Two or three miles up Teviot from the junction of Oxnam Water, we come to Jed, a beautiful stream, on whose banks dreams the pleasant county town where, close on ninety years ago, they cried that cry of which they do not now like to think” Burke Sir Walter ! ”
In all the Border there stands no place more picturesquely situated than Jedburgh, nor in historical interest can any surpass it. And though its ancient castle, and the six strong towers that once defended the town, have long since vanished, there remain still the noble ruins of its magnificent abbey, and other relics of the past, less noticeable but hardly less interesting; whilst the surrounding countryside brims over with the beauty of river, wood, and hill.
History gives no very definite information as to the date at which first took place the building of a castle at Jedburgh, but it appears certain that as early as the year 950 A.D. there existed in these parts some great stronghold, if, at least, ” Judanbyrig “where, when he had suppressed an insurrection in Northumbria, hing Edred of England confined the rebel Archbishop of Yorkmay be identified with ” Jedburgh.” Probably, however, there was in this neighbourhood a castle of sorts long prior to the date above mentioned, for both ” Geddewrdes,” or ” Jedworths,” the old and the new, were known settlements before the expiry of the earlier half of the ninth century, and in those turbulent days no community was rash enough to plant itself in hamlet or town except under the protecting shield of castle or strong place of arms. In any case, before the end of the eleventh century, there certainly existed at Jedburgh a castle of formidable strength, which at frequent intervals continued to be used by the Scottish kings as a royal residence. Here, in 1165, died Malcolm the Maiden. From Jedworth was issued many a Charter by Malcolm’s predecessor, David I, by William the Lion, by Alexander II. Here, too, the queen of Alexander III bore him a son in the year 1264 ; and here at a masque held after Alexander’s second marriage in 1285, appeared and vanished the grizzly skeleton that danced a moment before the king, threading its ghastly way through the ranks of dismayed guests ; frightened women shrank screaming from its path, men brave to face known dangers yet fell back from this horror, hurriedly crossing themselves. An evil omen, they said, a presage of misfortune or of death to the highest in the land. And surely the portent was borne out, for less than six months saw Scotland mourning the violent death of her King.
Like its not distant neighbour, the more famed castle of Roxburgh, Jedburgh castle as time went on became a strong-hold continually changing hands ; to-day garrisoned by Scots, to-morrow held by English, taken and retaken again and again, too strong and of importance too great to be anything but a continuous bone of contention between the two nations, yet more often, and for longer periods, in English than in Scottish keeping. When in the summer of the year 1316, King Robert the Bruce went to Ireland, Sir James Douglas was one of the wardens left by him in charge of the Scottish Kingdom. Jedburgh Castle, probably with a garrison far from strong, was then in English keeping. Douglas established himself at Lintalee, little more than a mile up the river from Jedburgh, where, by throwing across the neck of a promontory between the river and a precipitous glen, fortifications which even now are not quite destroyed, he converted a post of great natural strength into a position almost unassailable. Here, or in the immediate neighbourhood, in 1317 he inflicted two severe defeats on separate bodies of English troops, detachments from a larger army under the Earl of Arundel. As the outcome of these victories, Jedburgh Castle was probably regained by the Scots, for the English monks in Jedburgh Abbey were expelled by their Scottish brethren in February, 1318, a step they would scarcely have dared to attempt had an English garrison still been in the castle. In 1320 town and castle were bestowed by the Bruce on Sir James Douglas, and five years later the grant was confirmed, with further additions of land. But in 1334 Edward Baliol, who two years earlier had assumed the Crown of Scotland, handed over to King Edward III, to remain for ever in the possession of England, amongst other places, the town, castle, and forest of Jedworth. These Edward now bestowed on Henry Percy, thus providing ground for a very pretty quarrel between the Douglases and Percies. From now onward, practically for seventy-five years, Jedburgh Castle remained in English hands.
Ultimately, its fate was as that of a land wilfully devastated by its own people to hamper the march of an invading army. If the Scots could not permanently hold it, neither, they resolved, should it any more harbour those vermin of England. Accordingly, when in 1409 the men of Teviotdale, fierce progenitors of the more modern reiving Border Elliots and Scotts, wiping out the English garrison, retook the castle, they at once set about its final destruction. Burnt, so far as it would burn, cast down bit by bit to its very foundations, with strenuous toil riven asunder stone from stone, ere their work was ended little part of its massive walls remained to speak of former glories. Walter Bower, Abbot of Inchcolm, who was a young man at the time of its destruction writes in the “Scotichronicon ” that : “Because the masonry was exceedingly holding and solid, not without great toil was it broken down and demolished.”
Perched above the town on a commanding eminence that on one side sloped steeply to the river, and on the other to a deep glen or ravine, defended also, doubtless, on the side farthest from the burgh by a deep fosse, the castle must once have been of great strengthhow strong as regards position may best be judged from the bird’s-eye view of it to be gained if one climbs at the back of Jedburgh the exceedingly steep direct road that runs to Lanton village. From this point, too, one sees to advantage the venerable Abbey nestling among the surrounding houses, and can best appreciate the wisdom of the old monks, who chose for their abode a site so pleasant. A valley smiling in the mellow sunshine ; a place to which one may drop down from the heights above where bellows and raves a north-westerly gale, to find peace and quiet, undisturbed by any blustering wind ; a valley rich in the fruits of the earth, and wandering through it a trout stream more beautiful than almost any of the many beautiful Border ” Waters,” a stream that once was, and now should be, full of lusty yellow trout rising under the leafy elms in the long, warm, summer evenings. An ideal water for trout is Jed, and many a pretty dish must those old monks have taken from it, by fair means or foul ; pity that woollen-mills below, and netting, and the indiscriminate slaughter of fingerlings, above the town, should have so greatly damaged it as a sporting stream.
Possibly upper Jed is not now quite so bad as it was a few years ago, but what of the lower part of that beautiful river ? The same may be said of it that may be said of Teviot immediately below Hawick, or of Gala, and, alas ! of Tweed, below Galashiels. The waters are poisoned by dyes and by sewage, rendered foul by sewage fungus, reeking with all manner of uncleanness, an offence to nostril and to eye. Five and thirty years ago Ruskin wrote : ” After seeing the stream of the Teviot as black as ink, a putrid carcase of a sheep lying in the dry channel of the Jed, under Jedburgh Abbey, the entire strength of the summer stream being taken away to supply a single mill, I know finally what value the British mind sets on the beauties of nature.” What, indeed, are the `beauties of nature’ that they should interfere with the glories of commerce ! Truly we are a Commercial Nation. Here is the condition of things that Ruskin found in the Borderland in the mid-seventies of last century, as described by him in a lecture delivered at Oxford in 1877.
” Two years ago,” he said, ” I went, for the first time since early youth to see Scott’s country by the shores of Yarrow, Teviot, and Gala Waters.” Then to his hearers he read aloud from ” Marmion ” that picture of the Border country which is familiar to everyone :
” Oft in my mind such thoughts awake, By lone St. Mary’s silent lake ; Thou know’st it well,nor fen, nor sedge, Pollute the clear lake’s crystal edge ; Abrupt and sheer, the mountains sink At once upon the level brink ; And just a trace of silver sand Marks where the water meets the land. Far in the mirror, bright and blue, Each hill’s huge outline you may view ; Shaggy with heath, but lonely bare, Nor tree, nor bush, nor brake is there, Save where, of land, yon slender line Bears thwart the lake the scatter’d pine. Yet even this nakedness has power, And aids the feeling of the hour : Nor thicket, dell, nor copse you spy, Where living thing conceal’d might lie ; Nor point, retiring, hides a dell, Where swain, or woodman lone, might dwell ; There’s nothing left to fancy’s guess, You see that all is loneliness : And silence aidsthough the steep hills Send to the lake a thousand rills ; In summer tide, so soft they weep, The sound but lulls the ear asleep ; Your horse’s hoof-tread sounds too rude, So stilly is the solitude.
Nought living meets the eye or ear, But well I ween the dead are near ; For though, in feudal strife, a foe Hath laid Our Lady’s chapel low, Yet still, beneath the hallow’d soil, The peasant rests him from his toil, And, dying, bids his bones be laid, Where erst his simple fathers pray’d.”
“What I saw myself, in that fair country,” continued Ruskin, ” of which the sight remains with me, I will next tell you. I saw the Teviot oozing, not flowing, between its wooded banks, a mere sluggish injection, among the poisonous pools of scum-covered ink. And in front of Jedburgh Abbey, where the foaming river used to dash round the sweet ruins as if the rod of Moses had freshly cleft the rock for it, bare and foul nakedness of its bed, the whole stream carried to work in the mills, the dry stones and crags of it festering unseemly in the evening sun, and the carcase of a sheep, brought down in the last flood, lying there in the midst of the children at their play, literal and ghastly symbol, in the sweetest pastoral country in the world, of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
That is how these once fair scenes struck the outraged eye of one who was a sincere lover of our beautiful Border land. What might he say of these rivers now that five and thirty years have passed? Compared to Teviot, ink is a fluid that may claim to be splendidior vitro, and Jed below the town is in little better case.
However, to return to Jedburgh. Of the old castle no trace now remains; but early in the nineteenth century a small portion of one wall yet stood, some outline of foundations yet met the eye. Probably the fosse was filled up when the buildings were razedit was a convenient place to shoot rubbish ; indeed, when about 1820 the site was being cut down preparatory to the erection of a new ” castle ” (until recent years used as a County Prison), charred oaken beams and blackened stones were unearthed, relics certainly of the ancient building. A few coins have also been found, and at various dates an iron lock, a key of curious design, a rusty dagger, arrowheads, and portions of a gold chain.
Jedburgh, deprived of her castle, was yet a strong place ; but if her townsmen and the fierce men of Teviotdale imagined that by harrying and destroying the nest that so long had sheltered them, the English birds of prey would be permanently scattered down the wind, they made a vast mistake. No more than a year had passed ere the English returned under Sir Robert Umphraville and burned the town about their ears ; and in 1416 the same commander repeated the performance of six years earlier. Again and again as the years rolled on were fire and sword the fate of Jedworth. The town, with its flanking towers, was strong, strong in natural position, and, owing to the manner of building of its houses, difficult of access except by one or other of its four ports ; but it had no walls or defending fosse, and however brave its men, however skilled in the use of arms, their numbers were generally too meagre to cope with the formidable bands the English could bring against them. Time and again the place was sacked, and on each occasion her magnificent Abbey suffered grievously at the hands of the stormers.
Founded about the year 1118, the ancient Abbey occupies the site of a building more ancient still by probably two or three hundred years, a church built in the ninth century by Ecgred, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died A.D. 845. Osbert was the first Abbot of Jedburgh (1152-1174) ; previous to his day the establishment ranked merely as a Priory. In the troublous times between 1297 and 1300, the Abbey suffered much. Sacked and partially destroyed, the lead stripped from its roof, the conventual buildings to such an extent gutted that the brethren, fleeing, were forced to seek refuge for a time in Abbeys and Monasteries south of the Border, it can have been but the massiveness of its walls that then preserved it from total destruction.
But compared to the treatment later meted out to Abbey and town by the Earl of Surrey, all former chastenings were as a comparatively mild scourging with whips ; Surrey chastised with scorpions. In this matter, his little finger was thicker than the loins of those who had preceded him. In 1523, an English forcecompared to the meagre number of defenders, a vast armymarched on the town. All that human power could do in defence of hearth and home was done that day by the men of Jedworth. When, since history began, has it ever been recorded of them that they shrank from battle ?
” And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds,”
summed up their creed, then and ever. There were of them, now, but two thousand at the most, opposed to an army many times their numberone man as against four, or perhaps even as one to five. Yet so stubborn was their resistance, so fiercely they fought, that at the last it was only by the aid of fire that this wasps’ nest was laid waste. Driven back at length by superior numbers, forced to retire to the towers and to the Abbey, the attack could be pushed home no farther till Surrey gave orders to set fire to the town. Even then, Jedworth held out till far in the night, when the entire place was little more than a smouldering heap of embers. ” I assure your Grace,” wrote the Earl to his King, ” I fownd the Scottis at this tyme the boldest men and the hottest that ever I sawe any nation, and all the journey upon all parts of the armye kepte us with soo contynual skyrmish that I never sawe the like.” . . . “Could 40,000 such men be assembled,” he says in the same letter, “it would bee a dreadful enterprise to withstand them.” If valour alone could have won the day, to the men of Jedburgh had now been the victory. They fought like fiends incarnate. The Devil himself, in truth, must have been amongst them, for, says Surrey farther : ” I dare not write the wonders that my Lord Dacre and all hys company doo saye they sawe that nyght six tyms of sperits and fereful syghts. And universally all their company saye playnly the devyl was that nyght among theym six tyms.”
Thus was Jedburgh wiped out, ” soo surely brent that no garnysons nor none others shal bee lodged there unto the tyme it bee newe buylded.” And to rebuild equal to what it had been, would surely be no light undertaking, for, says Surrey, “the towne was much better than I went (weened) it had been, for there was twoo tymys moo houses therein than in Berwicke, and well buylded, with many honest and faire houses therein sufficiente to have lodged a thousand horsemen in garnyson, and six good towres therein, which towne and towres be clenely destroyed, brent, and throwen downe.” The slaughter of Jedworth’s defenders no doubt must also have been great. But that the inhabitants were not indiscriminately put to the sword is evidenced by the fact that some time during the night, when Lord Dacre’s picketed horsesterrified no doubt by the same Scottish devil that had troubled the hearts of the stormers in the townsuddenly stampeding, galloped wildly through Surrey’s camp, over two hundred of them, bursting in amongst the still burning houses, were caught and carried off by the Scottish women who still clung to the place ” keening,” probably, over their devastated hearths. In all, before this stampede ended, Surrey lost upwards of eight hundred horses ; for when the maddened beasts came thundering through his camp, the English soldiers, imagining that they were being attacked by a fresh army of Scots, loosed off into the mob flights of arrows, and fired into the terrified animals with musketry. It is scarcely the method best suited to calm a maddened mob of horses ; little wonder that many in their helpless terror plunged over the great ” scaurs,” or cliffs, that near the town overhang Jedwater, and were dashed to pieces.
In his letter of 27th September, to Henry VIII, Surrey thus describes the incident : “And he [Lord Dacre] being with me at souper, about viij a clok, the horses of his company brak lowse, and sodenly ran out of his feld, in such nombre, that it caused a marvellous alarome in our field ; and our standing watche being set, the horses cam ronnyng along the campe, at whome were shot above one hundred shief of arrowes, and dyvers gonnys, thinking they had been Scotes that wold have saulted the camp ; fynally, the horses were so madde that they ran like wilde dere into the feld, above xv c at the leest, in dyvers companys ; and in one place above L felle downe a gret rok, and slew theymself, and above ij c ran into the towne being on fire, and by the women taken, and carried awaye right evill brent, and many were taken agayne. But, fynally, by that I can esteme by the nombre of theym that I sawe goe on foote the next daye, I think there is lost above viij c horses, and all with foly for lak of not lying within the campe.”
So, for a time, Jedburgh perished. But the recuperative power of settlements in those days was greatlike the eels, they were used to the process of skinning–and in no long time a rejuvenated township sprang from the ashes of the old burgh. When Surrey gave orders that the towers should be “throwen downe,” possibly his commands were not obeyed to the letter. In a district where a plentiful supply of stone is not lacking, doubtless these defending towers would be massive buildings constructed of that material, run togetheras was the custom in those dayswith a semi-liquid mortar, or kind of cement, which, when it hardened, bound the entire mass into a solid block that clung stone to stone with extraordinary tenacity. Probably the towers may not have been so ” clenely destroyed ” as he supposed them to be. In any case, in twenty years’ time the place was again formidable, its men as prone as had been their fathers to shout the old battle-cry of ” Jethart’s here,” and fly at the throat of their hereditary foe.
Nor was the hereditary foe in any way reluctant to afford them opportunity. In 1544 Lord Evers stormed and captured the town ; and again the roar and crackle of flaming houses smote on the ears of Jedburgh’s women. According to an Englishman’s account of ” The late Expedition in Scotland made by the King’s Highness’ Army under the Conduct of the Right Honourable the Earl of Hertford, the year of owr Lord God 1544,” an account ” Sent to the Right Honourable Lord Russell, Lord Privy Seal; from the King’s Army there, by a Friend of his,” the men of Jedburgh on this occasion did not behave with their wonted valour. But if this writer is to be trusted, nowhere during Hertford’s entire campaign of 1544 did the Scots make a stand. It was a sort of triumphal English progress ; everywhere the Scots fled almost without striking a blow, everywhere they were cut down. Only occasionally, and almost as it were by accident, was an Englishman hurt, whilst the slaughter among the Scots was prodigious. They “used for their defence their light feet, and fled in so much haste that divers English horses were tired in their pursuit : but overtaken there was a great number, whereof many were slain, partly by the fierceness of the Englishmen, partly by the guilty cowardice of the Scots. . And yet in this skirmish, not one Englishman taken, neither slain : thanks be to God.” Everywhere it is the same storya pleasant picnic for Hertford and his men death and destruction, and panic flight for the Scots. Men, women, and children, it was all the same apparently in that campaign, if one may judge by incidents such as this at Dunbar : ” And by reason that we took them in the mornynge, who, having wautched all nyghte for our comynge and perceyvynge our Army to dislodge and depart, thoughte themselves safe of us, were newly gone to their beds ; and in theyr fyrste slepes closed in with fyre, men, women, and children were suffocated and burnt. . . . In these victories,” comments this pious and humane scribe, “who is to bee moste highest lauded but God? ” But war is a rough game, and such happenings were the natural outcome at that time of Henry’s orders anent the giving of quarter, and to the “putting man, woman and child to fire and sword, without exception, when any resistance shall be made against you,”
Here, at Jedburgh, ” upon the approachment of the men to their entries, the Scots fled from their ordnance, leaving them unshot, into the woods thereabout, with all other people in the same town.” Thereafter, having caught and slain something over one hundred and sixty Scots, with ” the loss of six English-men only,” Abbey, and Grey Friars, the town, and “divers hostel and fortified houses ” were sacked and given to the flames, “the goods of the same toune being first spoyled, which laded, at their departing, five hundred horses.” Again, in his notice of the capture of Skraysburgh, “the greatest towne in all Teviotdhle,” we are told that “it is a marvellous truth. . . . not one Englishman was either hurt or wounded.” A craven band, those Scots, it would appear, fallen strangely from the level at which Surrey had found them so few years before” the boldest men and the hottest that ever I sawe any nation”; far sunk, too, beneath the level of their immediate descendants, the men who turned the day in the fight of the Redeswire in 1575. And yet one remembers to have heard of a certain fight about this period, in the near neighbourhood of Jedburgh, at a place called Ancrum Moor, when Angus, Arran, and Scott of Buccleuch, with a force numerically very inferior. turned the tables on the ” auld enemy ” to a lusty tune. It may all be quite accurate, of course, this story told to Lord Russell, but it smacks somewhat of a tale told by one who himself was not a very bold fighting man. The warrior whose place is ever the forefront of the battle is not the man who belittles his enemies, nor is he usually one who regards with complacency the sufferings of helpless women and children. Accurate, or not, however, Hertford seems to have had a partiality for harrying this district and slaying its hapless people, for he returned the following year with a larger followinga mongrel gang, in which Turks and Russians were almost the only European nations unrepresentedand completed his work of destruction so far as it lay in his power. He could not utterly destroy the glorious Abbey, but the Brethren were scattered, never to return, and so far as it could be done, the building that for four hundred years had sheltered them was wrecked. Mute now the solemn chants that had been wont to echo through its dim lit aisles, gone for ever the day of matins and vespers ; in Jedburgh the sway of the Church was over. Black with the smoke of sacrilegious fires, stained by the flames that had licked its desecrated walls, still a rudely fitted fragment of the great Abbey for a little time continued to be used by worshippers ; for the rest, the building would appear to have been regarded chiefly as an excellent and useful outlook or watch tower.
It was the followers of the Reformed Faith that next held public worship there. Did no one of the old-time Abbots who lie asleep within its ancient walls turn in his grave, one wonders, when in 1793 the south aisle was pulled down, and “a wall built between the pillars to make the church more comfort-able “? They had no room in their compositions for any sentiment of reverence, little use for such a thing as respect for historical buildings, those eighteenth century Scottish ancestors of ours. Our old foes of England at least had the excuse that what they did was done in the heat of conflict ; it was left to our own people in cold blood to lay sacrilegious hands on a glorious relic of the past; like monkeys to deface and tear to pieces something the beauty and value of which they had not wit to recognise. All that could be done, however, to atone for past misdeeds was done in 1875 by the Marquess of Lothian. The ” comfortable church ” of 1793 has been removed, and what remains of the Abbey is reverently cared for. Safe now from further desecration,
” The shadows of the convent towers Slant down the snowy sward ; ”
and in the peace of long-drawn summer twilights only the distant cries of children, the scream of swift or song of thrush, may now set the echoes flying through those ruined aisles. The Presbyterian Manse that once stood in the Abbey groundsitself no doubt, like other houses in the town, built wholly or in part of stone quarried from the Abbey ruins has long since been removed, and little now remains which may break the tranquil sadness that broods over these relics of past grandeur.
A few hundred yards from the Abbey, down a back street, there stands a picturesque old house, robbed now of some of its picturesqueness by the substitution of tiles for the old thatched roof that once was there. It is the house where, in a room in the second story whose window overlooks a pleasant garden and the once crystal Jed, Mary, Queen of Scots lay many days, sick unto death,a house surely that should now be owned and cared for by the Burgh. Local tradition (for what it may be worth) has it that the Queen lodged first in the house which is now the Spread Eagle Hotel, but that a fire breaking out there, she was hastily removed to that which now goes by the name of ” Queen Mary’s House.” It stands in what must in her day have been a beautiful garden, sloping to the river. Hoary, moss-grown apple trees still blossom there and bear fruit. ” With its screen of dull trees in front,” says Dr. Robert Chambers, ” the house has a some-what lugubrious appearance, as if conscious of connection with the most melancholy tale that ever occupied the page of history.” In those long past days, however, its appearance must have been far from lugubrious ; and indeed even now, on a pleasant sunny evening of late spring when thick-clustered apple and pear blossom drape the boughs, and thrushes sing, and Jed ripples musically beneath the worn arches of that fine old bridge near at hand, (across which they say that the stones for building the Abbey were brought these many centuries agone), it is more of peace than of melancholy that the place speaks.
Yet there is sadness too, when one thinks of theat least on this occasionsorely maligned woman who lay there in grievous suffering in the darkening days of that October of 1 566. ” Would that I had died at Jedworth,” she sighed in later years. She had been spared much, the Fates had been less unkind, if death had then been her part. And not least, she might have been spared the malignant slanders of the historian Buchanan, who, at any rate in this matter, showed himself a master of the art of suppressing the true and suggesting the false.
When, according to Buchanan, news was brought to Mary at Borthwick Castle of the wounding of Bothwell by “a poor thief, that was himself ready to die,”how, one wonders, would the famous ” Little Jock Elliot ” have relished that description of himself ?” she flingeth away in haste like a mad woman, by great journeys in post, in the sharp time of winter.” As a matter of fact, when the news of Bothwell’s mishap reached the Queen, she was already on her way to Jedburgh, to hold there a Circuit Court ; and the time, of course, was not winter, but early October, not unusually one of the pleasantest times of the whole year in the south of Scotland.
Arrived at Jedburgh, says Buchanan, “though she heard sure news of his life, yet her affection, impatient of delay, could not temper herself, but needs she must bewray her outrageous lust, and in an inconvenient time of the year, despising all discommodities of the way and weather, and all danger of thieves, she betook herself headlong to her journey, with such a company as no man of any honest degree would have adventured his life and his goods among them.” Buchanan’s estimate of the Queen’s escort on this occasion is not flattering to the Earl of Moray, (the ” Good Regent,” Mary’s half-brother,) the Earl of Huntly, (Bothwell’s brother-in-law,) and Mr. Secretary Lethington, who formed part of that escort. These, one would suppose, were scarcely the men most likely to have been selected to accompany her had it been ” outrageous lust” that prompted her journey. And as to this “headlong” dash to the side of the wounded Bothwell, of which Buchanan makes so much, they would call now by an ugly name such statements as his if they chanced to be made on oath. Buchanan must have known very well that the Queen transacted business for a week in Jedburgh before she set out to visit her wounded Warden of the Marches,a visit which, after all, was official, and which under any circumstances it had been ungracious in her to refrain from making. There was no justification for speaking of her visit as “headlong,” there is no warrant for such words as ” hot haste,” and rode madly,” which have been employed by other writers in speaking of her journey. If she made ” hot haste ” there, (at the end of a week devoted to business,) she made equally hot haste back again that same day. When one has to ride fifty or sixty miles across trackless hills and boggy moors in the course of a day in mid-October, when the sun is above the horizon little more than ten hours, there is not much time for loitering by the way; the minutes are brief in which one may pause to admire the view.
Suppose that she left Jedburgh soon after sunrise, (that is to say, at that time of year in Scotland, a few minutes before 7 o’clock) going, as she certainly must have done, across Swinnie Moor into Rule Water, thence across Earlside Moor and over the Slitrig some miles above Hawick, then up and between the hills whose broad backs divide Slitrig from Allan Water, up by the Priesthaugh Burn and over the summit between Cauldcleuch Head and Greatmoor Hill, thence by the Braidlee Burn into Hermitage Water, and so, skirting the Deer Park, on to the Castle,she would do well, in those days when draining of swamp lands was a thing unknown, and the way, therefore, not easy to pick, if she did the outward journey in anything under five hours. Hawick local tradition claims that the Queen on her way to Hermitage visited that town, and rested for a time in what is now known as the Tower Hotel ; and, as corroborative evidence, a room in that inn is said to be known as ” Queen Mary’s Room.” It may be that she did pay a flying visit to Hawick, but the chances are against her having made such a detour. It would have considerably added to the length of her journey, and there can have been small time to spare for resting.
In mid-October the sun sets a few minutes after 5 o’clock. Therefore, in returning, the Queen and her escort must have made a reasonably early start ; for to find oneself, either on horseback or afoot, among peat bogs and broken, swampy ground after dark is a thing not to be courted. As it was, Mary and her horse were bogged in what has ever since been called the Queen’s Mire, where years ago was found a lady’s spur of ancient designperhaps hers. The day had turned out wet and windy,it is a way that October days have, after fine weather with a touch of frost,and the Queen and her escort were soaked to the skin, bedraggled, and splashed to the eyes with black peaty mud from the squelching ground through which their horses had been floundering.
Even in these days, when the Border hills are thoroughly drained, you cannot ride everywhere across them in ” hot haste ” without having frequently to draw rein. What must they have been like in the sixteenth century, when, in addition to the rough, broken surface, and the steep braes, every hillock was a soaking mossy sponge, every hollow a possibly treacherous bog, when spots such as the ” Queen’s Mire ” were on every hand, and every burn brimmed over with the clear brown water that the heart of the ardent trout fisher now vainly pants after ? Going and coming, between Jedburgh and Hermitage, a party in Mary’s day, travelling as she travelled, could not well have done the journey in less that nine hours. Truly it does not leave much time for the dalliance suggested by Buchanan, more especially as the Privy Seal Register of that date testifies that the Queen transacted a not inconsiderable amount of public business whilst at the castle. But, poor lady, she could do no right in the eyes of certain of her subjects. She was a Catholic ; and that was sufficient ; even her very tolerance of other people’s religion was an offence, a trap set for the unwary. Every suggestion of evil with regard to her conduct was eagerly seized on and greedily swallowed by her enemies and ill-wishers. It is so fatally easy to take away character. Especially, for some reason, in the case of one high in rank are certain people prone to believe evil, strangely gratified if they may be the first to unfold to a neighbour some new scandal against their betters. Away to the winds with Christian charity All is fish that comes to their net ; to them every scandalous tale is true, and needs no enquiry, provided only it be told against one of exalted station.
Queen Mary rode that day in the wind and the wet a matter of fifty or sixty miles. She was used to long rides, no doubt,there was indeed no other means for her to get about the country,and she was never one who shrank from rough weather. But wet clothes, if worn for too long a time, have a way of finding out any weak spot there may chance to be in one’s frame, and the exposure and the wetting dealt hardly this time with the Queen. She was never physically strong, and of late a world of anxiety, worry, and sorrow, caused by the conduct of her husband, had drained the strength she possessed. Moreover, ever since her confinement three months earlier, she had been subject to more or less severe attacks of illness, accompanied by much pain. In her normal condition, probably the fatigue and exposure might have affected her not at all ; now, it brought on a serious malady. By the morning of the 17ththe day following her long rideshe was in a high fever, and in great pain. As the disease progressed, she was seized with violent paroxysms, vomiting blood ; and day by day her condition gave rise to ever more grave fear. She herself, believing that her end was at hand, took leave of the Earl of Moray and of other noblemen, expressing at the same time great anxiety regarding the affairs of the kingdom and the guardianship of her infant son after her death. But never throughout the illness did her courage falter. Lack of courage, at least, is a thing of which not even her bitterest enemies can accuse Mary Stuart.
On the evening of the ninth day of this severe illness, after a particularly acute attack of convulsions, the Queen sank, and her whole body became cold and rigid. ” Every one present, especially her domestic servants, thought that she was dead, and they opened the windows. The Earl of Moray began to lay hands on the most precious articles, such as her silver plate and jewels. The mourning dresses were ordered, and arrangements were made for the funeral.” 1 John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, writing from Jedburgh at the time, says that on the Friday ” her Majesty became deid and all her memberis cauld, her Eene closit, Mouth fast, and Feit and Armis stiff and cauld.”
Buchanan’s account is that, after leaving Hermitage, “she returneth again to Jedworth, and with most earnest care and diligence provideth and prepareth all things to remove Bothwel thither. When he was once brought thither, their company and familiar haunt together was such as was smally agreeing with both their honours. There, whether it were by their nightly and daily travels, dishonourable to themselves and infamous among the people, or by some secret providence of God, the Queen fell into such a sore and dangerous sickness that scarcely there remained any hope of her life.” It would be hard to conceive anything more poisonous than this, or anything less in accord with the facts. Buchanan’s zeal outran his love of the truth ; with both hands he flung mud at the Queen. In his eyes, any story against her was worthy of credenceor at least he wished it to appear so. As a matter of fact, before Bothwell reached Jedburgh the Queen had been dangerously ill, and incapable of making any preparation to receive him had she wished to do so, for close on ten days, and the day after his coming she lay for several hours unconscious, and as one dead. Writing on 24th October to the Archbishop of Glasgow, M. Le Croc, the French Ambassador, can only say that he hopes “in five or six days the Queen will be able to sign ” a dispatch ; but on the following day her illness again took an unfavourable turn.
She left Jedburgh within fifteen days of the date of M. Le Croc’s letter, not an excessive time in which to recover from an illness which admittedly had brought her to the point of death, and which must have left her in a condition of extreme weakness. Yet, according to Buchanan, this time of convalescence was devoted to “their old pastime again, and that so openly, as they seemed to fear nothing more than lest their wickedness should be unknown.” His conscience must have been of an elastic nature, if, having any knowledge of the facts, he could so write ; and if he had no knowledge of the facts, one wonders how it is possible that a man of his position and ability should commit himself to statements so foul and uncharitable. But at any cost, and by any means, he wanted to make out his case ; and he knew his audience.
Buchanan’s bias against the unfortunate Queen was very great. It even caused him to lend himself here to the task of bolstering up the case of that petulant, contemptible creature, Darnley. In view of the latter’s known degrading habits and evil practices, as well as of his general conduct towards the Queen, the following sentence from the historian’s writings is almost grotesque : ” When the King heard thereof,” [Mary’s illness] ” he hasted in post to Jedburgh to visit the Queen, to comfort her in her weakness by all the gentle services that he could, to declare his affection and hearty desire to do her pleasure.” Of course Darnley did nothing of the sort. When he did come, (twelve days after her illness began,) he came most reluctantly and tardily from his ” halkand and huntand ” in the west country. He “has had time enough if he had been willing ; this is a fault which I cannot excuse,” wrote M. Le Croc on the 24th October.
According to Buchanan, Darnley, when he did reach Jedburgh, found no one ready to receive him, or ” to do him any reverence at all “; the Queen, he says, had ” practised with ” the Countess of Moray to feign sickness and keep her bed, as an excuse for not receiving him. ” Being thus denied all duties of civil kindness, the next day with great grief of heart he returned to his old solitary corner.” A pathetic story, if it were wholly true ; a heart-stirring picture, that of the ” solitary corner.” But all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not have set Darnley back again in the place he had forfeited in the esteem of the Nobles, and in the esteem of the country at large. If the nobles were not pleased to welcome him, if he was forsaken of all friends, whose fault was that but Darnley’s ? ” The haughty spirit of Darnley, nursed up in flattery, and accustomed to command, could not bear the contempt into which he had now fallen, and the state of insignificance to which he saw himself reduced.” Darnley was an undisciplined cub. It was the sulky petulance of a spoilt child, that delayed his visit to Jedburgh ; it was the offended dignity of an unlicked schoolboy that took him out of it again so hurriedly. The Queen’s sufferings were as nought, weighed in the scale against a petty dignity offended by the lack of “reverence” with which he was received in Jedburgh. Truly, Queen Mary at her marriage had ” placed her love on a very unworthy object, who requited it with ingratitude and treated her with neglect, with violence, and with brutality.”
Buchanan, the historian, Queen Mary’s traducer, died in September, 1582. His contemporary, Sir James Melville of Halhill, in writing of him says he was “a man of notable endowments for his learning and knowledge in Latin poesy, much honoured in other countries, pleasant in conversation, rehearsing at all occasions moralities short and instructive, whereof he had abundance, inventing where he wanted. He was also religious, but was easily abused, and so facile that he was led by every company that he haunted, which made him factious in his old days, for he spoke and wrote as those who were about him informed him ; for he was become careless, following in many things the vulgar opinion ; for he was naturally popular, and extremely revengeful against any man who had offended him, which was his greatest fault.” Truly these phrases : ” he spoke and wrote as those who were about him informed him”; “inventing where he wanted”; “easily abused, and so facile that he was led by every company that he haunted”; “extremely revengeful against any who had offended him,” seem to be not without application to much of what he wrote regarding Mary Stuart.
On 9th November Jedburgh saw its last of this most unfortunate among women. On that day the Queen and her Court set out for Craigmillar, travelling on horseback by way of Kelso, Home Castle, Berwick, and Dunbar. But the effects of that grievous sickness at Jedburgh long remained with her.
Many, in the days that are long dead, were the Burgh’s royal visitors ; but no figure more romantic in history has ever trod its streets than his who in 1745 passed one night there on his disastrous march southward. At no great distance from the house where Mary lay ill, stands a fine old building, occupied once by a being no less ill-fated than was the unfortunate Queen of Scots. In a “close” leading from the Castle gate you find the door of this houseon its weather-beaten stone lintel the date 1687. The sorely worn stone steps of a winding old staircase lead to rooms above, all panelled in oak. But as in the case of the “comfortable church” that once took away from the beauty and dignity of the grand old Abbey, so here the ruthless hand of modern “improvement ” has been at work. The tenants of the buildingthere are severalpresumably finding the sombre oak all too gloomy to meet their view of what is fitting in mural decoration, have remedied this defect by papering the panels, and in some instances by giving them what is call “a lick of paint.” Sadly altered, therefore, is the interior of the building from what it was that night in November, 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie slept within its massive walls. But the outside, with its quaint double sun-dial set in the wall facing the Castle-gate, is no doubt now as it was then.
Of this visit, local tradition has not much to tell. There is the story that the advance guard of that section of the Prince’s army which he himself led, marching from Kelso, reached Jedburgh on the Sunday when the entire community was at church, and it is said that a message was sent to the minister of the Abbey church requiring him to close the service and send his congregation home to prepare rations for the main body of the army. The order, if it were really given, was apparently not resented, for when the Prince himself marched in, the women of Jedburgh, at least, flocked into the street to kiss his hand. The regard and homage of the women he got here, as elsewhere, but of that of which he stood most in need, the swords of the men, he got none. As at Kelso, not a single recruit followed him. One, indeed, a neighbouring farmer, did ride in to join the Royal standard, but he was a day after the fair; the army had already marched. Did the sound that tradition says Jedburgh heard long ere the Prince’s arrival, the sound as of an army on the march, the distant rumble of moving artillery, the tramp of innumerable feet, and the dull throb of drums pulsing on the still night air, scare Borderers away from his enterprise ? Was it superstition, or was it a real lack of interest, or was it merely ” canniness,” that so effectually damped the ardour of recruits both at Kelso and at Jedburgh? Whatever the cause, no man followed him ; only the blessings and good wishes of the women were his wherever he went.
After leaving Jedburgh, the Prince’s army made over the hills in two divisions, one following the old Whele-Causeway (over which the main Scottish army marched on Carlisle in 1388, what time Douglas’s flying column made a dash into England down the Rede valley from Froissart’s “Zedon “); the other marching by Note o’ the Gate, the neighbouring pass that runs between Dog Knowe and Rushy Rig. These were then the only two practicable ways over the hills into Upper Liddesdale. ” Note o’ the Gate ” is a puzzle. What does the name mean? ” Note ” may be merely the Cumberland “Knot ” or “Knote,” a knob or projection on a hillside. I understand the term is common enough in that part of the country, as in Helmside Knot, Hard Knot, etc. But even if this word, though differently spelled, does bear the same meaning both in Cumberland and in Liddesdale, I do not know that it gets us any nearer the “Gate.” There is no rugged pass here, no Gate between precipitous mountains. One explanationfor what it may be worthcomes from a tradition that the name was given by Prince Charlie himself, through his misunderstanding a remark made by one of his officers. As they tramped over the moorland pass, the Prince overheard this officer say to another : ” Take note of the gait,” i.e., “Take note of the way.” That night, when they were at Larriston, the Prince puzzled everyone by referring to some-thing that had taken place back at ” Note of the Gate.” The story seems far fetched.
Many a tale survives of the doings and iniquities of the Prince’s wild Highlanders as they straggled over these lonely Border moors. ” Straggled,” seems to be a more appropriate term than “marched,” for, according to the testimony of eye-witnesses, the men appear to have kept no sort of military formation. Or at least what formation they did keep was of the loosest, and no check on plundering. It is a lonely countryside at best ; human habitations were few and widely separated, but from the infrequent cottages, property of an easily portable nature took to itself wings as the army passed, and sheep grazing on the hills melted from sight like snow before the softening breath of spring. Once they caught and killed some sheep in a ” stell,” and they cooked one of them in an iron pot that lay in the stell. Unfortunately, they did not take the precaution to cleanse the pot, and the resulting brew disagreed so sorely with one of the thieves that the spot is called the Hielandman’s Grave to this day. Some others, that evening when they were encamped, forced a man to kill and cut up sheep for them, and for this work he was given a guinea. The pay did not benefit him much; for a party of Highlanders, as the man went towards home, put a pistol to his head and made him refund. They tried the same game on a man named Armstrong, down on the Liddel at Whithaugh Mill. But Armstrong was too much for them ; one who shared the old reiver blood was not to be intimidated, and he knocked the pistol out of the hand of the threatening Highlander, secured it himself, and turned the tables most unpleasantly.
One unlooked-for result of the Prince’s march through those desolate regions, was a very great increase in the number of illicit stills, and in the consumption of whisky that had paid no revenue to King George. So impressed were the Highlanders with the wild solitude of the glens on all sides of their line of march, and with the facilities presented by the amber-clear burns that tinkle through every cleuch, that when the rebels were returning from Derby, numbers of the men got no farther north than the hills of Liddesdale and the Border, but entered there on the congenial pastime of whisky-making.
Though the proportion of Borderers who followed Prince Charlie down into England, or throughout his campaign, was so very meagre, yet there lived among those solemn Border hills many faithful hearts, whose King he was to the end.
” Follow thee ! Follow thee ! Wha wadna follow thee? King o’ our Highland hearts, Bonnie Prince Charlie.”
They were not only Highland hearts that were true to him. In her Border Sketches, Mrs. Oliver mentions a Hawick man, named Millar,. who accompanied his master, Scott of Gorrenberry, all, through the campaign of r 745-46, and who to the end of his days had an undying devotion to his Prince, and till the day of the latter’s death, an imperishable faith that he would come to his own again. Long after the ’45, Miller became ” minister’s man ” in one of the Hawick churches, and his grief, one Sunday morning in 1788, was overwhelming when the news was told to him that the Prince was dead. ” E-eh ! Doctor,” he cried brokenly to his reverend informant, “I’ll get nae good o’ your sermon the day ; I wish ye hadna telled me till this afternoon. If it had been the German Lairdie, now, there wad hae been little mane made for him. But there’ll be mony a wae heart forby mine this day.” Indeed, who even now can read of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s end, and not have “a wae heart”?
Few of the Scottish Border towns in 1745 showed open hostility, or indeed anything but a luke-warm friendship, for the gallant young Pretender. Dumfries, however, was an exception. The inhabitants of that town, with men from Galloway, Nithsdale, and Annandale, full of zeal for King George and secure in the belief that the fighting men of the Prince’s army were all safely over the March into England, hurried to intercept the rebel baggage train as it passed near Lockerbie, and carried off thirty-two carts to Dumfries. The Highlanders, however, getting word of this affair before the army marched from Carlisle, detached a party to Dumfries to demand the return of the waggons or the payment of an indemnity, “the notice of which has put Dumfries in greater fear and confusion than they have since the rebellion broke out, and expect no mercy.” But the Prince’s party was recalled before it had reclaimed the lost baggage-carts or exacted this alternative sum of £2,000, and Dumfries imagined that now all was well. They had the waggons ; and for a little time they triumphed. So triumphant, indeed, were they, and so filled with confidence in their own warlike powers, that when false rumours reached them that the Highlanders had been utterly routed and cut to pieces at Lancaster, not only were there ” great rejoicings in Dumfries by ringing of bells and illuminating their windows,” but ” a considerable party of our light horse were sent off immediately, after the Chevalier,” and ” about three hundred militia, composed of townspeople and the adjacent paroches . . . are to go to the water of Esk to stop their passing and to apprehend any small parcels of them flying.” Dumfries was not so warlike a couple of weeks or so later, when Lord Elcho at the head of five hundred men of the Prince’s advance guard marched in and demanded the immediate payment of £2,000 in money and the delivery of a thousand pairs of shoes, two hundred horses, and a hundred carts. Not all that the Prince demanded was paid before the northward march was resumed, but his visit cost the town something like pounds 4,000irrespective of what the Highlanders took. Whilst he remained in Dumfries, the Prince lodged in the Market Place, in a private house which is now the Commercial Inn. It is said that when his army marched up Nithsdale, halting for the night at the Duke of Queensberry’s property, Drumlanrig, the Highlanders in the morning, to show their loyalty to King James, slashed with their swords portraits of King William and Queen Mary which had been presented to the Duke by Queen Anne,an inconvenient method of declaring allegiance.
Though of minor interest, there are other houses in Jedburgh besides Queen Mary’s and that in which Prince Charlie lodged, in which the townsfolk take some pride. There is the building in which Sir David Brewster was born in 1781 ; that where Burns lodged when he visited Jedburgh in 1787 ; that in Abbey Close in which Wordsworth and his sister had lodgings in 1803, when Sir (then Mr.) Walter Scott visited them and read to them part of the then unpublished ” Lay of the Last Minstrel “; there is the old Black Bull Inn,no longer an inn,and interesting only as the place where in 1726 Sir Gilbert Eliott of Stobs stabbed Colonel Stewart of Ste wartfield with his sword one evening as they sat at supper. Claret was plentiful and good in Scotland in those days, and Colonel Stewart had not given his vote to Sir Gilbert, who was candidate for the county. Swords flew out on slender excuse in the eighteenth century. This particular sword was long kept in the family of Sir Gilbert Elliot’s butler, and after passing through the hands of a resident in the village of Denholm, became the property of Mr. Forrest, the well-known gun-maker of Jedburgh, by whom it was finally deposited in the Marquess of Lothian’s museum at Monteviot.
Jedburgh, of course, amongst other claims to distinction was famed for its witchesas what place was not, indeed, in times when harmless old women were adjudged innocent or guilty of the charge of witchcraft according as they sank or floated when thrown into deep water. If they sankwell and good, that meant that they were innocent, and they went to Heaven, having at any rate the satisfaction of knowing before-hand that, in such case, at least their memory would be cleared of the suspicion under which they had lain ; if they floatedagain well and good ; that proved conclusively that the charge against them was a true one, and they were rescued from the water only to be burned alive. ” Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” was the text which our ancestors regarded as the Eleventh Commandment. We were not a whit better even at as late a date as the seventeenth century, than are those West African tribes of the present day whose medicine-men still ” smell out ” witches. Only, the West Africans practise the art now more or less in secret, and they are more humane in the death they inflict than were our ancestors ; they do not burn.
Jedburgh’s testing place for witches was a pool below the spot where now the Townfoot Bridge crosses the river. There is a story told of a notorious witch who was ducked here along with a batch of her sinful associates. No doubt they all floated right enough ; their reputation as witches of the most mischievous description had long been almost too well established to need such a test as that of the river. But this is what led to their final overthrow. The chief witch of this “covine ” had a husband, the village pedagogue, a man of repute for piety and for the rigour of his Sabbath keeping, and it was notorious that in season and out of season this good man would remonstrate with his wife–without doubt, people said, endeavouring to wean the woman from her sinful habits.
Now, one must of course admit that such continued efforts to save could not fail to be excessively irksome to any witch, and must goad not only her, but also her accomplices, as well as her Master, the Devil, to revenge. Hence, when the schoolmaster’s dead body was found one fine morning floating in the river, the majority of the drowned man’s neighbours had no hesitation in believing that his wife and her partners in iniquity had dragged him in the night from his hard-earned rest, and had thrown him into the deepest pool in Jed. And this was the more certain, because the deceased man had several times confided to friends a pitiful tale of how he stood in terror of his life, and how his wife and her ” covine,” had already more than once hauled him through the roughest streams of Jed. Sundry pious elders, moreover, affirmed that they had attended with him a sederunt of their church rulers the previous evening when, perhaps, a trifle of something may have been taken in a quiet way to keep out the coldand that at a late hour after-wards they accompanied him to his own door, whence, they admitted, they had come away in a hurry because of the wrathful and threatening tones in which they heard this witch addressing her husband. And this evidence was to some extent corroborated by the neighbours, who told how they had been awakened from sound sleep that night by the noise made by the poor victim loudly singing the twenty-third Psalm as the horrid troupe hurried him down the street towards the rivera rope about his neck, said some. Moreover, it was told, on evidence which people saw no reason to doubt, that at the time this poor man was being hurried to his death, a company of fairies was seen dancing on the top of the tower of Jedburgh Abbey, where after the drowning of the unfortunate schoolmaster by the witches, the whole company regaled themselves liberally with wine and ale. Certainly, both wine and ale were found to be missing from a neighbouring cellar the following day ; and as the door of the cellar had been locked, obviously the loss could only be attributed to the schemes of fairies or witches. The one tale lent an air of truth to the others ; therefore people were not backward in crediting both. He who accepted the story of the dancing fairies could have little difficulty in giving credence to that of the witches’ ” covine ” dragging their unresisting prey through the streets. And so another wretched victim or two went to her long home by a fiery death. The schoolmaster was probably insane on some points, and trumped up the story of the witches having repeatedly ducked him. Our ancestors could swallow anything in the way of marvel. This story of the Jedburgh schoolmaster is told in ” Historical Notices of the Superstitions of Teviotdale” ; and it is added therein that popular tradition says that ” a son of Lord Torphichen, who had been taught the art of witchcraft by his nurse,” was of the party of witches, and that it was he who first gave information regarding the murderers.
The Ettrick Shepherd must have known this story well. Perhaps it suggested some of the verses in ” The Witch of Fife,” in ” The Queen’s Wake.”
If, however, our forbears were drastic in their manner of dealing with witches and warlocks, and rigid in the infliction of capital punishment on criminals guilty of very minor offences, they were extraordinarily lax as regards the condition in which they kept their prisons. It is told that, sometime during the eighteenth century, the chief magistrate of Jedburgh was waited on by the burgh gaoler, who complained that the main door of the gaol had parted company with its hingeswhich, in fact, had long been eaten through with rust. He had no means of securing his prisoners. What was he to do ? It was a question calculated to puzzle any ordinary person. But the magistrate was a man of resource. ” Get a harrow,” said he. ” And set it on end in the doorway, wi’ its teeth turned inwards. If that winna keep them in,’deed then they’re no worth the keepin’.” To as late a date as 1833, Selkirk also was not much better off than this, as regards its prison. The writer of the Statistical Account of the Parish at that date complains that prisoners “have been frequently in the practice of coming out in the evening, and returning again before the jailor’s visit in the morning.”
If by chance there was ever a period of his life when the Poet Burns was not susceptible, it certainly was not at the time when he visited Jedburgh in 1787. Regarding that visit he has left in his diary some very characteristic notes. He was ” waited on by the magistrates and presented with the freedom of the burgh,” he records ; he meets and dines with ” a polite soldier-like gentleman, a Captain Rutherfurd, who had been many years in the wilds of America, a prisoner among the Indians,” and who apparently rather bored the poet. Captain Rutherfurd’s adventures were assuredly such as could not fail to be well worth listening to, but what between Burns’ respectful admiration of an armchair that the old soldier possessed, which had been the property of James Thomson, author of “The Seasons,” and his latest attack of love’s sickness, host and guest do not seem to have been quite in accord. Perhaps the old soldier prosed, and told his battles o’er again to too great an extentit is a failing not unknown in old gentlemen ; perhaps the poet wanted to compose a sonnet to his new mistress’s eyebrow,or whatever may have been Burns’ equivalent. (He had just met by the ” sylvan banks ” of Jed a young lady possessed of charms that ravished his too tender heart). Anyhow, , he left the district in a very despondent frame of mind, relieved only by such consolation as might be gleaned from presenting the lady with a copy of his latest portrait. In his diary is the following entry : ” Took farewell of Jedburgh with some melancholy, disagreeable sensations. Jed, pure be thy crystal streams and hallowed thy sylvan banks ! Sweet Isabella Lindsay, may peace dwell in thy bosom uninterrupted, except by the tumult throbbings of rapturous love ! That love enkindling eye must beam on another, not on me ; that graceful form must bless another’s arms, not mine.” Burns’ loves were almost as many in number as the birds of the air, and scarcely less trammelled.
As one proceeds up Jed from the ancient royal burgh, probably the first thing that forces itself on the mind is that the old coach road was not constructed for present-day traffic. In less than a couple of miles the river is crossed no fewer than four times by bridges which are curiously old-fashioned, turning blindly across the stream in some instances almost at right angles to the road, and in the steepness of their ascent and descent conveying to the occupant of a motor car a sensation similar to that given to a bad sailor by a vessel at sea when she is surmounting ” the league-long rollers.” Nor are some of the gradients on the road a few miles farther out such as entirely commend themselves to motorists, two or three of them being as abrupt as one in twelve, and one in thirteen.
Nevertheless the beauties of road and country are great, especially if it should chance that a visit is paid to the district when the tender flush of early Spring lies sweet on Jed’s thick-wooded banks, and the trout have begun to think at last of rising again freely to the natural fly. Or better still, perhaps, when the green and gold, the russet and yellow, the crimson of Autumn combine with and melt into the crumbling red cliffs, surely more generous tinted than ever were cliffs before. Above, a sky of tenderest blue, an air windless yet brisk, and just a leaf here and there fluttering leisurely into the amber clear water that goes wandering by ; and from the bushes the sweet thin pipe of a robin, or the crow of pheasant from some copse. That is the Indian Summer of Scotland, her pleasantest time of year,if it were not for the shortening days, and the recollection that trout fishing is dead till another season.
It was a heavily wooded district this in former days, and one or two of the giants of old still survive,the widespreading “Capon tree,” for instance, that you pass on the road a mile from Jedburgh (but why ” Capon ” it passes the knowledge of man to decide) ; and the “King of the Woods,” near Fernihirst, a beautiful and still vigorous oak, with a girth of 17 feet, four feet from the ground.
On the right, across the river, as you begin to quit the precincts of the town, there hangs the precipitous red ” scaur ” over which, that grim night in 1523, Surrey’s horses came streaming, an equine cascade. Farther on, a mile or so, there perches Douglas’s camp at Lintalee. But his “fair manor ” is gone, and that great cave in the face of the cliff where he kept stock of provisions ” till mak gud cher till hys men” ; a fall of rock swept away that, or most part of it, in 1866. It was to this cave, within Douglas’s camp, that in 1317 a priest named Ellis brought a body of three hundred English soldiers, whilst Douglas was elsewhere, dealing with Sir Thomas Richmond and his men. But, (as the song says), Father Ellis “had better have left that beggar alone.” Douglas returned while yet the holy man and his unruly flock were feasting in the cave. And ” then “it is needless to say,–” there began a slaughter grim and great,” and whatever else Father Ellis and his men had feasted on, at least they got now a bellyful of fighting. It was the last meal of which the most part of those Englishmen partook. The cave is gone,’ but there still remain, guarding the neck of the promontoryruined indeed, and partially filled up, but still prominent to the eyethe double wall and fosse that Douglas threw across it six hundred years ago.
Of caves, such as this Douglas cave at Lintalee, there is a vast number scattered along the cliffy banks of Jed and Teviot, and by some of their tributary waters or burns. At Mossburnfoot, on Jed, there is a cave, others are at Hundalee, and else-where. Near Cessford Castle, on a small affluent of the Kale there is one, Habbie Ker’s Cave, the same wicked Habbie” a bloodie man in his youth “whose ghost to this day walks by the old draw-well at the ruined castle of Holydene ; on Kale itself there are several of considerable size ; in the cliff over-hanging Oxnam, near Crailing, are others, and at Ancrum, on the Ale ; whilst at Sunlaws, near Roxburgh, in the red sand-stone cliffs of Teviot, is a group of five caves, arranged in two tiers, some of them of fair dimensions, the largest about twenty six feet long, with a height of eight feet and a width of eight and a half feet. Another in the upper tier has a length of twenty-three feet, but at the mouth is no more than three feet in height. In the lower tier, in one of the caves it is said in the Statistical Account that horses were hid in 1745, to save them from being taken for the use of the rebel army, when the detachment under Prince Charlie’s own command marched from Kelso to Jedburgh. Many of the caves in different parts of the country are so well concealed that a stranger might pass very near to the mouth without suspecting their existence; some, on the other hand, force themselves on the eye. But probably in olden times thick undergrowth shut them from view. There is no doubt that most of them at various times have been used as places of concealment ; probably during the cruel old English wars they were much resorted to; certainly some of them were places of refuge in Covenanting times. Very efficient places of refuge no doubt they were, so long as the entrance was not discovered, but many of them would probably be easy enough to smoke out. It is mentioned in Patten’s ” Account of Somerset’s Expedition into Scotland,” how ” a gentleman of my Lord Protector’s . . . happened upon a cave in the grounde, the mouth whereof was so worne with fresh printe of steps, that he seemed to be certayne thear wear some folke within ; and gone doune to trie, he was redily receyved with a hakebut or two. He left them not yet, till he had known wheÿther thei wold be content to yield and come out, which they fondly refusing, he went to my Lord’s grace, and upon utterance of the thynge, gat licence to deale with them as he coulde ; and so returned to them with a skore or two of pioners. Three ventes had that cave, that we wear ware of, whereof he first stopt up one; another he fill’d full of strawe, and set it a fyer, whereat they within cast water apace ; but it was so wel maynteyned without, that the fyer prevayled, and thei within fayn to get them belyke into anoother parler. Then devysed we (for I hapt to be with him) to stop the same up, whereby we should eyther smoother them, or fynd out their ventes, if thei hadde any mor : as this was done at another issue, about XII score of, we moughte see the fume of their smoke to come out : the which continued with so great a force, and so long a while, that we coulde not but thinke they must needs get them out, or smoother within : and forasmuch as we found not that they did the tone, we thought it for certain thei wear sure of the toother.”
Who first made and used those caves, one wonders. The stone is soft, and easy to work, and I do not think it was beyond the skill and the tools of our very remote forbears to have patiently hollowed them out, in suitable places, from the solid face of the cliff. Tool marks may yet be plainly seen in some of them, marks not such as would be made by anything in the nature of a chisel, but such as are more suggestive of a pick, of sorts, an implementsingle pointednot unknown to even very primitive races.
Scattered all over the Jedburgh district are many ancient campshoary even in the day when Douglas fortified Lintalee ; many old castles and peel-towers, all, or nearly all, now in ruins, some indeed with very little left save tradition to indicate where once they stood ; and here and there are found vestiges of chapels or shrines, of which possibly there may remain hardly more in some instances than the green mounds which cover their fallen walls. The monks wandered far up this pleasant vale of Jed, carrying the Gospel of Peace through a land that knew of little save war, but the history of their resting places is even more vague than is now the outline of their chapel walls. At Old Jedward, however, five miles up stream from Jedburgh, you may still in some measure trace the line of foundations of that venerable little building which is said to have been built here away back in the ninth century. Of camps, the number is legion. That near Monklaw, the writer has not seen, but it is said to be Roman, and its measurements are something like one hundred and sixty yards each way. At Scraesburgh there is a circular camp, with a diameter of about one hundred and eighty feet, and with ramparts still nearly twenty feet in height,surely that ” Skraysburgh, the greatest towne in all Teviotdale,” which, according to the English version, seems in 1544 to have fallen almost as fell Jericho of old, when the enemy shouted and blew their trumpets.
Of castles and peel-towers the most are utterly ruined, but Fernihirst (to which we come presently), still stands, and, over the hill towards Teviot, Lanton Tower, the latter now incorporated with a comfortable modern dwelling. Lanton in the twelfth century was the property of Richard Inglis, who also owned the adjacent tower of Hunthill. Both these towers were sacked and burned in 1513, after Flodden, by an English flying column under Sir Roger Fenwicke, and its existence at the present day Lanton Tower may owe to the fact that when Evers swept the country-side in 1544, and Hertford brought fire and sword in the following year, it had possibly neither been repaired nor was inhabited. It was over near Jedburgh, too, to have escaped the notice of Surrey in 1523. Hunthill was burned again in 1549, and had Lanton then been anything but dismantled, it could scarcely have escaped the attentions of the party sent from Jedburgh by the Earl of Rutland to attack d’Essé’s rear-guard at Ancrum ford. A force coming over the hill from Jedburgh and making for Ancrum would necessarily pass within easy hail of Lanton. In any case, however, there it stands, its solid walls of a tenacity not shared by buildings put together with modern mortar. Strange are the vicissitudes of places and of people. Over this Forest of Jedworth, and here at Lanton, where of old too, often were heard the blast of trumpet, shouts and oaths of fiercely striving men, the roar and crackle of burning houses, you will hear now no sound more startling than the “toottoot” of the Master’s horn and the babble of fox-hounds ; for at Lanton Tower are the kennels of the Jedforest Hunt, and many a glorious run is had with this pack, some-times in enclosed country, sometimes among the great round-backed Border hills towards Carterfell, over country that will tail off all but the best of men and horses.