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 XV


Peace and liberty—these were the gifts of the Revolution to the Borders, as to the country at large. In Border homes, weapons of offence and defence might at last be laid aside, to figure as relics or to gather rust; whilst even the most exacting conscience had no longer a religious grievance.

Borderers now had time to direct their attention to progress, intellectual and material; and, though misunderstood at the time, no measure was realiy of greater service to them in this work than the Act of Union of 1707. To what good account they turned their opportunities will be indicated in the concluding chapter. Meantime it remains to glance at two occasions when that progress came near to being interrupted by the untimely apparition of troops marching to war.

An incident which occurred in Jedburgh on the accession of William and Mary serves to throw light on the feeling excited in the Borders by that event. The burgh magistrates had met at the town cross, and were drinking the health of the new sovereigns, when, seeing a well-kncwn Jacobite pass by, one of them invited him to join them. The man declined —agreeing, however, to take a glass of wine or ale. “ It was a litle round plucked glasse,” says Wodrow, who tells the story, “ and when he had gote it and drunk it off, he sayes aloud, ‘As surely as that glasse will break, I wish confusion to him [William], and the Restoration of our soveraing and the heir! ’ ” and with this threw the glass a long way from him. It lighted on the tolbooth stair, rolling down several steps, but nevertheless remaining unbroken. Thereupon the bailie ran and picked it up, and after calling all present to witness the fact of its wholeness, placed his seal on it with the intention that it should be preserved. The matter, which was a good deal talked of, reached the ears of Lord Crawford, the king’s commissioner, who, sending an express to Jedburgh to obtain the glass, presented it to his Majesty with an attested account of the circumstances.

The death of Queen Anne in 1714 afforded a pretext for reopening the Succession Question. Perhaps what most strikes a student of the history of the crisis is the rareness of decided preference for one side or the other. Apparently a large number of people were prepared for either course, and a trifle would have sufficed to turn them. Indeed, with but slightly more favouring circumstances abroad, and more able and energetic action at home, there is no knowing what might have happened. Certainly the Chevalier de St George was not in his own person a figure to inspire enthusiasm, whilst a rising generalled by a Forster and presided over by a “Bobbing John” could not reasonably hope to accomplish much. Still, perhaps the most brilliant or most hopeful moment of its existence was at Kelso, and it is proof of the continued indifference of the Borderer on questions of the day that he gave it neither support nor decided opposition.

Having attended a levee of George I. on one day, Mar set off the next day to raise the Highlands for James VIII., and soon most of the country north of the Tay was in the hands of the insurgents. Meanwhile Lord Kenmure and his friends had proclaimed King James at Moffat, and had effected a junction with Forster, Derwentwater, and their “handful of Northumberland fox-hunters.” Finding themselves menaced by General Carpenter on the south, the united forces then set out for Kelso, there to await reinforcements from the north. On October 22 they had left Wooler, and had halted upon a moor not far from their destination, to appoint officers and make other needful arrangements, when they were visited by messengers from Kelso. These informed them that, after barricading the town, Sir William Bennet of Grubbet had withdrawn from it with his men during the night, and that they were therefore free to enter unopposed. Exhilarated by the intelligence, the rebels forded the Tweed, notwithstanding that it was running deep at the time, and entered Kelso. Here they were met by the exciting news that the body of Highlanders advancing under Brigadier Macintosh had successfully passed the Firth of Forth in the face of three English men-of-war. After this there seemed no room to doubt that Fortune smiled on the expedition, so straightway sallying forth again, in the direction of Duns, they met their brothers-in-arms at Ednam Bridge, and having congratulated them on their achievement, escorted them in triumph into the town. The Highlanders marched to the music of the bagpipe, led by the gallant figure of the veteran brigadier. But rain and a long day’s march had played havoc among them, and the effect produced was not altogether inspiriting.

The inhabitants of Kelso made no effort to oppose their progress. This is the more noteworthy that, but two months before, assembled in their church, they had “ with the utmost unanimity” subscribed an agreement to assist and stand by one another in defence of their lawful sovereign, the succession of the Crown as established by law, and the Protestant religion, and to oppose a Popish Pretender and all his abettors. On the day following this demonstration, a Mr Chatto, a magistrate, assisted by the neighbouring gentlemen, the minister, and the principal inhabitants, had concerted measures for defence in case of necessity. Besides those who were already armed, it was determined that the Act of Succession. selected from the different wards and placed under the command of competent officers, should be armed with muskets ; and such was the spirit manifested, that a hundred more volunteers came forward than could be supplied with arms. The corps thus constituted was then reviewed by Sir William Bennet and Sir John Pringle of Stichill, notables of the neighbourhood. We now see that all these preparations ended in nothing—that those who did not actually go forth to meet the rebels at least offered no resistance to their advance. How is this to be explained? Simply by the fact that the Borderer of 1715 took as little real interest in dynastic questions as his grandsires had taken in sectarian ones. In both cases he simply moved in the direction of the point of least resistance. George or James—the exile of St Germains or the patron of a knot of greedy German favourites—what had he to choose between them? To him both were equally strangers and foreigners. , Unlike the Highlander, he had no chieftain at whose call to rally; unlike him again, his practical nature was slow to respond to the appeal of a sentiment, a tradition. But had he foregone his ancient nature ? By no means. For we shall yet see that it was but necessary to threaten his hearth and home, or to touch him in his patriotic honour, for the martial spirit of his ancestors to flame forth with all its ancient brilliancy.

The 23rd October being Sunday, the troops mustered for divine service, which was conducted according to the Episcopal rites, though not in the Episcopal meeting-house, but in the Great Kirk—a debased structure contrived within the walls of the ruined abbey. By order of Lord Kenmure, commanding in chief, Forster’s chaplain, Patten, officiated. This person was to become the historian of the rising, and has since in his turn become the subject of historians. A renegade and turncoat, he lived to give evidence against those whose acts he had formerly in his spiritual capacity countenanced and inspired—proclaiming with hypocritical unction that his treachery was a “duty,” by which he made all the amends in his power for the injury he had done the Government. On the present occasion the text of his discourse was appropriately chosen from Deuteronomy xxi. 17, “The right of the first-born is his”; and this impudent time-server has presumed to put on record that “ it was very agreeable to see how decently and reverently the very common Highlanders behaved, answering the responses according to the rubric, to the shame of many who pretend to more polite breeding.” The afternoon service was performed by William Irvine, a Scots non-juror, who repeated a very eloquent sermon which he had previously preached before Claverhouse, when in arms against King William before Killiecrankie.

Next morning the troops, having paraded in the churchyard, were marched with drums beating, colours flying, and bagpipes playing, to the market square, where they were drawn up in a circle round the volunteers, the leaders forming the centre. Silence being enjoined, the trumpet sounded, and Seaforth of Barns, who had assumed the title of Earl of Dunfermline, proclaimed the absentee Chevalier in these words: “ Whereas, by the decease of the late King James the Seventh, the imperial crowns of these realms did lineally descend to his lawful heir and son, our sovereign James the Eighth, we do declare him our lawful king over Scotland, England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,” and so forth. After this there was read a document described as a manifesto of the supporters of the new king for relieving the kingdom from its oppressions and grievances, especially those arising from the union of the two kingdoms, the heavy taxes, and the large debts resulting from the maintenance of foreign troops. This was greeted with loud acclamations and cries of “ No union ! No malt-tax ! No salt-tax ! ” Then the troops returned to their quarters.

During the next three days, which were spent at Kelso, the little army—it numbered some 1400 foot and 600 horse— was undecided as to future plans, and had little to do except to forage for itself, plunder the houses of some neighbouring loyalists, and search for arms and ammunition—discovering, however, only a few muskets and broadswords, some pieces of cannon which had been brought by Bennet from Hume Castle for the defence of the town, and a small quantity of gunpowder which lay concealed in the church.

The Government troops under General Carpenter were by this time at Wooler, within a day’s march. On hearing this, Kenmure summoned a council of war, and an animated debate ensued. Three plans were under consideration. The first, advocated by the Earl of Wintoun, was to march westward, reduce Dumfries and Glasgow, and open communication with the army under Mar. The second was to give immediate battle to Carpenter, whose troops consisted but of three regiments of dragoons and one of foot, composed chiefly of raw levies. This was warmly supported by the brigadier, who struck a pike into the ground and declined to budge from the spot. The third plan, and by far the worst of the three, was that of Forster and the Northumbrians, who were anxious to cross the Border and march southward, in expectation of raising the Catholic gentry of the north of England. Besides that it necessitated deserting the base of operations, this plan had the additional disadvantage of being extremely distasteful to the Highlanders, who were unwilling to set foot out of their native country. In the end a compromise was agreed upon, and the army, on leaving Kelso, proceeded to Jedburgh. But its progress even so far was not without ominous incidents. Twice during the ten miles’ march did it mistake a detachment of its own men for Carpenter’s troops; and in the second instance—the alarm being carried to Jedburgh, where the horse had already arrived—something not unlike a panic ensued among them. From Jedburgh the troops marched to Hawick, where the discontent of the Highlanders broke out in actual mutiny—the men, on being surrounded upon the Town Moor, cocking their pistols and crying out that if they must be sacrificed they would choose to have it done on Scottish ground. On the other hand, upon a sudden alarm of the enemy’s approach, they behaved with firmness and presence of mind. They were eventually pacified by being promised payment at the rate of 6d. a-day; but notwithstanding this, 500 deserted. The remainder, sporting blue and white cockades which had been provided in Hawick, marched with the rest of the army to Langholm, and crossed the Border on the 1st November. Meantime Carpenter’s troops were following in their traces.

The ominous signs which had already shown themselves were not long in being justified. It is true that at Penrith a burlesque victory was gained over a motley host known as the posse comitatus, or general muster of the county. But a very few days later—to wit, on the 13th of the month— the entire army capitulated at Preston to an inferior force under Wills and Carpenter. The loss in killed was but seventeen. On the same day the army under Mar fought the battle of Sheriffmuir. In the sequel, the rebels were, on the whole, very leniently dealt with. In 1718, Kelso was one of four towns selected for the sittings of a Commission of Oyer and Terminer, specially appointed to dispose of cases arising out of the rebellion. Only one case, however—that of a Mr Cranston — was brought before it, and this was thrown out by the grand jury.

The rebellion of 1715 was altogether a half - hearted affair. That which, thirty years later, was to assume so much more threatening proportions had at any rate the advantage of a leader of almost irresistible attractiveness, and one who, at least for the time being, displayed many of the attributes of a hero. It does not belong to the present narrative to repeat the well - known story of the romantic landing on Eriska Island, on July 23, 1745, or the unprecedented succession of events which, in the space of some six weeks, were to convert the moneyless, defenceless, almost friendless stranger of that occasion into the adored and feted captor of the Scottish capital. Among those who had been in relations with the prince ere he left the Continent was the Peeblesshire laird, John Murray of Broughton; and when James VIII. was proclaimed king at the cross of Edinburgh, Mrs Murray, a lady of great beauty, added charm to the occasion by appearing on horseback, adorned with white ribbons, with a drawn sword in her hand. Murray himself acted as the prince’s secretary, drawing up his proclamations and conducting his correspondence, and in so doing obtained immense influence over him. He figures in the subsequent transactions as a man of unbounded selfish ambition and capacity for intrigue, from whose composition the rudiments of the sense of honour had been omitted—in fact, a sort of understudy of Fergusson “the Plotter,” who had been the bad angel of Monmouth in the rebellion of 1685.

After the victory at Prestonpans came several weeks spent in dalliance at Holyrood, and it was November ere Charles Edward set out to march to England. His army was divided into two columns—besides a nondescript party, which probably comprised the baggage and followers, and which proceeded southward by Galashiels, Selkirk, and Hawick. The first or western column, commanded by the Dukes of Perth and Atholl, in addition to their graces’ brigades, included the Lowland troops, Ogilvie’s, Glenbucket’s, and Roy Stewart’s regiments, the artillery, and the Perth horse. These marched by Auchindinny to Peebles, and onward by Broughton, Tweedsmuir, Moffat, and LocKerby, joining the Prince’s column at Newton of Rowclrff in England. At Peebles their arrival created consternation among the inhabitants, but the discipline of the soldiers seems to have been generally good. Certain contributions in money and supplies were demanded, and these being granted, no further molestation was offered.1 Local tradition points to a field lying west of Hay Lodge as the site of the encampment, and states that the town mills were kept working over Sunday to supply meal for the soldiers. When the troops departed, certain carts and horses belonging to one David Grieve, tenant in Jedderfield, were pressed into their service. There is no record of any local organisation to resist them until fully two months later.2 Tradition adds that there was but one Jacobite in Stobo when the Highlanders passed. The rest of the country-people had removed their cows to places of safety, but disdaining to follow their example, this man paid the penalty of misplaced confidence. A woman who was kept out of l>ed half the night to cook observed that the bread she baked was never turned on the girdle, but eaten half raw. The aspect of the country through which they marched impressed the Highlanders favourably, so that one of them is fabled to have remarked that “when she comes back she will settle in Glen Tweed.” An intended domiciliary visit to Burnett, Laird of Barns, who was suspected of Jacobite leanings, was frustrated by timely warning being conveyed to him.

Meantime the prince’s column—which was composed of the clan regiments of Lochiel, Clanranald, Glengarry, Keppoch, Cluny, and Stewart of Appin, with the remainder of the horse, amounting in all to nearly 4000 men, under Lord George Murray as second in command — had proceeded by Dalkeith to Lauder, the prince marching on foot at the head of the clans, with his target over his shoulder. On the 4th November, after returning on horseback to Channelkirk to bring up stragglers, he proceeded to Kelso, where he arrived in the evening. Thence he sent an express to Wooler with instructions to prepare quarters for the army; and the next day a party of horse, under his aide-de-camp, Ker of Graden, crossed the Tweed to scout in that direction. But this was merely a ruse to produce the impression that he intended to advance upon Newcastle. During this time—or, more probably, on the night of the 5th November—it is believed that he lodged at the now demolished house of Sunlaws, where a white rose-tree, perpetuated by cuttings, is said to have been planted by his hand. The Tanlaw at Hendersyde has also been pointed out as the scene of a bivouac of his troops.

The reception of Charles Edward at Kelso deserves a word of notice. The parish minister at the time was a Glimpses of Peebles, by the Rev. Alex. Williamson.

Mr Ramsay, a man of strong sense, a humourist, and something of a “ character.” Having occupied his present position at the time of the Fifteen, he had some experience of rebellion, which he now turned to account. In common with others, he had received a communication from Government, which required him to report on the Jacobites of the district. Being well acquainted in the neighbourhood, and consequently well qualified to do so, he requested those gentlemen who were supposed to be disaffected to meet him at his own house, and when they did so placed the document before them. The gentlemen were not unnaturally taken aback, on which Ramsay asked them what return they would recommend him to make to this order of the Government, and whether they knew of any persons of the character indicated. They replied with one accord that all their acquaintances were loyal. “ Well, well,” said the minister, “ I am exceedingly glad to hear so. Had there been any <&-loyal persons in the place, I am sure that you must have known them; and I shall now acquaint the Privy Council that I have consulted with the most intelligent of my parishioners, who assure me that the people here are all well-affected to his Majesty’s Government! ”

Whether in consequence of the above action or not, it is a fact that the prince got not a single recruit in Kelso. On the other hand, desertions among the Highlanders were there particularly numerous, whilst such persons as were pressed into the transport - service returned home on the earliest opportunity. The local Jacobites confined their demonstrations of loyalty to waiting upon his Royal Highness, and assuring him of their firm attachment—in token of which it was mentioned that they never met together in an evening without pledging him. “ I believe you, gentleman, I believe you,” replied Charles Edward, with well-merited dryness; “ I have drinking friends, but few lighting ones, in Kelso.”

On the 6th of the month the army crossed the Tweed on their way to Jedburgh. The river was hardly fordable, but the men were in high spirits—to which they gave vent, when up to the middle in water, by shouting and discharging their pieces. At Jedburgh the Prince occupied a house in the Castlegate,1 then the property of Ainslie of Blackhill. Thence he proceeded with the clans by the Rule valley to Haggiehaugh, or Larriston, on the south side of the Liddell, the cavalry marching by Hawick and Langholm—the route taken by their predecessors thirty years before. On the next day the main body crossed the Esk into England, and spent the night at the hamlet of Riddings, being rejoined by the cavalry at Longtown.

It is natural that to this day traditions should linger round Prince Charlie’s line of march. Thus it is recorded that some of the Highlanders were drowned in attempting to cross Fans Moss, near Earlston, where human bones, supposed to be theirs, with buttons, remains of cloth, and wooden spoons, forming part of their kit, have been found when peats were being cast. At Smailholm they ransacked the house of a tailor, where a web of homespun took the fancy of a Highlander, who was proceeding to cut it up when the gudewife solemnly remonstrated, saying that he would have to account for the act. “Pe Cot, when ? ” was the rejoinder. “ At the last day,” replied the pious sufferer. “That pe coot lang credit,” said the robber, adding, “She was going to tak’ a coat, an’ will now tak’ a waistcoat too.” At Charterhouse there is record of a sudden invasion by armed men, at the moment when the farmer’s wife and her maids were busy with the household baking. They had to bake more than they had bargained for, but were treated in return with kindness and civility, though the visitors are not understood to have made any requital beyond “ Thank you,” and “ Good morning.” From Ancrum a little girl had been sent on an errand into Jedburgh, when she suddenly found the road in possession of a great host of men, strangely dressed, and marching steadfastly onward. Terrified by their appearance, she knew not which way to turn, when a “bonnie gentleman,” riding up to her, told her not to be alarmed, and kept her beside him till the Highlanders were past. The gentleman was, of course, Charles Stuart himself.

The individuals concerned in these incidents are more or less unknown, but no less a person than the poetess of “The Flowers of the Forest ” had her share in the adventures of the time. The daughter of Gilbert Elliot of Minto, Lord Justice-Clerk, it was feared that her father’s well-known Whig principles would incur the hostility of the rebels. Accordingly when a party of armed men presented themselves at Minto, the owner made all haste to leave the house unseen. Meantime Miss Elliot, with great presence of mind, received the intruders, entertaining them hospitably until her father had had time to reach a safe hiding-place among the adjacent crags. A search was then made which proved fruitless, and the soldiers, concluding that the Justice-Clerk was not in the neighbourhood, departed. Thus, at least, runs the current version of the story, but a recent examination of the pages of the factor’s accounts points to the conclusion that Lord Minto’s fears for himself were more or less groundless, and that it was not his person so much as his chattels which the rebels desired to seize. Ten bolls of oats were the dues exacted by them from the Minto tenantry, whilst the factor records that he himself was obliged, “under pain of military execution,” to pay the sum of .274, 10s. 4d. Scots to John Goodwillie, “who came with a party to raise the cess [or government tax] for the rebel army.” On receipt of payment, Goodwillie presented a discharge in perfect order, which is preserved.

The prince had staked his all upon the hazard of the die. The story of his triumphant advance to Derby, of the failure of the English Jacobites to support him, of his retreat northward, final rout at Culloden, and subsequent wanderings and adventures, does not call for repetition here. Neither are we here concerned with the penalties exacted from his supporters, or with the brutal vengeance of the “ Butcher ” Cumberland. With the possible exception of the duke, no one comes worse out of the entire transaction than the secretary, Murray of Broughton. Escaping from Culloden, he returned to Tweeddale, where he lay for some hours concealed in the house of Hunter of Polmood, who was his brother-in-law. This was on the 28th June, and, his retreat being discovered, probably by his own connivance, he was apprehended and carried by a party of dragoons to Edinburgh. There he did not scruple to purchase his life at the price of turning in* former—revealing the secrets of a conspiracy which had been in existence since 1740. Henceforth, under the opprobrious nickname of “ Mr Evidence Murray,” he was a mark for the finger of scorn. In 1770 he succeeded to the baronetcy previously held by his nephew, Murray of Stanhope. But, what with the expenses of the rising and the fines and losses which followed it, his affairs had become involved, and having been forced to sell his estate, he spent his last years in poverty, dying in 1777. Chambers, writing in 1864, remarks that “ who or where the present baronet is seems unknown.” As a matter of fact, the title became extinct in 1848, on the death of the eleventh baronet.

The escape of a Jacobite gentleman of this time, by rolling down the precipitous slope of the “ Devil’s Beef-tub ” near Tweed’s Well, when being conducted by a military escort to stand trial at Carlisle, will be remembered from Scott’s spirited version of the story introduced into his novel of * Redgauntlet.’

The episode of the “ Forty-five ” is not without its memorial in the Border counties. The Earl of Traquair of that day was a Jacobite, but foreseeing perhaps the inevitable end of the rising, he had forborne to join it. Charles Edward had, however, a great and well-justified belief in his own personal influence and powers of persuasion, and during his stay in Edinburgh he is said to have visited Traquair House, and used all means in his power to induce the earl to come “ out.” Finding, however, that his labour was vain, he prepared to take his departure. Wishing, doubtless, to soften the harshness of refusal, his host accompanied him to the great gate, at the head of the avenue, and there, as he bade the bonnie Prince farewell, solemnly assured him that the gates should never be opened again until Charles Stuart should re-enter them as sovereign of the kingdom. He kept his word, his word has been kept for him, and to this day those gates remain closed. Till Arthur wake, till Charles come to his own — it is a synonym of hopeless waiting; and the suggestion of pathos in the locked gates and grass-grown avenue is appropriate to the futility of the last rally of the Stuarts, to the devotion which it inspired, and the sorrow which it brought to so many.

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