names, but they're a' awa frae here this lang syne." This was a long effort for a Berwickshire ploughman, still far from the more garrulous and reminiscent period of life that comes upon most of us, even those of his taciturn breed. So I let him go to his dinner, and no doubt to tell his wife in one of the cottages on the hill slope above, of his protracted interview with "a speerin' stranger abune the brigg." "Heer'd folks tell of it!" Good heavens!

Now the music of a moorland stream has more of subtle pathos in it than all the chords and airs ever wrung from human lungs or fingers. Poets and musicians pay it conventional tribute, but mighty few of them can approach an understanding of what it means to an old fisherman, who knows its infinite varieties of chord and melody with an intimacy, of a thousand day-long recitations. The shallows of the Whiteadder played in almost painful harmony with the thoughts and memories aroused by the spectacle of this once cheerful hostelry. It seemed almost uncanny that three old friends, not the mere passing comrades of a year or two, who were most associated with the place in my memory, should lie in graves each separated from the other by an ocean, and that I should be sitting once again in this secluded and romantic spot, looking at what the oblivious native has "heard tell was once an inn." But away with melancholy. Let me recall rather, not the troutful days, for they would bore most readers, but the festive evenings in that modest upper chamber whose two windows now blink soberly through bedroom curtains across the narrow glen. "Gentles from Edinburgh!" Gentility was not vastly scrutinised in that snug and simple haven. They were all sorts, and from all places, but mainly decent anglers, and that was enough. Those days were not these, nor thank Heaven were they those of a still earlier generation.

Indeed, Christopher North might have thought the atmosphere almost drouthy, and the company something of laggards at shoving the bottle, while the Ettrick Shepherd would have had the lot under the table, no doubt, without turning a hair. Still every man of them had his toddy, and some of them a good many, and nearly all of them sang songs, northern ditties, racy or sentimental, in the vernacular. In the intervals they told fish stories, which waxed more fearsome as the night advanced. But men can soar as high in piscatorial flights, I have noticed, on soda and milk as any ten-tumbler hero among the ancients.

I forget the name of mine host during the two or three years I frequented at intervals during the spring and summer this primitive hostelry. Probably because neither he nor his wife amounted to anything, the establishment being administered, and its guests firmly but wisely governed, by a spinster relation, a rough honest ruler of men known as Grace. It was she who heaped the eggs and bacon, and fried trout upon the table at breakfast, and selected the carver of the black-faced mutton at supper. It was she who knew exactly what sort of a "piece," or what manner of sandwiches each habitue was accustomed to have "awa' wi' him." It was Grace who greeted the arriving guest, if a familiar, in boisterous and hearty Doric, and delivered and received a few broadsides of banter before he settled down, so to speak, into his proper place. It was she who presented his account to the parting guest, a little scrawl that would make the present-day angler of limited purse reflect with sorrow that he had been born into the world just a generation too late. Yet that was a roaring time too for the producers, as it was no bad one for the consumers, a paradox we leave the butcher and baker and political economist to solve in conclave. Wheat was getting on for sixty shillings a quarter, and other corn to match. A sheep-shearing on the Lammermoors was then a joyful and inspiring function, for in those particular years the best low-country wool touched half-a- crown a pound—say twenty-five shillings instead of six or seven for the fleece of every Leicester or Lincoln sheep ! Beasts of all sorts fetched good prices, yet butcher-meat was lower than now, while the butchers also throve.

I don't think young men nowadays walk as they did of old. Duns is the nearest station to Ellemford, some six miles off, a steep and narrow road till it escapes from the Lammermoor through bosky denes sprinkled with birch and rowan with their moist grassy bottoms bright with marigolds, meadow-sweet, and willow-weed. But Duns on its branch line and the inn cart were of no use to us, coming up from near the seacoast of East Lothian on the far side of the moors. We used to tramp over the hills from Grant's House station, on the main line seven miles away, carrying bare indispensables in knapsacks; for we did not dress for dinner at the Trout Inn ! Now, it is surely rare for a man in whose life sport fills a prominent place to keel) a brief but accurate record of every day or portion of day thus expended from boyhood till death, which in this case covers a period of thirty years. I doubt if a complete equivalent of this singular MIS. volume, written up day by day in a small, atrociously bad hand, which alters nothing from sixteen to nearly fifty, exists anywhere! Not a day, not a casual half-hour in the adjacent stream, nor even an odd wood-pigeon shot in the grounds, nor the most utter blank with foxhounds or harriers is omitted in a record abounding in prolific detail; and this, too, by a man who hated writing but was a most energetic and accomplished sportsman, as well as many other very much more useful things. This curious triumph of method, which includes several days a week hunting for years, with much shooting and fishing in their seasons; this unpretentious record of the outdoor side of a whole lifetime is all comprised in a single thick scrapbook, and was kept systematically without a thought of anything but the owner's personal satisfaction. There is not a single word relating to other than the subject in hand from start to finish, though the writer was a person of abounding humour and intimate practical association with every side of rural life in a country that was never at rest. The book has been for many years in my possession. It relates mainly to its writer's own county in Ireland, where sport was necessarily of the old-fashioned kind, and easy to make daily notes of. On the flyleaf, in boyish hand, is written, "J. H., Sporting Diary," after the manner of ten thousand youthful good intentions of like sort, but this fat book blossomed into a life-work. It begins with the single-barrelled muzzle-loader on the snipe bog, and the pony period in the hunting field. It closes suddenly thirty years later on the slope of an Irish mountain—significantly to me, for I was there. And that was the end, though there were a dozen more blank pages left, never to be filled. I should not have ventured this dissertation, but that quite early in this unique volume, where the ink is getting faded and yellow, come many of these brief laconic entries relating to Ellemford and the Whiteadder. I can fill in the back-lying facts from memory well enough; while the precise figure of our spoils on each and every occasion would be a wholesome check upon that exuberance of fancy which is supposed to illuminate the reminiscences of the disciple of Isaac. As a matter of fact, however, it was my reference to the seeming greater readiness of everyone to use their legs on every and all occasions—not merely in moments of excitement—which set my thoughts in the direction of this singular multum in parvo note-book, this concentrated essence of a whole life's sport. It makes mine ache, though still fairly useful ones, to recall and to read this brief confirmation of the mileages and achievements generally we used to cram into the hours of daylight.

Now otter hunting was only followed in those days by about half-a-dozen packs in all Britain, and was conducted on altogether different and more strenuous principles. Like the fell fox-hunters in Cumberland, the hounds were at the tryst at six or earlier in the morning, not at eleven. There were no lunch hampers, nor carriages, nor ladies, nor any social junketings, as may perhaps be imagined, seeing the untoward hour at which these merrymakers would have had to abandon their beds and homes. One of the few packs in the North was then owned and hunted by a lean, wiry, six-foot septuagenarian of prodigious vitality, who from his headquarters in Edinburgh harried the otters of the Border counties. In the stillness of the night and the small hours of the dawn his hound van used to crawl over the roads of the Lothians to break at sunrise the solitude of some distant stream, and wake its echoes in the fresh of the morning. Some said the old gentleman slept in the van, others that he walked behind. For he was not given to accepting the hospitalities pressed on a Master of Hounds, and in all things, I fancy, kept himself very much to himself. He was, I believe, a south-country man, and it was vaguely rumoured had been once a parson—if the past tense is strictly permissible in connection with the cloth. But he was given neither to reminiscence nor to theology, nor, according to those who accompanied him for years, to utterances on any subject but hounds and topography, so far as the latter related to the pursuit of otters. But whoever he was, and wherever he slept, he always appeared at the riverside at the early hour he had intimated, and was away to the minute, ready to go all day if necessary, at a pace that was the marvel of all men and the despair of some. There is no occasion for the entries in the journal above mentioned to recall a particular June morning, when about daybreak we left the rest of the company at Ellemford, dreaming no doubt of grey drakes, that succulent insect having just made its appearance on the water, and footed it away to Chirnside, some eight miles distant. Here the old gentleman and his hounds were already on the river, and we followed them for many miles up and for many miles down. Two successive otters, I note by the journal, defied the old man, and by the time we got back to our mutton, about three o'clock, I see the distance covered set down by the same author at thirty miles. As if this were not enough, we were out again with our rods and up to the Dye water already spoken of as coming down to the Whiteadder from Longformacus. The temptation was great and so was the reward. That evening is far fresher in my memory than is the faded ink which records its mere practical results. It was the first of June, and if there is a day in the year suggestive of its gladdest moment, it is surely that one ! Summer is late on the Lammermoors, but it arrived by the calendar on that occasion. Its soft balm was in the air and warm dimpling showers were falling between bursts of glorious sunlight. The fresh-opened leaves glowed richly on the hanging woods, the short moist sward glistened, the broom and the gorse blazed on the lower moorland pastures, through which the stream, just freshened by sharper rains in the high moor about Priestlaw and Cranshaws, curved and swished between its red banks. Those who think the young don't feel these things because they don't talk about them are fools: I sometimes wish I could feel them as keenly as I did at one-and-twenty. The poets—some at least—know better, ' but they are naturally under suspicion as idealists. My diarist, I know, felt the influence of nature and scenery to his marrow all his life, though not greatly endowed with language for its expression, nor feeling any need for such. All he put down about this June evening, however, was: "Warm showers and sunshine. Fished Dye: killed 32, B. 44; total 76; best fish, 1 lb. 2 oz., 1 lb. 1oz."

After all, the resuscitating of this remote first of June arose in connection with the doubt whether young men are as ready to face long distances on their feet even with a desirable object at the end of it, as their immediate predecessors were. Only one answer, I take it, is possible; and I daresay the reasons are tolerably obvious. But the generation before that again were marvels. The father of a friend of mine, whose home was near Duns, when a student at Edinburgh University, used often to walk home on Saturday, a distance of forty miles, and start back on Sunday evening, crossing the Lammermoors in the night, to be back in his place in the lecture-room on Monday morning. In the working classes, again, both men and women habitually walked immense distances to market or religious gatherings. Then with railroads came a falling off in this abnormal pedestrian activity. But in Scotland, as in England, the cycle has done more than anything else to transform the agricultural labourer into almost another type of being, and whether for good or ill, to change his tastes, his habits, and his outlook upon life generally. A man who can spend his evenings ten or fifteen miles away in a distant village or the country town and his week-ends in Edinburgh or Glasgow—and this is no fancy picture—whatever else he may or may not be, he can hardly resemble the clodhopper, which the humorist of the city still hugs and will not part with lightly. That he is as efficient, or at least as intelligently interested a rural worker as his father, is denied wholesale by the only class who can possibly judge of so technical a matter, namely, his employers. But he has at least a more exhilarating life, and the command of an immense amount of exhilarating, radiantly covered literature at a nominal price, whereas his predecessor of bookish tendencies had only the classics grave and gay of the village library—and village libraries are very old institutions in Scotland.

I paid a visit one day to an old lady who had kept a rural post office in the Lammermoors, practically all her life. She had by now, to be sure, retired in favour of her heirs to a snug parlour behind the shop and office. But if the flesh from age was weak, the spirit was not only willing but prodigiously vigorous. I did not go to talk politics, or discuss the decadence of the age, but to carry the greetings of an old friend of my own in the South who had been bred up in her jurisdiction. For surely the attitude of the rural postmistress towards her clients, particularly those whose correspondence makes for constant official intercourse, and whose position creates other attachments, is unique. I heard, of course, the story (which was contemporary with the ancient, history of Ellemford just related) of my friend's youth, her girlhood charms, which, indeed, I can remember, the eligible bachelors to whom she had been mentally allotted by my informant with all the precision of a then middle-aged matron with her finer, so to speak, on the very pulse of the parish. I was then told of the consternation which fell upon it and her, when a young knight from the far south descended like a bolt from the blue, and shattered every cherished anticipation. I was pointed out, too, the very spot in the road where my informant had encountered this particular and happier-fated Bride of Lammermoor, when she first learned the broad fact from her own lips, and so forth, and so forth.

She then passed on to matters of more general interest. Here the old lady exhibited a powerful mind, as well as a tenacious memory and an undeniably eloquent tongue. Though a stranger to her, she regarded inc as in some sort a link with the past, for I could touch on certain local names and incidents that had passed out of common memory, and at least offered an exceptional opening for extolling the days of old and the men of old at the expense of those of to-day. This was the text, and hers was not the mere common wail of the ancient, but as eloquent, powerful, and satirical an arraignment of the weakest points in the armour of her enemy, the modern Radical, within such limits as the old lady's situation admitted of, as I ever heard. Even if I could remember all her winged words, and reproduce them in their Doric opulence, it would be idle, for the manner of their delivery was at least equal to the matter, which was supremely good, though hardly of a popular nature. It came straight from the heart and the mind—a good heart, and a fine mind, too, of an old Scottish country woman far above the common order, who had at least the life-long knowledge of one large parish as an equipment. "Free schulin'" was the object of her most scathing invective, and the vigorous logic with which she drove home her views regarding it would have made the most complacent and optimistic educationist think that there might be two sides even to t .at question in Scotland. "Free schulin' indeed, charity schulin' I ca' it," with the fine roll of the r's, and the prodigious scorn they helped to emphasise. She drew an eloquent picture of the wholesome pride with which the peasantry of former days saved the pennies from their scantier wages for their children's schooling, the contempt which was meted out to the few who shirked their obligations, the independence and the self-respect which it engendered, and greater zest it imparted to the scholars themselves. And then she described how all these sturdy feelings had vanished, and how the bairns were now all "herded into schule at ither folks' expense," and their parents shorn of every particle of their old pride. Her opinion of the product of this, in her eyes, degrading system of "charity," more especially as regards her own sex, needs no saying. "A parcel of feckless hussies wi' a smatterin' o' useless rubbish in their fulish heads: too fine leddies to go out to service, and not sense nor knowledge enough to keep a puir man's hoose."

It was rather singular that only two or three days after this, what really seemed like a prompt justification of our moorland Cassandra's pessimism should have been encountered in another Lammermoor hamlet but a few miles away. Having a lady in company, and the crucial hour of five overtaking us, there was nothing for it but to knock at the door of the most likely-looking cottage, and sound the goodwife as to the possibilities of providing the inevitable. It will remain for ever a mystery how the ladies lived through the afternoon in the days not very remote. The ill-instructed modern flippantly replies, " Oh, but you dined at five or six in those days." Of course we did nothing of the kind. We dined at seven or very often at half-past seven even in the country, and I know that our wives and daughters would now be in a state of despair long before this ! The well-favoured matron who answered my appeal on this urgent occasion did so in characteristic Scottish fashion, to the effect that she thought, perhaps, it might be managed. As a matter of fact, it transpired that she made quite a business of it, and was not backward in her quid pro quo. For this was a particularly romantic spot to which people "frae Edinburgh and the like o' that" occasionally found their way in summer time. She was a well-favoured, wholesome, capable-looking matron. And as we sat in the roomy marital chamber, also the living-room, after the fashion of visitors in lairds' houses in the eighteenth century, if we may believe the social historian, while she busied herself on our behalf, the whole atmosphere testified to her housewifely qualities. One never would have guessed that in one essential nearly concerned with domestic economy she was the complete and perfect fool she proved to be. For in converse with my companion during these preliminaries she mentioned a daughter who spent most of her time with a relative, a hint of whose magnificence was the first discordant note.

"I suppose your daughter is a great help to you when she's at home?" said the lady.

"Oh no, she's nae great help; I dinna expect her to lie; she's nae need to be workin'."

"I daresay, though, she is a very good cook?"

"Na, she canna cook; it's nae necessary for her to be dacing thae kind of things."

"Indeed," said the lady, "my daughter is a first-rate cook. But perhaps she is a good needle-woman, and makes her own clothes?"

"Oh no (with quite a toss of the head), she's nae hand wi' her needle; she's nae call to be."

"Dear me," said the lady, "my daughter makes nearly all her own dresses. How does yours, then, occupy her time?" This peasant woman was no whit disconcerted. Complacent in an impenetrable hide of crude, almost unthinkably ignorant vulgarity, I am quite sure she felt a thrill of elation that the daughter of a lady did all these things, while her own, I should imagine, ill-tutored, perilously-situated offspring, "did naething, like a real lady."

"Well ! she just enjoys herself. Her relation, ye ken, has independent means."

There was an unmistakable note of self-satisfied vanity at being the mother of such an egregiously superfluous and fatuous piece of goods. Very likely the young woman was not such a fool as her mother proudly painted her; but that is neither here nor there. I should like to have turned my eloquent postmistress for about ten minutes on to this woman, whose own meritorious existence and qualities were a Iiving contradiction to the maggot in her head. She was the wife, too, of a worthy, hard-working man, though not a shepherd. No Lammermoor shepherd, I am sure, would have stood such pernicious nonsense for a moment.

The narrow road crosses the new bridge at Ellemford, and in one direction forces its way southward through woody glens into the Merse; in the other it drags a long, winding course through a tossing sea of heath-clad hills into East Lothian. It is indubitably a road of character—not in the literal sense, for the further half of it is extremely rough, no better, indeed, than was the whole in the days of my youth when I frequently traversed it on horseback by day and occasionally by night, and walked it all more than once. For no one then ventured it on wheels who could do better, nor, I should imagine, do they now. It is a road of character all the same. For little as it seems to be now used, it is the only one that really faces the wild and crosses the long, deep barrier between the MIerse and Lothian. It has no recorded history, but it is impossible to follow its lonely course curving along the steep flanks of the hills without, feeling what a lot, it must have seen, and that it is no common chance hill farmer's road, such as in detail it resembles. As you stand far away upon the coast of East Lothian, and thence run your eye along the northern bank of the Lammerrnoors, you can mark, if your sight be good, a faint red line pitching straight downwards from the bare heights into the plain. This is the end of it, just above the wooded policies of Nunraw and the village of Garvald. I believe still, as I delighted to fancy when I first encountered it, that this is the pass-road described in the opening lines of the Bride of Lammermoor, at the northern end of which, just as the ancient mansion of Nunraw now stands beneath the hills, so stood in Scott's mind the House of Ravenswood. It keeps close company with the W'hiteadder from the streams of Ellemford, so wide that the angler must wade, to compass them effectively, to the very source of the river, where it trickles a peaty burn out of the black mosses.

For three or four miles the old road has had its course shifted somewhat and its once rugged surface obviously relaid: Cranshaws, in the heart of the moors, being, I imagine, responsible for this measure of transformation. A trail of civilisation follows the road up the narrow valley and the lower hillsides, with a farm-place or two responsible for their enclosures.

Cranshaws boasts a noble pele tower, known as the castle, and in good condition. It is of the usual oblong shape, about twenty feet by forty, and, with the help of some restored battlements, is nearly fifty feet high. It is a fine specimen of a Border keep, and must have looked singularly impressive in this lonely country before the time of the fir plantations that now spread all about the more modern buildings which have always been the home of mighty sheep-farmers. The Bertrams, a name of note in the world of Cheviots and Blackfaces, were here for a long time. They and the Darlings of Priestlaw, a few miles beyond, occupied with their flocks this entire country to the northern edge of the Lainmermoors. A little church and schoolhouse near the river is about all else there is of Cranshaws, while in the churchyard is the burying-ground of the Swintons of Swinton, in the Merse. It might be asked why so famous a family with so fat a patrimony should have brought their dead so far up into these wilds. It seems, however, that for the valour of his father at Otterburn, and also at Homildon, where he got himself killed with such conspicuous eclat, Sir John Swinton the younger of that ilk was given this estate of Cranshaws by Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Ile went with other Scots to help the French against Henry V., and though he himself fell, it was not till he had won distinction by killing the Earl of Clarence.

"And Swinton laid the lance
That tamed of yore the sparkling crest
Of Clarence's Plantagenet."

At one time Cranshaws belonged to the Hepburns. A neighbouring height is known as Manslaughter Law, and is supposed to preserve in its name the memory of a sanguinary encounter between that spirited East Lothian race and an Earl of Dunbar. From Cranshaws onward for eight or nine miles to the northern brink of the Lammermoor range all is heathery solitude, save for an oasis of enclosures with a large farmhouse set in the angle where the Fasney water coming down from other solitudes further southward joins the Whiteadder. This is Priestlaw, a holding romantic in its remote situation, and of otherwise familiar name in every market and fair from Edinburgh to Berwick. The great extent of its sheepwalks, and the status in the agricultural world of the family who have occupied it for two or three generations, added something, perhaps, to its notoriety. In my young days Priestlaw was also renowned for its wayside hospitality. With miles of rough solitary moorland road lying upon either side of it, a road traversed fairly often by horsemen or occasionally by two-wheel traps on their way between East Lothian and the Merse, it was a place either to stimulate hospitality till it had become almost a second nature or to turn an unsociable occupant into a recluse. The old gentleman then in possession was renowned for the more genial part, and played it in fine patriarchal fashion. A mere handshaking acquaintance was enough to make it a high misdemeanour to ride past Priestlaw without—well, the inevitable in those days; while if a meal was impending no denial was accepted. The fine trouting, too, about the headwaters of the Whiteadder and the Fasney, still, I daresay, as good as ever, provided yet further scope for the abounding hospitality of this grand old gentleman and his family. I can see him dimly yet, in a dark swallow-tail coat and a high white neckcloth, and a pronounced flavour of what even then was old-world punctilio mixed with his warm and hearty manner.

Standing out in his picturesque and patriarchal hospitality, on the broad canvas of those lonely sheep-walks that shut out the world for miles upon every side, the image of this very perfect type of a great pastoral farmer of a bygone day has remained always with me. In those strenuous hours of youth there was a fly in the ointment from the very warmth of the welcome which in my case was generally concerned with fishing. "Put your horse up? Of course; ride him round to the stable—and ye'll remember that dinner's at five sharp " (I think it was five). Now he would have been a bold man, as well as a deplorably tactless one, who had stabled his horse at Priestlaw and overlooked the corollary, though the fish, as they are apt to inlay and June, were coming ever so fast and furiously up on the feed at that witching hour. It was a grievous wrench to perverfid youth, and to whom sitting through a meal in nether garments which had been in and out of the river all day didn't count for anything. After dinner came an equally, nay, a much more serious function, then pretty general, in the shape of the urn, the rummers, the smaller glasses, the silver ladles, and the main essentials. And what whisky you got too in the right places, nay, almost anywhere in Scotland in those days—though it was then, of course, almost unknown in England.

Perhaps it is for this very reason I can recall the flavour of the Scotch whisky of those days with extraordinary clarity, and I am quite sure no one but millionaires ever gets hold of such stuff now. No wonder there were twelve-tumbler men living to a green old age. Soda water did not circulate in Scotland in those days—I mean in private life of the typical kind. Nor were any teetotallers to speak of in circulation either. It seems almost absurd to set down what was once a matter of such every-day habit, that in Scotland the whisky toddy was mixed in a rummer, a round-bottomed tumbler on a stem, and transferred at intervals with a silver ladle into an accompanying wine-glass by way of cooling it sufficiently for consumption. Even young Scotsmen nowadays seem to know nothing of these ancient rites and implements. It fell upon me as a shock to find that all these picturesque appurtenances had vanished, not merely from use, but almost out of memory, and were relegated to curio cupboards as family heirlooms, while the few stalwarts who were not teetotallers drank whisky and soda like an ordinary Englishman, which is very dull. From the cheerful and orderly symposium, however, at Priestlaw, where a farmer or two from East Lothian, a seed merchant from Edinburgh, or an auctioneer from the Merse might be assisting, I had to tear myself betimes with reluctance. For such company under such chairmanship was always good, and the converse interesting, topical, and sometimes racy, but a nearly twenty-mile ride did not admit of much time for dalliance. It seemed strange now to travel once again that rough, narrow road, clinging to the steep rounded breasts of the heath-clad hills, and twisting sharply inward for the readier bridging of each peaty burn that tinkled down towards the quickly shrinking streams of the infant Whiteadder, which curved through the rushing mossy bottom below. Time, which since then had brought such prodigious changes in the world below and in the world at large, had here at least stood absolutely still. The same old cry of curlews and wail of peewits and whistling of golden plover and call of anxious grouse, the plash of wars, and bleat of far-scattered sheep still sounded the same unchanging music of the wild.

It was now high August. The heather blazed its brightest upon the long slopes and mingled with the gold of the gorse upon the road edges and about the banks of the amber stream prattling below. Black peat hags, glistening mosses of emerald green, and tawny moor-grasses flecked white with the wild cotton-flower: seaurs of red sandstone, and vivid patches of sheep-nibbled turf all added their note to that beautiful many-tinted carpet, which a moorland lays against a summer sky. The Lammermoors, and the Merse overlooked by them, have inspired to song quite a goodly number of their sons and daughters from Thomas the Rhymer and old Sir Richard Maitland, through a list of something like seventy minstrels, if mainly obscure ones, to the present day. Byrecleugh, a few miles to the west of Priestlaw, in the very heart of the hills, is known among antiquaries for a heap of stones some eighty yards long and ten to twenty feet in height, raised by pre-historic hands, and probably a long barrow, though, for some obscure reason, known by the natives as "The Mutiny Stone." But at Byrecleugh about a century ago lived a shepherd boy named John Usher, who died before lie was twenty, and among his productions are these verses:-

"O Lammermoor, I love thee well:
Each mountain brow, each hollow dell,
Each craggy cliff, each rippling stream,
Each fountain glimmering with the beans
Of the far setting sun, each scene
Tells of what is and what has been.

When columned snow, by whirlwinds driven,
Hides the earth and veils the heaven,
And the loud fury of the wind
Rouses the terror of the mind,
And superstition's ghostly train
Arise in all their strength again
These I love, on these I dwell,
I know no thought I love so well
Whether in the summer's shine,
Or Winter's mighty storm,
Whatever's noble and sublime
Is blessed in thy form.

At every fall, oh let me still
Delight to linger on thy hill,
Or, enfolded in my plaid,
On thy heather lay my head,
And dream a thousand dreams of bliss
And joy that knows no weariness."

These ingenuous lines are merely quoted for what they signify as the utterance of a Lammermoor shepherd boy, and are further surprising as written in conventional English, and not in the vernacular one would expect. About the time of the shepherd's early death, the same wild parish of Longformacus gave birth to a man who became ultimately a great bookseller in the United States, and such a prominent leader, raconteur, and versifier at Scottish gatherings in that country as to earn the sobriquet of the "Burns of America." I feel sure, from samples, that his Scotch stories, were better than his odes to the Lammermoors. One of the former related to Sir Walter Scott's death, and how his mother, a strict Calvinist of the old school, jeered at the expressions of grief uttered by his father on hearing the sad news, "Hoots, gudeman, he's weel awa'. He was just fillin' the heads o' the folks fu' o' downright havers."

After the last infant spring of the Whiteadder, a tiny thread gurgling in a peaty furrow beneath moss and rushes, has burrowed under the road, with Clint Dodd towering on the right, and Rangely, with its well-remembered and strange headgear of a whale's backbone on the left, came the top of the watershed. And then from this northern brink of the Lammermoors burst wide open of a sudden that glorious panorama of East Lothian and much more, spread like a living map beneath one. I used in old days to pull my horse up here, and I have always felt, and am sure others too have felt, that a noble prospect looks its noblest from a horse's back—and in youthful exuberance take my hat off to the finest county in Britain, nay, in the world ! Not in the conventional sense of the term, nor as expressing the mere outpouring of the local patriot, for East Lothian was nothing in that sense to me. For in its own line, at any rate, with "Midlothian its only rival, blended with it as here in the same view, there was no question as to other competitors. Any educated Dutchman, Frenchman, German, or Russian concerned with agriculture could have told you that East Lothian stood for the highest exemplar of British agriculture, as Great Britain then stood the model in this respect, as in many others, for the world. But those, as I have said, were proud old times for British land. Our system seemed justified by results as the perfect and complete one, and foreigners pandered to our complacency. Free trade had had no chance as yet to touch it in a disturbed, war-torn, and but half-emancipated world. Now the mighty have fallen and are bidden to read, mark, and learn the ways of the once-despised and once-admiring foreigner, and set up again the little farmer whom we wiped out here with such ruthless contempt. Full of the pride in British agriculture common to any one at all associated with it in those days who could feel anything, I used, as related, to pull my horse up on this northern brink of Lammermoor, and look for long and with delight over a scene that touched at once many chords of the imagination. For glorious in a purely aesthetic sense, as in historic significance, was this rich-tinted, rolling carpet of East Lothian, girt about with wide waters and framed with shadowy mountains. I remember how strong an appeal it made, too, in a third sense, and how it stirred my fancy, this sudden unfolding of the greatest of agricultural counties, with its thousand bursting fields. The reader may smile at the notion of such feelings being aroused by anything of this kind. But let him, for this will be because he isn't old enough to realise the days of which I am writing, or has never had any associations with these matters at all, which is much more likely than not in this now trade-ridden country. At any rate, there is no call whatever to apologise for such emotions on the score of ingenuous youth. Cobbett was certainly not young, and had seen much of two worlds when he went upon his rural rides. He was, moreover, a poet in mind, if not in expression, and he was, of course, an agriculturist. And there is no shadow of a doubt that had Cobbett arrived in any of his journeys on the brink of the Lammermoors, and been thus confronted with East Lothian lying at his feet, he would have broken out—not for splendour of hill, plain, or sea, more than other men ; certainly not for its historical appeal, for he hated the ancients—but his soul would have been stirred within him as that of a man looking upon classic soil for the first time; though he would have cursed the social side of it after his truculent fashion. But the fact that this was East Lothian would have been enough for him, where the high altars of Ceres must surely have stood!

I stood here again, as these pages testify, but the other day, though with no horse unhappily beneath me, and looked out over the once familiar scene. As we are, descending into it anon, however, I shall not dally here over a prospect that could only tempt one to touch on distant scenes that will doubtless be encountered presently at closer quarters. It is enough for the moment that only men and times and points of view have changed. No bit of Britain within the compass of a generation has superficially altered less. But of this later, while for the moment it is worth noting how much more precipitously this northern edge of the Lammermoors drops to the low country, as against the more gradual fashion in which their southern bounds, for the most part, dip to the Merse, shedding their wildness by degrees as they slip into the flat low country. Here on the north they tumble in fine shoulders of purple drapery and in steep wooded combes to foothill farms, where the ploughman and the shepherd may be said to divide dominion. Newly-born burns—for the wide watershed of the Whiteadder, as we have seen, is pressed right up to the northern wall of the moors—leap rejoicing down steep, bosky glens, amid birch and bracken and native oak, to find their way eventually by lBeil and Belton to the sea or to the Tyne, which drains the county of East Lothian from end to end. Away to the right, at the foot of the range, are the woods of Mr. Balfour's home at Whittinghame, with the humped back and ribbed sides of Traprain Law cast up behind them. To the left you may look down over the masses of foliage which mark the village of Gifford and Lord Tweeddale's seat of Yester. Immediately beneath, however, on the track of the steep road, which dives sharply down many hundreds of feet, is Nunraw, the seat, when I knew it, of a branch of the Hay family, but sold this long time. The house had just then been recently enlarged, but the ancient portion of the typical Border style remained, and still remains. It is not, however, the architecture, nor the true history of Nunraw, nor yet the beauty of its site tucked under the Lammermoors with a deep woody dene threaded by a mountain stream running immediately under it, that is for the moment of interest. For I have had the hardihood all my life to cherish a conviction, and carry it about with me, that Scott had Nunraw vaguely in his mind as the original of Ravenswood House. I had made up my mind in youth when circumstances kept me hereabouts, often for days together, that this was the scene of the unhappy loves of Edgar and Lucy; that the woody burn in the grounds was that same one where they broke the coin and plighted their troth; that the high-pitched rooms had witnessed the haughty scorn of Lady Ashton, the temporising craft of the Lord Keeper, the memorable tragedy of the bridal chamber; that the village kirk of Garvald, just below, was the scene of those two gruesome and near events, the marriage and the funeral of the bride. The romantic beauty of the place and situation lent zest to these dreams, which only youth could enjoy quite so thoroughly. In this matter of the precise situation of Ravenswood, every now and again a correspondence upon the subject breaks out in the Scottish press. The

last budget, a year or so ago, revealed a considerable measure of disregard, both of topography and the few aids to precision there are in the book itself. The material for the tragedy, as Scott tells us, was transferred from the west of Scotland, but that is not the immediate question. It must be frankly admitted, too, that Scott had almost certainly no definite place in his mind. So conjectures as to this or that particular spot are obviously futile. Nothing, indeed, but the fascination and fame of the story, with the tantalising measure of local colouring the author puts into it, could keel) alive the not unnatural desire of so many people in every generation to visualise the scene of the tragedy. All kinds of impossible places are suggested, partly because the topography of this corner is known to very few, even among Scotsmen, who are likely to take a hand in a controversy of this kind. It seems to have escaped many contributors to the subject that whatever Scott may have had in his mind, he distinctly sets down that Ravenswood House stood at the northern foot of the Lammermoors, and at the mouth of a pass from the Merse. This limits the locality to the mouth of the Pease Pass, otherwise Dunglass, where a neighbouring tower is portrayed on post cards as "Ravenswood," or else to the neighbourhood of the opening of the pass we have just travelled over. But the Pease Pass is rather an interval or gash between two sections of the Lammermoors than a pass in the generally understood sense of the term.

This signifies, however, nothing, since in chapter xx. the author, through the mouth of Craigengelt, makes the only definite utterance on this matter of Ravenswood House in the whole book, and, unless Scott himself is not held to be an authority on the site of his fancy, there seems absolutely nothing more to be said. For the swashbuckling captain in a village ale-house, while reporting the latest news of the Edgar and Lucy matrimonial prospects to his comrade and patron, Bucklaw, tells him it is in the mouth of all the gossips in the neighbourhood of Ravenswood "from Lammer Law to Traprain." This narrows the compass of discussion beyond dispute to Yester and Nunraw, both ancient seats, and the only ones within these limits. Yester, for its greater importance, has perhaps the greater claim. All this may seem futile. In a sense it is so, utterly. But the discussion is a recognised one, and everything associated with Scott's topography has been made by himself so fascinating that I venture with all diffidence to put forward these facts, which will be patent enough to any one whom circumstances have made familiar with this little-known but romantic corner of East Lothian. One would be inclined to plump for Dunglass, if only for the comparative propinquity of Fast Castle. But what is one to think when Scott commits himself to the fact that his fancy is hovering over a spot fifteen miles away, between "Lammer Law and Traprain."


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