Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

A History of the Border Counties
Chapter IV


With Malcolm II., the victor of Carham, and the grandfather of Duncan, who succeeded him on the throne, and was murdered by Macbeth, we come at last to historical characters whose names are tolerably familiar. For a number of years to come, however, the history of the Border counties is still almost a blank ; although notices such as, for instance, those which tell of Malcolm’s vengeance for depredations committed by Othred, Earl of Northumbria, upon Cumberland, or of Canute’s marching northward at the head of an army to exact that fealty for Cumberland which Malcolm, who regarded him as a usurper, had refused to pay, and which happily was exacted without recourse to bloodshed—such notices as these suffice to show us that the country was not allowed to forget the use of arms. And it may here be explained that Cumbria, or the southern portion of the British kingdom of Strathclyde, had been granted in the middle of the preceding century by Athel-stane’s successor, Edmund, who had conquered it, as a fief to Malcolm I.

About 1054 the redoubtable Siward, Earl of Northumbria, acting in collusion with Macduff, Thane of Fife, marched northward at the head of an expedition having for object to displace Macbeth and set Maico'm, the son of the murdered Duncan, on the throne—which objects were eventually accomplished, though not until after Siward’s death.2 The reign of Malcolm, surnamed C'anmore, is remarkable for the success with which, partly in arms, partly by timely submission, that king held his own against England, even the England of William the Conqueror. He had known exile himself, so fellow-feeling may possibly have played a part among the motives which led him to espouse the cause of Eadgar /Etheling, the disinherited heir to the English crown, who found an asylum in his Court, and whose sister he married. Partly in his brother-in-law’s interest, Malcolm invaded Northumberland no less than five times—his conduct in this respect serving to keep up the tradition of disturbance in that part of England, or, as may perhaps be said, inaugurating that practice of raiding which was to become so prominent in later years. And, indeed, if we may trust the not unprejudiced narrative of Symeon, there was a time during this reign when Scotland was so well supplied with English slaves that not only no village, but even no cottage, lacked them.1 On the other side, both Robert of Normandy and William Rufus made expeditions into Lothian; but beyond such warlike matters as these, which are briefly noted, few events of this reign in which the Borders are concerned are known. It is evident, however, that Lothian, as it was the richest, now became also the most important, part of the king’s possessions. And it is also noteworthy that— since Cumbria had been wrested from him by Rufus—at the time of his death, which occurred in 1093, this king left the southern border of Scotland—marked off by the river Tweed, the range of the Cheviots, and the Solway Firth— practically what it has been ever since.

It was Malcolm Canmore’s good fortune that he might be held to unite in his own person claims to the allegiance of every party in the state; for he was not only grandson of Malcolm I. of Scotland, and son of Duncan (who had long been recognised as ruler of Strathclyde), but likewise kinsman of Siward of Northumbria, as well as, by his first marriage, widower of Ingibiorg—widow of the Norwegian Earl of Orkney—and lastly, husband of Margaret, sister of the Etheling. In these circumstances it is quite probable that, as Mr Skene points out, under Malcolm’s rule great progress was made in the amalgamation of the different provinces, with their heterogeneous populations, which served to make up his kingdom. And yet it is rather as a preparation for what was to come after it than on its own account that to us this reign is of importance. Probably there is no one woman to whom Scotland owes more than to Malcolm’s queen, and we must count ourselves fortunate in possessing a well-written life of her. Her biographer has told us how, whilst still in the flower of youth, “she began to lead a very strict life, to love God above all things, to employ herself in the study of the divine writings, and therein with joy to exercise her mind.” And as she grew in years, so did she grow in grace. Of the tenderness and delicacy of her charity there may be cited, as a single instance, her treatment of the English slaves already mentioned, whose ransom, when their bondage appeared to her heavier than they could bear, she was in the habit of paying secretly, in order that they might be set at liberty. Her charity was equalled alike by the fervour and constancy of her devotion, and by the rigour of her asceticism. Nature had endowed her with such gifts and graces of mind and person as best enabled her to recommend to others what seemed good and beautiful to herself; and certainly there are few pictures of domestic life more touching than that which Turgot has drawn from life of her influence over her savage and unlettered lord. But it is as a mother rather than as a wife that she has a special interest for ourselves. Turgot tells us that she devoted the utmost care to training her children in virtue, with her own lips instructing them “about Christ and the things of Christ”; and it is probably not too much to say that the influence of this training was felt in Scotland—through the seven kings who sprang from her — for a space of two hundred years, or that some of its results, as it affected one of her sons, are among the most conspicuous features of the Border country to this day. Nor was her immediate influence restricted to domestic matters only, a share in the government of the country being intrusted by her warlike husband to her hands. Many immigrants had followed her to Scotland, and by their instrumentality she found a further field for her exertions in fostering enlightenment and the civilising arts.

The reigns of Margaret’s sons, Edgar, and Alexander, surnamed the Fierce, were, as regards the Borders, uneventful, except that Strathclyde was then for a time in a manner separated from the rest of Scotland, having been bequeathed by Edgar to his brother David, out of gratitude for wise advice. But on the accession of the latter, in 1124, it again came directly under the Scottish crown. And it is with the accession of David I. that the Border counties, as we may now call them, first begin to emerge into distinct existence—and, indeed, not only into distinct existence but into prominence, as the centre of Scottish life and government. Heretofore, in such incidental notices as have come down to us, they have been undistinguished from the surrounding country; but during this and the following century we begin to hear of Sheriffs of Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles. At the same time we first hear of the Border towns. The name of Jedburgh had, indeed, appeared in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as the year 952; but from David’s accession onward Rokesburgh, or Roxburgh, is very frequently mentioned in history. The town took its name from the castle, and it seems probable that the unique strategical position of the latter — on an eminence between two rivers—would lead to its being utilised for a stronghold from the earliest times. Camden says that its ancient name was Marchidun—the Castle on the Marches —which is not quite accurately descriptive. Roxburgh is Rawic’s burgh. Jeffrey infers that the town of Roxburgh, which was in close proximity to the castle, was defended by a wall and ditch.8 The importance to which it had already risen is shown by the fact that, in the year following David’s accession, it was chosen as the scene of a great ecclesiastical council, to which the bishops of the land were convened, and at which the Pope was represented by his legate, the Cardinal Johannes Cremensis. The object of the council was discussion of the relations of the Scottish Church with the see of York, or Canterbury—a question which had been brought into very prominent notice by the case of Eadmer, bishop-designate of St Andrews, in the previous reign. In this matter the Pope, Honorius II., had reserved to himself the right of final judgment. But the council came to no determination.

Doubtless from Roxburgh, also, went forth those repeated and redoubted expeditions which were organised by David, after the death of Henry I. of England, for the assistance of the Scots king’s niece, the Empress Maud. In 1136 an appeal of Thorstein, Archbishop of York, who went to Roxburgh for the purpose, served to delay one of these expeditions during Stephen’s absence in Normandy. And when, two years later, David retired before the usurper, it was to occupy “certain solitudes" in the neighbourhood of the same place. It is further asserted that had Stephen entered Roxburgh, as was expected, he would have been betrayed or surprised. He may have got wind of the plot, however, for he crossed the Tweed at another place — thence proceeding to lay waste the' Scottish Border until compelled by famine to withdraw. Sieges by David of the Border fortresses of Wark and Norham were important incidents of the warfare of these two years, and it is with regret that one is compelled to record that upon that warfare the stain of singular barbarity remains. David had married Matilda, daughter and heiress of Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland, and it seems that, in the troubles of the neighbouring kingdom, he saw an opportunity for pressing the claim of his son, Prince Henry, to that fief. It also appears that Stephen was not unwilling to purchase the neutrality of the Scottish king by concession in that direction ; for at the Peace of Durham, which followed the Battle of the Standard,2 he invested Henry with the whole of Northumberland, excepting only Newcastle and Bamborough, and from that time until David’s death its affairs were administered from Scotland.

Meantime, whilst Roxburgh had been assuming this position of importance in the country, the town of Peebles had not altogether lagged behind; for we are told by Chambers that, “besides confirming previous grants, David endowed it with gifts of land and privileges adequate to its support.” The region of Selkirk, less favourably situated, was probably less advanced. It appears to have been Crown property—“the pasture-land of royal flocks and herds”— and to have formed part of a forest, of vast extent in a westward direction, wherein the king might indulge his fondness for the chase. Up to this time its only approach to towns were the collection of shiels, or shielings, by the Gala — “Galaschul,” and a village inhabited by the king’s foresters and shepherds, beside which a church had been founded by the sect called the Culdees. The latter came to be known as Scheleschirche, or the Kirk of the Shiels.

It is, of course, for advancement in the arts of peace far more than for warfare that the reign of David I. remains among the most memorable in the Borders. Indeed it is impossible to examine the documents of the time, with their careful provisions for marking off boundaries, for protecting sporting privileges, and the like, without experiencing a sensation of wonder at the surprising progress which they denote. It may be that, had more of the documents of Malcolm Canmore’s reign been preserved, this transition would have seemed less abrupt. Still it is undoubted that the personal influence of the king, educated as he had been amid the refinement of the English court, together with that of his Norman baronage, and of the clergy who enjoyed such favour at his hands, must count for much.

David’s biography by his friend, Ailred of Rievaulx,1 is written too much after the manner of a monkish excursus or exhortation, and dwells mainly on the king’s great devotional fervour and stringent self-discipline. But among the few secular traits which it preserves are his unremitted labour, his ready attention to the wants of the humblest among his subjects, and his encouragement, among an uncultivated people, of the arts of gardening and building. It is with the last that we are now to be concerned.

On this subject it has been remarked that, “as if foreseeing that his favourite valley was to become, in later times, the field of arms for two nations,” David restored ancient monasteries and founded new ones thickly over Teviotdale; and that these were ultimately destined not only to spread the blessings of religion, and, in part, to tame the rough Borderer, but to afford him sometimes an asylum and support when war had wasted all that was not under the protection of the Church. Already in 1113, as Prince of Strathclyde, David had brought over from the Abbey of Tiron, in Picardy, a colony of thirteen monks of the reformed Benedictine order, whom he had established beside the Kirk of the Shiels. These he had endowed with large estates both in Scotland and in his English earldom of Huntingdon; but the foreigners, who may have been discontented in exile, found the situation unsuitable for an abbey. In consequence of this, and acting by the advice of his trusted counsellor John, Bishop of Glasgow, in 1116 David, now King of Scotland, removed the monastery to the Church of the Blessed Virgin on the banks of Tweed at “Calkou,” and there considerably augmented its revenues. At Kelso two years seem to have been devoted by the monks to necessary preparation and to building houses for themselves, but on the 3rd May 1128 the conventual church of the new abbey was founded. The abbey was dedicated to the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, and its first abbot was Herbert, who also held the office of chancellor of the kingdom.

The abbey thus founded rose rapidly in riches and importance, and, in time, claimed precedence of all the monasteries of Scotland—a point which was disputed alone by the Priory of St Andrews. The abbots were from the beginning men of first importance in the kingdom, who resigned their abbacy only to accept the highest preferment. Thus, on the death of Bishop John mentioned above, we find Abbot Herbert called to the bishopric of Glasgow; whilst Ernald, his successor in the abbacy of Kelso, is in due course transferred to the see of St Andrews. In his capacity as Royal Chaplain this Ernald was much at Court, and played an important part in public affairs of the time, as did also his successor, John. In the meantime the interests of the abbey were kept steadily in view, and no opportunity of adding to its powers and privileges was overlooked.

At the time of the foundation the Bishop of St Andrews, in whose diocese Kelso was situated, had granted to the abbot and convent a perpetual exemption from all episcopal dues and restrictions, and no long period was to elapse ere they began to enjoy in a high degree the countenance of Rome itself. Thus Abbot Ernald became legate of the Roman see for Scotland, whilst John obtained from the Pope, Alexander III., by personal solicitation, the signal distinction of permission to assume the mitre—a mark of favour which was extended to his successors also. This abbot—who had been raised from the position of cantor of the abbey—would appear to have been a man of peculiarly ambitious temper; for we also find him engaged in a dispute, opposed to all custom, with the parent Abbey of Tiron, for “ priority and subjection.” It was during his supremacy that a colony of monks went out from Kelso to establish the Abbey of Aberbrothoc. The favour of Pope Alexander III. to Kelso was followed up by his successors, Lucius and Innocent III., who granted the abbey special immunities in respect to excommunication—the latter enacting that, though the whole kingdom were under interdict, the monks of Kelso should still be privileged to celebrate the services of religion in their church—the offices being conducted in a low voice, with closed doors, and without the use of bells. And this is but a single mark of what seems to have been the special favour of Innocent to Kelso Abbey, for we also find him taking it under his special protection, and granting it exemption from all episcopal jurisdiction save that of the Holy See itself. In 1215 Abbot Henry of Kelso was present at Rome at a council held for the purpose of concerting measures against the Waldenses and Albigenses; whilst, some thirty years later, a further mark of papal favour was bestowed upon the abbey in the form of special powers for excommunicating by name ill-doers and enemies to that church. The rite in this instance was to be performed upon a Sunday or holiday, with lighted candles and ringing of bells.

In the meantime—whilst the Monastery of Kelso was gradually assuming, under a succession of able and ambitious abbots, a position of more and "more independence and power in the world—the building of the abbey church was being constantly carried on. It is supposed to have occupied about a hundred years, and the remains—ruinous as they now are—may be held to illustrate the variation of architectural style in Scotland during that period. The first thing which strikes the spectator on beholding them is that the chancel is of much greater length than the nave, a remarkable exception to the general rule, of which no satisfactory explanation has been given— though that it was a part of the original plan of the building is obvious, as well from the fact that the measurements of nave and transepts correspond, as from the style of the western doorway showing it to have been among the earlier parts of the building. The construction seems to have commenced with the chancel, of which but a fragment remains, the aisles having entirely disappeared. Two main piers, however, which with their arches are still left standing, together with two storeys of arcades above them, serve to illustrate the change of architectural style ; as does also the west front, where the historical intersecting arches may be seen. The chancel arcades just mentioned represent the triforium and clerestory, and their arches being continuous (without interspaces of wall), present an effect which is both striking and unusual.

The character of the crossing is transitional, as is indicated by the pointed arch—probably introduced in this position to give strength to sustain the tower—and by the bases and caps of the piers. The mouldered and broken doorway of the west front—with its deep-splayed circular arch, and characteristic mouldings, nail-heads, zigzags, and other enrichments—is a remarkable specimen of the late Norman period. In other respects the style of the west front is transitional— the whole facade being treated as a single design, and contrasting in this respect with the facade of the north transept, in which the treatment is by storeys. Again, the doorpiece in the north wall of the north transept is a fine example of transitional workmanship. The lower storey of the tower belongs to the same period as the choir; whilst the upper portion, with its quatrefoils and deeply-recessed pointed windows, has been rebuilt at a later date. Thus the architectural styles in vogue in Scotland during the latter part of the twelfth, and the earlier part of the thirteenth, century are well exemplified.

During all this time, and probably for long after it, many other forms of industry besides that of building must have been practised in the abbey. A part of the reforms recently introduced by St Bernard the Less among his Benedictines had been the cultivation of arts and crafts, as a safeguard against idleness. Thus among the monks of Tiron there were painters and carvers, besides husbandmen and carpenters. And to these the writer of the preface to the Registrum adds sculptors in stone and marble, tilemakers, lead and iron workers, and painters upon glass. From a charter of the thirteenth century we also know that the monks kept a school, which was resorted to by rich and poor from the neighbourhood. Another art practised in the abbey was caligraphy, and of this specimens have survived. Besides the charters of the abbey, which have been preserved in the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh for at least two hundred years (the earlier charters apparently in copies made early in the fourteenth century), it is supposed that a copy of Wyntoun’s Chronicle was written at Kelso. But the most artistically interesting relic of this kind of work as there practised is the great charter of Malcolm IV., preserved among the archives of the Dukes of Roxburghe at Floors. In this document each of the arches of the initial letter contains a highly finished illuminated portrait of a male figure, throned and crowned, and wearing royal robes. These figures are believed to represent the founder of the abbey and his grandson Malcolm, and the beardless face and curled hair of the latter may probably throw light on his nickname of The Maiden. Literature itself was not neglected amid the cloistered quiet and peaceful surroundings of the abbey. Herbert and Ernald, abbots, are known to have been authors, respectively, of a historical monograph and of a ‘ Treatise on Right Government ’; whilst Walter, who was prior about the year 1160, wrote tracts and letters—one of which dealt with the vexed question of the freedom of the Scottish Church. But—undeniable as were their enlightenment and their usefulness—it was probably less for these than for their works of charity and hospitality that the monks of Kelso were celebrated. Of the latter there is early and incontestable evidence; whilst the study of their charters further reveals them in the light of wise and liberal administrators of the wide estates which they came to own. And when at length, after nearly two hundred years of prosperity, these good men fell on evil days, there were the best of reasons for the lamentations of the Border-land.

The first lands bestowed in the form of endowment upon the Tironensian colonists were naturally at Selkirk, and are none too clearly defined as follows : “ The land of Selkirk, from where a rivulet descending from the hills runs into Yarrow, as far as to that rivulet which, coming down from Crossinemere, flows into Tweed; and beyond the said rivulet which falls into Yarrow a certain particle of land between the road which leads from the castle to the abbey and Yarrow— that is, towards the old town.’’ With these were associated the towns of Middelham (Midlem), Bothendenam (Bowden), and Aldona (Holydene)—in the king’s words, “Just as I possess them, in lands, waters, wood, and cleared ground ”; besides the lordship of Melrose, and possessions in Sprouston, Berwick, and Roxburgh. And to these (deducting Melrose, which had been in the meantime withdrawn), on the transference of the abbey to Kelso, David added that town— “ with its proper bounds in land and water, discharged quit and free from every burden”; Reveden, or Redden—with right of water, pasture, and peat-cutting; thirty acres of land at Lilliesclif, betwixt Ale and the stream which divides the lands of Midlem and Lilliesclif; Withelawe (Whitelaw), and Traverlen (Crailing), with its “crag”; besides rights in Edinham and elsewhere. Further, in Roxburgh he gave them the churches (apparently three in number) and schools of the burgh, with the property assigned thereto.

In addition to gifts of real property, David made the monks many grants in commodities. Thus we find a charter of Alexander II. commuting for a money payment a right on the part of the monks to the tithe of the king’s cows and swine, and kane cheese of Nithsdale and Tweeddale, and to the half of the hides and tallow of the cattle slaughtered for his kitchen on the south side of the Firth of Forth, with all the skins of the sheep and lambs, and the tenth of the deer-skins. Besides the above there fall to be reckoned, as bestowed at this time, privileges—such as, for instance, a monopoly in the mill at Ednam, and last, if not least, the fishing rights in certain waters of the Tweed. Among the latter is specified the water extending from the bounds of Kelso to Birgham, celebrated in the present day as containing the pick of the salmon - casts, which have been known within recent years to command in rent as much as ^400 a-year. Verily, had the case of Kelso been solitary, instead of one of many, it might almost have been held of itself to justify the plaintive remark of James I., quoted by Major, that his ancestor had been “ane sair sanct for the Crown!” In the geat charter alluded to above, Malcolm IV. confirmed all the gifts of his grandfather to the abbey, which also received some further accessions from himself and his successors.

But, of course, the sovereigns were not by any means the only benefactors of the abbey. On the contrary, to follow the royal example soon became the fashion, not only among members of the landed aristocracy, but among the wealthier burgesses as well. Of their benefactions a few examples must suffice. To one Maccus, son of Undweyn, David I. had granted certain lands near the confluence of Tweed and Teviot, called from the name of the grantee Maccusville, or Maxwell—the cradle of the great family of that name. A member of this family, Herbert de Maxwell, who flourished in this and subsequent reigns, grants the church of the village of Maxwell, dedicated to St Michael, to the monks of Kelso Abbey. And to this was added — subsequently of course to 1170, the year of Becket’s martyrdom — the neighbouring chapel of St Thomas the Martyr, which had been founded and endowed with a toft by the same Herbert. It may be mentioned in passing that the field in which this chapel stood is still known by the name of the Chapel Park, and that the traditional site of the chapel has been marked with a stone. The name of Maccus occurs again in Maxton, the name of a village a few miles higher up the Tweed. In the reign of Malcolm IV., Galfrid de Perci granted to the church and monks of Kelso, “for the salvation of his soul, and that of David and his son Henry, and those of his ancestors and successors,” a carucate, or ploughgate, of fivescore and four acres of land in Heiton, adjoining the land of the Hospital of Roxburgh1—that is, the land still known as Maisondieu, where outlines formed by the dtbris of buildings are still very noticeable, and where (according to Jeffrey) the monks of Kelso had a hospital “for the reception of pilgrims, the diseased, and the indigent.” Then, in the same reign, William de Morville and Muriel his wife grant the monks six oxgangs of land in the territory of Brockesmuth (on the Tweed, between Makerstoun and Floors)—a gift which is confirmed and doubled, after De Morville’s death, by his widow and her second husband, Robert de Landels.2 Bernard de Hau-dene, or Hadden, whose uncle had received the manor of that name from King William, added to lands which the monks already held there eight acres and a rood, which adjoined them ;3 Uctred of Molle, or Mow, on Bowmont Water, granted the church of that place, with land adjacent, carefully defined—which he and “ Aldred the dean have walked over”;4 whilst Anselm of Molle, Richard Scot, his son, and many others, made further benefactions in that then important district, from which the tide of life has now so strangely turned.

The above are but a few examples, selected almost at random from, the vast array of benefactions recorded in the charters, for the purpose of illustrating the manner in which the estates of the abbey were accumulated. And it may be sufficient to add that those benefactions include not grants by local landowners alone, but gifts of lands situated across the Border—as at Shotton or Colpinhopes,—as well as of churches and lands in such comparatively remote localities as Peebles, Innerleithen, Linton Roderick or West Linton, Hermitage in Liddesdale, Duddingston, Edinburgh, Calder, Pencaitland, Lesmahagow, Cambusnethan, and Dumfries. Not infrequently these gifts .are made specifically for the benefit of the soul of a relative or friend of the donor, or in consideration of a right granted to the benefactor to have a private chapel in his house. Nor, as has been already hinted, did the benefactions proceed from great landed proprietors alone. Thus, under King William, we find Arnald, son of Peter of Kelso, granting to the monks the messuage in Kelso which had been his father’s, together with three shillings of annual rent to be paid by Ralph, Provost of Kelso, and his heirs; whilst one Andrew Maunsel gives them leave to construct a weir fur their mill at Kelso upon a part of his ground lying to the east of the town of Roxburgh.

There exist indications that the earliest system of land-tenancy employed by the monks of Kelso was that known as “steelbow,” by which the landlord advances to the occupier, with his farm, the stock or “plant” necessary for cultivating it. Thus it is recorded that at Redden each husbandman, or tenant of a holding of twenty-six acres, received with his land two oxen, a horse, three chalders of oats, six bolls of barley, and three of wheat. Our principal source for information regarding the system of cultivation pursued by the monks relates, however, to a later time than this. It is an interesting rent-roll of the abbey, belonging to about the year 1290; at which period — as the result of many years of peace and prosperity — the status of the cultivator had so risen that he was able not only to dispense with advances in kind from his landlord, but even to some extent to commute for a money rent the various stipulated “services” by which he held his land.

The rent-roll, which has been ably analysed by Mr Cosmo Innes, shows the monks in the character of farmers on a great scale, devoting themselves with business - like thoroughness and minute attention to detail to the management of their estates. It appears that then, and probably always, they kept the greater part of their lands in their own hands, cultivating them from granges, which were under the superintendence of a monk or a lay-brother. Among other places, there were granges at Redden, Sprouston, Mow, Fawdon, and Bowden. These granges consisted of large farm-steadings, with the usual accommodation for the housing of labourers and stock, and the storing of grain and implements. A mill adjoined them. The crops raised were wheat, oats, and barley; whilst stock consisted principally of sheep, pigs, and’ cows. Oxen were chiefly used for ploughing — twelve, used either together or in two relays, being allotted to each of the old-fashioned ploughs — and, except for this purpose, they do not seem to have been bred in large numbers by the monks. Of course in Teviotdale pasture-lands were extensive, and the careful provisions relating to folds and byres in the hill districts, and to temporary lodges for the herds, show that this branch of farming received minute attention. Innes’s Scotland in the Middle Ages, p. 147. Some of the rights which we are most apt to associate with modern feeling are curiously protected by these old charters. One grant of pasturage especially pro-also carefully protected from encroachment by tillage, and penalties were exacted for the trespassing of sheep or cattle. Roads appear to have been frequent. Waggons were in use for harvest - work, and wains — perhaps sledges — for bringing peat from the moss. Wheaten bread was eaten on holidays.

The labour of the farm was carried on by .serfs or villeins— styled nativi, and no doubt recruited from the original inhabitants of the country—a class of bondmen, housed with their families at the granges, and with them transferred from owner to owner like the. land they cultivated. Of this form of slavery Innes quotes the instance of “Halden and his brother William, with all their children and all their descendants,” conveyed, in a deed four lines long, by an Earl of Dunbar to the abbey. A later deed conveys—together with some lands at Gordon—two crofts occupied by Adam of the Hog and John the son of Lethe, “and Adam of the Hog himself with all his following,” and others. It has been thought that a comparison of these two bonds reveals a difference in the condition of the parties disposed of—the former admitting the connection of the serf with the soil, and possibly the existence of rights therewith; the latter regarding him as an absolute villein, or mere article of property. But it is not apparent that any distinction of this kind was recognised by the law. It may be pointed out in passing that the condition of the old adscriptus glel’ie on the Borders again suggests a marked contrast with the present order of things — under vides against the erection of permanent buildings; whilst provisions against possible disturbance to game, and especially to the red-deer, are of frequent occurrence. In spite of a prevalent impression to the contrary, arising from a peculiar use of the term “forest/* there is also evidence to show that the South of Scotland was not at this time well supplied with timber, and that rights of wood-cutting were carefully preserved (Liber de Melrose, Bannatyne Club, Preface). which the hind and his family are generally prepared to “flit” for the smallest inducement, or for none. Still, we must not forget that what at this distance of time looks like slavery may, after all, have been generally regarded mainly as an arrangement of convenience.

Of course the villeins constituted but one among several ranks of cultivators under the monks, and the only class, it may be added, who were not virtually and effectually free from servitude. Next in order above them were the “cottars,” whose dwellings — sometimes from thirty to forty in number—would form a hamlet adjoining the grange. Each of these cottars would occupy from one to nine acres of land, for which, and his cottage, he paid a rent varying from one to six shillings yearly, with services which were not to exceed nine days’ labour in the year. Examples of this form of tenancy are quoted from Clarilaw, where twenty-one cottars, holding each, in addition to their cottages, three acres less a rood of land, and grazing for two cows, paid each two bolls of meal yearly, and were bound to reap the corn of the abbey grange of Newton.

Next in order came the husband/', or holders of “ husband-lands,” averaging about twenty-six acres in extent, whose holdings were scattered round those of the cottars. Each of these “ husbandmen ” kept two oxen, and six of them would unite to furnish the strength necessary to work the common plough. At Bowden, where the monks had twenty-eight husband-lands, each tenant sat at a yearly rent of six shillings and eightpence, in addition to the services which he was bound to perform.

These services, which may be considered typical, are specified as follows:—

“Four days’ reaping in harvest, the husbandman with his wife and all their family; and a fifth day, the husbandman with two other men;

Above the husbandmen came the yeomen—a numerous class, holding their lands in perpetuity in consideration of certain rents and services; and lastly, the great Church vassals, who had lands free of all service, and occupied a position second only to that of the baronage and freeholders of the Crown.

In dealing with the Border abbeys, I have dwelt on Kelso at considerable length, not only as having precedence of the others in time and rank, but also as constituting in many respects a type. The others may therefore be dealt with more rapidly. The next to. be considered is Melrose — a name which takes us back to the period of St Cuthbert. The old monastery had been burned in 839, during an invasion of Northumbria, by the King of Scots; but it seems

“One day carting peats from Gordon to the Pullis (Pools), and one cartload yearly from the Pullis to the abbey;

“The service of a man and horse to and from Berwick once a-year; and on this occasion they were to have their food from the monastery. (The husbandmen of Redden were bound each to give carriage with one horse from Berwick weekly during summer, and a day’s work on their return— or, if they did not go to Berwick, two days’ tillage) In these services of carriage, a horse’s load was three bolls of com, or two bolls of salt, or one and a half bolls of coals ; or somewhat less in winter;

“To till an acre and a half, and to give a day’s harrowing with one horse yearly;

“To find a man for the sheep-washing, and one for the sheep-shearing : these were to be fed from the monastery ;

“To serve with a waggon one day yearly, for carrying home the harvest;

“All were bound to carry the abbot’s wool from their barony to the abbey, and to find carriages across the moor to Lesmahago.”

It is probable that alt tenants and vassals of the abbey were also bound to co-operate in relieving it of military and other public services—of which an example is found at Prestfield, part of the barony of Bowden, which is bound to provide a man-at-arms to be captain over thirty archers furnished by the barony.

Among all the services specified above, it is noticeable that, except in the harvest-field, no farm labour is exacted from women to have been restored again before 875. At any rate, in the latter year it served as one of the many resting-places of St Cuthbert’s body, which the legend declares to have miraculously floated thence, in its stone coffin, down the Tweed as far as Tillmouth. Towards the end of the eleventh century, however, the monastery had again become ruinous and deserted, and from this time forth the establishment is heard of principally as a chapel dedicated to St Cuthbert and much resorted to by pilgrims — by whom, when travelling thither from the north, the ancient road known as the Girth-gate is thought to have been made. At this time the chapel was attached to the Priory of Coldingham; but in 1136, when David founded a new monastery somewhat higher up the Tweed, he annexed the older one to it, making good the loss to Coldingham by a gift of the church at Berwick. Henceforward St Cuthbert’s chapel sinks to secondary importance, though it continued in existence until finally destroyed by the English in the Border warfare with Bruce.

By the munificence of David, the new abbey was endowed with the lands of Melrose, Eildon, Darnick, and Gattonside, with rights of fishing in the Tweed, of timber and pasturage in the forests of Selkirk and Traquair, and of pasturage in the land lying between Gala and Leader on the north side of the Tweed4—which grants were confirmed by Prince Henry and were rapidly swelled, as in the case of Kelso, by private benefactions. Besides possessions in Northumberland, the abbey held in particular wide estates in Galloway and other parts of the west, which from their situation lie outside the immediate scope of this volume. In 1235 Alexander II. granted it the lands of Ettrick Forest. As at Kelso again, the monks— who came from Rievaulx in Yorkshire, and were the first of their kind introduced into Scotland—belonged to a reformed order of Benedictines,—in this case known as Cistertians, from their first monastery at Cisteaux. But the Cistertians, at any rate in earlier times, differed from the Tironenses in the severer regulation and greater asceticism of their lives. Thus the receipt of dues from mills was forbidden to them, and they were under strict sumptuary laws in regard to diet and the accessories of life — illuminated manuscripts, rich windows, and the ecclesiastical employment of precious stones and metals, being discountenanced among them. Also, in face of the monkish adage that “cloister life without letters is a living death,” the cultivation of classical literature was discouraged. Enjoined, at least in theory, to live by the labour of their hands, they became, like their neighbours at Kelso, great patrons and exponents of husbandry and cattle-feeding. Their alternative occupation — original thought being to some extent fettered—consisted in the transcribing of books, and it is to their industry in this department that a most interesting surviving memorial of them is due. This is the ‘ Chronica de Mailros,’ a record of events of the highest value in Scottish history. The names of its authors are unknown; but expressions employed by them prove it to have been produced in the abbey, whilst the evidence from writing shows it to have been the work of successive hands labouring in successive epochs. Opening in the year 735, for several centuries it is mainly, though not quite exclusively, a compilation from such works as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and those of Symeon and Hoveden. For the monkish chroniclers, who generally wrote simply for utilitarian purposes, aimed rather at producing books of reference than works of literary merit, and thus did not scruple to take their information where they found it, or to copy slavishly from their predecessors. From about the year 1140, however, onward to its abrupt termination in 1270, the Chronicle has a higher value, its information being then at first-hand and generally contemporaneous. As its compilers had copied from others, so other compilers in their turn copied from it, and with this object it appears to have been freely “lent out.” The MS. now survives in a single copy deposited in the Cottonian Library, having probably been carried off from Melrose about the time of the Reformation. Besides its Chronicle, Melrose has handed down a collection of charters which is perhaps unrivalled in Scotland. It comprises above a hundred royal writs, dating from the reign of David to that of Bruce, and is rich in illustrations of the social life and economy of the period. This collection was preserved among the archives of the Earls of Morton, to whose family the abbacy was granted after the suppression of the monasteries.

The luxuriant and charmingly fanciful decorations of Melrose as it now stands form a somewhat startling comment on the recorded asceticism of its monks. Doubtless the rigour of that asceticism became with time relaxed; but we have also to remember that the ruins now seen are not those of the church which—having taken ten years to build—was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin on Sunday, the 28th July 1146. That edifice was doubtless in a style of architecture similar to those seen at Kelso, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh; but its unlucky situation — in the very highroad between rival countries—exposed it in a peculiar degree to the perils of Border warfare, and thus it is doubtful whether a vestige of the original structure now remains. Its destruction was the work of Edward II. in 1322, when returning from an unsuccessful expedition into Scotland. Rebuilt by a pious bequest of Robert Bruce, it was set fire to in 1385 by Richard II., under circumstances resembling those of its previous destruction. Thus the remains which now survive belong wholly to a period later than Bruce’s time, and, to a great extent, to one later than Richard’s; whilst the Border warfare of the sixteenth century, the religious iconoclasm of the seventeenth century, and the brutish vandalism of a later age, which used the old abbeys as a quarry, have all left marks upon them. Of the extensive conventual buildings once connected with the abbey, all that now remains is a fragment of the cloister.

The ruins now present the usual architectural patchwork harmonised by time, exhibiting a perfect prodigality of rich detail, and constituting in all a rare mine of interest for the student. The styles represented are the Decorated and the Perpendicular, either of which may be here observed in as great perfection as anywhere in Scotland. In general design the abbey forms a complete contrast to that of Kelso, not only as exemplifying the much more artificial workmanship of two centuries later, but also from the fact that the nave here is of unusual length, and the choir unusually short. The effect of this latter arrangement is, however, to some extent counteracted by a screen of masonry (which is not a later addition) being carried across the nave. Of the building as it now stands, the nave, from the crossing to the rood-loft, together with parts of the transepts, constitutes the oldest portions—a distinct change being traceable in the remaining portions of the transept, which, with the tower, belong seemingly to a later date. The older portions of the building—which include the exquisitely carved caps of piers in the nave, the pinnacles and the flying buttresses (unique in Scotland) on the south side, the splendid tracery of the window of the south transept, and its buttresses enriched with canopies and corbels—exemplify lavishly the Decorated period in Scotland, and are said by experts to bear a close relationship to the Decorated work of the nave of York Minster, dated about 1400. It is not improbable, therefore, that some parts of the nave and transept were erected between the death of Bruce and the burning of the abbey by Richard II.; whilst restorations and additions seem to have been carried out during the first half of the next century—to which date the south chapels of the nave may perhaps be assigned. The arms of Abbot Hunter, who flourished about 1450-60, suffice to fix the date of the vault of the south transept, on one of the keystones of which they are carved, as also, in all probability, of some of the vaulting in the eastern part of the nave.

It seems to have been the choir which suffered most injury at the hands of Richard, for it has been rebuilt in a later style of architecture—the upper portion of its walls, the fine east window, with other windows here and in the transept, being Perpendicular in their character. Since then they have had the good fortune to escape comparatively unharmed. The royal arms, with initials and date 1505, on the westernmost buttress of the nave, seem to testify that work was in progress there and in the south chapels as late as the reign of James IV. The beautiful remains of the cloister present some features which bear the appearance of early work; but expert opinion has pronounced them to illustrate that “ late revival of early forms which prevailed towards the close of the Gothic epoch.” The beautiful carvings there and elsewhere, representing foliage and shells, or figures of monks and angels displaying scrolls or playing upon musical instruments, are especially worthy of notice; whilst the excellent nature of the local red sandstone in which they are carved has fortunately preserved them almost undefaced.

The names of the architects of the Border abbeys are as hopelessly lost as those of the authors of the Border ballads; but what seems like a feeble ray of light on the building of Melrose tantalises us in the form of two old inscriptions carved in the wall of the south transept. The first runs as follows :—

“Sa gays ye Cumpas' evyn about Sua truth and laute sail do but2doute,
Behalde to ye hende q. John Morvo.”

The second:—

“John Morow sum tym callit was,
And born in Parysse certainly,
And had in keepyng al masoun werk
Of Santandroys ye hye kyrk,
Of Glasgw, Metros and Pasley,
Of Nyddysdayil and of Galway ;
I pray to God and Mari baith .
And sweet S. John kep this haly kirk frae skaith.”

The problem, “Who was John Morow   continues to exercise Border antiquarians.

Less is known of the early history of Jedburgh Abbey than of either Kelso or Melrose. There is record of the existence of a chapel at Old Jedburgh, a few miles farther up the Jed, as far back as the first half of the ninth century. It was founded by Egred, Bishop of Lindisfarne (whose name may possibly be traced in the neighbouring Edgerstoun), and remained within the see of Durham until the episcopacy of Ralph Flam bard, when Teviotdale was transferred to the see of Glasgow, as was the country north of the Tweed to that of St Andrews. Soon after this, David, as yet but Prince of Cumbria, invited to Scotland a company of monks from the Abbey of St Quentin at Beauvais, and established them in a priory at Jedburgh. These monks were of the order of Canons Regular, or Augustine Friars, so called from the celebrated St Augustine, author of the ‘Confessions.’ In 1147, or perhaps a few years later, their priory was erected by David into an abbey, and it was probably after this date that the building of the existing fabric began. Like Kelso and Melrose, Jedburgh Abbey was dedicated to the Virgin, and richly endowed by the king and the nobles of the district. Within its walls David’s successor Malcolm breathed his last, “snatched away in the bloom of his lily-youth”; and it was there also in all probability that the pageant at the marriage of Alexander III. was brought to its untimely termination. Thus through the greater part of the two centuries of the Golden Age of the Borders, the abbey seems to have retained the special favour of the sovereign. During the English wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it sustained frequent injuries — the lead being stript from its roof under Edward I., whilst the monastic buildings (which have now disappeared) were so much destroyed that the monks sought shelter elsewhere. In short, when all things are considered, we may well feel surprise at the present completeness of its outer walls.

David’s grants to the monks of the new abbey comprised the old Monastery of Jed worth, with all its possessions—including the tithes of the two Jedworths or Jedburghs, of Lanton, Nesbyt, the two Crelings, with the town of Orm (or Ormistoun on Teviot), and Scrauesburghe or Scraesbrae; besides the chapel situated “ in the passage of the wood ” over against Hernwingeslawe (Mervinslaw), and Ulveston, Alneclive, near Alncromb, Crumsethe, and Raperlaw.2 Besides these—the tithe of game killed by himself in hunting in Teviotdale; mill dues of the town mill at Jedburgh; pasture rights in the king’s forest; and (with one puzzling reservation) rights of wood and tunber for the use of the monastery; to which were added houses in the towns of Roxburgh and Berwick, a fishing in the Tweed, and other gifts. A noticeable grant by Malcolm IV. was that of exemption from duty on wine imported at Berwick. Then, passing on to the reign of Bruce, we find that that king granted to the Abbot of Jedburgh, biding at the dependent Priory of Restenneth, the teinds of his horses and studs, with hay for their maintenance. Robert III. added the Hospital of St Mary Magdalen at Rutherford, on the condition of a qualified chaplain being maintained there; and it was specially provided that, in case of the destruction of the hospital by the inroads of the English or other chances of war, the divine offices were to be celebrated at Jedburgh until it should be rebuilt.3 Besides the above, the canons had property in the shires of Stirling and Linlithgow, of Cumberland, Huntingdon, and Northampton; had dependent priories at Restenneth and Canonby, and were patrons of the Priory of Blantyre. Among the names of their private benefactors occur those of Berengarius de Engain, one of David’s Norman followers; of Christiana, wife of Gervas Ridel; of Gaufrid de Perci, who gave the church at Oxnam; and of Ranulph de Sulas, who gave that of the vale of Liddle.

The discipline of the Augustine Friars is stated to have been less rigid than that of other monks, though, judged by secular standards, the following account shows it to have been by no means lacking in rigidity. The rules by which their daily life was regulated were held to have been delivered to Norbert of Magdeburg, their founder, by Augustine himself, in a golden book, whilst he slept. Devotions were to be performed seven times a-day—first of all, in the small hours, when the sleeping canons would be summoned to church by the ringing of the dormitory bell, which was continued for as long a time as would be required to recite the seven penitential psalms. Matins over, the brothers retired to bed again until six o’clock, the hour of Prime, when they attended mass, performed their private devotions, or went to confession, till it was time for the daily general meeting in the chapter house. Here, after further religious exercise, the business of the fraternity was transacted. And now, also, any one who had been convicted of transgression was expected to prostrate himself on the ground, to make confession, and to ask pardon; upon which penance would be prescribed, or, in some cases, summary chastisement administered. At this time, too, the abbot, in presence of the chapter, would listen to pleas against any one over whom he had jurisdiction. The sitting was concluded, except on days of high festival, by repeating the ‘ De Profundis.’ In winter the meeting of the chapter filled up the time till the hour of Tierce, or nine o’clock, when the canons would troop in twos into the church, chanting the ‘Salve Regina’ as they went. At this season High Mass was sung at Sexte, or twelve o’clock. During the one-o’clock dinner which followed, the Scripture or some other edifying book was read aloud — the monks taking this duty in turn, as they did that of waiting at table. The meal consisted of two dishes, except on special occasions, when a tliird, of dainty nature, called a pittance, would be added. Punctuality was enforced, and a ceremonious courtesy observed—the brothers showing attention to each other’s wants, and bowing as they handed dishes or received them. To dinner succeeded relaxation, lasting till three, the hour of Nones. Vespers followed at six, and Compline at seven, after which, and a light supper, the monks would retire for the night. The dormitory served as a general bedroom, and they slept without sheets and in their day dress. Their fasts were at first exceedingly severe, but were afterwards relaxed. Their work, besides study and transcription, comprised field-labour, at which in hay-time and harvest they worked from early morn until after Vespers, reciting the prescribed prayers where they stood. Their habit consisted of a long black cassock, a white rochet, and a black cloak and hood, and they differed from the generality of other orders in wearing caps instead of cowls, and in allowing their beards to grow.

Notwithstanding that the outer walls of the abbey remain on the whole so remarkably complete, the choir, the presbytery, and the vaulted side aisles of the nave have all been to a large extent destroyed. With regard to the varying dates or architectural styles of different parts of the fabric, it is noticeable that in the choir the two lower storeys of two bays near the crossing are in the Norman style—which style, continued in the transepts, reappears in the west end wall — the great doorway and windows in the latter being characteristically Norman. The clerestory of the choir and the body of the nave are, on the other hand, of a well-advanced transitional style — obviously work of a considerably later date, and probably belonging to the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century. The inference of experts from the above is that the whole building was originally “set out and partially executed in Norman times,” and that the work was either interrupted for a considerable period and then resumed, or else destroyed after being completed, and restored in the later style. Again, at a yet later date, both transepts seem to have been much repaired. This would probably be done after the assaults of the fifteenth century, at which time the crossing also would seem to have been rebuilt. The restoration, distinctly visible on the south-east pier, was probably the work of Abbot John Hall — appointed in 1478 — whose name may be seen upon the pier. The rebuilding of the north-west and south-west piers of the crossing, and of the arch uniting them, is assigned to Abbot Thomas Cranstoun (appointed 1482), whose arms—three cranes and two pastoral staves borne saltier-wise — are seen on the south-west pier, and whose initials are repeated thereabout. The chapel to the north of the orignal Norman north transept dates apparently from the fifteenth century; while the tower seems to have been erected about 1500. In 1523, soon after the restoration above described, the abbey was again attacked and burnt by Surrey; whilst in 1544 and 1545, having been again repaired, it was again burnt and pillaged by Sir Ralph Eure and by Hertford respectively, from which last assaults it has never since recovered. It was, however, still destined to undergo some further ill-usage, of a not intentionally hostile character, and, after being occupied by a modem church until 1875, it has at last had the good fortune to fall into the right keeping, where all has been clone for it that wise care, joined with fine taste, can do.

The most notable details now presented by this beautiful ruin are probably the rich and elaborate south and west doorways — both of them fine examples of late Norman design; and the peculiar arrangement by which main piers in the choir are carried up, “as massive cylindrical columns,” to the height of the arch over the triforium. As at Kelso, the west front has originally been finished with an octagonal turret on either side; whilst; from the structural arrangement which supplies no buttress capable of resisting the thrust of a vault, it is evident that the central aisle was not intended to be vaulted.

Though our limits forbid us to do more than merely glance at the minor religious establishments of the time, a few words devoted to that subject are essential to a picture of Border life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. We may suppose that the earliest churches in the country had been founded to facilitate or to commemorate the labours of those Christian missionaries who first spread the light of the Gospel among the pagan natives, and of such foundations the church of Traquair may probably be taken as an example. At any rate, our earliest source of local ecclesiastical information is an Inquest which was held by the sages and elders of the district about the year 1116, with a view to determine the possessions of the see of Glasgow, which inquest finds that in ancient times the see had possessed a church at Treuerquyrd. At the date above given there would appear to have been no ecclesiastical divisions recognised which corresponded to parishes in our sense of the word— that is, to districts appropriated to one baptismal church, or church having rights of baptism, marriage, and burial. Probably the limits of the parish were at first determined by those of the manor, and the case of Ednam in Roxburghshire has been cited as illustrating the process by which the parish came into being Here David’s brother Edgar had bestowed on an Englishman named Thor, and nicknamed Longus, the land of “ the home on the river Eden ” in its waste condition. Thor, at his own charges, cultivated and settled this desert, which thus became his manor, on which he erected a church. The church was endowed by the king with a ploughgate of land, in addition to which it soon obtained the tithes and dues of the manor. Thor then, “for the weal of King Edgar’s soul, the weal of his own soul and body, and the redemption of his beloved brother,” transferred the whole to the monks of Durham. So, from this little bit of history, not only the formation of parishes, but the process also by which the monasteries devoured them, may be said to receive illustration.

By the middle of the thirteenth century we find that the parish of Molle is already territorially defined, and has the term “parish” applied to it very much in our modern sense. In the contemporary church records, a term of less frequent use than parochia is plebania — used to denote the district of a mother-church (generally of very ancient foundation) which possesses subordinate churches ; and of this a local instance is found in the plebania of Stobo, with its four subordinate parishes of Broughton, Dawick, Drummelzier, and Tweedsmuir. Among other Border churches, that of Seleschirche has been already referred to. In early times it probably stood alone, for prior to 1235 there appears to have been no church within the district known as Ettrick whilst if there was one at Rankleburn, records are silent with regard to it. Galashiels, formerly known as Lindean, was a vicarage in 1275. Peebles had probably been a religious site from very early times; for the town well is dedicated to the patron saint of Glasgow, whilst the Inquest of 1116 finds that the see of that place had anciently possessed a church there. Between 1159 and 1165 the church of Innerleithen was granted to the monks of Kelso by Malcolm the Maiden, who, in consequence of the body of his natural son having lain there on the first night after death, constituted the church a place of sanctuary equal in sanctity to that of Wedale—the violation of which incurred peril to life and limb. The church of Hassendean in Roxburghshire belonged anciently to the Bishop of Glasgow, to whom in 1170 it was confirmed by Pope Alexander III.; whilst at Hawick, where a church had already existed from an early date, one which had been newly erected was dedicated to St Mary on the 29th day of May 1214.8 It has been thought that the two last named may have illustrated the stimulus towards erecting more solid and imposing places of worship which was communicated to the richer barons by the building of the Border abbeys. A book of etchings of the eighteenth century0 represents the ruins of Hassendean Church, which have now entirely disappeared, as at that time possessing Norman arches with piers and chevron ornamentation—the whole, as the letterpress puts it, “of no inelegant design.” The church of Hawick, erected by the powerful family of Ixivel, and placed on an admirable site, was even more distinguished by its “ fine proportions and the lavish grandeur of its internal decorations.” The latter continued in use until 1763, when, becoming ruinous, it was taken down, and another, guiltless of beauty, was set up in its place.

The reader will scarcely have forgotten that a number of what may be called the parish churches of the Border—as, for example, those of Liddesdale and Oxnam—have been cited already as having been granted to the abbeys by various benefactors. In each of these grants the student of ecclesiastical history will recognise a step in the process which was destined to prove fatal to the recipients; for the very accumulation of wealth in the hands of the latter, when thus accompanied by the starvation of the minor benefices, carried with it the seeds of dissolution. In dealing with the period of history which may be said to commence with David I. and to end with the death of Alexander III., I have judged it proper to give the precedence to matters ecclesiastical, for these were in truth paramount in the district at the time, and it is therefore but fitting that they should be preferred even to things so important in their own way as the rise of the local burghs or of the local baronage. The age was, in fact, pre-eminently a religious one, but it was one of religious harmony, and it so happens that, despite its much earlier date, it has left far more of external trace on the Borders than that later period in which religious fervour, doubtless no less genuine, became a source of the harshest discord. The injustice of a growing age came, in time, to cast discredit on the services rendered in their day and generation by the monks, and though the age of prejudice against these is now past, it is probable that they have not yet received their just dues of recognition. Their claims upon the gratitude of posterity have been very temperately summed up by a historian who writes that, upon a fair estimate of the materials which have come down to us, we shall find them “always zealous for their order, and for the welfare of their territories and tenants, as conducing to its prosperity; encouraging agriculture and every improvement of the soil; leading the way in an adventurous foreign trade, and in all arts and manufactures; cultivating the learning of the time, and latterly enjoying and teaching to others the enjoyment of the luxuries of civilised life, while they exercised extensive hospitality and charity, and preserved a decorum which was akin to virtue.” The same writer adds, that “when we consider the extent of the possessions of a house like Melrose, the affluence, and the amount of power and influence it brought to bear on such objects as these, during ages of lawlessness and rapine, ... we cannot doubt that their administration of their great territory and revenue, notwithstanding all abuses incident to the system, was more for the happiness of the people than if the possessions of the abbey had fallen at an early period into the hands of some great temporal proprietor.”

From the peaceful life of the Border monasteries we pass to consider the dawn of thought and poetry in the Borders; and this—if we exclude the somewhat apocryphal connection of Merlin with the district—takes us back to the closing years of the seventh century. At this time there was found dwelling in a hermit’s cell attached to the monastery of Old Melrose a certain venerable and holy man, by name Drithelm, who was noted for the rigour of his asceticism. Thus the severest cold of winter could not deter him from breaking the ice on Tweed and entering the water, where he would remain immersed up to the middle or to the neck, whilst he recited psalms and prayers. On coming out from the water, he would allow his wet clothes to dry upon his back; and when men marvelled at his powers of endurance, or expostulated with him on the severity of his self-discipline, he would reply, in a simple manner, which was characteristic of him, that he had known greater cold, or had seen greater austerity.1 To the eye of his contemporaries Drithelm seemed a man of limited apprehension, yet he was a visionary as well as an ascetic, and in an age when to men’s faith all things seemed possible, his dreams were received as literal records of experience. Thus it got to be reported of him that, whilst still unregenerate, he had died and had been raised from the dead. His tale of his supernatural experiences, first in regions of fire and hail, and then in the flowery and vocal fields of Paradise, was listened to with awe, as well it might be. The vision lives in the pages of Bede, as told by one who had heard it from the lips of the visionary himself; and stript of its integument of legend, it suffices to associate the name of Drithelm with that of Bunyan.

A far more commanding figure follows Drithelm on the Borders at the close of the Dark Age. It is true that the story of Michael Scot, “the Wizard,” remains vague and incomplete ; that the erudition and exhaustive research of his latest biographer2 adds to our knowledge but little which is not based upon conjecture. Yet, in spite of this, we see and know enough to recognise in the “Supreme Master,” as he came to be called, a thinker and a man of learning of whom any age and any country may well be proud. Scot was born probably about the year 1175, and in his case the name Scot or Scotus has been generally received as a family name, and not as a mere national distinction. The locality of his birth is more difficult to determine, but his biographer’s contention is for the region of the valley of the Tweed. It is true that Leland says that he came from Durham ; but both Roger Bacon and another contemporary authority speak of him as a Scotsman. Hence it is concluded that he may have come from that southern part of Scotland to which the influence of the see of Durham had at one time extended. Upper Tweeddale has been recognised as the cradle of the Scott family, and there exists a record of payment made by the Crown in 1265 to a Michael of the name, who occupied waste lands near Peebles. Besides the inferences from the above, local legends connected with the Wizard’s name must also count for something in establishing his conncction with the Border ; and in any case he is not to be confounded (as Sir Walter Scott confounded him) with the Scotts of Balwearie in Fife, a family who do not come into existence by that name until a date later than his.

It is by no means improbable that young Scot may have learnt his rudiments at Roxburgh, where there was at that time a grammar-school of repute, thence proceeding to the Cathedral School of Durham, and possibly to the University of Oxford. But his was an age of inquiry—of eager thirst for knowledge—among the few, when the resources of his native island afforded no adequate scope for a man of like aspirations and mental calibre. He passed to Paris, and there won so much distinction in the schools that the names “Mathematicus” and “the Master” were by general consent conferred on him. He entered holy orders—less, as one may guess, from vocation than in deference to a custom of the age—and, as a knowledge of law was at that time greatly esteemed among clerics, he probably proceeded to the famous law-school of Bologna, there to add that study to those of mathematics and theology, in which he was already proficient. It was now that his opportunity arrived, and when next we hear of him he is at Palermo, where—between the years 1200 and 1209—tradition represents him as tutor to the young Prince Frederick, the grandson of Barbarossa, and afterwards the Emperor Frederick II. This sovereign, in whose hands the power of the Western Empire may be said to have culminated, was to become known as The Wonder of the World, and we have it on so high authority as that of Freeman that he well deserved the name—“for perhaps no king that ever reigned had greater natural gifts,” whilst “in thought and learning he was far above the age in which he lived.” Are we not justified in tracing something of his prodigious attainments to the fortunate chance which gave his youth such teaching as Scot’s? There is evidence, at any rate, that Scot spared no pains on the education of his royal charge, for whose special behoof he composed a handbook to astronomy and a treatise on physiognomy; and it is notable that the dedications to these works are not couched in the usual terms of adulation, but in a tone of easy familiarity— thus exhibiting in a pleasing light the relations between master and pupil. The latter of the two books is thought to have been offered as a wedding-gift to the king, and with Frederick’s early marriage Scot’s duties about his person came for the time to an end.

Whilst a resident in Palermo, the Master had been brought under those Arabic and Greek influences which still lingered in Sicily, and had probably become conversant with the Arab and Greek languages. When he left the Court, it was to turn his proficiency in Arabic to practical account. And it must here be borne in mind that most of the higher knowledge of that age was derived, from Greek originals indeed, but through Arabic or Syrian channels,—a form of culture of which the Arab Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, was reputed the ablest exponent. A school of translators from the Arabic had been established not long before by the Archbishop of Toledo, and to that city Scot now repaired, there to spend ten of the most fruitful years of his life, and to win fame as the ablest expounder the age had yet seen both of the unapproachable Aristotelian philosophy itself and of the wisdom of the Arab commentators which had clustered round it. The first works he produced at Toledo were an abridged translation from an Arabic version of Aristotle’s ‘Treatise on Animals,’ and an ‘ Abridgment of Avicenna,’ also based upon that work. This was published in 1210, and dedicated to the emperor. Frederick was fond of natural history, and possibly that fantastic taste which led him to gather elephants, camelopards, dromedaries, panthers, and rare birds about him may have prompted Scot’s undertaking.

At Toledo Scot also studied alchemy, but the most important work of the years he spent there was his translation of . the writings of a second Arab sage, Averroes of Cordova, whose works had then recently attracted attention. Averroes, like Avicenna, had devoted himself “ to live and die in Aristotle’s works”—in the works, that is, of the very incarnation of forbidden knowledge, according to the belief of the vulgar of the Middle Age; but besides this, his works were understood to embody strange and daring speculations of his own, which had led not only to the persecution of their author by the orthodox Moslem, but also to their denunciation by the Church. Averroes was now dead, and of course neither Frederick nor Michael Scot were men to be kept from the gratification of intellectual curiosity by deterrents such as the above. It was, however, only in the nature of things that they had to pay for the satisfaction, and the obloquy and isolation which are the portion of advanced thinkers in all ages were duly meted out to them. It was Frederick’s fate to suffer excommunication more than once, whilst Scot’s translations were censured by the Church, and the author found himself regarded with suspicion accordingly. He may be esteemed singularly fortunate, however, in the powerful protection which he enjoyed, for he returned to Palermo, and there continued to act as Court physician and astrologer. Doubtless in view of his close relations with the emperor, the Pope, Honorius III., now thought well to condone his offence, and even wrote to the English Primate, Stephen Langton, to obtain ecclesiastical preferment for him,—with the result that he was actually elected to the archbishopric of Cashel, though he declined to act, as is alleged, in consequence of a scruple arising from his ignorance of the Irish language. After, but surely not—as has been suggested—in consequence of this, he appears to have fallen into a melancholy, in which the veil of the future seemed to be lifted, so that he became endowed with the gift of prophecy, and, like “True Thomas” in a later day, earned for himself the style of “veridicus vates.” He had no reason to be thankful for this opening of his eyes, for the screed of Latin doggerel in which his soothsayings are said to be embodied is little more than a categorical prediction of misfortunes to the cities of the Empire. “Woe to thee, Mantua!” cries the prophet, with the accent of a new Jeremiah—“Woe to thee, Mantua, filled with so great grief! ” and he goes on to foretell the ruin of Rome, long tottering to her downfall, and the passing of the glory of Florence. “The Fates give warning, stars and the flights of birds point that way.” Among other things which he foresaw, but was powerless to guard against, was his own death. In 1230, after the publication of his Averroes, which had been long held back, Scot came to England, on a journey undertaken that he might communicate the results of his researches to the universities. He may then have revisited his native Border-land; and there, perhaps, he died. Tradition, at least, associates his death and burial with Melrose, though Scot of Satchdls, writing at the close of the seventeenth century, locates his tomb in Cumberland. One thing certain is that he was dead in 1235, in which year it is finely said of him, in a Latin poem by Henry of Avranches, that “he who had impugned Fate has himself submitted to her decree.”

Looking back on Michael Scot from this distance of time, we see him in his true light as a Border savant of European reputation, one who resumed in himself all the learning of his time, the translator of Averroes, and the restorer to the Western world of the lost treasures of Aristotle. The romance and the pathos, not to say the tragedy, of his story lie in the fact that his contemporaries beheld him in so different a light. Well may melancholy have overtaken him in his declining years! For he that has accumulated sorrow, accumulating knowledge, and then sees himself not merely deprived of sympathy—his lifelong service to his kind misprized—but regarded, through distorting mists of ignorance, with hatred and mistrust,—his lot is indeed a bitter one. And yet this is one of those tragedies of life which spring solely from the “nature of things,” for which no one is responsible, in which either party has but acted in accordance with the dictates of character. Indeed it must even be allowed that Scot laid himself open to misunderstanding, that his studies throughout reveal a bias toward the occult. Thus his early ‘ Physionomia ’ deals with a science which taught that the “ inward disposition of the soul might be read in visible characters on the bodily frame.” Then, again, the chemistry which absorbed so much of his time touched closely on alchemy; whilst there was no border-line to divide astronomy from divination. Whether he actually tampered with magic or not is scarcely of consequence, for certainly it wanted but his final prophetic pretensions to raise him in the eyes of the vulgar to the position of high-priest of the occult sciences. The unworthy hostility of such fellow-workers as Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus would not tend to remove the reproach, and far less than a century sufficed to establish the tradition. For when the spiritual eyes of Dante—purged, but prejudiced and partial-seeing — fell on Scot, he saw, indeed, the piteously worn body on which the life of thought had left its mark, but he saw it only as that of one who u knew the trick of magical deceits”—with the face screwed round over the shoulders, doomed to pay the penalty of sins done in the flesh in the hell of those who would have pried into futurity.

The same objection cannot be urged against those sallies of the clownish imagination which have clustered so thickly round the “ Wizard’s ” name as to make him, on the Borders, and not there alone, the favourite type of the wielder of forbidden powers. The most strikingly local of these legends is that which tells of the spirit, successfully conjured up by the Master’s spells, who, when his task was done, threatened to become a source of danger to his summoner, through insatiable demands for more work. Michael’s wit was, however, a match for him. The magician first commanded him to bridle the Tweed, which the spirit accomplished—as some say by the construction of the cauld at Kelso Mill, or, as others have it, by means of a remarkable basaltic dyke which crosses the bed of the stream near Eden-mouth. His next task was to divide the Eildon Hills, which at that time formed a single summit; and this also was done, with the result seen at this day. But when, as a last resource, Scot directed him to weave ropes of the sea-sand, the fiend was at last baffled, and it is said that the results of his efforts, ever failing and eternally renewed, may be observed to this day in the shifting sands at Tweedmouth. A version of this story found farther west the country bears that one of the spirit’s labours was the riddling of Sandyhill-neuk, which was duly accomplished, the stones taken out being cast into Biggar Moss, several miles off, where they may still be seen.

In these and similar half-humorous essays in the supernatural vein—such as those which tell of Scot’s des through air on a demon horse, his trial of powers with the Witch of Falsehope, and many more—we see the Master brought down to the level of rustic comprehension, and of course ignorance is the readily accepted excuse for these liberties taken with a great name. The legend of Scot’s death is more in keeping with a dignified conception of his character, as well as with the suspicion of religious scepticism which, probable in the nature of things, receives support from more than one circumstance of the true story of his life. There is one story, indeed, which makes him come by his death through supping of broth made from a breme sow, or sow ready for the boar ; but the tale which will commend itself to imaginative readers avers that his gift of divination had enabled him to foresee the manner of his end, which was to come through the falling of a stone of not more than eight ounces’ weight. He therefore contrived, for the protection of his head, a kind of helmet so constructed as to withstand a blow from a missile of that weight. But Fate took him when off his guard; for happening to attend mass, and to raise his helmet—as is suggested, in a spirit of mockery—at the elevation of the Host, a stone, loosened by the tolling of the sacring-bell, fell at that moment from the roof of the church and killed him on the spot. Holm Cultram disputes with Melrose the possession of his bones, as well as of his magic books, which were buried with him; whilst one explanation of the tales which have grown up round his name is that he has been confounded in the popular imagination with his predecessor the Tweedside Merlin, the part corresponding to that of King Arthur being played in his story by the Emperor Frederick.

A character whom legend has transformed not less than Michael Scot, but with a kindlier, more idealising touch, is Thomas of Erceldoune, called the Rhymer. He belongs, properly, to Berwickshire, and it is only by virtue of his association with certain localities in Roxburghshire that he comes within our sphere. The dates of his birth and death are alike uncertain, but his lifetime must have covered the greater part of the thirteenth century — ranging perhaps between the years 1220 and 1297; whilst the most positive documentary evidence of his existence which has come down to us is his signature, as witness, to a deed by which Peter de Haga of Bemersyde binds himself to pay half a stone of wax annually to the abbot and Convent of Melrose for the Chapel of St Cuthbert. This document is undated, but from internal evidence its date may be approximately fixed as between 1260 and 1270.2 The distinction of Thomas of Erceldoune is twofold; for as poet he has been recognised as the father of Scottish song, whilst as prophet his fame has entirely eclipsed that of his predecessor, Scot. Dealing first with the more authentic and credible of his achievements, the poems which have been ascribed to him are the metrical romance to which Sir Walter Scott, who first printed it, gave the name of “Sir Tristrem,” and that of “Thomas and the Queen.” The authorship of both these poems has been the subject of much controversy, which we may resume by stating the opinion of the latest authorities that the former is a genuine work of the Rhymer, whilst the latter in its present form belongs to a much later date than his (probably about 1440), but is in all likelihood based upon an original from his hand. “Sir Tristrem ” is preserved in a single copy—not the author’s, as is proved by internal evidence—in the Auchinleck MS. of old English poetry in the Advocates’ Library—written on vellum in a handwriting of the beginning of the fourteenth century. The evidence mainly relied on for ascribing it to the Rhymer is that of the English Chronicle of his contemporary, Robert Mannyng of Brunne, written about 1330, which may be taken as “ recording and representing the belief of the age in which Thomas of Erceldoune lived.” The poem deals with the adventures of the Arthurian Tristram, and his love-passages with the two Ysondes.

The remaining poem of ‘ Tomas off Ersseldoune ’ has been preserved more or less entire in four separate manuscripts, whilst the prophetic portion (omitting the introductory First Fytte) exists also in a fifth. It embodies the traditional legend of the Rhymer and the Fairy Queen, and though the composition puzzlingly confounds the first and third persons singular, it may be taken as at least to some extent autobiographical. It tells how as Thomas lay on Huntley banks upon a morn of May, and heard the singing of the birds, he beheld a lady, richly apparelled, come riding towards him on a dappled steed. Enchanted by her beauty, he endeavours to win her love, and, after revealing herself as queen of a realm which is neither in heaven nor paradise, nor yet in hell, purgatory, or “ middle earth,” she allows his suit. Then they enter together under Eildon Hill, and after journeying for three days in darkness reach a castle, where they take up their abode and dwell together in mutual absorption, dalliance, and joy. At the end of three years, however, Thomas is suddenly bidden to return to earth, to escape seizure by an infernal power, and the lady, conducting him again to Eildon Tree, there bids him farewell. At parting he asks a token of her, and at this point the poem, in recording her reply, branches off into prophecy, which by most critics is thought to be a later interpolation, added after the events in Scottish history which it pretends to foretell. The lady then promises to meet her lover again on Huntley banks, and so leaves him. Thus far the poem, but legend has rounded off the tale. It tells how, after his return to earth, the Rhymer astonished his countrymen by his prophetic powers. But the days to be spent by him among them were numbered. And, accordingly, one day as he sat in his tower at Earlston, making merry with his friends, it was suddenly announced to him with wonder that a hart and hind might be seen passing through the village. On hearing of this supernatural token, Thomas at once rose up and went out from among his friends, and following the animals back to their native forest, was seen no more of men.

It is interesting to note that the localities associated with this fantastic legend may still be identified. Eildon Tree stood on the slope of the easternmost Eildon, on a spot which commands a magnificent view of the vale of Tweed, and is still marked by the Eildon Stone, a rugged boulder occupying a position by the highway-side. Close by is the Bogle burn, a streamlet falling into Tweed, which may have derived its name from the Rhymer’s supernatural visitant. Huntley banks, where the poet lay and watched the lady’s approach, are on the slope of the same hill, about half a mile to the west; whilst still farther west, and in fact at the base of the westernmost hill, is the romantic Rhymer’s Glen. This name, however, is of modern origin, having been conferred by Sir Walter Scott, who added the glen to his Abbotsford estate.

Turning to the “prophecies” current under the Rhymer’s name, we may at least admit that their generally gloomy tone was amply justified by the national disasters impending at the time when they are said to have been uttered. As was to be expected, they contain many local allusions, some of which are interesting for the light which they cast, not indeed upon the future, but upon their own time. Thus the early importance of Roxburgh is illustrated, though unconsciously, in a MS. quoted by Pinkerton from the earlier part of the fourteenth century, in which, among types of improbability, the Rhymer specifies the case “ when Rokesbourh nys no burgh.” In the same context, the line, “When loudyonys forest, ant forest ys felde ” (i.e., When Lothian is forest, and the Forest is field), throws light on the distribution of woodland in the Border country at the same date. The prophet is also said to have foretold the construction of a bridge over Tweed, which should be visible from Eildon Tree, and the fall of Kelso Kirk when “at the fullest.” But an opinion of the value and authenticity of these later prophecies may be formed from the fact that in one of them  the Rhymer is made to impart information to Gildas the historian, who was also among the prophets, but who, according to all general belief, lived some seven hundred years before him!

Whilst on the subject of these semi-legendary characters, a word must be given to that sinister being Lord Soulis of Hermitage, and to the less known Habby Ker of Holydean. Popular tradition describes the former as one who combined vast bodily strength with a cruel and oppressive nature, driving his servants like beasts of burden at their work, and leaguing with the Evil One for the accomplishment of his designs. The ‘horror of his death was in proportion to the misdeeds of his life, for he is said to have been seized by a party of the king’s followers, who had taken too literally some words spoken in haste by the sovereign, and by them boiled alive upon the Ninestane Rig, in the neighbourhood of the castle. It is even added that the huge caldron used for this purpose was for long preserved at Skelfhill. As he went out from his castle for the last time, Soulis threw the keys behind him, over his left shoulder, thus consigning the building to the care of his familiar spirit, whom he desired to keep it until he should himself return. Leyden, who tells these stories, suggests, however, that they may owe their origin to the popular obloquy which the hero had incurred by taking part in a conspiracy against Bruce. The conspiracy was detected, and the conspirator’s possessions, which seem to have included the whole of Liddesdale, were forfeited.

Into the house of Holydean, near Bowden, there is built a stone, taken from a castle which once stood on the spot, on which are carved what are known as the Three Precepts of Dame Esbel Ker, who flourished in 1530. These precepts are — Feir God • Fle from Sin • Mak for the Lyfe Everlesting to the End. Notwithstanding the good words graven on it, the castle, at about the same period, served as the abode of Habby or Robert Ker, whose deeds of cruelty earned for him an evil notoriety in his day and generation, and whose spirit was for long afterwards a terror to superstitious persons of the neighbourhood. Near the house stood his “hanging tree”; and the adjoining deer-park, which now no longer exists, formed in older times the extremity of Ettrick Forest.

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