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A History of the Border Counties


It remains to review rapidly the progress, moral and material, of the Border counties from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Probably the darkest and cruellest vestige of barbarity to be found in the country during the earlier portion of that period was the prosecution for witchcraft. We have seen that in the list drawn up for the guidance of the law-officers at Jedburgh figured the question: If there be any witchcraft or sorcery used in the realm ? But, without research, the full significance of this question would escape us. “ Among the circumstances which peculiarly characterise the earlier criminal proceedings of Scotland,” writes Pitcairn, “ . . . none are more prominent than the unmitigated rigour with which the profession as well as the practice of witchcraft were punished.” The same authority speaks of “ hecatombs of innocent victims,” whose lives were sacrificed to satisfy the gloomy superstitions of nations “ termed Christian ”—the period succeeding the Reformation being specially stained by atrocities of this kind. Perhaps the rage in question reached its height in 1661, in which year, in a single sederunt, no fewer than fourteen Commissions for the trial of witches were granted, the Commissioners being invested with powers of adding almost at will to the list of persons indicted in the Commission. A memorandum preserved by Thomas, Earl of Haddington, in his Minutes of Proceedings of the Privy Council in the reign of James the Sixth, is the standard source of reference on this subject. But if Tam of the Cowgate cites no instance of witch-burning in the Border counties, we must not, I fear, on that account conclude that the district was more humane or more enlightened than, say, Coldingham parish,—where, before 1694, Home of Renton had “ caused burn seven or eight ” witches; or than Broughton, near Edinburgh, where some women, convicted of witchcraft, were “ burnit quick, eftir sic ane crewell maner, that sum of thame deit in despair, renunceand and blasphemeand, and utheris, half-burnt, brak out of the fyre, and wes cast in quick in it agane, quhill they wer burnt to the deid.”  An able specialist assures us that the belief in witchcraft “took deep hold of the Borderland, especially of the Scottish portion of it,” and to this the records of the local Kirk Sessions bear witness; nor is tradition silent on the subject. Robert Davidson, the Morebattle poet, speaks of the traditional burning of a Jedourgh woman named Shortreed, reputed a witch, at Beggarmuir on the Hartrig estate, as late as the year 1696, and adds that similar traditions are connected with several other places in the county of Roxburgh. The Wilkie Manuscript, rich in traditions of the kind, tells of a similar burning on a stone at the Bullsheugh near Selkirk, and speaks of Bullsheugh and Coslie-dale as traditional scenes of the dances of the Selkirkshire witches.

The statutes against witchcraft were repealed in 1735. The last execution of a witch in Scotland had taken place in 1722,3—the last judicial execution, that is, for it is known that the populace still continued on occasion to take the law in these cases into its own hands. The doing to death of “ Madge Wildfire ” on the Hairibee at Carlisle paints an instance of this kind. But though as an indictable offence witchcraft might be dead, the discats to her house and began to drink in her water - cog, till she in great fear arose and struck them away, and spoke to them (committing herself to God), ‘ What have ye adoe here? Go where ye should go! ’ And in the meantime it is remarkable that John Davidson, brother of Mark Davidson, died at that time in a very violent and lamentable strange way.” Christian was dismissed till the next day. The telling of the tale had excited suspicion, and on the 19th May it is resolved that she along with another “ be cited and further dealt with for confession, seeing there are frequent scandals of both of them, and some considerable presumption rumoured.” They are to be “required and advised to offer themselves to trial when opportunity serves (in case they hold themselves innocent, as they said). The Session expects they cannot refuse this course.position to believe in it could not be quickly eradicated. In proof of this, Scott tells of a farmer who, having excited the anger of a certain old woman of questionable reputation, and been openly ill-wished by her, became the prey to misfortune in so immediate and striking a manner that he thought it well to consult the sheriff of the county, “as a friend rather than a magistrate,” upon a case so extraordinary.1 This happened in 1800, but the following incident was narrated to the writer himself by the person engaged in it A cow belonging to him suffered from a surfeit, and for several days would eat nothing. One morning an old gentleman who was his neighbour informed him confidentially that in the speaker’s belief “ ill een had looked on the beast.” He then proceeded to prescribe for its recovery. The owner was to go to a neighbouring plantation where the rowan-tree flourished, bring back a sprig, and place it above the byre-door. Then he was to lay salt along the cow’s back, beginning at the tail and continuing to the end of the horns. My friend, who was also my tenant, laughed at these directions, and that very night as it happened the cow recovered—so that, as he always laughingly said in winding up the story, “if I had followed the prescription, I should have been converted.”

Next to the disappearance of superstition, we may congratulate ourselves upon that of religious intolerance. Of the latter we have already seen many manifestations — for our present purpose, one or two more may suffice. In 1666, then, Walter Scott of Raeburn was imprisoned as a Quaker at Jedburgh, where he was detained until 1670. During that time, excepting his wife, Isobel Mackdougall, who had embraced the same tenets, no person of the Quaker persuasion was admitted to visit him. His children were removed from their parents’ influence, whilst a heavy tax for their maintenance was levied on the estate. In this persecution the lairds of Harden and Makerstoun, brother and brother-in-law of the victim, both took part. In Mar^h 1673, there were as many as eleven men in prison at Kelso for attending a Quaker meeting.

Let us now pass on to the period, one hundred years later, when the proposal for repealing some of the more oppressive statutes against Roman Catholics was before Scotland. I)r William Somerville, who was minister of Jedburgh at the time, has left an account of the local feeling on the subject. On the whole intolerance still ruled, but it was relieved by some notable exceptions. Anti-repeal agents were going their rounds through town and village to collect subscriptions to a petition to Parliament, and in Jedburgh—where the magistrates, ministers, and people had been called together in the court-house—“ there were few,” says Somerville, “ who did not consent to the exactions of these fanatical vagrants, though some so acted merely under the awe of that ferocious spirit which now pervaded the lower orders of the people of every religious sect.” Somerville himself declined attendance on this motley assemblage, and, despite the entreaties of friends alarmed for his safety, was alone in refusing a contribution to the collection. The matter was afterwards taken up by the local presbytery, who passed a resolution that a petition and remonstrance against Catholic

Emancipation should be presented to both Houses of Parliament. From this resolution there were, however, three dissenters, whose dissent was entered in the minutes. Compare the attitude here indicated with that of the present day, and the difference will at once appear.

Meantime the material side of things was not neglected. As long ago as early in the seventeenth century- the geographer Pont had commented on the wasted fertility of the haughs and valleys of Tweeddale, remarking that though the province was capable of sufficing for its own grain supply, the people subsisted chiefly upon the produce of their flocks and herds.2 With peace and leisure, the idea of the improvement of the country and the development of its resources began to be prominent in men’s minds. It is only natural that, at the outset, there should have been instances of misconceptions and mistakes, conspicuous among which is the case of Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, in Peeblesshire.3 Sir Alexander’s experiments were, however, made upon an outland soil. Having studied the supposed traces of prehistoric cultivation upon the high

1 They were Mr Riccaltoun, minister of Hobkirk, the early friend of the poet Thomson, Dr Charters, and Somerville himself. Their grounds of dissent are in every way honourable to their reason as well as to their hearts : “ Because the professed design is to remonstrate against the repeal of a law which invades liberty of conscience, the most valuable and sacred right of man : Because a penal statute about religion is in violent contradiction to the genius and temper of the Gospel, which breathes the most enlarged charity and goodwill even towards the ignorant, and those who are out of the way : Because the kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world, can never be promoted by fines, imprisonments, or persecution of any kind, or in any degree.”—‘Minutes of Presbytery,’ 18th February 1779- grounds of his native county, he concluded that the proper method for conducting a course of improvement was to commence upon the tops of the hills. He observed that, from the settling of the clouds upon them, these spots were specially subject to humidity, and hence conceived the idea that they might be turned to account as a means of irrigating the lowlands. Unhappily the district selected by him for testing these theories was the rain-drenched promontory of Ardnamurchan in Argyllshire. Besides the above, his schemes included commerce and mining —by which means, in addition to that of agriculture, he cherished hopes of redeeming the entire population from sloth, poverty, and barbarism. Like other innovators, however,—and, as must be acknowledged, with better show of reason than is sometimes the case,—he had to encounter suspicion and opposition. As a safeguard for the furtherance of his plans, he applied for Government protection, and at length relations between himself and the people became so strained that his buildings were burnt, his sheep and cattle destroyed, and his own murder plotted. After years of futile warfare, in 1743 death interrupted his labours, when his work was allowed to lapse—the plough having now long since obliterated the last trace of the mining village to which he had given the aspiring name of “New York.” There is no doubt that he was animated by the highest aims for the good of his fellow-creatures, whilst the subsequent discovery that some at least of his ideas were grounded in reason serves but to add to the irony of his fate. An instance of a less Utopian scheme, which none the less was doomed to failure, was the attempt to cultivate tobacco in the Borders. The war with the States of America having raised the price of the weed to as much as two shillings a pound, a Mr Jackson, who had had experience of tobacco-growing abroad, raised a crop on his farm near Kelso, which he disposed of at a good profit. This sufficed to turn the attention of his neighbours in the same direction, so that, according to Somerville, there was perhaps not a single farmer in Roxburghshire or Selkirkshire who did not proceed to devote a considerable part of his arable ground to the experiment. The worthy Doctor himself tried it in his glebe, and he assures us that in the spring of 1782 many thousand acres in the Border country were planted with tobacco. Circumstances, however, did not favour the enterprise. The spring and summer were unusually late and wet, whilst later on a severe thunderstorm damaged the small proportion of the tobacco-plants which had prospered to maturity. But what dealt the final blow to the hopes of the speculators was a decision of the Crown lawyers that from the period of the Union— when the privileges of colonial trade were extended to Scotland—the colonial laws of England became equally binding on both kingdoms. In the sequel the home-grown tobacco was purchased by Government at a nominal rate and destroyed. The penalties unwittingly incurred by the growers were remitted in consideration of ignorance.

These misadventures were, however, on the whole exceptional, and constitute only the reverse side of the picture. In 1723 was founded the Society for Improving in the Knowledge of Agriculture, among the original members of which were Lords Lothian and Elibank. The Society increased rapidly, and in a short time included 300 of the leading landowners of Scotland. These gentlemen had agreed to meet once a fortnight to discuss such questions as the enclosing, fallowing, and manuring of land, the treatment of various soils, and the qualities of various grasses (amongst which are specified sainfoin and lucerne), and also to receive and answer questions dealing with agricultural matters from all parts of the country. In 1724 they announce a book in which such matters as fallowing, preparing ground for grass-seeds, winning and cleaning of flax, and the bleaching of linen cloth, are to be treated of. At the same time they passed a resolution discouraging the use of smuggled foreign spirits, and pledging themselves to protect the native product. It is not to be supposed that their progress was as rapid as might be desired, or that they contrived to steer entirely clear of errors, but upon the whole their work must be pronounced as useful as their aim was laudable and patriotic.

To a member of this society belongs the credit of laying the foundation of the leading branch of modern store-husbandry by being the first to raise turnips in the open fields; but it was to a Roxburghshire farmer that this department of industry owed its most important development. The fact was that, so long as agricultural experiments had remained in the hands of the landed gentry, there had been a tendency among professional farmers to regard them in the light of pastimes, suited to those who could afford to indulge in them, but certainly not entering within the range of practical work. To this day the agricultural brain remains far from the readiest to receive new ideas, and its inertness a century and a half ago may be calculated in proportion. When, however, the tenant-farmers saw one who, like themselves, had rent to pay and depended for his livelihood upon his own exertions, follow the example of the lairds, they began to regard the matter in a new light The pioneer in this instance was William Dawson, a native of Harperton in Roxburghshire, who, having obtained practical experience in agriculture in England, settled in 1753 at Frogden in the parish of Linton, where he at once substituted the method of sowing turnips in drills for that which had before been customary of sowing them broadcast. His example was soon followed, and from this time, says the author of the Statistical History, Roxburghshire became the “ scene of the most active agricultural enterprises,” whilst Dawson, in addition to personal prosperity, had the satisfaction of living to see himself acknowledged as the Father of Scottish Agriculture. Turnips were followed by artificial grasses, and these, after 1754, by the cultivation of potatoes in the fields.

An extreme instance of the opposition encountered by innovators is supplied by the case of Andrew Rodger, a farmer at Cavers in Roxburghshire, who, having devoted himself to mechanical pursuits, became in 1737 the first inventor in this country of a winnowing-machine. The appliance found immediate favour among farmers, and obviously this was all that the world was concerned to know of its merits. But the prejudiced and meddlesome of the sects known as “ Seceders ” presumed to oppose its introduction upon religious grounds, basing their opposi’.ion upon a text in Amos, and declaring impious any attempt to interfere with the natural course or volume of the wind. Robert Chambers had been informed that an uncle of the poet Gilfillan was extruded from a congregation of this kind on account of his persistent use of the machine.

A pleasant picture of the devotion of a Border laird of this period to agricultural pursuits is presented in the life, of the eminent lawyer, Henry Home, afterwards Lord Kames “ The seasons of vacation,” says his biographer, “ were usually spent in the country; and with no other interruption to his hours of study than his favourite agricultural pursuits and rural improvements demanded. Inheriting a paternal estate which, from the indolence of his predecessors, he found in a very waste and unproductive condition, he began early to turn his attention to agriculture as a science; and living in a quarter of the country bordering on England, he had the opportunity of observing the effects of a better system of farming, which he was among the first of the Scottish gentry to emulate in his own practice, and endeavour to bring into general use. In these pursuits he found a pleasing variety of employment, and a useful recreation from his sedentary occupations; and prosecuting with ardour, as was the turn of his mind, everything in which he engaged, it was his custom to oversee in person the operations of his farm-servants, and to spend every day some hours with them in the fields in directing, and even aiding, their labours. One day a country gentleman of his neighbourhood coming to dine with him at Kames, found him in the fields, hard at work in assisting his men to clear the stones from a new enclosure. It was after his promotion to the rank of judge. His neighbour attended him for some time, with labouring steps and much inward impatience, till summoned by the bell for dinner. ‘ Well, my lord,’ said he, * you have truly wrought for your meal: and pray let me ask you how much you think you will gain by that hard labour at the end of the year? ’ ‘ Why, really, my good sir,' replied the other, ‘ I never did calculate the value of my labour: but one thing I will venture to assert, that no man who is capable of asking that question will ever deserve the name of a farmer.’ ” The biographer goes on to say that the attitude of the questioner was characteristic of a great proportion of the Scottish country gentry at the time. Home, however, was convinced that our agricultural inferiority to our southern neighbours was much less to be attributed to difference of soil and climate than to the “indolence of the landholders, the obstinate indocility of the peasantry, and the stupid attachment of both classes to ancient habits and practices.” “ For the removal of these impediments, he saw that the only remedy must be the successful example of a better system; and this he determined to show in the management of his own lands, with a resolution and perseverance that did him honour, and which he had the satisfaction to see produce at length a great and general change in the agriculture of Scotland.”

Outside the department of agriculture, the general improvement and embellishment of their estates began now to engage the attention of landlords, and it is to this period that much of the planting and laying out of parks in the Border country must be assigned. As long ago as in 1632, Robert Kerr, first Ear! of Ancram, had addressed a remarkable letter to his son regarding the improvement of the house and grounds of Ancram. This document, which extends to fourteen quarto pages, recalls the somewhat artificial view of natural beauty illustrated in the essay of Francis Bacon. It includes directions for pleasant alleys, to be planted with birch-trees for the sake of the perfume; for an orchard, to be formed of the best fruit-trees obtainable from the neighbouring abbeys; for avenues, nut-groves, and fish-ponds; and assigns the due importance to a “ prospect.” A football field is provided, and such matters as the draining of stables and the drawing of chimneys receive attention. Internally, there are directions for the formation of a “ fine cabinet for books and papers ”; whilst even such a detail as the shape of the dining-table is not overlooked. In prescribing a rearrangement of the lights of the dining-room window, Sir Robert desires that the latter be kept “strong in the out syde, because the world may change agayn.”1 This, unfortunately, was just what did happen, with the result that all these pleasant labours were interrupted for wellnigh a century. Early in the eighteenth century the Earl of Haddington gave an impetus to a new form of enterprise in the south of Scotland by the planting of the famous Binning and Tyn-inghame Woods. In the Border counties his example was followed by Sir James Naesmyth of Dawick, or New Posso, who devoted much labour and taste to the adornment of his property; and being about the middle of the century the arbiter of fashion in his own district, he was imitated in this, as in other things, by the neighbouring gentry of Tweeddale.1 In our own day, the number and beauty of their parks and pleasure-grounds have gained the Border counties distinction as the Scottish counterpart of a famous district of the English Midlands.

Sir James Naesmyth corresponded with Lord Kames on subjects suggested by their common pursuits, and this brings us to the consideration of literary culture in the Borders during the eighteenth century. In the youth of Kames, classical learning, having declined during the period of the religious troubles, was at a very low ebb in Scotland. But, so far as the Borders were concerned, a revival was close at hand. The year 1700 witnessed the birth at Ednam of James Thomson, the poet of the ‘Seasons' who has been called the Scottish Virgil; whilst twenty-two years later, John Home, author of the tragedy of ‘ Douglas,’ was born in Ancrum parish. These were perhaps the last poets born in the Borders who belonged to the classical or academic school. But it must not be supposed that literary culture was there confined to its professors. In the interval of more serious employments, Henry Home found time to cultivate the muse, his name figuring with that of Thomson in a miscellany of verse published in Edinburgh in 1720. Meantime, in their beautiful seat on the banks of Kale, Sir William Bennet and his lady enjoyed the society of both Thomson and Allan Ramsay; whilst when a competition of the Royal Archers took place at “Conchi-polis,” or Musselburgh, both Sir William and his neighbour, Scott of Thirlstane, celebrated the event in Latin Sapphics. At a later period, Sir Gilbert Elliot was an accomplished classical scholar and elegant versifier, and had the honour of entertaining Burke at Minto, where the poet Campbell also spent an autumn, soon after his success with the ‘ Pleasures of Hope.’ Among ladies, Jane Elliot of Minto and Alison Rutherford of Fairnilee were Border poetesses who have alike won immortality by a single song; whilst Mrs Scott of Wauchope is remembered as a blue-stocking, and hostess of Robert Burns in Roxburghshire. Finally, the third Duke of Roxburghe, who died in 1804 at the age of sixty-four, was the collector of the famous Roxburghe Library, and the founder of the Roxburghe Club. Also in the closing years of the last century, science was richly represented at Jedburgh by James Veitch of Inchbonny, the peasant astronomer; by Mary Fairfax, afterwards Somerville, author of the ‘ Mechanism of the Heavens,’ a native and frequent visitor; and by David (afterwards Sir David) Brewster, the inventor of the kaleidoscope, who was the son of the local schoolmaster.

Meantime the old fighting spirit of the Borders was employed to better purpose than had often been the case in bygone ages, in the land and sea service of the country. Among modern soldiers sprung from the old Border families the most distinguished is George Augustus Eliott, a younger son of Sir Gilbert Eliott of Stobs, created in 1787 Baron Heathfield, for his heroic three-years’ defence of Gibraltar against the combined fleets of France and Spain. Among sailors, we may mention Admiral Sir James Douglas of Springwood Park, created a baronet in 1786 for long and distinguished naval services; Admiral John Elliot of Minto, fourth son of the Lord Justice-Clerk, who owes his fame specially to his defeat of the French privateersman, Thurot, off the Isle of Man in 1760; and Admiral Fairfax, a Borderer by adoption, the hero of the battle of Camper-down, and father of the celebrated Mrs Somerville.

Mungo Park, born at Foulshiels in Ettrick Forest in 1771, the son of a tenant farmer, is remembered among the greatest names in travel for his exploration of the Niger, which at the age of thirty-four cost him his life, and of which he has left delightfully written records.

A pleasing anecdote is told in Dr Carlyle’s Autobiography that when, in 1767, the young Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch were expected to pass along the road between Hawick and Langholm, to take possession of their estates, the shepherds taught their sheep to line the way, so that the owners might see in what the riches of the land consisted. This throws a light on the pastoral side of country life at the time, and also serves to bring us to the subject of local manufactures. The rise of the local woollen-factories may almost be said to belong to a later period than that here under consideration, but their great importance, together with the changes which they have introduced in the country, forbid us to pass them by unnoticed. As late as 1798, Douglas’s ‘ Survey ’ speaks of the manufactures of Roxburghshire as “ very inconsiderable,” adding that, “ from the large quantity and good quality of the wool produced, and the excellent situations which everywhere abound for water - machinery, there is every reason to expect that the woollen branches might prosper.” At that time the few manufacturers were chiefly employed in making small parcels of wool and yam entrusted to them by their customers into cloth, flannel, or worsted stuffs according to instructions. And yet, even then, the “wobstairs” of Hawick had existed as an incorporated body for at least 150 years. Seventy years later, Douglas’s possibilities are accomplished facts. In 1869 the number of sets of machines in Hawick is 68 ; the weight of wool carded by them, at a moderate computation, amounts to 1,801,796 lb. annually. There are 52,864 spinning-spindles, of which 12,564 are self-acting, including spinning-frames, and 5894 tuming-spindles, half of which are self-acting. There are 270 power-locwis, and from 100 to 150 Land-looms.1 The number of hosiery frames is 900. In its own way this contrast is to the full as remarkable as any of the historic changes which it has been our business to record. The first person who engaged in the stocking manufacture in this part of the country is understood to have been Bailie John Hardie, in the year 1771. The first kind of woollen cloth made for the market in Hawick was a coarse blue which was sent to Leeds to be finished. Duffle for petticoats, plaidings, blankets, and flannels, was also manufactured during the first thirty years of the century; whilst in 1826 Messrs William Wilson & Sons first used foreign wool in the manufacture of fine flannels. According to one story, it was the weather-resisting properties of the local cloth as worn by the Marquis of Lothian of the day which first started its vogue; according to another, the name “ tweed ” which came to be applied to it was in the first instance a mere fortunate misreading of the word “ twilled.”

The manufactures of Galashiels are traceable to an even earlier date than those of Hawick, being mentioned in a charter which conveys the barony to the Crown as far back as 1622. The sheep-walks of the Forest would supply abundant wool, and it is probable that the tenants of the barony—numbering then about 400—would add to their means of subsistence by dyeing and weaving the produce of the cottagers’ spinning-wheels. Still, as late as 1774 the wool used in Galashiels amounted to but 794 stones of 24 lb. each. The introduction of a carding-machine, of a “billy” with twenty-four spindles, and a spinning-jenny with thirty-six spindles, in 1790 and 1791, was the beginning of a new order of things. But about 1829 the grey, drab, and blue cloths hitherto produced, together with knitting-yarns and flannels, having become unmarketable, various efforts had to be made to establish new branches of industry. These resulted in the substitution of tartans, trouserings, and tweeds for the discredited manufactures. In 1838 the number of looms employed in the town was 265, and from this time trade continued to increase, machine-work being substituted for hand-labour in almost every department, and foreign for home-grown wool. In 1869 the annual production was valued at 570,000} Besides this, many mills in other towns owe their origin to the enterprise of manufacturers from Galashiels. In the meantime the towns of Peebles, Innerleithen, and Walkerburn, of Selkirk and of Jedburgh, have contributed in their due degree to developing the resources of the Border country upon similar lines.

A glance or two backward will suffice to show us many changes in which our district has participated since the seventeenth century. Thus in 1637, and again in 1644, the Plague visited the Borders, causing great devastations; whilst in 1645, *n cleansing one of the infected houses at Kelso, the town was burned. Forty years after the latter misfortune again befell it, a violent wind spreading the fire, —which had first broken out in a malt-kiln,—so that within some six hours the town was in ashes. Three hundred and six families had their houses destroyed, and of these not twenty were so circumstanced as to be able to rebuild them. The losses of individual merchants are estimated in some cases at as much as twenty thousand pounds Scots; and for these disasters the only alleviation then known was a collection in the parish churches of the kingdom. Thanks to improved sanitation, fire insurance, and improved appliances for extinguishing fire, a repetition of such misfortunes may to-day be considered impossible.

The last records of duels in the district belong to 1707 and 1726. In the former year Walter Scott of Raeburn, having challenged Mark Pringle, of the family of Haining, for a fancied insult at the head-court of Selkirk, was slain by his antagonist in a neighbouring field, since known as Raeburn's Meadow Spot. Pringle escaped abroad, and having been a prisoner in the hands of Barbary pirates, returned long after to Clifton Park, to which estate his grandson eventually succeeded. In 1726, at an election for the county of Roxburgh, Sir Gilbert Eliott of Stobs, the successful candidate, having received provocation from Colonel Stewart of Hartrig, drew his sword on him as he sat opposite at table at Jedburgh. Stewart died of the wound he received, and Eliott had to take refuge in Holland, but was subsequently pardoned. The weapon with which the deed was done is still in existence at Monteviot House.

By the disappearance, or all but disappearance, of the old gipsy population, Border life has lost a highly picturesque feature. The gipsies, who first appeared in Scotland in the fifteenth century, had long frequented the Border, but their settlement in the village of Kirk Yetholm as their headquarters is referred by tradition to the date of the siege of Namur. It is said that the life of Captain David Bennet, proprietor of the barony, was there saved by a gipsy named Young, and that when the Captain returned to his native country he evinced his gratitude by building cottages for the gipsy tribe on his estate, where they continued to flourish under Nisbet of Dirleton and the Marquis of Tweeddale, the successors of their original’ protector. Taken in their own way, and allowed the privileges which they considered theirs by natural right, the gipsies are said to have been tolerable neighbours, and to have shown the virtue of “ trustfulness” in a high degree. But their capacity for violent action must have made them always formidable and redoubted. Pennecuik records a battle which took place at Romanno in 1677 between two families of the tribe — the Faas and the Shaws. Of the former there were present four brethren and a brother’s son, of the latter a father and three sons, besides several women on either side. Old Sandie Faa, described as a bold and proper fellow, and his wife, then with child, were left dead upon the field, whilst a brother, George, was dangerously wounded. For these murders Robin Shaw and his three sons were hanged in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. The ingenious and agreeable historian of Tweeddale—a district which his peregrinations on horseback as a doctor had taught him to know intimately—commemorated the fray by erecting a dovecot on the spot, near to his house, for which he wrote the following inscription :—

“The field of gipsie blood which here you see A shelter for the harmless dove shall be.”

Another deed of gipsy lawlessness was the burning in 1714 of the house of Brigend, now Springwood Park, in supposed revenge for a severe sentence pronounced upon one of the race by the owner, William Ker of Greenhead, in his capacity as Justice of the Peace. Of those found guilty of this act, some were branded and scourged, and others transported to the American plantations, “ never to return." Such acts as. the above help to explain harsh treatment of the gipsies which might otherwise look very like persecution. As the reign of law afforded them less and less room for the indulgence of their native wild propensities, the Border gipsies by degrees settled down to the occupations of tinkering and horse-dealing, though still continuing to lead a life apart, and to produce strong characters of a marked type—such as Jean Gordon, called “ the Duchess,” the original of Scott’s Meg Merrilees, who in her old age was mercilessly drowned in the Eden near Carlisle for her adherence to the Jacobite cause; Madge Gordon, who would boast that at her wedding there were fifty saddled asses, besides unnumbered asses without saddles; and Will Faa, perhaps the last distinctive King of the Gipsies, who died about 1783, and whose obsequies at Yetholm were attended by gipsies from far and near, and continued for three days and nights. To him succeeded his eldest son, a second Will Faa, who was known principally as a sportsman, and who enjoyed the privilege from Captain Wauchope, a neighbouring laird, of shooting a hare on his land as often as he chose. Early in the present century the Rev. John Baird, Minister of Yetholm, and author of a rare pamphlet entitled ‘ The Scottish Gipsies’ Advocate,’1 set himself deliberately to reclaim the local gipsies, and in the process to eradicate their native characteristics. Still, as late as 1859, when Jeffrey wrote, the strength of gipsies in Kirk Yetholm amounted to about 80—consisting chiefly of Blythes, Ruthvens, Taits, and Douglases. Since then, intermarriage with Gentiles, and the Act of Parliament against camping, have together dealt them their death-blow as a distinct race.

Closely associated with the gipsies was the trade in smuggled spirits which was carried on over the Border before the equalisation of excise duties in the two countries. In fact, it has been asserted that at one period as many as a fifth of the population of Yetholm were empioyed in this business. Among these was the younger Will Faa, of whom the following anecdote is told. While engaged with others in bringing in a cargo of smuggled gin from Bulmer on the Northumberland coast, he was surprised by a party of dragoons, one of whom sought to make him prisoner. But Will, though armed only with a cudgel, kept his adversary at bay, until by successive blows the cudgel was whittled down to nothing, when, receiving a blow upon his bow-hand, he had no choice but to yield, which he did with the plucky observation, “You’ve spoilt a good fiddler.”

Simultaneously with the gipsies and the smugglers have passed away the poetic superstitions of old time. Of these a few remain immortalised in the ballads of the Border Minstrelsy. Such is the wild and pathetic belief in the return of the dead to their earthly homes which meets us in “ Clerk Saunders ” and the “ Wife of Usher’s Well.” In the latter case the strangeness of the situation is heightened by the fact that the lost ones are represented as making their reappearance amid the full publicity of household bustle, spending an hour in family rejoicing and endearment before their inevitable and final leave-taking. The beautiful ballad of “ The Young Tamlane,” localised at Carterhaugh, a greensward between Ettrick and Yarrow, deals with one of those mysterious and terrible conflicts between mortals and spirits, of which, in Sir Walter Scott’s day, some faint traces yet lingered on the Borders. Among other localities specified as haunted by the fairies are the Cheese Well on Minchmuir, into which it was customary for passers-by to throw a propitiatory offering, and the pastoral river Bowmont, where stones, smoothed and rounded by the action of the stream, were known to the country people as fairy cups and dishes.

About 1771, the year of Scott’s birth, the old Border life, which had gone on for so many centuries, at least in the main homogeneous, without violence of change, stood on the brink of annihilation. Democracy, machinery, and all the other great crude forces of modern existence, were about to sweep it away. Almost as if some mighty power had gazed with compunction on the spectacle, in the very nick of time a child was born whose destiny was to stand between the past and oblivion. For if, as we believe, the Borders have a richer past than any other district of the kingdom, it is to Walter Scott that they owe that inheritance. The closing page of a sketch of local history is certainly no place to attempt the estimate or the appreciation of one whose works in themselves constitute a literature—whose fame reaches wider though not higher than that of Homer or Shakespeare. Let it suffice, then, here to say that in the extraordinary width of his interests, his power of transmitting life to the results of his researches, his superhuman memory, and more than all his broad and true humanity, the Border is proud to recognise gifts which constitute Scott the greatest by far of all her sons.

The Ettrick Shepherd, born about 1770, is to some extent Scott’s complement. If the vanished life of the past was Scott’s empire, the vanishing supernatural world was Hogg’s. In treating of the supernatural, Scott’s creative power was by no means at its strongest: Hogg’s genius had hardly another point of strength, but there it was supreme. Bred among the solitudes of Ettrick Forest, where the belief in fairies lingered longest, he has preserved for us the fairy, the brownie, the bogle, the spectre, and the wraith, and the life of those who believed in them, as Scott has preserved the general life and poetry of the past, in a way which could never have been approached by the mere records of history, though written with an angel’s pen.

After Hogg, among Border poets, ranks rightly, in the estimation of the average Borderer, John Leyden of Denholm, who threw his passion for his native country-side into the verse of the ‘Scenes of Infancy,’ and died in 1811, at the age of thirty-five—a martyr to his thirst for knowledge —on the fever-breeding shores of Java. Among minor Border poets and Border poetry must be mentioned Andrew Scott of Bowden, who, in his humorous song of “Simon and Janet,” turned to account experience gained as a regular in the American War in poking fun at the volunteering movement of the Napoleonic period; the idyllic strains of Robert Davidson of Morebattle, and the patriotic inspiration of Henry Scott Riddel,3 the poet of “Scotland Yet.” Nor must we forget Thomas Pringle,4 author of the melodious “Farewell to bonnie Teviotdale”; while Thomas Tod Stoddart,6 the angler-poet of the Border streams, though born in Edinburgh, sprang from a family long connected with the Yarrow district.

But a single event remains now to be recorded, and that one which will bring our narrative aptly to a close. It takes us back to the era when Bonaparte was a name of terror in Europe, the bugbear of the popular imagination. It is well known that the First Consul had repeatedly contemplated an invasion of Britain, in expectation of which event, in the first years of the century, the old system of Border beacons had been revived. That for Upper Teviotdale was piled on Crumhaugh Hill, whilst Ettrick Foresters strained their eyes in the direction of Black Andrew and the Wisp. In proportion to the danger of the time did military ardour run high in the Border counties, so that almost to a man those who were capable of bearing arms were enrolled in the local Yeomanry and Volunteer companies. At length, on the evening of January 31, 1804, the watch on Hume Castle descried what they conceived to be the longlnoked-for signal. They at once fired their beacon, and with the speed of magic the signal was repeated from hill to hill through Teviotdale, Liddesdale, and Tweeddale. Three hundred years earlier this had been no unaccustomed spectacle, only then it spoke of the advance of an English enemy, now of that of a French one. And, as of old, no sooner was the signal seen than all was alertness. The watcher upon Dunian, having fired his cresset, fled across country to communicate the alarm in person, arriving in the market-place of Jedburgh breathless and exhausted, and only able to point to the blaze and enunciate the words, “The French, the French! ” Then, without loss of a moment, the town bell was set a-ringing, whilst the Tip, or town-drummer, paraded the streets, beating to arms. The town's-people crowded to the Market Cross, and eagerly the question was exchanged, “Where hae they landed?” In default of information, the ports of Leith and Berwick were hazarded by way of answer, whilst the flames of watch-fires shooting upwards and casting a glare over the scene seemed to insist on the imminence of the danger.

Meantime, in the households of the surrounding country, all was bustle and commotion. The farmers, who were for the most part members of the Yeomanry, hurriedly accoutred, hastened to the rendezvous, whilst their womenkind, anxious to see the last of them, or seeking for themselves the protection of the town, followed in vehicles with baggage and provisions. The Volunteers turned out well. Sir Gilbert Elliot, .their lieutenant-colonel, swam his horse over Teviot, which was flooded; and though most of the officers lived in the country, they were soon parading their men in the market-place, and when the roll was called over, comparatively few names remained unanswered. In the council-chamber, which was thronged, the provost, mounting the table, demanded that a certain number of rounds of ammunition should be served out to the men, after which it was decided to await the morning, when more definite information or instructions would doubtless be received. When, at six o’clock next morning, the Yeomanry bugler sounded to saddle, every man of the corps was in his place. In Hawick, Kelso, Selkirk, and Galashiels, similar scenes were enacted — the Volunteers in each instance mustering gallantly under leaders generally bearing the old Border names; whilst from the neighbouring villages smaller contingents marched boldly in under the leadership of the local minister or schoolmaster. No doubt, as was unavoidable under the circumstances, several ludicrous incidents occurred, whilst one or two cases of arrant cowardice are also reported. The whole proceedings, too, have their laughable side, as a fine example of “ much ado about nothing,” for the alarm proved a false one; and none, we may be sure, would be more ready to laugh over them, when the right time came, than those who had taken part in them. But if they have a laughable side, they have also a serious one. If there were burlesque traits, there were also traits of something very like heroism.5 Panic was conspicuous by its absence. On all sides, as we have seen, the Volunteers responded well to the call, and in some cases their appearance and conduct were from the military point of view' highly creditable. Sir Walter Scott, ever alive to the virtues of the soldier, noted that the Selkirkshire Yeomanry made a remarkable march, reaching Dalkeith by one o’clock on the day following the alarm, with men and horses in good order, notwithstanding that the state of the ruads was bad, and that many of the troopers had ridden forty or fifty miles without drawing rein. Be it remembered, too, that these were men who in their daily lives followed the most peaceful of occupations, and that the foe they were called upon to face was perhaps the most formidable that the world has ever seen. When all these things are considered, it must, I think, be acknowledged that a life of peace and plenty had not yet dulled the old spirit of the Borderer, who in defence of hearth and home, and in response to the call of duty, was prepared to show as brave a front as did ever one of his marauding or moss-trooping forebears.

Antres temps, autres mocurs. The old Border virtue which in bygone times had been so oft requisitioned to daunton the English, and perhaps for other less creditable ends, has now been for wellnigh two centuries applied to the subduing and culture of the soil and the development of the resources of the country. The fame of Border farming and of Border textile fabrics speaks to the success with which this application has been made. Nor have the gentry lagged behind their neighbours. In the encouragement of health-giving and ennobling field-sports, in the laying out and beautifying of their parks and pleasure-grounds, and in the able and conscientious management of local affairs, they have well served their day and generation. But neither have the limits of the Border counties, or of the country at large, formed a restraint to the enterprise of the Borderer. The map of the province of Otago, Middle Island of New Zealand, reveals the familiar nomenclature, Kelso, Roxburgh, Ettrick, Cardrona, and so on—thus proving that the district was originally settled by men from the Border counties. There, too, as in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere in our colonies, such old Border surnames as Scott and Kerr, Douglas and Elliot, will generally he found well represented, and many who bear them have risen by their own qualities and exertions to positions of wealth and trust, becoming large landowners, or proprietors of enormous flocks and herds. Their practical knowledge of agriculture, sheep-breeding, and wool-dressing, gained in the Borders, has stood them in good stead. But better still have served them that native energy, intelligence in practical matters, independence, reliability, and frugality which, after centuries of training and the action of varied forces, emerge as the dominant characteristics of the modern Borderer, raising him to a position which, from the point of view of practical utility, is on a level with the very highest. And, lest this estimate appear too partial, let me add that it has been formed by one who, though a resident in the Borders, is by birth and blood a half-foreigner and an alien. Neither is the writer blind to the shortcomings of the Borderer. When Bishop Leslie described him, it was as a poet and musician. The Border ballads constitute an undying proof of his imaginative power. But to-day the practical side of life has driven out these things. If imagination exist, it at least finds no outlet, no congenial play in the daily life of the modern Borders. If Border poetry and folk-music be not dead, they are at least fallen strangely silent.

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