English Border Towns - Berwick, Tweed, Whitadder
( Originally Published 1914 )
THE " Border" is a magical word, and on either side of a line that constantly varied in the course of English and Scottish victories and defeats, all is enchanted ground, the home of memories of forays and fairies, of raids and recoveries, of loves and battles long ago. In the most ancient times of which record remains, the English sway, on the east, might extend to and include Edinburgh ; and Forth, or even Tay, might be the southern boundary of the kingdom of the Scots. On the west, Strathclyde, originally Cymric or Welsh, might extend over Cumberland; and later Scottish kings might hold a contested superiority over that province. Between east and west, in the Forest of Ettrick, the place-names prove ownership in the past by men of English speech, of Cymric speech, and of Gaelic speech. From a single point of view you may see Penchrise (Welsh) Glengaber (Gaelic) and Skelfhill (English). Once the Border, hereabouts, ran slantwise, from Peel Fell in the Cheviots, across the Slitrig, a water which joins Teviot at Hawick, thence across Teviot to Commonside Hill above Branksome tower, to the Rankle burn, near Buccleuch, an affluent of Ettrick. Thence, across Ettrick and Yarrow, over Minchmuir, where Montrose rode after the disaster at Philiphaugh, across Tweed, past the camp of Rink, to Torwoodlee, goes that ancient Border, marked by the ancient dyke called the Catrail, in which Sir Walter Scott once had a bad fall during his " grand rides among the hills," when he beat out the music of Marmion to the accompaniment of his horse's hooves. The Catrail was a Border, once, and is a puzzle, owing to its ditch between two ramparts. There are many hill forts, mounds even now strong and steep in some places, on the line of the Catrail. The learned derive the word from Welsh cad, Gaelic Cath, "a battle," and some think that the work defended the Border of the Christian Cymric folk of Strathclyde from the pagan English of Northumbria. In that case, Sir Herbert Maxwell has expressed the pious hope that "the Britons were better Christians than they were military engineers." Is it inconceivable that the word Catrail is a mere old English nickname for a ditch which they did not understand, the cat's trail like Catslack, the wild cat's gap, and other local cat-names ?
I am no philologist !
Once when taking a short cut across a hill round which the road runs from Branksome to Skelfhill, I came upon what looked like the deeply cut banks of an extinct burn. There was no water, and the dyke was not continued above or below. Walking on I met an old gentleman sketching a group of hill forts, artificial mounds, and asked him what this inexplicable deep cutting might be. "It is the Catrail," he said : I had often heard of it, and now I had seen it. The old man went on to show that the Border is still a haunted place. " Man, a queer thing happened to me on Friday nicht. I was sleeping at Tushielaw Inn, (on the Upper Ettrick) I had steikit the door and the windows : I woke in the middle o' the nicht,—there was a body in the bed wi' me ! " (I made a flippant remark. He took no notice of it.) " I got up and lit the candle, and looked. There was naebody in the bed. I fell asleep, and wakened again. The body was there, it yammered. I canna comprehend it." Nor can I, but a pair of amateur psychical researchers hastened to sleep a night at Tushielaw. They were undisturbed and the experience of the old antiquary was " for this occasion only."
" My work seeks digressions," says Herodotus, and mine has already wandered far north of the old Border line of Tweed on the east, and Esk on the western marches, far into what was once the great Forest of Ettrick, and now is mainly pasture land, pastorum loca vasta. In the old days of the Catrail and the hill forts this territory, " where victual never grew," must have been more thickly populated than it has been in historic times.
We may best penetrate it by following the ancient natural tracks, by the sides of Tweed and its tributaries. We cross the picturesque bridge of Tweed at Berwick to the town which first, became part of the kingdom of Scotland, when Malcolm II, at Carham fight, won Lothian from Northumbria. That was in 1018, nine centuries agone. Thenceforward Berwick was one of the four most important places of Scottish trade ; the Scots held it while they might, the English took it when they could; the place changed hands several times, to the infinite distress of a people inured to siege and sack. They must have endured much when Malcolm mastered it ; and again, in 1172, when Richard de Lacy and Humphrey de Bohun, at war with William the Lion, burned the town. William, after he inadvertently, in a morning mist, charged the whole English army at Alnwick, and was captured, surrendered Berwick to England, by the Treaty of Falaise, when he did homage for his whole kingdom. The English strongly fortified the place, though the fragments of the girdling wall near the railway station, are, I presume, less ancient than the end of the twelfth century. William bought all back again from the crusading Richard of the Lion Heart : the two kings were " well matched for a pair of lions," but William the Lion was old by this time.
In 1216, Alexander II attacked England at Norham Castle, but King John, though seldom victorious, was man enough to drive Alexander off, and brute enough to sack Berwick with great cruelty, setting a lighted torch to the thatch of the house in which he had lain ; and " making a jolly fire," as a general of Henry VIII later described his own conduct at Edinburgh. Fifty years later the woman-hating friar who wrote The Chronicle of f Lanercost describes Berwick as the Alexandria of the period ; the Tweed, flowing still and shallow, taking the place of the majestic river of Egypt. One is reminded of the Peebles man who, after returning from a career in India, was seen walking sadly on Peebles Bridge. " I'm a leear," he said, " an unco leear. In India I telled them a' that Tweed at Peebles was wider than the Ganges ! " And he had believed it.
However, Berwick was the Scottish Alexandria, and paid into the coffers of the last of her " Kings of Peace," Alexander III, an almost incredible amount of customs dues. After three peaceful reigns, Scotland was a wealthy country, and Berwick was her chief emporium, But then came the death of the Maid of Norway, the usurpation by Edward I, the endless wars for Independence : and Berwick became one of the cockpits of the long strife, while Scotland, like St. Francis, was the mate of Poverty.
While Edward was in France, his "toom tabard," King John, (Balliol) renounced his allegiance. Edward came home and, in the last days of March 1296, crossed Tweed and beleaguered Berwick, in which were many trading merchants of Flanders. The townsfolk burned several of his ships, and sang songs of which the meaning was coarse, and the language, though libellous, was rather obscure. Edward was not cruel, as a rule, but, irritated by the check, the insults, and the reported murder by the Scots of English merchants, he gave orders for a charge. The ditch and stockade were carried, and a general massacre followed, of which horrible tales are told by a late rhyming chronicler. Hemingburgh, on the English side, says that the women were to some extent protected. The Scots avenged themselves in the same fashion at Corbridge, that old Roman station, but the glory and wealth of Berwick were gone, the place retaining only its military importance. To Berwick Edward II fled after Bannockburn, as rapidly as Sir John Cope sought the same refuge after Prestonpans.
Berwick is, for historically minded tourists, (not a large proportion of the whole), a place of many memories. In July, 13 18, Bruce took the castle after a long blockade ; an English attempt to recover it was defeated mainly through the skill of Crab, a Flemish military engineer. Guns were not yet in use " crakkis of war," (guns) were first heard in Scotland, near Berwick, in 1327. In 1333, after a terrible defeat of the Scots on the slopes of Halidon Hill, a short distance north of Berwick, the place surrendered to Edward III, and became the chief magazine of the English in their Scottish wars.
By 1461, the Scots recovered it, but in 1481, the nobles of James III mutinied at Lauder bridge, hanged his favourites, and made no attempt to drive Crook-backed Richard from his siege of Berwick. Since then the town has been in English hands, and was to them, for Scottish wars, a Calais or a Gibraltar. The present bridge of fifteen arches, the most beautiful surviving relic here of old days, was built under James VI and I. They say that the centre of the railway station covers the site of the hall of the castle of Edward I, in which that prince righteously awarded the crown of Scotland to John Balliol. The town long used the castle as a quarry, then came the railway, and destroyed all but a few low walls, mere hummocks, and the Bell Tower.
Naturally the ancient churches perished after the Blessed Reformation : indeed the castle was used as a quarry for a new church of the period of the Civil War.
Immediately above Berwick, and for some distance, Tweed flows between flat banks, diffusely and tamely : the pools are locally styled "dubs," and deserve the title. The anti-Scottish satirist, Churchill, says,
" Waft me, some Muse, to Tweed's inspiring stream
" In fact," replies a patriotic Scot, " ` the glittering and resolute streams of Tweed,' as an old Cromwellian trooper and angler, Richard Franck, styles them, are only dull and sleepy in the dubs where England provides their flat southern bank."
Not flat, however, are the banks on either side of Whitadder, Tweed's first tributary, which joins that river two or three - miles above Berwick. From its source in the Lammermuirs, almost to its mouth, a distance of between thirty and forty miles, the Whitadder is quite an ideal trouting stream, "sore fished " indeed, and below Chirnside, injured, one fears, by discharge from Paper Mills there, yet full of rippling streams and boulder-strewn pools that make one itch to throw a fly over them: But most of the water is open to the public, and on days when local angling competitions are held it is no uncommon sight to see three, or maybe four, competitors racing for one stream or pool, the second splashing in and whipping the water in front of the first, regardless of unwritten sporting law ; a real case of " deil tak the hindmost." " Free-fishing" no doubt, from some points of view, is a thing to be desired, but to him who can remember old times, when the anglers he met in the course of a day's fishing might easily be counted on the fingers of one hand, the change now is sad. Yet men, they say, do still in the open stretches of Whitadder catch " a pretty dish " now and again. They must be very early birds, one would suppose—and perhaps they fish with the lure that the early bird is known to pick up.
On both sides of Whitadder are to be seen places of much interest. First, Edrington Castle, on the left bank a few miles from the river's mouth, once a place of great strength, now crushed by the doom that has wrecked so many of the old strongholds in this part of the country—it was for ages used as a convenient quarry. Then, on the right bank, higher up, on an eminence overhanging the stream, stands Hutton Hall, a picturesque old keep of the fifteenth century, with additions of later date. The original tower was probably built by the Lord Home, who obtained the lands in 1467 by his marriage with the daughter of George Ker of Samuelton. Nearly opposite Hutton, about a mile away, are the ruins of an old castle at Edington. It is remarkable the number of names in this district, all beginning with "Ed " :—Edrington, Edington, Ednam, Eden, Edrom, Edinshall, all probably taking their origin from Edwin, king of Northumbria, 616—633. Or does the derivation go still further back, to Odin ?
Higher up, we come to Allanton and the junction of Whitadder with its tributary, Blackadder. Near this lies Allanbank, haunt for many generations of that apparition so famous in Scotland, "Pearlin Jean." Jean, or rather Jeanne, it is said, was a beautiful young French lady, in Paris or elsewhere loved and left by a wicked Baronet of Allanbank, Sir Robert Stuart. The tale is some hundreds of years old, but "Pearlin jean " and her pathetic story still retain their hold on the imagination of Border folk. The legend goes that when the false Iover, after a violent scene, deserted his bride that should have been, the poor lady accidentally met her death, but not before she had vowed that she would "be in Scotland before him." And sure enough, the first thing that greeted the horrified gaze of the baronet as he crossed the threshold of his home, bringing another bride than her he had loved and left, was the dim form of Jeanne, all decked, as had ever been her wont, in the rich lace that she loved, and from which the apparition derived the name of Pearlin Jean, " pearlin" being the Scottish term for lace. Tradition says nothing as to the end of the false lover, but the ghost was still known—so say the country people—to have haunted the house until it was pulled down sometime early in last century. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder in his "Scottish Rivers" tells how an old woman then anxiously enquired : "Where will Pearlin Jean gang noo when the house is dismolished ? "
That is the tale of Pearlin Jean" as it is generally told. There is another story, however, less known but much more probable.
When the reckless extravagance of succeeding generations ended as it always must end ; when cards and dice and the facile aid of wine and women had sent bit after bit of the broad lands of an old family into alien keeping, and not tardily the day had come when the last acre slipped through heedless fingers, and even the household furniture—all that remained to the last Baronet of Allanbank—was brought to the hammer, there was one room in the old house into which, ere the gloaming fell, the country folk peered with awe greater even than their curiosity. It was a room in which for near on two generations the dust had been left to lie undisturbed on table and chair and mantel-shelf, a room whose little diamond-shaped window panes the storms of more than fifty winters had dimmed, and on whose hearth still lay the ashes of a fire quenched half a century back. Here it was that Pearlin Jean had passed those few not unhappy months of her life, while yet a false lover was not openly untrue to her. But into this chamber, since Jean quitted it for the last time no servant would venture by day or by night, unaccompanied, lest in it might be seen the wraith of that unfortunate and much wronged lady.
It is a story common enough, unhappily, that of Jeanne. She was the daughter of a Flemish Jew, very beautiful, very young, very light-hearted and loving, and unsuspecting of evil, of a disposition invincibly generous and self-sacrificing. In an evil hour the Fates threw across her path Sir Robert Stuart of Allanbank, then visiting the Hague during his travels on the Continent. Sir Robert was a man now no longer in his first youth, self-indulgent, callous of the feelings and rights of others where they ran athwart his own wants or desires, one to whom the seamy side of life had long been as an open book. His crop of wild oats, indeed, was ere now of rankest growth, and already on the face of the sower were lines that told of the toil of sowing. But he was a handsome man, with a fluent, honeyed tongue, and it did not take him long to steal the heart from one who, like the poor little Jeanne, suspected no evil.
To the Merse and to Allanbank there came word that the laird was returning to his home. The house was to be put in order, great preparations to be made. No doubt, folk thought, all pointed to a wedding in the near future ; the wild young baronet was about to settle down at last—and not before it was time, if what folk said regarding his last visit to Allanbank might be trusted. But the local newsmongers were wrong, in this instance at least of the home-coming and what might be expected to follow. When Sir Robert's great coach lumbered up to the door of Allanbank, there stepped down, not the baronet alone, but a very beautiful young woman, a vision all in lace and ribbons, whom the wondering servants were instructed to regard in future as their mistress. And though neighbours--with a few male exceptions—of course kept severely aloof, steadily ignoring the scandalous household of Allanbank, yet after a time, in spite of the fact that no plain gold band graced the third finger of Jeanne's left hand, servants, and the country folk generally, came to have a great liking, and even an affection, for the kindly little foreign lass with the merry grey eyes and the sunny hair, and the quaintly tripping tongue. And for a time Jeanne was happy, singing gaily enough from morning to night some one or other of her numberless sweet old French chansons. She had the man she adored ; what mattered neighbours ? And so the summer slid by.
But before the autumn there came a change. The merry lass was no longer so merry, songs came less often from her lips, tears that she could not hide more and more often brimmed over from her eyes ; and day b y day her lover seemed to become more short in the temper and less considerate of her feelings, more inclined to be absent from home. In a word, he was bored, and he was not the man to conceal it. Then when April was come, and the touch of Spring flushed every bare twig in copse or wooded bank down by the pools where trout lay feeding, when thrush and blackbird, perched high on topmost bough, poured out their hearts in a glory of song that rose and fell on the still evening air, a little daughter lay in Jeanne's arms, and happiness again for a brief space was hers. But not for long. The ardour born anew in her man's self-engrossed heart soon died down. To him now it seemed merely that a squalling infant had been added to his already almost insufferable burden of a peevish woman.
More and more, Jeanne was left to her own society and to the not inadequate solace of her little child. Then " business" took Stuart to Edinburgh. Months passed, and he did not return ; nor did Jeanne once hear of him. But there came at last for her a day black and terrible, when the very foundations of her little world crumbled and became as the dust that drives before the wind. From Edinburgh came a mounted messenger, bearing a letter, written by his man of business, which told the unhappy girl that Sir Robert Stuart was about to be married to one in his own rank of life ; that due pro-vision should be made for the child, and sufficient allowance settled on herself, provided that she returned to her own country and refrained from causing further scandal or trouble. She made no outcry, poor lass ; none witnessed her bitter grief that night. But in the morning, she and the child were gone, and on her untouched bed lay the lace and the jewels she once had liked to wear because in early days it had pleased her to hear the man she loved say that she looked well in them.
Time went by, and Stuart, unheeding of public opinion, brought his bride to Allanbank. Of Jeanne he had had no word ; she had disappeared—opportunely enough, he thought. Probably she had long ago gone back to her own land, and by this time the countryside had perhaps found some other nine days' wonder to cackle over. So he returned, driving up to the house in great state—as once before he had driven up.
Surely an ill-omened home-coming, this, for the new bride ! As the horses dashed up the avenue, past little groups of gaping country people uncertain whether to cheer or to keep silence, suddenly there darted from a clump of shrubbery the flying figure of a woman carrying in her arms a little child, and ere the postilions could pull up, or any bystander stop her, she was down among the feet of the plunging horses, and an iron heel had trodden out the life of the woman. It was the trampled body of that Jeanne whom he had lightly loved for a time and then tossed aside when weary of his toy, that met the horrified gaze of the white-lipped, silent man who got hurriedly down from inside that coach, leaving his terrified bride to shrink unheeded in her corner. And perhaps now he would have given much to undo the past and to make atonement for the wrong he had done. At least, he may have thought, there was the child to look after ; and his heart—what there was of it—went out with some show of tenderness towards the helpless infant. But here was the beginning of strife, for Jeanne's baby did by no means appeal to the new-made bride. Nor was that lady best pleased to find in her withdrawing room a fine portrait in oils of her unlawful predecessor.
And so there was little peace in that house ; and as little comfort as peace, for it came to pass that no servant would remain there. From the day of her death Pearlin Jean " walked ", they said, and none dared enter the room which once she had called her own. That, of all places, was where she was most certain to be seen. For one day, when the master entered the room alone, they that were near heard his voice pleading, and when he came out it was with a face drawn and grey, and his eyes, they said, gazed into vacancy like those of one that sees not. So the place got ever an increasingly bad name, and the ghost of the poor unhappy Jeanne could get no rest, but went to and fro continually. And long after that day had arrived when her betrayer, too, slept with his fathers, the notoriety of the affair waxed so great that seven learned ministers, tradition says, united vainly in efforts to lay the unquiet spirit of Pearlin Jean. So long as the old house stood, there, they will tell you, might her ghost be seen, pathetically constant to the place of her sorrow. And there may not be wanting, even now, those who put faith in the possibility of her slender figure being seen as it glides through the trees where the old house of Allanbank once stood.
Some miles above Allanton, on the left bank of Whitadder, stands Blanerne, home of a very ancient Scottish family. And farther back from the river are the crumbling fragments of Billie Castle-" Bylie," in twelfth century charters, and of Bunkle, or, more properly, Bonkyll, Castle. All these have met the fate assigned to them by the old local rhyming prophecy :
" Bunkle, Billie, and Blanerne,
A cairn each has been, without doubt, or rather a quarry, from which material for neighbouring farm buildings has been ruthlessly torn. Of Blanerne, I believe the Keep still exists, as well as some other remains, to tell of what has been ; but Billie Castle is now little more than a green mound at foot of which runs a more or less swampy burn, with here and there a fragment of massive wall still standing ; whilst Bunkle is a mere rubble of loose stones. All these were destroyed in Hertford's raid in 1544, when so much of the Border was " birnd and owaiertrown. '
More ruthless than Hertford's, however, was the work at Bunkle of our own people in 182o. They pulled down an eleventh century church in order to build the present edifice. Only a fragment of the original building remains, but many of its carved stones may be seen in the walls of the existing church. Possibly the old structure was in a bad state of repair. One does not know for certain ; but at date of its demolition the building appears to have been entire. Our ancestors of a hundred years ago were not to be " lippened to " where ecclesiastical remains were concerned. They had what amounted to a passion for pulling down anything that was old, and where they did not pull down, they generally covered with hideous plaster any inside wall or ornamental work, which to them perhaps might savour of " papistry." Parish ministers, even late in the eighteenth and early in the nineteenth centuries, appear to have taken no interest in those beautiful Norman remains, numerous fragments of which even now exist in Berwickshire ; of all those ministers who compiled the old Statistical Account of this county, but one or two make any mention of such things. One fears, indeed, that to some of those reverend gentlemen, or to others like them of later date, we are indebted for the destruction of priceless relics of the past. At Duns, for instance, as late as 1874 the original chancel of an old Norman church was pulled down by order of the incumbent, "to improve the church-yard." Then, as already mentioned, there is Bunkle, an instance of very early Norman work, pulled down in 1820. At Chirnside, the tower of its Norman church was sacrificed in 1750, though great part of the old church walls remain ; in the south side is a Norman doorway six feet ten inches in height to the lintel and two feet ten and three-quarter inches wide. Of Edrom church, a very beautiful Norman doorway, said to be " the finest of its style in Scotland," has been preserved, entirely owing, apparently, to the fact that it had been made the entrance to a burial vault. At Legerwood, near Earlstoun, where stands the chancel of a Norman church, the arch is still entire but is defaced with plaster. Berwickshire, however, is not the only part of the Border where such things have been done. Higher up Tweed, at Stobo in Peeblesshire, there is an interesting old church of Norman structure, with sixteenth and seventeenth century alterations ; roof and interior fittings are modern, and. the building is still used as the Parish Church. Sixteenth and seventeenth century alterations have now at least age to commend them, but it is difficult to see what plea can be advanced for some of those of comparatively recent date. According to "Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland," the most serious injury inflicted on the building was the entire destruction of the Norman chancel arch, in order to insert a modern pointed one, at the restoration of the church in 1868.
Over in Teviotdale, too, the same passion for altering, or for sweeping away relics of old times, ran its course. In 1762, the Town Council of Hawick gave orders for the destruction of the Town's Cross. So Popish a thing as a Cross could not be tolerated by those worthy and " unco " pious persons. The treasurer's accounts of the time show that tenpence per day was paid to two men for the work of taking down the Cross, and the carved stones seem to have been sold afterwards for eleven shillings and sixpence. No doubt the worthy bailies congratulated themselves on having not only rid the town of an emblem of Popery, but on having made quite a hand-some monetary profit over the transaction.
But to return to Whitadder. In his "Scottish Rivers," Sir Thomas Dick Lauder writes of Billy Castle as the scene of a grisly tale connected with the Homes. He tells how, to the best of his reckoning about a century prior to the date at which he wrote, an old lady of that family resided here in a somewhat friendless condition, but with a considerable household of servants, chief of whom was a butler who had been in her service for many years, and in whose integrity she had entire confidence. This old lady, it seems, was in the habit of personally collecting rents from her tenants, and as there were then no country banks in which to deposit the money, it was her custom to count it in presence of the butler, prior to locking the guineas away in a strong cupboard in her bedroom, The door of this room was secured by an ingenious arrangement, whereby a heavy brass bolt, or cylinder, was allowed to fall by its own weight into an opening made exactly to fit it. To an eye in the head of the cylinder was attached a cord which worked through a pulley fastened to the ceiling, and thence by a series of running blocks passed to the bedside. Thus the old lady, without troubling to get out of bed, could bolt or unbolt her door at will, and so long as the cylinder was down, no one could possibly enter the room. Now, the butler had for years witnessed this counting and stowing away of the rent monies, and temptation had never yet assailed him. He might, indeed, plume himself on his honesty, and say with Verges : " I thank God I am as honest as any man living that is an old man and no honester than I." But alas ! there came a night when the guineas chinked too seductively, and the devil whispered in the butler's ear. Perhaps some small financial embarrassment of his own was troubling the man. Anyhow, it came to his mind that if he could quietly fill up the hole into which the bolt of his mistress's bedroom door dropped, he might help himself to as much money as he needed. The time of year was the cherry season. What so easy as to fill up the bolt hole with cherry stones? The " Beans" grew thick in Scotland, and they were black ripe now. " At mid-night," says Sir Thomas, "he stole into his mistress's chamber, cut her throat from ear to ear, broke open her cabinet, and possessed himself of her money; and although he might have walked down stairs and out at the door without exciting either alarm or suspicion, he opened the window and let him-self down nearly two stories high, broke his leg, and lay thus among the shrubbery till morning, without ever attempting to crawl away. He was seized, tried, condemned, and executed."
It is grisly enough, but hardly so grisly as the real story of what happened. The scene of the murder, however, was not Billy Castle—which, indeed, had then been dismantled and in ruins for two hundred years—but Linthill House, a fine old mansion standing on a " brae " overhanging Eye-water, five or six miles from Billy. Linthill is now inhabited by families of work-people, but it is still in good preservation, and at date of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's story (1752), must have been a very fine specimen of the old Scottish château.
The old lady's room was entered as Sir Thomas describes, but the butler did not immediately cut her throat. She was awakened by the sound of the stealthy rifling of the cupboard, or strong iron-bound box, in which her valuables were kept, and with that pluck which is characteristic of the old-time Scottish lady, she jumped up to grapple with the robber. Then he cut her throat, and leaving her for dead on the bed, proceeded with his rifling. A slight noise, however, disturbed him, and, looking round, a terrifying sight met his gaze ; the woman whom he had believed to be dead was on her feet, blindly groping her bloody way along the wall to the bell. Before he could seize her and complete his work, she had pulled the rope with all the strength left to her, and had alarmed the other servants. Thus the murderer had no opportunity to leave by way of the stairs. He jumped from the window—no great feat for an active man with his wits about him. But the butler was flurried ; perhaps, also, he was stout, as is not uncommon with pampered servants. In any case, he missed his footing, came down badly, and broke his leg. He did not, however, lie where he fell, inert and helpless. With painful effort the man dragged himself to a field near by, where, amongst sweet-scented flowering beans, he lay concealed for some days. On the fourth day, as he lay groaning beside a tiny spring of water which still flows near the middle of the field, he chanced to be seen by some children, who gave information. The wretched man was taken, tried, and executed—the last instance in Scotland of a criminal being hung in chains. The blood of a murdered person, they say, refuses to be washed clean from any wood-work into which it may have soaked—witness that ghastly dark patch that disfigures a floor in Holyrood. Here at Linthill at least there is no doubt of the fact that those marks remain ; in spite of very visible attempts to remove the stains from the wood-work by planing them out, the prints of the poor lady's bloody hands still cling to the oak wainscoting of the gloomy old room where the deed was committed. About house and grounds there hangs now an air of dejection and decay, though Eye ripples cheerily just beyond the garden foot and the surrounding landscape is bright with pleasant woods and smiling fields.
Surely if ever ghost walked, it should be here at Linthill ; that midnight bell should clang, a window be thrown open, the thud be heard of a heavy body falling on the ground.
But it is not mistress or man that haunts that house. It is of other things they tell who have been there; of an upper chamber, to which nightly comes the shuffling tramp of men bearing from a vehicle which is heard to drive up to the house door, a heavy weight, which they deposit on the floor. More shuffling, a room door quietly closed, the sound of retreating steps, then silence. " Hout ! " say the womenfolk of those who now inhabit part of the old house, "it'll no be naething." But they look behind them with a glance not too assured, and the voice that says it is " naething " is not over-steady in tone.
A little higher up the river than Blanerne we come to Broomhouse, where also once stood a castle. In a field on this estate is a spot, still called " Bawtie's Grave," where the body of Sir Anthony Darcy—" Le Sieur de la Beauté "—Warden of the Marches in 1517, is said to lie buried. Darcy, or de la Bastie (or de la Beauté), as he was generally called, was a Frenchman, a man possessed of great personal beauty and attraction ; but the fact that he had been appointed Warden of the Marches and Captain of Dunbar Castle in room of Lord Home, 'who had been treacherously put to death in Edinburgh, rendered him very obnoxious to the inhabitants of that part, of Berwickshire in which the Homes held sway. It was through Darcy that Lord Home and his brother had been decoyed to Edinburgh, said the kin and supporters of the Home family. Vengeance must be taken.
Nor was time wasted over it. An occasion soon arose when Darcy in his capacity of Warden had to visit Langton Tower, (no great distance from Duns), in order to settle some family feud of the Cockburns, relatives by marriage of the Homes. Here, outside the tower, Sir David Home, with a party of horsemen, came up, and speedily picked a quarrel with the Sieur. Swords were out in a minute, and Home's band was too strong for Darcy and his men. Several of the French attendants of the Sieur fell, and as the rest of his party were mostly Borderers, and therefore not very eager to fight for him, the Warden found himself compelled to ride for it. He headed in the direction of Dunbar. But the ground over which he had to gallop was swampy, and de la Beauté's heavy horse sank fetlock-deep at every stride, finally " bogging " in a morass some distance to the east of Duns. Darcy is said to have continued his flight on foot, but the chase did not last long ; Home and his followers bore down upon him—a well-mounted "little foot-page," they say, the first man up.
" The leddies o' France may wail and mourn,
They were on him at once ; his head was fiercely hewn off, carried in triumph to Home Castle, and there fastened to the end of a spear on the battlements, to gaze blind-eyed over the wide Merse, the land he had tried to govern. Pitscottie says that Sir David Home of Wedderburn cut off Darcy's long flowing locks, and plaiting them into a wreath, knit them as a trophy to his saddle bow.
Perhaps the Sieur in the end got no more than his deserts, or at least no more than he may frequently have dealt out to others. He came of a stock famed in France for cruelty and oppression ; and the peasants round Allevard, in the Savoie,—where stand the fragments of what was once his ancestral home—still tell of that dreadful night when Messire Satan himself was seen to take his stand on the loftiest battlement of the castle. And they relate how then the walls rocked and swayed and with hideous crash toppled to the ground. Perhaps it was this very catastrophe which sent the " Bonny Bawtie " to Scotland.
A cairn once marked the spot where the Sieur's body found a resting place. But, unfortunately, such a ready-made quarry of stones attracted the notice of a person who contracted to repair the district roads. It is many years ago now, and there was no one to say him nay. He carted away the interesting landmark and broke up the cairn into road metal.
Home Castle still dominates this part of the Border, but no longer is it the building of " Bawtie's " day. That was pulled down in the time of the Protector, by Cromwell's soldiers under Colonel Fenwick. Thomas Cockburn, Governor in 1650 when Fenwick summoned the castle to surrender, was valiant only on paper ; a few rounds from the English guns caused his valour to ooze from his fingers' ends, and sent up the white flag. That was the end of the old castle. Fenwick dismantled it and pulled down the walls ; the present building, imposing as it seems, standing grim and erect on its rocky height, is but a dummy fortress, built in the early eighteenth century on the old foundations, from the old material, by the Earl of Marchmont. The original building dated from the thirteenth century, and a stormy life it had, like many Border strongholds alternately in Scottish and in English hands. In 1547, after a gallant defence by the widow of the fourth Lord Home, it was taken by the English under Somerset ; two years later it was recaptured by that lady's son, the fifth Lord Home.
" Too old at forty," is the cry raised in these days—presumably by those who have not yet attained to that patriarchal age—but when a state of war was the chronic condition of the Border-land, men of vastly greater age than forty were not seldom able to show the way to warriors young enough to be their grandsons. At this taking of Home Castle in the closing days of December 1548, it was a man over sixty, one of the name of Home, who was the first to mount the wall. The attack was made at night, on the side where the castle was both naturally and artificially strongest, and where consequently least vigilant guard might probably be kept. As Home, ahead of his comrades, began to slide his body cautiously over the parapet, the suspicions of a sentry pacing at some little distance were roused, and he challenged and turned out the guard. This man had not actually seen any-thing, the night was too dark for that, but he had, as it were, smelt danger, with that strange extra sense that sometimes in such circumstances raises man more nearly to the level of his superior in certain things—the wild animal. However, in this case the sentry got no credit, but only ridicule, from his comrades, for examination showed that there was no cause whatever for his having brought the guard out into the cold, looking for mares' nests over the ramparts. Home and his party had dropped hurriedly back, and during the time that the Englishmen were glancing carelessly over the wall, they lay securely hidden close at its base. As soon, however, as the English soldiers had returned to the snug warmth of their guard-room, and the mortified sentry was once more pacing up and down, Home was again the first of the Scots to clamber up and to fall upon the astonished Englishman, whom this time he slew, a fate which overtook most of the castle's garrison. "Treachery helped the assailants," said the English. " Home Castle was taken by night, and treason, by the Scots," is the entry in King Edward's journal.
Again, in 1569, it was battered by the heavy siege guns of the Earl of Sussex and once more for a time was held by England; finally in 1650 came its last experience of war. It was at Home Castle that Mary of Gueldres, Queen of James II of Scotland, lay whilst her husband besieged Roxburgh in 146o. One hundred and six years later, Mary Queen of Scots was there on her way to Craigmillar from Jedburgh.
In days when the bale-fire's red glare on the sky by night, or its heavy column of smoke by day, was the only means of warning the country of coming invasion from the south, Home Castle, with its wide outlook, was the ideal centre of a system of beacon signals on the Scottish border. The position was matchless for such purpose ; nothing could escape the watchful eyes of those perched on the lofty battlements of this "Sentinel of the Merse," no flaming signal from the fords over Tweed fail to be seen. In an instant, at need, fires would be flashing their messages over all the land, warning not only the whole Border, but Dunbar, Haddington, Edinburgh, and even the distant shores of Fife. "A baile is warnyng of ther cumyng quhat power whatever thai be of. Twa bailes togedder at anis thai cumyng in deide. Four balis, ilk ane besyde vther and all at anys as four candills, sal be suthfast knawlege that thai ar of gret power and menys." So ran part of the instructions issued in the fifteenth century. But almost in our own day—at least in the days of the grandfathers of some now living—Home Castle flashed its warning and set half Scotland flying to arms. Britain then lived under the lively apprehension of a French invasion. With art immense army, fully equipped, Napoleon lay at Boulogne waiting a favourable opportunity to embark. Little wonder, therefore, that men were uneasy in their minds, and that ere they turned in to bed of a night country folk cast anxious glances towards some commanding " Law " or Fell, where they knew that a beacon lay ready to be fired by those who kept watch. In the dull blackness of the night of 31st January, 18o4, the long-looked-for summons came. All over the Border, on hill after hill where of old those dreaded warnings had been wont to flash, a tiny spark was seen, then a long tongue of flame leaping skyward. The French were coming in earnest at last !
Just as ready as it had been in the fiercest days of Border war-fare was now the response to the sudden call to arms. Over a country almost roadless, rural members of the various Yeomanry corps galloped through the mirk night, reckless of everything save only that each might reach his assembly point in time to fall in with his comrades. Scarce a man failed to report himself as ready for service—in all the Border I believe there were but two or three. And though it turned out that the alarm fires had been lit through an error of judgment on the part of one of the watchers, there is no doubt that to the bulk of the men who turned out so full of courage and enthusiasm that night, the feeling at first, if mixed with relief, was one of disappointment that they had had no chance of trying a fall with " Boney" and his veterans. The man who was the first to fire his beacon on that 31st of January was a watcher at Home Castle. Peering anxiously through the gloom, he imagined that he saw a light flare up in the direction of Berwick. It was in reality only a fire lit by Northumbrian charcoal-burners that he saw, and its locality was many points to the south of Berwick, but as the blaze sprang higher, and the flames waxed, the excited watcher lost his head, and, forgetting to verify the position, feverishly set a light to his own beacon and sent the summons to arms flying over the Border. Had it not chanced that the watcher by the beacon on St. Abb's Head was a man of cool temperament, all Scotland had been buzzing that night like a hornets' nest. This man, however, reasoned with himself that news of an invasion, if it came at all, must necessarily come from a coastal, and not from an inland station, and therefore he very wisely did not repeat the signal.
The spirit shown on the occasion of this false alarm, and the promptitude with which yeomanry and volunteers turned out, are things of which Borderers are justly proud. Many .of the yeomanry rode from forty to fifty miles that night in order to be in time; and even greater distances were covered. Sir Walter Scott himself was in Cumberland when word of the firing of the beacons came to him, but within twenty-four hours he and his horse had reached Dalkeith, where his regiment was assembled, a distance of one hundred miles from his starting point. In one or two instances, where members of a corps chanced to be from home, in Edinburgh on private business, mother or wife sent off with the troop when it marched, the horse, uniform, and arms of husband or son, so that nothing might prevent them from joining their regiment at Dalkeith. The substance of the message then sent to her son by the widowed mother of the writer's grandfather, will be found in Sir Walter's Notes to The Antiquary. If in our day like cause should unhappily arise, if the dread shadow of invasion should ever again fall on our land, no doubt the response would be as eager as it was in 1804; the same spirit is there that burned in our forefathers. But of what value now-a-days are half-trained men if they come to be pitted against the disciplined troops of a Continental Power ? Of no more avail than that herd of wild bulls that the Spaniards in 1670 tried to drive down on Morgan's Buccaneers at Panama.
Many a tale is still told of the events of that stirring night of 31st January, 1804. One of the Selkirk volunteers, a man named Chisholm, had been married that day ; but there was no hesitation on his part. " Weel, Peggy, my woman," he said in parting with his day-old bride, " if I'm killed, yell hear tell o't. And if I'm no killed, I'll come back as sune as I can." A particularly "canny" Scot was another volunteer, whose mother anxiously demanded ere he marched if he had any money with him in case of need. " Na, na ! " he said, " they may kill me if they like, but they'll get nae siller off me."
A few cases of the white feather there were, of course ; in so large a body of undisciplined men there could hardly fail to be some who had no stomach for the fight, but instances of cowardice were surprisingly few. One or two there were who hid under beds ; and one youth, as he joined the ranks, was heard to blubber, " Oh, mother, mother, I wish I'd been born a woman." But of those who should have mustered at Kelso, only two out of five hundred failed to answer to their names, and possibly they may have had legitimate cause for their absence. Many of the members of foot regiments were long distances away when the alarm was given. Of the Duns volunteers, for instance, two members were fifteen miles distant when the beacons blazed up. Yet they made all speed into the town, got their arms and accoutrements, marched all through the night, and fell in alongside their comrades at Haddington next forenoon. Many—all the men of Lessudden, for example—marched without uniforms. An unpleasant experience had been theirs had they fallen, in civilian dress, into the hands of the enemy.
To return to Whitadder.—Some miles above Broomhouse we come to Cockburn Law, a conical hill of about 1100 feet in height, round three sides of which the river bends sharply. On the northern slope of the hill is the site, and what little remains to be traced, of Edinshall, a circular tower dating probably from the seventh century. According to the old Statistical Account of the Parish, the- walls of this tower,—Edwin's Hall,—measured in diameter 85 feet ro inches, and in thickness 15 feet ro inches, enclosing in their depths many cells or chambers. Their height must once- have been very considerable, for even at date of the Statistical Account—the end of the eighteenth century—they stood about eight feet high, and were surrounded on all sides by a scattered mass of fallen stones. The ground around shows traces of having been fortified, but the tower itself probably was never a place of strength. The stones of which the building was constructed were large, and close fitting, but not bound together with mortar, which indeed was not in use in Scotland so early as the date of the building of Edinshall,—hence the tower was -a quarry too convenient to be respected by agriculturists of a hundred years ago. Most of the material of the ancient building has been taken to construct drains, or to build "dry stane dykes." The " rude hand of ignorance " has indeed been heavy on the antiquities of Scotland.
Where the stream bends sharply to the left as one fishes up those glorious pools and boulder-strewn rapids, there stands a cottage not far removed from Edinshall, which on the Ordnance Survey maps bears the very un-Scottish name of Elba.- It has, however, not even a remote connection with the place of exile of an Emperor. The learned would have us believe that the name is derived from the Gaelic " Eil," a hill, and " both," a dwelling. It may be so ; but it seems much more likely that " Elba " is merely the Ordnance Survey people's spelling of the word " elbow," as it is pronounced in Scotland the river here makes an extremely sharp bend, or elbow. Near Elba is an old copper mine which was worked to advantage by an English company midway in the eighteenth century. Abandoned after a time, it was reopened in 1825, but was soon again closed. Copper was not there in sufficient quantity to pay ; probably it had been worked out before. Four or five miles from here we come to Abbey St. Bathans, a name which conjures up visions of peaceful old ruins nestling among whispering elms by clear and swift flowing waters. There is now, however, little of interest to be found. St. Bathans was originally a convent of Cistercian Nuns, with the title of a Priory, and was founded towards the end of the twelfth century by Ada, daughter of William the Lion. As late as 1833, the then recently written Statistical Account of the Parish says that the north and east walls of the church " still bear marks of antiquity," and that in the north wall is " an arched door which communicated with the residence of the Nuns" ; but, says the Account, this door " is now built up." "Adjoining the church, and between it and the Whitadder, remains of the Priory were visible a few years ago." Where are they now? Built into some wall or farm building, no doubt, or broken up, perhaps, to repair roads or field drains. And where is the font, with its leaden pipe, that stood "in the wall near the altar"? Perhaps—if it still exists, unbroken,—it may now be used as a trough for feeding pigs, as has been the fate of many another such vessel. It is hard to forgive the dull, brutish ignorance that wilfully wrecked so much of the beauty and interest that the past bequeathed to us.
It is not easy to say who was the saint from whom Abbey St. Bathans inherited its name. Probably it was Bothan, Prior of Old Mailros in the seventh century, a holy man of great fame in the Border. There is a well or spring not far distant from the church of St. Bathans, whose miraculous powers of healing all sickness or disease were doubtless derived from the good Father. These powers have now long decayed, but as late as I833-possibly even later—some curious beliefs regarding the well were held in the neighbourhood, and its waters, it was well known, would "neither fog nor freeze" in the coldest weather.
Shortly after leaving Abbey St. Bathans, as we gradually near the Lammermuirs, the land on both sides of Whitadder begins more to partake of the hill-farm variety, where grouse and blackgame swarm thick on the stooked corn in late autumn. From the south side, a little above Ellemford, there enters a considerable stream, the water of Dye, said to be of good repute as regards its trout. One of these high, round-backed hills here is probably the scene of some great battle of old times. " Manslaughter Law " is the satisfying name of the hill. There is a tumulus still remaining on the north side of it, and near at hand weapons have been dug up, says the Statistical Account. One wonders what their fate may have been. They, at any rate, would surely be preserved ? It is by no means so sure. One sword, at least, that was found many years ago on the west side of Manslaughter Law, met with the fate one might expect from the kind of people who used to quarry into beautiful old abbeys in order to get material to build a pig-stye. It was taken to the village smithy, and there " improved " out of existence—made into horseshoes perhaps, or a " grape for howkin' tatties." Had it been a helmet that was then unearthed, no doubt a use would have been found for it such as that which the Elizabethan poet sadly suggests for the helmet of the worn out old man-at-arms :
" His helmet now shall make a hive for bees."
Eastward from the spot where this sword was found is a barrow which, says the .Statistical Account, "probably covers more arms" and on a hill by Waich Water, a tributary of the Dye, are the Twin-Law Cairns, which are supposed to mark the resting place of twin brothers who fell here,—perhaps in pre-historic times. Tradition says that these two were commanders of rival armies, Scottish and Saxon, and that, neither at the time being aware of their relationship, they undertook to fight it out, as champions of the rival hosts. When both lay dead, some old man, who had known the brothers in their childhood, gazing on them, with grief discovered the relationship of the slain men ; and to commemorate the tragedy, the soldiers of both hosts formed lines from Waich Water to the hill's summit, and passed up stones wherewith they built these cairns.
At Byrecleuch Ridge, towards the head of Dye Water, is another enormous and very remarkable cairn called the Mutiny Stones. This great mass of piled up stone measures two hundred and forty feet in length ; where broadest, seventy-five feet; and its greatest height is eighteen feet. What does it commemorate? A great fight, say some, that took place in 1402 between the Earl of Dunbar and Hepburn of Hailes, in which the latter was killed. A prehistoric place of sepulture, hazards Sir Herbert Maxwell. But it was not here that Hepburn fell; that was elsewhere in the Merse. And they were little likely in the fifteenth century to have taken such titanic pains to hand his memory down to posterity. The pre-historic place of sepulture sounds the more probable theory. But why " Mutiny Stones "? There must surely be some local tradition more satisfying than that of the Hepburn-Dunbar fight.
The upper part of Whitadder must once have been well fitted to check hostile raids from the south whose object was to strike the fat Lothians through the passes over the Lammermuirs. In the few miles of wild hill country that sweep from its source on Clint's Dod down to its junction with Dye Water, there formerly stood no fewer than six castles, Chambers tells us,—John's Cleuch, Gamelshiel, (the lady of which was killed by a wolf as she walked near her home one evening in the gloaming) Penshiel, Redpath, Harehead, and Cranshaws. Except in the case of Cranshaws, there are now few traces left standing of these strongholds. Cranshaws, a building of the sixteenth century, is in good preservation ; of Gamelshiel there remains a bit of wall, of Penshiel a fragment of vaulting ; of the others no stone. Cranshaws of old, it is said, was long the haunt of one of those Brownies, or familiar spirits, that were wont in the good old days of our forefathers mysteriously to do by night, when the household slept, all manner of domestic or farm work for those who humoured them and treated them well in the matter of food, or other indulgence affected by their kind. There was nothing a Brownie would not do for the family he favoured, provided that he was kept in good humour ; otherwise, or if he were laughed at or his work lightly spoken of, it were better for that family that it had never been born ; their sleep was disturbed o' nights, malevolent ill-luck dogged them by day, until he was propitiated. But leave out. for him each night a jug of milk and a barley bannock,—they were not luxurious in their tastes, those Brownies,—and at dawn you would find
" . . . . how the drudging goblin sweat
They tell that this particular Brownie at Cranshaws, being offended at some reflection made on his work, the following night took up an entire crop that he had thrashed, carried it to the Raven Craig, two miles down the river, and threw it over the cliff. Belief in the Brownie died hard in the Border. I am not sure that in remote "up the water " districts he did not survive almost till the advent of motor cars and bicycles.