As we ascend Teviot, after Jed its next important tributary is the Ale, not so named from the resemblance of its waters, when flooded, to a refreshing beverage. Sir Herbert Maxwell says that the name was originally written ” Alne ” (as in Aln, Alnwick) and this form survives in the place-name in Ale, Ancrum, the site of a desirable Scottish victory. The word would at first be Alne crumb, the crook of Alne or Ale.” Crom does mean “crook” in Gaelic, I understand, and Ale does make a crook or bend round Ancrum, so the names are tokens of the possession of the dale by Gaelic-speaking people, very long ago. In Timpendean, the name of a ruined tower opposite the point where Ale enters Teviot, we have the English ” dene ” or ” den,” as in the neighbouring Hassendean.
The places of most historical interest on lower Ale are Ancrum Moor and Lilliard’s Edge, the scene of a battle in which the Scots partly avenged the incessant burnings and slayings by the men of Henry VIII, inflicted while the prince was furious at his failure to secure the hand of the baby Queen, Mary Stuart, for his puny son, later Edward VI. Henry first hoped, by the aid of these professional traitors, chiefs of the Douglases,the Earl of Angus and his brother, Sir George to obtain the Royal child and the great castles, and the Crown of Scotland, without drawing sword. Baffled in this by the adroitness and patriotic courage of Cardinal Beaton, he sent his forces to rob, burn, and slay through all the eastern and central Marches. In February 1545, Hertford had finished his own work of ruin, despite which the Earl of Angus declared that he loved Henry VIII ” best of all men.” There followed a breach in this tender sentiment, amantium irae. Hertford’s lieutenants, Evers and Laiton, with ” assured Scots ” of Teviotdale, wearing St George’s cross, were harrying the Border. The Scottish Regent, the fickle, futile, good-humoured Earl of Arran, called for forces, but met little response, for, as a contemporary diarist writes, all men suspected the treachery of Henry’s lover, and of the Douglases, “ever false, as they alleged.” Yet Scott, in his ballad of ” The Eve of St John,” speaks of “the Douglas true and the bold Buccleugh”; the Scotts of Buccleuch, in fact, were ever loyal. The Laird, approached with bribes in English gold, rejected them in language of such pardonable profanity as frightened and astonished the English envoy, accustomed to buy Scottish traitors by the gross.
So mixed were affairs that while Wharton was trying to kidnap Sir George Douglas for Henry, Sir George was endeavouring to betray Arran to the English. They worsted the pacific Regent near Melrose, burned town and abbey, and desecrated the ancestral graves there of the Douglases, among them the resting place of the Earl who fell, when ” a dead man won a fight,” at Otterburne. The English clearly did not understand that Angus and his brother were eager to make their peace with Henry by renewing their treacheries to their country.
The ruining of his ascestors’ tombs aroused the personal fury of Angus, moreover Henry had made large gifts of Angus’s lands to Evers and Laiton. Angus therefore gathered his forces, breathed out threats, and joined hands with Arran, who was also supported by a very brave man, Norman Leslie, presently to be one of the assassins of Cardinal Beatonin Henry’s interest. Norman, however, was patriotic for the moment, and the bold Buccleuch was ever trusty. As Angus and Arran followed the English, Leslie and Buccleuch “came lightly riding in” and the Scots united on the wide airy moor of Ancrum.
The English saw their approach, and saw their horses moving to the rear. Supposing that the Scots were in retreat, (they meant to fight on foot, and only sent their mounts to the rear,) the lances of Evers and Laiton galloped gaily in pursuit. But what they found was “the dark impenetrable wood ” of stubborn spears. With the sun and the wind and blown smoke in their faces, the English cavalry charged, and were broken on the schiltroms or serried squares as they were broken at Bannockburn. Hereon the clan Ker, the men of Cessford and Ferniehirst, ” assured Scots,” tore off their crosses of St. George, and charged with Leslie, the Douglases, and Buccleuch. The English were routed, the country people rose against them ; Evers and Laiton lost their new lands with their lives, eight hundred of the English were slain, and two thousand were taken alivewhich is rather surprising. The English evacuated Jedburgh, and the Scots recovered Coldingham.
Meanwhile the good-natured, false, feckless Regent Arran wept over the dead body of Sir Ralph Evers. “God have mercy on him, for he was a fell cruel man, and over-cruel. And welaway that ever such a slaughter and blood-shed should be among Christian men,” sobbed the Regent. His heart was better than his head. Even George Douglas had warned Henry VIII of what would result from ” the extreme war that is used in killing women and young children.” In my child-hood I heard and never forgot, the country rhyme on an Amazon of a girl, who, to avenge her lover, took arms at Ancrum-moor. She fell, and on her tomb, which has been many times restored, the following epitaph is engraved :
” Fair Maiden Lilliard Lies under this stane ; Little was her stature, But muckle was her fame. Upon the English loons She laid many thumps, And when her legs were cuttit off She fought upon her stumps.”
Clearly this is a form of
” For Widrington I must bewail as one in doleful dumps, For when his legs were cutten off he fought upon his stumps.”
Lilliard’s Edge, the ancient name of the scene of this fair lady’s fall, must have suggested the idea of a girl styled Lilliard, and her story was thus suggested to the rhymer and became a local myth.
About Ancrum the Ale, like the Jed, and, over the Border, the Eden and Coquet, beautifies itself by cutting a deep channel through the fine red sandstone of which Melrose Abbey is built. These channels are always beautiful, but Ale, otherwise, as we ascend its valley, is a quiet trout stream “that flows the green hills under.” In my boyhood, long, long ago, Ale abounded in excellent trout, and was my favourite among all our many streams. It does not require the angler to wade, like Tweed and Ettrick ; it is narrow and easily commanded. The trout were almost as guileless as they were beautiful and abundant; but I presume that they are now almost exterminated by fair and unfair methods. The Scot, when he does not use nets, poisons, and dynamite, is too often a fisher with the worm, and, as I remember him, had no idea of returning even tiny fish to the water, as James Thomson, author of The Seasons, himself a Border angler, advises us to do.
Guileless, indeed, since old time has been the character of the trout of Ale. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder tells how in his boyhood he went once with a chance-met “souter” from Selkirk to the long pool in Ale above Midlem bridge, and how there, by a most unsporting device, they captured the innocent trout almost by the sack-load. “We came,” he says, “to a very long gravelly-bottomed pool, of an equal depth all over of from three to four feet. Here the souter seated himself; and, shortening both our rods, and fitting each of them with the three hooks tied back to back, he desired us to follow him, and then waded right into the middle of the pool. The whole water was sweltering with fine trouts, rushing in all directions from the alarm of our intrusion among them. But after we had stood stock still for a few moments, their alarm went off, and they began to settle each individually in his own place. `There’s a good one there,’ said the souter, pointing to one at about three yards from him ; and throwing the hooks over him, he jerked him up, and in less than six seconds he was safe in his creel. We had many a failure before we could succeed in catching one, whilst the souter never missed ; but at length we hit upon the way ; and so we proceeded with our guide, gently shifting our position in the pool as we exhausted each particular spot, until the souter’s creel would hold no more, and ours was more than half filled with trouts, most of which were about three-quarters of a pound in weight ; and very much delighted with the novelty of our sport, we made our way back to Melrose by the western side of the Eildon hills, and greatly astonished our companion with the slaughter we had made, seeing that he had been out angling for a couple of hours in the Tweed, without catching a single fin.” A slaughter of the innocents, indeed!, But the most inveterate poacher could not now, in any Border stream, hope to rival a feat so abominable in the eyes of present-day fishers. Nor, if he did attempt it, would he be likely to find trout so utterly devoid of guile as to submit thus quietly to be hooked out of the water one by one till the pool was emptied. Trout are better educated, if fewer in number, than they appear to have been eighty or ninety years ago. It is difficult, too, to see where the fun of this form of fishing comes in, after the rather cheap excitement of catching the first one or two. But they did curious things in the name of Sport in the earlier half of last century. Many of the methods of catching salmon that are written of approvingly by Scrope, that great angler of Sir Walter’s day, are now the rankest of poaching, and are prohibited by law.
The mid course of Ale is through ” ancient Riddel’s fair domain,” as Scott says in the great rhymes of William of Deloraine’s midnight ride from Branksome Tower to Melrose. There is now no Riddel of Riddel.
Here I shall mercilessly quote the whole of William of Deloraine’s Itinerary from Branksome Tower till he rides Ale when ” great and muckle o’ spate.”
Above the point where William rode the water, the scenery is quiet and pastoral ; about Ashkirk and Synton we are in the lands of lairds whose genealogies are recounted in the rhymes of old Satchells, who
” can write nano But just the letters of his name.”
Further up, Ale rests in the dull deep loch of Alemuir, which looks as if it held more pike than trout. And so we follow her into the hills and the water-shed that, on one side, contributes feeders to the Ettrick. It is a lofty land of pasture and broken hills, whence you see the airy peaks of Skelfhill, Penchrise, the Dunion, and the ranges of ” mountains ” as Scott calls the hills through which the Border Waters run, Yarrow, Ettrick, Borthwick Water and Ale Water. A ” water ” is larger than a ” burn,” but attains not to the name of a river.
Rule, the next tributary as we ascend Teviot, is but a ” Water,” a pretty trout stream it would be if it had fair play. The question of fishing in this country is knotted. Almost all the trout streams were open to everybody, in my boyhood, when I could fish all day in Tweed or Ale, and never see a rod but my own. The few anglers were sportsmen. ” Duffer ” as I was, I remember a long summer day on Tweed at Yair, when, having come too late for the ten o’clock ” rise” of trout, I had an almost empty creel. Just before sunset I foregathered with old Adam Linton, his large creel three-quarters full of beauties. ” What did you get them with?” I asked. At the moment he was using the tiniest midges, and the finest tackle. ” Oh, wi’ ae thing and another, according to the time o’ clay,” he answered. I daresay he used the clear water worm, fished up stream ; deadly sin in Hampshire, but not in the Forest. Since these days the world has gone wild on angling, the waters are crowded like the Regent’s canal with rods. Now I am all for letting every man have his cast ; but the only present hope for the survival of trout is in the associations of anglers who do their best to put down netting and dynamiting. A close time when trout are out of season, we owe to Sir Herbert Maxwell, opposed as he was by the Radical Member for the Border Burghs. I am not sure that there is a rule against slaying trout under, shall we say, seven inches ? However it may be, I had my chance and wasted it ; being a duffer. Trout may become extinct like the Dodo ; it makes no odds to me. I never cast fly in Rule, nor even examined ” the present spiritless parish church,” on the site of a Norman church of the early twelfth century. The few relics of carved stone fill Sir Herbert Maxwell’s heart with bitterness against the dull destroyers. Our Presbyterian fore-fathers, as far as in them lay, destroyed every vestige of the noble art whereof these glens were full, when, in the twelfth century, the Border was part of a civilised country. For all that I know, they were innocent of ruin at Bedrule ; the English of Henry VIII may here, as all through this region, have been the destroyers. They were Protestants of a sort. Moreover in Rule dwelt the small but fierce clan of Turnbull, who, between Scotts and Kers, fought both of these great clans, and now, as a power, ” are a’ wede awa’.” Perhaps an enemy of theirs took sanctuary in the church, and they ” burned the chapel for very rage,” as the Scotts burned St. Mary of the Lowes shortly before the Reformation.
Somewhere about 162o, Rule Water had her minstrel, named Robin, nick-named ” Sweet-milk,” from the place of his residence. In my opinion these singers of the late days of James VI and I, were the survivors of the Border minstrels who, says Queen Mary’s Bishop of Ross, Lesley, the historian, made their own ballads of raids and rescues, such as Dick o’ the Cow, and as much as is not Scott’s of Kinmont Willie. There was a rival minstrel, Willie Henderson, whom I take to have sided with the Scotts, while Robin was the Demodocus of the Eliotts of Stobs. The pair met, drank, fought, and Willie pinked ” Sweet-Milk ” Robin, the Eliotts’ man.
” Tuneful hands with blood were dyed,”
says Sir Walter, but what was the cause of the quarrel? I have a hypothesis. The famous ballad of Jamie Teller exists in two versions. In one the Scotts are covered with laurels, while Martin Eliott plays the part of a cur. In the other, the Eliotts gain all the glory, while Scott of Buccleuch acts like a mean dastard. One of these versions is the original, the other is a perversion. The ballad itself; which takes us all through the Border, from Bewcastle on the English side, to the fair Dodhead on Upper Ettrick, is not of the period of the incidents described. As far as these are historical, the date is about 1596. The author of the ballad does not know the facts, and makes incredible statements. Consequently he is late, writes years after the Union of the Crowns (1603) and the end of Border raids. I guess that either Will Henderson was the author of the ballad in favour of the Scotts, and that Robin, the minstrel of the Eliotts, perverted it into the Eliott version, or vice versâ, Robert was the original author, Will the perverter. Here, in any case, was infringement of copyright and deadly insult. The poets fought. Certainly, Robin fell, and the Eliotts hanged Will, gave him ” Jeddart justice.” To the ballad we shall return it is, though inaccurate, full of the old Border spirit, and is in itself an itinerary of the Marches.
These high powers, the Scott and Eliott clans, like the States of Europe, were now allies, cementing their federacy by inter-marriages ; and again were bitter foes. The strength of the chief of the Eliotts was in Liddesdale, of the Scotts, in Teviotdale. They were allies for young James V against his Keepers, the Douglases,
” When gallant Cessford’s life-blood dear Reeked on dark Eliott’s Border spear,”
at ” Turn Again,” a spot on Scott’s estate of Abbotsford. They were foes in 1564-66, in Queen Mary’s reign, when Martin Eliott, chief of his clan, plotted with the Armstrongs to betray her strong fortress of Hermitage to the English.
In this feud the Eliotts attacked Scott of Hassendean in his tower on Hassendean burn, the next tributary of Teviot, but the ballad of Kinmont Willie makes Gilbert Eliott of Stobs ride with the bold Buccleuch to the rescue of Willie from Carlisle Castle (1596). Unluckily, in 1596 Gilbert Eliott was not yet the Laird of Stobs. This Gilbert, at all events, married the daughter of the Flower of Yarrow, the wife of Auld Wat Scott of Harden, himself the neighbour and foremost fighting man of the laird of Branksome in Teviot, the bold Buccleuch. His descendant, Sir Walter, has made Auld Wat’s name immortal, and, in Jamie Telfer, has certainly interpolated a spirited stanza to his praise.
In the village of Denholm, on Teviot, opposite to Hassendean, was born John Leyden, the great friend of Scott, a poet in his way, but much more remarkable as a man of amazing energy of character, an Orientalist, and a collector of ballads. But few now know what
” distant and deadly shore Holds Leyden’s cold remains.”
His memory is twined with that of Sir Walter, and he is one of the most living figures in Lockhart’s Life of Scott. Leyden had the poetic quality, not judiciously cultivated, of the old Border minstrels, while the energy which the clans expended in war was given by him to omnivorous studies.
Below Denholm, but on the other side of the river, nearly opposite the junction of Rule Water with Teviot, is Minto, in the fourteenth century a property owned by one of that unruly clan, the Turnbulls. Later, it passed to the family of Stewart, and finally, somewhere about the beginning of the eighteenth century, it was bought by Sir Gilbert Elliot, ancestor of the Minto branch of that family. The present house dates only from 1814, but it has a curious legend attached to it, which is mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s diary, under date 23rd December, 1825. He says: “It is very odd that the common people about Minto and the neighbour-hood will not believe at this hour that the first Earl is dead.” [He died in June, 1814.] “They think he had done something in India which he could not answer forthat the house was rebuilt on a scale unusually large to give him a suite of secret apartments, and that he often walks about the woods and crags of Min to at night, with a white nightcap and long white beard. The circumstances of his having died on the road down to Scotland is the sole foundation of this absurd legend, which shows how willing the public are to gull themselves when they can find no one else to take the trouble. I have seen people who could read, write, and cipher, shrug their shoulders and look mysterious when this subject was mentioned. One very absurd addition was made on occasion of a great ball at Minto House, which it was said was given to draw all people away from the grounds, that the concealed Earl might have leisure for his exercise.”
To the east of Minto House are Minto Crags, towering precipitous to a height of over seven hundred feet. On the summit is the ruin called Fatlips Castle, which is said to have been the stronghold of the fourteenth-century owner of Minto, Turnbull of Barnhill, a notorious Border freebooter. A small grassy platform, or level space, a little below the ruin, is called Barnhill’s Bed, ” Where Barnhill hew’d his bed of flint,”a convenient spot, no doubt, in old days on which to station a sentry or look-out.
The third Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto was apparently in his own way something of a poet, but the ever tolerant Sir Walter Scott to whom he used to read his compositions, confesses that the verses were ” but middling.” Sir Gilbert had, however, a better title, at least to collateral fame ; he was the brother of the Jean Elliot who wrote that undying lament, the ” Flowers of the Forest.”
It is curious to note that in 1374 the church of Minto belonged to the diocese of Lincoln.
Here at Minto, if credence in the reality of Fairies no longer lingers amongst the people,one of the writers of this volume records, some chapters back, that he found traces of the belief not very many years ago still surviving at Flodden Edge,at least but a very few generations have passed since it died. Throughout Teviotdale, perhaps to a greater extent than in any other part of the Border, tales still are told which show how strong was once this belief in the existence of the Little Folk, and many of the customs that, we are told, were followed by country dwellers in order to propitiate the Good People, or to thwart their malevolence, are very quaint. Should it chance, for instance, that at the time a child was born the blue bonnet usually worn by the husband was not kept continually lying on the mother’s bed, then there would be the most imminent danger of that child being carried off by the Fairies, and a changeling being left in its place. Many a fine child has been lost through neglect of this simple precaution. Generally, if the abduction took place before the child had been christened, a pig or a hedgehog, or some such animal, was substituted for the infant ; but if the Fairies did not succeed in their design till after the child’s baptism, then they left another bairn in its lace, usually a peevish, ill-thriven, wizen-faced little imp. A tale is told of a woman who lived at Minto Cragfoot, and whose child, in consequence of some trifling lack of precaution in the matter of the blue bonnet, was carried off, and in the end was rescued only by the superior knowledge and power of a Presbyterian minister. Whilst she herself was engaged one day in gathering sticks for her fire, the woman had laid her child beside a bush on the hill side. She neither heard nor saw anything unusual, but on going to pick up her child at the close of her task, instead of her bonny, smiling little son she found only a thin, wasted, weird little creature, which “yammered” and wept continually. Recourse was had to the Reverend Mr. Borland, (first Presbyterian minister of Bedrule after the Reformation,) and that gentleman at once unhesitatingly pronounced that this was no mere human child. The mother must go to the cliffs, said Mr. Borland, and there gather a quantity of the flowers of the fox-glove, (locally called ” witches thimbles,”) and bring them to him. These Mr. Borland boiled, poured some of the extract into the bairn’s mouth, scattered the boiled flowers all over its body, then put it in its cradle wrapped in a blanket, and left it all night alone in the barn. Mr. Borland took the key of the door away with him, and gave instructions that under no circumstances was anybody to enter the barn until he returned next day. The anxious mother watched all night by the door, but heard no sound ; never once did the child wail. And next morning when Mr. Borland arrived he was able to band to the mother her own child, fat and smiling as when carried off by the fairies. It was a heroic remedy, but probably the sick child did not swallow much of that decoction of digitalis. In any case, they did not have coroners’ inquests in those days, and had the worst come to the worst, the uncomplaining fairies would have borne the blame.
It was up Teviot, in the days when witches flourished, that a poor woman lived, whose end was rather more merciless than that inflicted on most of her kind. A man’s horse had died suddenly,elf-struck, or overlooked by a witch, of course. To break whatever spell the witch or elf might have cast over other animals the owner of the dead horse cut out and burnt its heart. Whilst the fire was at its fiercest and the heart sizzling in the glow, there rushed up a large black greyhound, flecked all over with foam and evidently in the last stage of fatigue, which tried persistently to snatch the heart from the fire. One of the spectators, suspecting evil, seized a stick and struck the animal a heavy blow over the back, whereupon, with a fearful yell, it fled, and disappeared. Almost at that instant, a villager ran up, saying that his wife had suddenly been taken violently ill ; and when those who had been engaged in burning the heart went in to the man’s cottage, they found his wife, a dark-haired, black-eyed woman, lying, gasping and breathless, with her back, to their thinking, broken. She, poor woman, was probably suffering from a sudden and particularly acute attack of lumbago. But to those wise men another inference was only too obvious. She was, of course, a witch, and it was she who, in the guise of a greyhound, had tried to snatch the horse’s heart from the fire, and who had then got a stroke across her back that broke it. They insisted that she should repeat the Lord’s prayer,an infallible test, for if she were a witch she would be sure to say : ” lead us into temptation, and deliver us not from evil.” And so, when the poor woman in her pain failed to get through the prayer to their satisfaction, they bound her, carried her away, and burnt her alive in the fire where the horse’s heart had been roasted.
Two or three miles across the river from Minto is Ruberslaw, a rugged hill, towering dark and solitary, a landmark for half the Border. More than any of its distant neighbours in the Cheviot range, it seems to draw to itself the hurrying rain-clouds, more than any other it seems to nurture storms. About its grim head all Teviotdale may
“see with strange delight the snow clouds form When Ruberslaw conceives the mountain stormDark Ruberslaw, that lifts his head sublime, Rugged and hoary with the wrecks of time ; On his broad misty front the giant wears The horrid furrows of ten thousand years.”
Like many another wild Border hill, Ruberslaw was a favourite lurking place for the persecuted Covenanters, and near its top is a craggy chasm from which, it is said, Wodrow’s “savoury Mr. Peden” used to preach to his scattered congregation. It was on this hill that the pursuing dragoons all but caught the preacher and his flock one day; they were caught, indeed, like rats in a trap, had it not been for Ruberslaw’s well-known character for breeding bad weather. The soldiers were advancing in full view of the conventicle. Way of escape there was none, nor time to disperse ; mounted men from every quarter were scrambling up the steep face of the hill, and in that clear light what chance was left now to hide among the rocks and boulders ! ” ” O Lord,” prayed Peden with extreme fervour, ” lap the skirts of thy cloak ower puir auld Sandy.” And as if in answer to his petition, there came over the entire hill a thick ” Liddesdale drow,” so dense that a man might not see two feet around him. When the mist cleared again, there was no one left for the dragoons to take.
Above Hassendean, but on the other side of Teviot, is one of the few remaining possessions in this country, namely Cavers, of the great and ancient House of the Black Douglases. The relics are a very old flag; its date and history are variously explained by family legend and by antiquaries. It is not a pennon, therefore not Hotspur’s pennon taken by the Earl of Douglas before the battle of Otterburne. It is nothing of the Percys’, for it bears the Douglas Heart and a Douglas motto. On the whole it seems to have belonged not to the Black, but to their rivals and successors, the Red Douglases, who were as unruly, and ” ill to lippen to ” by Scottish kings, as the elder branch.
The lady’s embroidered glove, with the letters K.P., ought to have belonged to Hotspur’s wife, who is Kate in Shakespeare, a better authority than your mere genealogists.
As we ascend, the water of Teviot becomes more and more foul ; varying, when last I shuddered at it, from black to a most unwholesome light blue. It is distressing to see such a fluid flowing through beautiful scenes ; and possibly since I mingled my tears with the polluted stream, the manufacturers of Hawick have taken some order in the way of more or less filtering their refuse and their dyes.
Hawick, to the best of my knowledge, contains no objects of interest to the tourist who ” picturesques it everywhere.” A hotel is called the Tower Hotel, and contains part of an ancient keep of the Douglases” Doulanwrack’s (Douglas of Drumlanrig’s) Castell,” which Sussex spared in 1570 when he ” made an ende of the rest ” of Hawick,but ” you would look at it twice before you thought ” of a castle of chivalry. The people of Hawick have retained many of the characteristics of the old Borderers ; they are redoubted foes at football ; and are said to be not very scrupulous raidersof mushrooms. Their local patriotism is fervid, and they sing with passion their song of ” Teribus and Teriodden,” which refers to “Sons of heroes slain at Flodden,”among other Flowers of the Forest. And, like their neighbours at Selkirk, they cherish a banner, said to have been captured from the English. The Hawick trophy, however, is not attributed to Flodden, but to a slightly later fight at Hornshole, near Hawick, when those who were left of the townsfolk fell on, and defeated with great slaughter, an English raiding party. That the mysterious words Teribus and Teriodden, or Odin, are a survival of a pious ejaculation imploring the help of Thor and Odin, I can neither affirm nor deny. It would be a gratifying thing to prove that the memory of ancient Scandinavian deities has survived the sway of the mediæval Church and the Kirk of John Knox. But I have not heard that the words occur in documents before the eighteenth century. The town has a site naturally beautiful, as Slitrig, a very rapid stream, here joins Teviot, which, above the mills of Hawick is electro clarior; not of a pure crystal translucency, but of a transparent amber hue.
Slitrig takes its rise on the Windburgh Hill, on the northern side of the Liddesdale watershed, a hill of old the known resort of the Good People, whose piping and revels might often be heard by the solitary shepherd. The rivulet is said to well out from a small, black, fathomless little loch high up on the hill. Here, as all knew, dwelt the Kelpie, or other irritable spirit prone to resent human intrusion, and if a stone should chance to be thrown into the depths of the lakelet, resentment was pretty sure to be expressed by a sudden dangerous overflow of water into the burn, whereby destruction would be carried down the valley. That, tradition tells, is how Hawick came to be devastated, and all but swept away, early in the eighteenth century. A shepherd, it was said, had quite accidentally rolled a large stone into the lake, and had thus roused the Spirit of the mountain to ungovernable fury. Leyden thus writes of the tradition :
” From yon green peak, black haunted Slata brings The gushing torrents of unfathomed springs : In a dead lake, that ever seems to freeze, By sedge enclosed from every ruffling breeze, The fountains lie ; and shuddering peasants shrink To plunge the stone within the fearful brink ; For here, ’tis said, the fairy hosts convene, With noisy talk, and bustling steps unseen ; The hill resounds with strange, unearthly cries ; And moaning voices from the waters rise.
Nor long the time, if village-saws he true, Since in the deep a hardy peasant threw A pondrous stone ; when murmuring from below, With gushing sound he heard the lake o’erflow. The mighty torrent, foaming down the hills, Called, with strong voice, on all her subject rills ; Rocks drove on jagged rocks with thundering sound, And the red waves, impatient, rent their mound ; On Hawick burst the flood’s resistless sway, Ploughed the paved streets, and tore the walls away, Floated high roofs, from whelming fabrics torn ; While pillared arches down the wave were borne.”
Borthwick Water, too, as well as Slitrig, was famed for its fairiesand for worse than fairies, if one may judge by the name given to a deep pool ; the Dell’s Pool, it is called, a place to be shunned by youthful fishers. But probably the youthful fisher of the twentieth century cares neither for dell nor for fairy. Higher up the stream than this pool is the Fairy Knowe, where a shepherd was once flung into the flooded burn by the fairies,at any rate he was carried down the burn one evening, late, and he said it was the fairies, and no other spirits, that had flung him in.
One very odd relic hard by Hawick is a mote, or huge tumulus, of the kind so common in Galloway. Probably above it was erected a palisaded wooden fortress, perhaps of the twelfth century. The area, as far as an amateur measurement can determine, is not less than that of the tower of Goldielands, an old keep of the Scotts, some two miles further up the water, almost opposite to the point where Borthwick Water flows into Teviot on the left. If we cross the bridge here and follow the pretty wandering water through a level haugh, and then turn off to the right, we arrive at a deep thickly-wooded dene, and from the crest above this excellent hiding place of raided cattle looks down the old low house of Harden, (the Stammschloss of Sir Walter Scott,) now the property of Lord Polwarth, the head of this branch of the Scotts of Buccleuch. The house is more modern than the many square keeps erected in the old days of English invasions and family feuds. The Borthwick Water turns to the left, and descends from the heights of Howpasley, whence the English raiders rode clown, “laigh down in Borthwick Water,” in the ballad of Jamie Telfer. A mile or a little more above Goldielands Tower, on the left side of Teviot is Branksome Tower, the residence of the Lady of Branksome in The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
At Branksome Tower we are in the precise centre of the Scottish Border of history and romance, the centre of Scott’s country. Yet, looking at Mr. Thompson’s excellent sketch, you would scarce guess it. The house stands very near the Teviot, but still nearer the public road. Thanks to the attentions of the English at various periods, especially when the bold Buccleuch stood for the fairest of ladies, Mary Queen of Scots, against preachers, presbyters, puritans, and their southern allies, perhaps no visible part of the edifice older than 1570 remains except the tower. The Lady of Branksome who finished the actual house after the old stronghold had been burned, appears to have thought that square keeps and barmkyns were obsolete in war, owing to the increasing merits of artillery ; and she did not build a house of defence. Manifestly ” nine and twenty Knights of fame” never ” hung their shields in ” this ” Branksome Hall,” and never were here attended by “nine and twenty Squires of name,” and “nine and twenty yeomen tall.”
There is no room for them, and at Branksome, probably, there never was. It is not to be credited that, at any period, ten of the knights went to bed ” sheathed in steel,” to be ready for the English, or
” Carved at the meal, with gloves of steel, And drank the red wine through the helmet barred.”
The minstrel gave free play to his fancy. The Laird of Branksome, though Warden of the Marches, never had, never needed, so vast a retinue, and was so far from “Warkworth or Naworth, or merry Carlisle” that no Scrope, or Howard, or Percy, could fall on him at unawares.
The Scotts, in the reign of James I, already owned the wild upland pastoral region of Buccleuch between Teviot and Ettrick, and Eckford in Teviotdale; also Murdiestone on the lower Clyde, a place now too near the hideous industrial towns and villages near Glasgow. Meanwhile a pacific gentleman named Inglis was laird of Branksome. He grumbled, it is said, to Sir Walter Scott of Murdiestone about the inconveniences caused by English raiders ; though, as they had a long way to ride, Inglis probably suffered more at Branksome from the Kers, Douglases, and ferocious Turnbulls. Scott was not a nervous man, and he offered to barter Murdiestone for half of Branksome, which came into his pastoral holdings at Buccleuch. Inglis gladly made the exchange, and Scott’s son obtained the remaining half of the barony of Branksome, in reward of his loyalty to James II, during his struggle with the Black Douglases, (during which he dirked his guest, the Earl, at the hospitable table.) The Scott lands, carved out of those of the fallen Douglases, extended from Lanarkshire to Langholm ; and as they were loyal to their country, (at least till the reign of Charles I,) and withal were fighting men of the best, they throve to Earl’s estate, the dukedom coming in with the ill fated marriage of the heiress to James, son of Charles II, Duke of Monmouth. Of course if Charles II really married Lucy Walters, (as Monmouth’s pious Whiggish adherents asserted,) the Duke of Buccleuch would be our rightful king. But the good king, Charles II, firmly denied the marriage, fond as he was of his handsome son by Lucy Walters; and the good House of Buccleuch has never believed in the Whig fable of the black box which contained the marriage lines of Lucy Walters and Charles II. The marriage of Monmouth with the heiress of Buccleuch was made in their extreme youth and was unhappy. Monmouth was in love, like Lord Ailesbury, with Lady Henrietta Wentworth, whom he (according to Ailesbury,) spoke of as “his wife in the sight of God,” which means that she was not his wife at all.
The house of Branksome makes a picturesque object in the middle distance of the landscape ; but is not otherwise interesting. In front of the door lies, or used to lie, a rusty iron breach-loading culverin of the fourteenth century ; of old, no doubt, part of the artillery of the castle, when it was a castle.
Returning from Branksome Tower to the right bank of Teviot, now a clear and musical stream, we cross one of the many Allan Waters so common in Scotland, and arrive at Caerlanrig, where there is a tablet with an inscription bitterly blaming James V, for his treachery to Johnny Armstrong of Gilnockie in Eskdale, hanged in 1530. The Armstrongs, being next neighbours of England on the Border, were a clan of doubtful allegiance, given to intermarrying with the English, and some-times wearing the cross of St. George as ” assured Scots.” They were the greatest of reivers on both sides of the Border. In 1530, James V, who had escaped from the Douglases, and driven Angus, their chief, into the service of Henry VIII, tried to bring the country into order. He first arrested the chief menBothwell (Hepburn), Ferniehirst (Ker), Maxwell, Home, Buccleuch (his old ally), Polwarth, and Johnston; and, having kept them out of mischief; led a large force into their region. He caught Scott of Tushielaw in Ettrick, and Cockburn of Henderland on Meggat Water. Cockburn was tried in Edinburgh for theft and treason, and beheaded ; not hanged at his own door as legend fables. He was in the conspiracy of Henry VIII and Angus, and had sided with invaders. Tushielaw suffered for oppression of his tenants. Numbers of lairds, Kers, Douglases, Rutherfurds, Turnbulls, Swintons, Veitches, put themselves on the King’s mercy and gave sureties for quiet behaviour. Gilnockie, according to the ballad, came to the King at Caerlanrig in royal array, with forty retainers. I find no contemporary account of the circumstances, for Lindsay of Pitscottie gives but late gossip, as he always does. Calderwood, still later, says that Johnie ” was enticed by some courtiers.” Calderwood adds that one of the sufferers with Johnie had burned a woman and her children in her house. The evidence for Royal treachery is that of the ballad of Johnie Armstrang, which may have been the source and authority of Pitscottie. We may quote it. It was a favourite of Sir Walter Scott.
It will be observed that Gilnockie puts forward as his claim to respect the very robberies in England for which, says the poet, he was hanged. The only sign of treachery is that Johnnie did come to Caerlanrig, probably in hope of making his peace like many other lairds. Whether he were “enticed by some courtiers,” or whether he risked the adventure is not manifest. According to Pitscottie he had held England as far as Newcastle under blackmail.
Above Caerlanrig, Teviot winds through the haughs and moors and under the alders to its source at Teviot-stone.