BUT a step over the moor from Waich Water, across by Twin-Law Cairns and down by the Harecleuch Hill we come to the head-waters of the most considerable of Whitadder’s tributariesBlackadder, “vulgarly so pronounced,” says the old Statistical Account. Its real name is ” Blackwater,” according to that authority, because it rises out of peaty swamps that impart to its waters a look of sullen gloom. I am unable to say what now may be its reputation as a trout stream, but long years ago it abounded with ” a particular species of trout, much larger than the common burn trout, and remarkably fat.”” The Statistical Account mentions a notable peculiarity of Blackadder, on the accuracy of which one would be inclined to throw doubt. It says that though every other stream in the country which eventually mingles its waters with Tweed, swarms with salmon in the season, yet into Blackwater they do not go ; or if they enter at all, it is found that they die before they can ascend many miles. The swampy source of the stream “is commonly ascribed as the reason why the fish cannot frequent the river,” says the Account. Drainage, one would be inclined to think, has long ago removed that fatal nature from the water, if it ever existed. Trout throve on it, at all events, red-fleshed beauties, ” similar,” says the clerical writer of the Statistical Account of the Parish of Fogoa man and a fisher, surely” to those of Eden Water, which joins Tweed three miles below Kelso. The Eden rises also in a marshy district, which may be the cause of this similarity of the fish.” But most Border streams take their rise in more or less marshy districts, though they may not flow direct from a swamp.
Was it in the Eden that Thomson, author of “The Seasons,” learned to fish ? Or was it in Jed ? He was born at Ednam,Edenham,a village on the Eden, and he may have loved to revisit it in later years, and to catch the lusty speckled trout for which the stream has always been famous. Probably, however, he learned to throw a fly on Jed, for he passed his boyhood at Southdeanto which parish his father had been transferred as Minister long ere the son was fit to wield a rodand he himself got his early education at Jedburgh. In Jed or in Eden, then, and perhaps in Teviot and Ale he was much at Ancrumhe learned the art; and not unskilled in it indeed must he have been. Where in all literature can one find a description of trout-fishing so perfect as the following ?
” Just in the dubious point, where with the pool Is mix’d the trembling stream, or where it boils Around the stone, or from the hollow’d bank Reverted plays in undulating flow, There throw, nice judging, the delusive fly ; And, as you lead it round in artful curve, With eye attentive mark the springing game. Strait as above the surface of the flood They wanton rise, or, urged by hunger, leap, There fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook ; Some lightly tossing to the grassy bank And to the shelving shore slow dragging some With various hand proportion’d to their force. If yet too young, and easily deceived, A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant rod, Him, piteous of his youth, and the short space He has enjoy’d the vital light of heaven, Soft disengage, and back into the stream The speckled captive throw ; but, should you lure From his dark haunt, beneath the tangled roots Of pendent trees, the monarch of the brook, Behoves you then to ply your finest art. Long time he, following cautious, scans the fly, And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear. At last, while haply o’er the shaded sun Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death With sullen plunge : at once he darts along, Deep struck, and runs out all the lengthen’d line, Then seeks the farthest ooze, the sheltering weed, The cavern’d bank, his old secure abode, And flies aloft, and flounces round the pool, Indignant of the guile. With yielding hand That feels him still, yet to his furious course Gives way, you, now retiring, following now, Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage, Till floating broad upon his breathless side, And to his fate abandon’d, to the shore You gaily drag your unresisting prize.”
Many a long day of Spring and Summer must the man who could paint so perfect a picture have passed, rod in hand and creel on back, by the hurrying streams and quiet pools of some Border. Water, many a time have listened to the summer breeze whispering in the leafy banks, and heard, as in a dream, the low murmur of Jed or Ale. And what sport must they have had in the old days when Thomson fishedand even in the days when Stoddart fishedwhen farmers were ignorant, or careless, of the science of drainage, and rivers ran for days, nay, for weeks after rain, clear and brown, dimpled with rising trout. What sport indeed of all kinds must there have been here in the south of Scotland in very ancient days when the country was mostly forest or swamp, and wild animals, now long extinct, roamed free over hill and dale. It has been mentioned a page or two back how the lady of Gamelshiel Tower was killed by a wolf. Here, at the head waters of Blackadderas the crow flies not a dozen miles from Gamelshielwe are in the midst of a district once infested by wolves. Westruther, through which parish Blackadder runs, was originally ” Wolfstruther,” the “swamp of the wolves.” And all over the surrounding country, place names speak of the beasts of the field. An MS. account of Berwickshire tells how Westruther was ” a place of old which had great woods, with wild beasts, fra quhilk the dwellings and hills were designed, as Wolfstruther, Raecleuch, Hindside, Hartlaw and Harelaw.”
” There’s hart and hynd, and dae and rae, And of a’ wilde bestis grete plentie,”
as we read in the “Sang of the Outlaw Murray.”
The last-mentioned name, Harelaw, calls up visions of another chase than that of the hare. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder in his ” Scottish Rivers,” (written sometime about 1848), mentions that one of the most curious facts connected with Harelaw Moor was that a man, who, Sir Thomas says, died “not long ago,” recollected having seen Sir John Cope and his dragoons in full flight across it from the battle of Prestonpans, breathlessly demanding from all the country people they met information as. to the shortest road to Coldstream.
” Says the Berwickers unto Sir John, O what’s become o’ all your men?’ ` In faith,’ says he, ` I dinna ken ; I left them a’ this morning.’ ”
He must have been a very aged man, but if “not long ago” meant any time, as late, say, as the Twenties of last century, no doubt it would be possible that as a boy of eight or ten, he might have seen the panic-stricken dragoons spurring over the moor. Such a sight would remain vivid in the memory of even a very old man. Childhood’s incidents outlive all others.
Above Harelaw Moor, on a feeder of the Blackadder, is Wedderlie, formerly an old Border keep of the usual pattern, but towards the close of the seventeenth century embodied with a fine building in the Scottish style of that day. It is said to have belonged originally to that family, the Edgars, the graves of two members of which are commemorated by the Twin-Law Cairns. The family name lives still in that of the neighbouring Edgar-burn, near to which streamlet is Gibb’s Cross, said to be the scene of a martyrdom for sake of the Reformed Faith ; and hard by is Evelaw Towera house apparently without a historystill in tolerable preservation. At Wedderlie, of old time, says Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, there stood a very ancient chapel, of which some traces of a vault remain, or remained at a recent date. Local tradition had it that at time of the Reformation the monks hid in this vault all their church plate and other precious possessions, meaning at the first convenient opportunity to remove them to a place of greater safety. The convenient opportunity, it was thought in more modern times, had never come, for in a cave hard by the vault there was one day discovered a great quantity of coinsall of which, by the way, speedily and mysteriously disappeared. It is said, however, that they were not of dates that could in any degree connect this cache with the Reformation, and it is suggested in Sir Thomas’s book that they were concealed there by the inhabitants of Wedderlie during the Religious wars of the seventeenth century. Those “in the know ” may all have been killed, of course ; the secret of the hiding place was not likely to be within the ken of more than one or two.
These finds of coins of all dates are by no means rare in the Scottish border counties. One would fain know something of those who hid them, and of the events which were passing at the time when they were buried. Were they the spoil of some reiver, ravished from a roof-tree blackened and left desolate south from Cheviot and Tweed ; spoil for convenience sake thus put away by one to whom the chance of a more convenient season to recover it was ended by a bloody death? Or were they, sometimes, store of coins hastily secreted by quiet country folk fleeing in terror from the violence of English soldierymen such as they who came north with Hertford in 1544, whose orders were to put man, woman, and child to fire and the sword, without exception, if any resistance should be met with ?. What wonder if the harmless country people then left all, and fled for their lives and the honour of their women ! For what so easy as to find excuse to carry out such orders ? A child ill-treated, a woman outraged; and a manhusband, father, lover mad with horror and impotent rage, “resisting ! ”
Coins, in greater or less number, are continually turning up in all sorts of unlikely spots. Sometimes in a marshy field (where one would least expect buried treasure), the spade of an Irish drainer has been known to throw out Elizabethan crowns. How did they get there? Perhaps it might have been when the horse of some rider, bogged and struggling to get clear, in its violent efforts burst the fastenings of a saddle bag or wallet, or unseated its rider, emptying whatever may have been the equivalent of a trousers’ pocket in days when men wore mail. Some of these Elizabethan coins, perhaps, found their resting place in r 570, when the English under the Earl of Sussex harried and burnt the Border, in “Tyvydale bernyng on bothe hands at the lest two myle, levyng neyther castell, towne, nor tower unbrent, tyll we came to Jedworth.” And so on, across by Hawick and Branxholm, up by Oxnam Water and Kale and Bowmont, and round about Kelso, burning and destroying homes, and hanging prisoners. “Thus,” says Lord Hunsdon in a letter to Sir W. Cecil, “Thus bathe hyr Majesty had as honorable a revenge of the recevars of hyr rebels, and of all such as have byn commen spoylars of hyr pepoll, and burners of her cuntrey, as ever any of hyr predecessors had.” They were not weakly addicted to half measures in those days, whichever side was ” top dog.” “And so we pray to God to send youre Majestie a longe and prosperowse raigne, and all youre enemyes to feare youe as moth as the Scottish Borderers feare youe at this present,” ended Lords Sussex and Hunsdon in a despatch written by them to the Queen from “Barwick” on 23rd April, 1570.
The lost Paychest of Montrose’s army at Philiphaugh has given rise to many a story of treasure hunted for or recovered. Sir Walter Scott tells how on the day of the battle the Earl of Traquair and one of his followers, a blacksmith, carrying with them a large sum of money, the pay of the troops, were on their way across the hills to join Montrose at Selkirk. When as far away as Minchmuir, they heard the sound of heavy firing, to which Lord Traquair attached little importance, believing it to be merely Montrose exercising his men, but which, from the long continued and irregular nature of the firing, the blacksmith made certain was an engagement. By the time they reached Broadmeadows, there was no question as to whose conjecture was the correct one. By ones and twos, like the first heavy drops, forerunners of a deluge to follow from some ink-black cloud, came men flying for their lives, on horses pushed beyond the utmost limits of their speed ; then more fugitives, and more, and hard on their heels, Leslie’s troopers thundering. Lord Traquair and the blacksmith turned and fled with the throng. But the money was in Lord Traquair’s saddle-bags, and the weight was great; he was like to be captured, for his horse thus handicapped could not face the hill and the heavy ground. Whether the blacksmith offered to sacrifice himself to save his master, or the master ordered the servant to dismount, one does not know, but the outcome was that Lord Traquair fled over the moor on the blacksmith’s comparatively fresh horse, and the blacksmith, on a spent animal, was left to make the best of his way with the silver. Leaving the press of fugitives, he fled up Yarrow at the top speed of his tired horse, but finding himself closely pursued, to save himself and to lighten the animal’s load, he flung away the bags of money. He said afterwards that he threw them into a well or pond near Tinnis, a little above Hangingshaw, and many a well and many a pond has since been vainly dragged for the lost treasure. No man has yet recovered it. Probably that blacksmith knew a thing or two, and he was not likely to give away the show. Whether or no, however, it is certain that many silver coins having dates of about the time of the battle were in Sir Walter’s day ploughed up on the river haughs of ‘I’innis. And at a much later date, a quantity of coins and some silver plate were unearthed nearer Philiphaugh, on the actual scene of the fight. These coins were claimed by the Exchequer. A dozen wine bottles, also, of old pattern, were found buried here, but what had been the liquor contained in them it was not possible to say; the bouquet had entirely perished, and even the colour.
There is a pool in Yarrow, near Harehead, into which tradition says that Montrose flung his treasure chest, telling the Devil to keep it till he should return to claim it. Up to the present the Foul Fiend has not released his care, for whenas is said,–the pool was run dry, or nearly dry, a good many years ago, only a Lochabar-axe was found in it. A somewhat more probable story of the chest is that the bearer, as he hurried past, flung it into a cottage, near Foulshiels, and then rode for his life. Some of Leslie’s men got it there, and looted it.
Whose is the portrait that is contained in the little locket which was found, years ago, on the field of Philiphaugh ? On the one side is the representation of a heart pierced by darts, and the motto ” I dye for Loyalty “; on the other, a long straight sword is engraved. Inside is a portrait, and opposite the portrait, the words “I mourne for Monarchie.”
Sometimes coins have been found, too, as at Blackcastle Rings, on Blackadder, at its junction with the Faungrist Burn. Here, on the northern bank of the river, is what must once have been a strongly fortified camp ; opposite, on the southern side, and running along the river’s bank for fully half a mile, after which it branches to the south, is a well marked line of entrenchment. Eighty years ago, or thereabouts, an old silver chain was unearthed in the camp ; and in the trench, a little distance away, when turf was being removed, they came upon quite a number of gold and silver coins of the reign of Edward III. It was somewhere in this neighbourhood, (though probably nearer Duns,) that Lord Percy the English Warden, at the head of seven thousand men, lay encamped in the year 1372, when (as is mentioned by Ridpath), his host was dispersed, or at least was said to have been compelled to retire across the Tweed, on foot and without their baggage, owing to a simple stratagem of the Scots. To scare away from their poor little crops the deer and wild cattle that were wont when night fell to ravage the ill-cultivated patches, the country folk of that district were accustomed to sound at frequent intervals a primitive kind of drum. To the ends of long poles were fixed what may best be termed huge rattles, made of dried skins tightly stretched over semi-circular ribs of wood. Inside each skin were put a few round pebbles. Obviously, when shaken vigorously, these rattles would give out a noise quite terrifying to any four-footed animal, especially when heard in the stillness of night. Accordingly, one pitchy night, in the hour before dawn when sleep lay heavy on the invading force, a certain number of the Scots, bearing with them those unwarlike instruments, stole quietly through the tangled growth to the heights on either side of the English camp.
Then broke out a din truly infernal. Picketed horses, mad with terror, strained back on their head-ropes, and breaking loose, stampeded through the camp, trampling over the recumbent forms of men wearied and even yet but half-awake, many of the younger among them more than ready to share the panic of their horses. If the tale be not exaggerated, daylight showed an army deprived of its transport animals, its horsemen compelled to foot it, their steeds the prey of the wily Scots a baggageless force compelled to fall back in disorder across Tweed.
In this part of Berwickshire you may still faintly trace here and there the outline of a ditch and earthen rampart called Herrits Dyke, which, local tradition says, once ran from Berwick inland to near Legerwood on Leader Water,a work not dissimilar to the Catrail, (which cuts across something like fifty miles of the Border, from Peel Fell in the Cheviots to Torwoodlee on Gala), but without the double wall of Catrail. There are various sections of defensive works of this nature in the Borderif they were defensive, for instance, on the hill less than half a mile from the old castle of Holydean, near St. Boswells, in Roxburghshire, there is a particularly well-marked ditch and double rampart running for some distance across the moor. It can scarcely be a continuation of Herrits Dyke, for its construction is different, and its course must run almost at a right angle to Herrits, which is, indeed, many miles away from Holydean. This ditch points almost directly towards Torwoodlee, but it is out of the accepted Catrail track, unless the latter, instead of stopping at Torwoodlee, (as one has been taught), turned sharply and swept down the vale of Gala, and once more crossed Tweed. It is curious, if these works are defensive, that no ancient weapons have ever been found in or near, them.
Down the water a few miles from Blackcastle Rings stands the little town of Greenlaw, a settlement which dates from very early times, but not on its present site. Originally the village stood about a mile and a half to the south east, on the isolated green ” law” or hill from which it takes its name. The history of the present town goes no farther back than the end of the seventeenth century, a date about contemporaneous with that of its Market Cross, which stands now on the west side of the place. This cross is said to have been erected by Sir Patrick Home of Polwarth (afterwards created Earl of Marchmont) in the year 1696. In 1829 it was pulled down, to make room for something elsein the maddening fashion that possessed our ancestors of the periodand, in the usual manner, it was chucked aside as ” auld world trash.” In 1881, however, the cross, or at least the greater part of it, minus the top, which originally bore a lion-rampant, was discovered in the basement of the old church tower, and was then re-erected where it now stands.
Still farther down the river is the Roman camp at Chesters. But even as long ago as 1798, the writer of the Statistical Account of the Parish of Fogo complained that the old camp was “very much defaced,” and that the stones had mostly been ` removed to make room for the plough.” The rage for agricultural improvement was in 1798 but in extreme infancy; and as no Society for the preservation of ancient monuments came into existence for many a long year afterwards, and interest in such things was confined to the very few, it is safe to infer that not a great deal of this camp now exists.
From Chesters to Marchmont is but a step. Marchmont House dates from about 1754, and was built by the third Earl of Marchmont, near the site of Redbraes, the residence of his grandfather, that Sir Patrick Home of Polwarth who erected the cross in Greenlaw. The village and church of Polwarth are at no great distance. The original church was consecrated in the tenth century, and was restored in 1378, from which date it stood till 1703, when Sir Patrick Home (then Earl of Marchmont) rebuilt it. In the family vault of this church, Sir Patrick lay in hiding for several weeks in 1684, when the search for him was hot and discovery would have cost him his head. The secret of his whereabouts was known to three personsto his wife, his daughter Grisell (whose name, as Lady Grisell Baillie, lives still in the affectionate remembrance of the Scottish Border), and to Jamie Winter, a faithful retainer. Grisell Home, then a girl of eighteen, during all the time of his concealment contrived, with very great risk and difficulty, to convey food to her father in his gruesome lodging. Each night, she slipped stealthily from the house, andsorest trial of all to the nerves of an imaginative Scot,made her cautious way in the darkness across the ” bogie “-haunted churchyard to her father’s lair. Many a shift were she and her mother put to in order to get food sufficient for their prisoner without rousing suspicion among the servants, and more than once the situation was all but given away by the innocent but embarrassing comments of young and irresponsible members of the family. Sometimes the servants cannot have been present at meals, one would think; or else they smelt a rat, and were discreetly blind. One day at dinner, Grisell had with careful cunning succeeded in smuggling an entire sheep’s head off the dish on to her own lap, thence presently to be borne surreptiously from the room, when her young brother, with the maddening candour and persistency of childhood, called the company’s attention to his sister’s prodigious appetite, which not only enabled her to gobble up in next to no time so much good meat, but even rendered her able to make the very bones vanish.
But the scent at length began to grow hot ; they had nearly run the fox to his earth. Suspicion hovered over the neighbourhood of the church, and no longer could the vault be deemed even a moderately safe hiding place. A new den was necessary ; and a new den was found, one perhaps even more cramped than the old quarters, if a trifle less insanitary. A large deal box was made by the faithful Jamie Winter, and was secretly conveyed into a cellar at Redbraes, of which Lady Home kept the key. But to get the “muckle kist” snugly into its resting place, it was necessary to scrape away the earthen floor of the cellar under the flooring boards, so that the box might be entirely hidden when the boards were re-laid. This work could not be done with pick and shovel, lest the noise should betray what was going on. Grisell, therefore, and Jamie Winter literally with their own hands carried out the arduous job; the earth was scraped away, and poor Grisell Home’s nails had almost entirely disappeared ere the work was finished and the hiding place made ready for her father. It was scarcely an ideal place of concealment ; water oozed in so quickly that one night when Sir Patrick was about to descend into his narrow lodging, it was found that the bedding on which he was used to lie was afloat. And, with its other drawbacks, it had not even the advantage, as a hiding place, of being above suspicion. Had it not been, indeed, for the presence of mind of a kinsman and namesake, Home of Halyburton, a party of dragoons had certainly captured Sir Patrick one day. But Halyburton’s liquor was good, and after their thirty mile march from Edinburgh, the temptation to wet their whistle could not be resisted. It did not take long, but it was long enough; a groom on a fast, powerful horse slipped away over the moor to Redbraes, bearing with him no word of writing, but a letter addressed to Lady Home, of which the contents were nothing but a feather,–a hint sufficiently well understood. Ere the dragoons arrived at Redbraes, Sir Patrick was clear away and well on the road to the coast and Holland, and safety.
As we travel down Blackadder towards its junction with the Whitadder, about equi-distant between the two rivers we come to the only town of any importance in the districtDuns, or Dunse as it used, not very appropriately, to be spelled from 1740 to 1882, in which latter year the ancient spelling was revived. The original hamlet or settlement stood on the Dun or Law which adjoins the present town. But Hertford wiped that pretty well out of existence in 1545, as he wiped out many another stronghold and township in the south of Scotland. What was left of the place soon fell into utter decay and ruin, and a new settlement on the present site, then guarded on three sides by a more or less impassable swamp, sprung up in 1588. Duns is one of several places which claim the honour of having been the birthplace of the learned Duns Scotus (1265–1338), but even though she be unable quite to substantiate this claim, her record of worthy sons is no short one. And was not that woman, famed in the seventeenth century, she who was possessed of an evil spirit which caused her, an illiterate person, to talk fluently in the Latin tongue, a native of Duns ! The Privy Council Record, under date 13th July, 163o, contains an order for bringing before it Margaret Lumsden, “the possessed woman in Duns,” along with her father-in-law and her brother, that order might be taken in the case, “as the importance and nature of such a great cause requires.” A fast for her benefit was even proposed by sundry clergymen ; interest in her case was acute and widespread. Twenty-nine years later, an account of the circumstances was written by the Earl of Lauderdale, and was published in Baxter’s ” Certainty of the World of Spirits.” Lord Lauderdale was a schoolboy in 163o, but he was accustomed to hear the case very fully discussed by his father and the minister of Duns, the latter of whom, at least, firmly believed that the woman was possessed by an evil spirit. The Earl wrote as follows to Baxter : ” I will not trouble you with many circumstances ; one only I shall tell you, which I think will evince a real possession. The report being spread in the country, a knight of the name of Forbes, who lived in the north of Scotland, being come to Edinburgh, meeting there with a minister of the north, and both of them desirous to see the woman, the northern minister invited the knight to my father’s house (which was within ten or twelve miles of the woman), whither they came, and next morning went to see the woman. They found her a poor ignorant creature, and seeing nothing extraordinary, the minister says in Latin to the knight : ` Nondum audivimus spiritum loquentem.’ Presently a voice comes out of the woman’s mouth : `Audis loquentem, audis loquentem.’ This put the minister into some amazement (which I think made him not mind his own Latin) ; he took off his hat, and said : `Misereatur Deus peccatoris!’ The voice presently out of the woman’s mouth said : Die peccatricis, dic peccatricis’ ; whereupon both of them came out of the house fully satisfied, took horse immediately, and returned to my father’s house at Thirlestane Castle, in Lauderdale, where they related this passage. This I do exactly remember. Many more particulars might be got in that part of the country; but this Latin criticism, in a most illiterate ignorant woman, where there was no pretence to dispossessing, is enough, I think.” It was, of course, an infallible sign of demoniac possession that the victim, mostly an illiterate person, should break out into Latin or Greek, Hebrew or what not. That was how the devil usually betrayed himself ; he could by no means control his weakness for talkinggenerally very badlyin foreign tongues.
The wonders of Duns in the seventeenth century by no means ceased, however, with this demon-possessed Margaret Lumsden. In 1639, when Leslie camped on Duns Law with the Covenanting army and its superfluity of ministers, there occurred a remarkable land-slide which the excited imaginations of those witnessing its effects could not fail to interpret as an assured sign that Providence meant to fight on their side. A bank on the slope of the hill near to the camp slid down,-it had probably become water-logged as the result of heavy rain,disclosing “innumerable stones, round, for the most part, in shape, and perfectly spherical, . . . like ball of all sizes, from a pistol to fixed pieces, such as sakers or robenets, or battering pieces upwards. Men looked on them with awe, and bore about with them specimens in their pockets, gravely showing them to excited throngs. ” Nor wanted there a few who interpreted this stone magazine at Duns Hill as a miracle, as if God had sent this by ane hid providence for the use of the Covenanters.”
We return now to Tweed, where on a steep slope stand the mighty ruins of Norham Castle, guarding the ford ; we all know the scene, castle and ford in the gloaming, from Turner’s beautiful plate in Liber Studiorum. Bishop Flambard of Durham built the castle to bridle the wild Scots, in 1121; some twenty years later it was taken, under David ; but the eastern side shows the remains of the warlike prelate’s work. “The Norman Keep still frowns across the Merse,” and few of the castles of the age of chivalry display more of their ancient strength than Norham. Yet it yielded promptly to James IV. in the first week of the campaign which closed in the terrible defeat of Flodden Edge. In this castle, in the Lent of 1200, William the Lion kept his fast on fourteen kinds of fish, including salmon ; he certainly “spelled his fasts with an e.” While Berwick yielded to the Scots in the dark days of Edward II., good Sir Thomas de Grey, of that ancient Northumbrian house, held Norham stoutly, with pretty circumstances of chivalry, as his son tells in Scalacronica.
Over against Norham is Ladykirk, with its ancient church, dedicated, tradition says, by James IV. to the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for his narrow escape from death here when fording the swollen Tweed. A field to the east of the village shows some remains of military works, ramparts for guns probably, from which to fire on Norham. In a line between this spot and the castle there was found in the river a stone cannon-ball, fifty-seven inches in girth, probably one fired from ” Mons Meg ” when she was here in 1497.
Following the right bank of Tweed we reach Carham burn, where Malcolm II. won Lothian in battle ; from Carham to the sea the right bank is English. The next important tributary on the English side, as we ascend the stream is Till, formed by Bowmont and Breamish Waters, which rise in the ” Cheeviots,” as the Scots pronounce the name.
” Tweed says to Till ` What gars ye rin sae still ?’ Says Till to Tweed, ` Though ye run wi’ speed, And I rin slaw, Whaur ye droon ae man, I droon twa.’
The ominous rhyme sounds with the slow lap of the green-grey waters of’ Till among her alders, and appears to hint at the burden of the ruinous fight of Flodden. On August 22nd, James IV., “a fey man,” kept his plighted word to France, which Henry VIII. was invading, and led the whole force of Highlands and Lowlands across the Border. He made his quarters at Ford Castle, where he did not, as legend says, dally with Lady Heron, still less did his young son, the Archbishop of St. Andrews, fleet the time carelessly with her daughter.
James cleared his position by capturing Wark (now scarcely Visible in ruin), Chillingham, and Etal castles. Surrey with the English levies, including the Stanleys, sent a challenge from Alnwick. On September 3rd, the Scots are said to have wrecked Ford Castle, now a substantial and comfortable home, still containing the king’s rooms. James crossed the Till by a bridge at Ford, as the tourist also does, if he wishes to see the field of the famous battle. We climb to the crest of Flodden Edge ; look south to the wooded hills beyond the Till, and northwards note three declivities like steps in a gigantic staircase.
The Scots were well provisioned, and should easily have held the hill-crest against Surrey’s way-worn and half-starved mutinous men. They pitched their camp on the wide level of Wooler haugh, six miles to the right of Flodden and on this plain Surrey challenged James to meet him, “a fair field and no favour.” For once chivalry gave place to common sense in James’s mind : ” he would take and keep his ground at his own pleasure.” But he neglected his scouting, though he had hundreds of Border riders under Home, who should never have lost touch of Surrey. That wily “auld decrepit earl in a chariot” as Pitscottie calls him, disappeared ; James probably thought that. he was retiring to Berwick. Really, he was throwing himself, unseen, on James’s line of communication with the north : he camped at Barmoor wood, and then re-crossed Till by Twizel bridge. Scott, in Marmion and else-where, blames the king for failing to see this manoeuvre and discuss Surrey before his men could deploy after crossing by Twizel bridge and at Millford. But Twizel bridge you cannot see from Flodden Edge ; Sir Walter had forgotten the lie of the ground. Unseen, the English crossed and formed, advancing from the north towards the second of the three great steps in the declivity, called Branxton hill. In the early evening, Angli se ostentant, the English come into view. In place of holding his ground, which he is said to have en-trenched, James yielded to his impetuous temper, fired his camp, and his men throwing off their boots, for the ground was wet and slippery, rushed down to the Branxton plateau. The haggis, Cott pless her, could charge down a hill,” like Dundee’s men at Killiecrankie, but the expected impetus must have been lost before James’s Highlanders under Lennox and Argyll, his right wing, could come to sword-strokes. James’s right, in addition to the clans, had a force led by d’Aussi and Bothwell, with whom may have been the ancestors of John Knox, as the Reformer told the wild Earl, Queen Mary’s lover. The main body, the centre, under the flower of Scottish noblesse, were with the king; who “always fought before he had given his orders,” says Ayala, the ambassador of Spain. His left was led by Crawford and Errol ; his extreme left by Huntly with the gay Gordons ; and Home with his Border spears, mounted men.
The English front appears to have been ” refused ” so that Edward Howard was nearest to Home, and, slanting back-wards to the right of James, were the forces of Edmund Howard, the Admiral, the Constable, Dacre, Surrey with the rear, and the large body of Cheshire and Lancashire, led by Stanley. The Admiral sent a galloper to bring Surrey forward ; and Home and Huntly charged Edward Howard, while Dacre’s Tyneside men ran, as he advanced to support Howard. The Borderers, fond of raiding each other, could never be trusted to fight each other in serious war ; they were much inter-married. Brian Tunstal fell, Dacre stopped Huntly; Home’s men vanished like ghosts, no man knew whither; for they appeared on the field next morning. Probably they were plundering, but “Down wi’ the Earl o’ Home,” says the old song of the Souters of Selkirk. In the centre of the vanguard the Admiral and the Percys clashed with Crawford and Errol. Both leaders fell, and James threw the weight of his centre against Surrey. To slay that general with his own hand was the king’s idea of the duty of a leader. But the English guns mowed down his ranks, and the Scots could not work their French artillery. The king pressed in with Herries and Maxwell at his side; the ranks of England reeled, but the Admiral and Dacre charged James’s men in flank. ” Stanley broke Lennox and Argyll” on the king’s right ; the noble leaders fell, and the nimble Highlanders rapidly made a strategic movement in the direction of safety. Stanley did not pursue them, but fell on James’s right, which now had the enemy on each flank and in front.
” The stubborn spearmen still made good Their dark impenetrable wood”
under a rain of arrows, against the charging knights, and the terrible bill-strokes of the English infantry.
The king was not content to remain within the hedge of spears. Running out in advance, he fought his way to “within a lance’s length” of Surrey, so Surrey wrote ; his body was pierced with arrows, his left arm was half severed by a bill-stroke, his neck was gashed, and he fell. James was not a king to let his followers turn his bridle-rein ; he fought on foot, like a Paladin, and died with honour. His nobles advanced ; the spears defended the dead, and the bodies of thirteen of his peers and of two Bishops who, like Archbishop Turpin at Roncesvaux, died in harness, lay round him. An episcopal ring with a great sapphire, found at Flodden, is in the Gold Room at the British Museum.
Such was the great sorrow of Scotland ; there is perhaps not a family of gentle blood in the Lowlands which did not leave a corpse on Branxton slope, where
” Groom fought like noble, Squire like Knight, As fearlessly and well.”
As matter of plain history, this honourable defeat was to my country what, as matter of legend, the rear-guard action of Roncesvaux has been to France. It was too late in literary times for an epic like the Chanson de Roland; the burden of the song was left for the author of Marmion. But Flodden, till my own boyhood, left its mark on Scottish memories. When any national trouble befell us, people said, “There has been nothing like it since Flodden.” My friend the late Lord Napier and Ettrick told me that when his father took him to Flodden in his boyhood, tears stood in the eyes of the senior.
This is the difference between us of the north, and you of the south. Along the Border line, my heart, so to speak, bleeds at Halidon and Homildon hills, where our men made a frontal attack, out-flanked on either hand by lines of English archers, and left heaps as high as a lance’s length, of corpses on corpses, (as at Dupplin) ; but an Englishman passes Bannock-burn ” more than usual calm,” and no more rejoices on the scene of the victories of his ancestors, than he is conscious of their defeats. Pinkie is nothing to him, and a bitter regret to us! Dunbar to him means nothing; to us it means the lost chance which should have been a certainty, of annihilating Cromwell’s force. Our preachers ruined our opportunity, bidding Leslie go down, in accordance with some Biblical text, from his safe and commanding position, after they had purged our army of the Royalist swords.
Surrey “had his bellyful” at Flodden. In Edinburgh
” The old men girt on their old swords, And went to man the wall,”
which was hastily erected. But the English general had enough, and withdrew southwards. I visited Flodden Edge on my return from the west of Ireland, where I found the living belief in Fairies. I picked up a trifle of the faith at Flodden. The guide, a most intelligent elderly man, named Reidpath, told me this yarn : “A woman came to my brother,” (I knew that he meant a woman of the Faery), ” and told him to dig in such a place. He would find a stone, below it a stone pillar; and another stone, and beneath it a treasure. My brother and my father dug, found the stone, and the pillar, and the stone belowbut no treasure ! ” Probably you will not find even this last trace of the fairy belief on the Border, but, from notes of my grandfather, it was not quite dead in his day.
Here we leave Till to those who choose to fish it up towards the Cheviots, and move up the right bank of Tweed towards its junction with Teviot.
Before reaching that point, however, there are one or two places to notice on both sides of the riverColdstream, for example, where Leet water enters Tweed; Eden water, a few miles higher up ; and, on the English side, Wark Castle.
Regarding the Leet, in order to find oneself filled with envy and with longing unutterable, it is only necessary to read Stoddart’s account of the fishing to be had in his day in that curious little stream. ” Of all streams that I am acquainted with,” says Stoddart, “the Leet, which discharges itself into the Tweed above Coldstream, was wont, considering its size, to contain the largest trout. During the summer season it is a mere ditch, in many places not above four or five span in width, and, where broadest, still capable of being leapt across. The run of water is, comparatively speaking, insignificant, not exceeding on the average a cubic foot. This, however, as it proceeds, is every now and then expanded over a considerable surface, and forms a pool of some depth ; in fact, the whole stream, from head to foot, pursuing, as it does, a winding course for upwards of twelve miles, is a continued chain of pools, fringed, during the summer, on both sides, with rushes and water-flags, and choked up in many parts with pickerel weed and other aquatic plants. The channel of Leet contains shell-marl, and its banks, being hollowed out beneath, afford, independent of occasional vines and tree roots, excellent shelter for trout. Not many years ago the whole course of it was infested with pike, but the visit of some otters, irrespective of the angler’s art, has completely cleared them out, and thus allowed the trout, which were formerly scarce, to become more numerous. On the first occasion of my fishing Leet, which happened to be early in April 1841, before the sedge and rushes had assumed the ascendency, I captured, with the fly, twenty-six trout, weighing in all upwards of twenty-nine pounds. Of these, five at least were two-pounders, and there were few, if any, small-sized fish.” On another occasion, in June 1846, Stoddart caught in the same water, in four hours, three dozen and five fish, the biggest of which weighed 3 lbs., and a dozen of the others 1 lb. apiece. This stream, in its characteristics so unlike the usual Scottish burn, is not open to the public, but it may be assumed that no such fishing is now obtainable there, any more than it is to be got elsewhere in Scotland. Once they establish themselves and make unchecked headway, pike are very hard to extirpate ; it is not in every stream that one finds otters so accommodating, and so careful of the interests of anglers, as they appear to have been in Leet in Stoddart’s day.
Coldstream, where Leet joins Tweed, was of old chiefly known for its ford, the first of any consequence above Berwick. It was here that the invading army of Edward the First crossed the river into Scotland in 1296 ; here, indeed, it was that most armies, English or Scottish, plunged into country hostile to them once they had quitted their own bank of the river ; it was here that all Scottish travellers, from royalty to peasant, must halt when southward bound, and await the falling of the waters should Tweed chance to be in flood. Consequently, at a very early date a settlement sprang up, and in it many an historical personage has temporarily sojourned. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder says that as late as his own day an old thatched two storied building in the village was pointed out as the house in which ” many persons of distinction, including kings and queens of Scotland, are enumerated by tradition as having resided . . . . occasionally several days at a time,” waiting till the river was fordable. It was not till 1766, when Smeaton completed his fine bridge, that any other crossing of the stream than by the ford was possible. In pre-Reformation times, there was in Coldstream a rich Priory of Cistercian Nuns, not a stone of which, however, now remains. But in its little burial ground, between the river and what used to be the garden of the Priory, in 1834 there was dug up a great quantity of human bones, and a stone coffin. The bones were supposed to be probably those of various Scottish persons of rank who fell but a short five or six miles away on the fatal field of Flodden. Tradition tells that the Abbess of that day, anxious to give Christian burial to her slain countrymen, caused the bodies of many Scots of rank and birth to be borne from the field of battle to the Priory, and there laid them to rest in consecrated ground.
Till about 1865 there stood in the village another interesting old house, and on the building which now occupies its site may be read the following inscription : ” Headquarters of the Coldstream Guards, 1659 ; rebuilt, 1865.” Here it was that General Monk formed that famous regiment, than which there is but one in the British army whose history goes further back, none which in achievements can surpass it. In one of his works on England at the period of the Restoration of Charles the Second, M. Guizot, the French historian, records that Monk “spent about three weeks at Coldstream, which was a favourable spot for the purpose, as the Tweed was there ford-able ; but he seems to have found it a dismal place to quarter in. On his first arrival, he could get no provisions for his own dinner, and was obliged to content himself with a quid of tobacco. His chaplains, less easily satisfied, roamed about till they obtained a meal at the house of the Earl of Home, near by.” This place, to which the fine instinct of those preachers guided them, was no doubt The Hirsel, which is at no great distance from Coldstream.
There is yet another thing for which this little town was famed in former days. In the time of our grandsires, and indeed, down to as late a date as 1856, when clandestine weddings were prohibited by Act of Parliament, it was a common sight to see a post-chaise come racing over Coldstream Bridge, or, in days before a bridge existed, splashing through the water from the English side, bearing in it some fond couple (like Mr. Alfred Jingle and the Spinster Aunt), flying on love’s wings from stony-hearted parent or guardian. Coldstream was almost as famous a place for run-away marriages as was Gretna Green itself. At the former place, the ceremony was usually performed in the toll-house at the Scottish end of the bridge, where “priests” were always in readiness to tie up the run-away couples, and to issue to them thereafter a Certificate of Marriage, such as the following, which is a copy of one issued in 1836 : “This is to certify that John Chambers, Husband-man, from the Broomhouse, in the Parish of Chatton, with Mary Walker from Kelso, in the Parish of Kelso, in Roxboroughshire, was married by me this Day. As witness to my hand, William Alexander, Coldstream, 15th Dec., 1836.
Witnesses’ names Miss Dalgleish, Miss Archer.”
But though for convenience’ sake, and probably for speed of dispatch, the toll-house was chiefly patronised, those who had command of money and were not unduly pressed for time could arrange to have their nuptials celebrated in less public fashion than would probably be the case at the bridge-end. It is I believe an undoubted fact that in 1819 Lord Brougham was married in the chief inn of the village.
Those irregular marriages were in the eighteenth century a great source of trouble and annoyance to the Kirk Session of Kelso. A good many of them at one time were celebrated by a certain Mr. Blair, whom the Privy Council had ejected from . the incumbency of Coldstream in 1689 because he had refused to pray for the King and Queen, (William and Mary), and would neither read the proclamation of the Estates nor observe the national thanksgiving. Mr. Blair, however, after the loss of his incumbency continued to live in the village, and, it was alleged, was, in the matter of these marriages sometimes over accommodating and goodnatured regarding dates ; in his certificates he did not always rigidly adhere to the true day of month or year in cases where it might be represented to him that a fictitious date would be less compromising to the contracting parties. Mr. Blair was ” sharply rebukit ” by the Session. The reverend gentleman was not in Coldstream later than 1728, and he died at Preston, in Northumberland, in 1736, at the age of eighty-five. The following is the epitaph composed on him :
” Here lies the Reverend Thomas Blair, A man of worth and merit, Who preached for fifty years and mair, According to the spirit.
He preached off book to shun offence, And what was still more rare, He never spoke one word of sense So preachéd Tammy Blair.”
In examining Scottish Border records of those times, nothing strikes one more than the power of the Kirk Sessions ; if is indeed hard to imagine a country more priest-ridden than Scotland in the eighteenth century. The “Sabbath” was then as easy to break as a hedge-sparrow’s egg, and there were a thousandto modern eyes not very heinous–ways of breaking it. What in the way of punishment may have been meted out to the unfortunate who fell asleep under the infliction of a long, dull, prosy sermon in a stuffy, ill-ventilated church on a warm summer’s day, one hardly cares to conjecture, so rigidly enforced was the duty of listening to sermons ; whilst to be abroad ” in time of sermon ” was sin so heinous that Elders were, so to speak, specially retained to prowl around and nose out offenders. Walking on the Sabbath day” vaguing,” they called it,was looked on with horror, and called for stern reprimand. In 1710, it was observed that sundry persons in Kelso were “guiltie of profaning the Sabbath by walking abroad in the fields after sermons,” and the Session called on the parish minister to ” give them a general reproof out of the pulpit the next Lord’s Day, and to dehort them from so doing in time coming, with certification that the Session will take strict notice of any one guiltie of it.” For less than “vaguing,” however, a man might be brought before the Session. In 1710, Alexander Graemslaw of Maxwellheugh was ” dilated for bringing in cabbage to his house the last Lord’s Day between sermons,” and was ” cited to the next Session.” (” Dilate ” is probably less painful than it sounds). He was only ” rebuked ” about the cabbages : but then they fell on him and demanded an ex-planation of his not having been at church. Altogether they made things unpleasantly warm for Alexander. In 1708, Alexander Handiside and his son, and a woman named Jean Ker were had up for ” walking to and fro on the Sabbath.” At first they “compeared not” on being cited, but on a second citation Handiside ” compeared,” and vainly advanced the plea that his walking to and fro was occasioned by the fact that he had been attending a child who had broken a leg or an arm. He ” was exhorted to be a better observer of the Sabbath.” A Scot, apparently, might not upon the Scottish Sabbath draw from a pit his ox or his ass which had fallen in. This same year, “those who searched the town” discovered two small boys “playing on the Sabbath day in time of sermon.” The Session dealt sternly with the hardened ruffians. Amongst other cases that one reads of there is that of Katherine Thomson. One’s sympathies rather go with Katherine, who when reproved by a sleuth-hound Elder for ” sitting idly at her door in time of sermon,” abused her reprover. But the Session made it warm for a woman who thus not only, as they said, ” profaned the Sabbath,” but was guilty of “indescreet carriage to the Elder.” One trembles to think how easy it was to slip into sin in those days.
But over and above this Juggernaut power of the Session, there was another weapon much used by eighteenth century ministers, whereby they kept a heavy hand on the bowed backs of their congregations. It was their habit, where the conduct, real or fancied, of any member of their flock offended them, to speak at the culprit during service on Sundays, and to speak at him in no uncertain voice. The practice is probably now dead, even in remote country parishes, but fifty years ago it was still a favourite weapon in the hands of old-fashioned ministers, and in the eighteenth century it seems to have been in almost universal use. The Reverend Mr. Ramsay, minister of Kelso from 1707 till his death in 1749, was a dexterous and unsparing wielder of this ecclesiastical flail. It chanced once that there ” sat under ” himas we say in Scotlanda Highlander, a man who had deserted from the ranks of the rebel army in the ’15, and had afterwards managed to get appointed to a post in the Excise at Kelso. This man’s seat in church was in the front pew of the gallery, immediately facing Mr. Ramsay, and his every movement, therefore, was likely to catch the minister’s eye. Now, the exciseman had a habit which greatly annoyed Mr. Ramsay. As soon as the sermon commenced, the Highlander produced a pencil, with which he proceeded to make marks on a slip of paper. He may, perhaps, have been making calculations not unconnected with his duties as exciseman,a scandalous proceeding when he should have been all ears for the Word as expounded by the minister ; or, again, on the other hand he may really have been devoutly attentive to the sermon, and engaged in making notes on it,a thing perhaps not over and above likely in an ex-Highland rebel. In any case he annoyed Mr. Ramsay, and one day the irritation became acute. Pausing in his discourse in order to give emphasis to his words, and looking straight at the exciseman, he cried : ” My brethren, I tell ye, except ye be born again, it is as impossible for you to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as it is for a Hielander no to be a thief ! Man wi’ the keel-o-vine,” he thundered, ” do ye hear that?” (For the benefit of non-Scottish readers it may be necessary to explain that a ” keel-o-vine ” is a pencil).
A few miles above Coldstream, after a course of about four and twenty miles, the beautiful little Eden Water joins Tweed. Its capabilities as a trout stream are spoken of elsewhere in this volume, and the little river is now mentioned only to record a tragedy of unusual nature which occurred in it in the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Two young ladies, sisters of the then proprietor of Newton Don, a beautiful estate on the right bank of Eden, had come from Edinburgh to pass the summer and autumn at their brother’s house. With them was a friend, a Miss Ramsay. It chanced that one afternoon these three young ladies were walking along the banks of the river, on the side opposite to Newton Don. They had strolled farther than at starting had been their intention, and time had slipped past unnoticed, and while they still had some distance to go on their return way, they were surprised by the sound of the house bell ringing for dinner. Now, a little below the spot where they then were, it was possible to cross the river by stepping stones, an easy, and to every appearance a perfectly safe way by which anybody beyond the age of childhood might gain the other side, without much risk even of wetting a shoe. The three girls, accordingly, started to go over by these stones. The water was low and clear, the weather fine there had been no thunderstorm that might have been capable of bringing down from the hills a sudden spate ; the crossing could have been made a million times in such circumstances without peril greater than is to be met with in stepping across a moorland drain. Yet now the one thing happened that made it dangerous.
At some little distance up stream there stood a mill, the water power of which was so arranged, that if the sluice of the mill should for any reason be suddenly closed, that body of water which normally flowed down the mill dam after turning the wheel, was discharged into the river some way above the stepping stones. In the narrow channel of the Eden at this point, this sudden influx of water was quite sufficient to raise the stream’s level to a height most dangerous to anyone who at the time might be in the act of crossing by these stones. Unhappily, at the exact moment when the three poor girls were stepping cautiously and with none too certain foot from stone to stone, and had reached to about mid-channel, the miller, ignorant of their situation and unable from where he stood to command a view to any distance down stream, closed his sluice. Down Eden’s bed surged a wave crested like some inrushing sea that sweeps far up a shingly beach. In an instant the three girls, afraid to make a dash for the safety of the bank, were swept off the stones where they clung, and were carried shrieking down the swollen stream. One, Miss Ramsay, buoyed to a certain extent by the nature of her dress, floated until she was able to grasp the overhanging branch of a tree, and she succeeded in getting out. The other two, rolled over and over, buffeted by the sudden turmoil of waters, were swept away and drowned. No one was near to give help ; none even heard their cries.
On the southern bank of Tweed, a mile or two up the river from Coldstream and Cornhill, stands all that is left of Wark Castle, a place once of formidable strength, and greatly famed in Border history. Except a few green mounds, and portions of massive wall, there remains now but little to speak of its former greatness, or to remind one of the mighty feats that were performed here during its countless sieges and bloody fights. But the old Northumbrian saying still tells its tale with grim simplicity :
” Auld Wark upon the Tweed Has been mony a man’s dead.”
Regarding this couplet, the following comment is made in the Denham Tracts : ” Wark’s history, from the twelfth down to at least the sixteenth century, is perhaps without a parallel for surprises, assaults, sieges, blockades, surrenders, evacuations, burnings, restorations, slaughters. These quickly recurring events transformed the mount on which the castle stood into a Golgotha, and gave a too truthful origin to the couplet which still occurs on the Borders of the once rival kingdoms.” The castle was erected during the reign of King Henry I., by Walter d’Espec, somewhere about the year 1130 ; and before it had been many years in existence, in 1135, David I. of Scotland captured it. From that time onwards, at least down to 1570, when Sussex spent a night within its walls on his way to harry Teviotdale, there is not one item of that formidable list of ” surprises, assaults, sieges, blockades, surrenders, evacuations, burnings, restorations, slaughters,” that has not been amply borne out by its history, many of them again and again. David took it in 1135, but restored it to England in the following year. Twice afterwards, the same monarch vainly attempted to take it by storm, but finally, after the fall of Norham, he reduced it by means of a long blockade. After this it remained in Scottish possession till 1157, when England again seized, and at great expense rebuilt, the castle. In 1216 it was destroyed by fire; in 1318, reduced by King Robert the Bruce; in 1385, taken by storm by the Scots. Then in 1419, William Halliburton of Fast Castle surprised the English and took the castle, putting all the garrison to the sword. But the same fate was dealt out to the Scots themselves a few months later ; Sir Robert Ogle and his men gained access to the building by way of a sewer from the kitchen, which opened on the bank of Tweed. Creeping up this unsavoury passage, they in their turn surprised and slew the Scotsmen. Again in 146o, after the widow of James II. had dismantled Roxburgh and razed it almost to the foundations, the Scots forded Tweed and retook Wark. But they did not hold it long. More valuable now to the English than ever it had been before, owing to the loss of Roxburgh, it was partially repaired by them, only, however, to be again pulled down by the Scots before the battle of Flodden; after which Surrey for the last time restored and strengthened it. After the accession of James VI. to the throne of England, Wark, like other Border strongholds, began to fall into decay ; the need for them was gone. Buchanan, the historian, has left a description of Wark as it was in 1523, when he was with the Scottish army at Coldstream, which then besieged it. ” In the innermost area,” he says, ” was a tower of great strength and height ; this was encircled by two walls, the outer including the larger space, into which the inhabitants of the country used to fly with their cattle, corn, and flocks in time of war ; the inner of much smaller extent, but fortified more strongly by ditches and towers. It had a strong garrison, good store of artillery and ammunition, and other things necessary for defence.”
On this occasion the Scottish commander sent against the castle a picked force of Scottish and French troops, supported by heavy siege artillery, all under the command of Ker of Fernihurst. “The French,” says Sir Walter Scott, “carried the outer enclosure at the first assault, but were dislodged by the garrison setting fire to the corn and straw laid up in it. The besiegers soon recovered their ground, and by their cannon effected a breach in the inner wall. The French with great intrepidity mounted the breach, sustaining great loss from the shot of that part of the garrison who possessed the keep ; and being warmly received by the forces that defended the inner vallum, were obliged to retire after great slaughter. The attack was to have been renewed on the succeeding day, but a fall of rain in the night, which swelled the Tweed and threatened to cut off the retreat of the assailants to the main army, and the approach of the Earl of Surrey, who before lay at Alnwick with a large force, obliged the Duke [of Albany] to relinquish his design and return into Scotland.”
Wark, it is said, once belonged to the Earl of Salisbury, and the tale is told how, in the time of King David Bruce, a gallant deed was done by Sir William Montague, Lord Salisbury’s governor of the castle. King David, returning from a successful foray into England, passed close to Wark, making for the ford over Tweed at Coldstream, and his rear-guard, heavily laden with plunder, was seen from the castle walls by Montague’s garrison. The rear was straggling. Such an opportunity was not to be wasted. The Governor, with forty mounted men, made a sudden dash, slew a great number of the Scots, cut off one hundred and sixty horses laden with booty, and brought them safely into the castle. David instantly assaulted the place, but without success ; and he thereupon determined to take it by siege. ‘There was but one way whereby the place might be saved ; a message must be conveyed to King Edward III., who was then on his way north with a great army. The risk was great ; failure meant death, and the castle was closely invested. Sir William himself took the risk. In a night dark and windy, with rain falling in torrents, the Governor dashed out on a swift horse and cut his way through the Scottish lines before almost the alarm had been raised ; and so rapidly did Edward advance on hearing of the plight of the garrison, that the rear of the Scottish force was barely over. the ford before the English van had reached the southern bank of Tweed. It is of this occasion that the more or less mythical tale of King Edward and the Countess of Salisbury’s Garter is told. In the great Hall of Wark Castle the story finds a dubious resting place.
The countless war-like events that have taken place in and around Wark give to the place an interest which is perhaps hardly appreciated by the majority of us, and that interest is largely added to when one thinks of the many characters noted in history who from time to time sojourned within its walls. King Stephen lay here with a large army in 1 137 ; Henry III remained in the castle for some time with his queen in 1255 in 1296 Edward I paid it a visit; Edward II mustered here his army in 1314 before his crushing defeat at Bannockburn, and, as already stated, Edward III, after he had driven off the Scottish marauding force, was entertained here for a time by the Countess of Salisbury.
Wark, one thinks, would be an ideal place in which to conduct excavations,though, indeed, a little in that line has already been undertaken. In the volume for 1863-68 of the “Proceedings of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club,” it is recorded that a good many years ago Mr. Richard Hodgson had traced a wide sewer to the north of the castle, opening on to the river bank. This sewer is said to be so wide that it might easily have been used for the passage of men or material. Probably it was by this hidden way that Sir Robert Ogle in 1419 forced his way into the interior. But if the opening was so wide, how came it to be undefended? Was there a traitor inside who kept guard that night, a Northumbrian perhaps, masquerading as a Scot, whose burr did not betray him? In the course of his investigations Mr. Hodgson came also on a “long flight of stone steps leading from the keep to the outer court, with a portcullis about half way.” Quantities of cannon balls have also been found, but there must surely be unlimited scope for the discovery of such like treasure trove in the fields surrounding the castle, and down by the ford where so many armies of both nations have crossed Tweed. They did not always make a leisurely and altogether unmolested passage.