English Border Towns – Yarrow

IN whatever part you take the vale of Ettrick, there is about it, and about its scenery and its associations, a charm, different perhaps from that of the more widely famed Yarrow, yet almost equally powerful. There is in the summer season a solemnity and a peace brooding over these “round-backed, kindly hills,” that act like a charm on the body and mind that are weary. Each vale has its distinctive peculiarities, yet each blends imperceptibly into the other.

From the head of Ettrick by Ettrick Kirk over to Yarrow is but little more than a step across the hills, either by the bridle track by Scabcleuch and Penistone Knowe over to the Riskinhope Burn and the head of the Loch of the Lowes, for those afoot ; or by the road up Tushielaw Burn, for those on whom time, or years, press unduly, and who prefer to drive. It is not a very good road, but it serves, though the descent to St. Mary’s is something of the abruptest,—one in ten, I think. If the bridle track has been followed, as one comes down towards Riskinhope, there, on the opposite side of the valley, is Chapelhope, for ever associated with Hogg’s ” Brownie of Bodsbeck.” And at Riskinhope itself, Renwick, last of the Scottish Covenanting Martyrs, preached no long time before his execution at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh in February, 1688. “When he prayed that day, few of his hearers’ cheeks were dry,” says the Ettrick Shepherd. It was here

” Where Renwick told of one great sacrifice, Ere he himself had borne in full his cross, And hearts sublimed were round him in the wild, And faces, God-ward turned in fervent prayer, For deeply smitten, suffering flock of Christ ; And clear uprose the plaintive moorland psalm, Heard high above the plover’s wailing cry, From simple hearts in whom the spirit strong Of hills was consecrate by heavenly grace, And firmly nerv’d to meet, whene’er it came, In His own time, the call to martyrdom.”

“The plover’s wailing cry.”—It is curious to note how even to this day the peewit, or plover, is hated in the Border hills, because its incessant complaining wail when disturbed so often betrayed to the dragoons the presence of lurking Covenanters,’ or the whereabouts of some Conventicle of the persecuted people. The shepherd or the peasant of to-day will stamp on the eggs of the peewit wherever he comes on them, muttering to himself curses on the bird as it wheels and plunges overhead, wailing dolefully.

But of Yarrow, how is one to write ? The task is hopeless, whether it be to speak of its beauty, of its legend, its poetry, or of its associations. From Scott and Wordsworth downwards, what poet has not sung its praises ? However halting may be his pen, what writer in prose has not tried in words to picture its scenes ? It is left to one now only to repeat what has been said by better men ; at the best, one may but paraphrase the words of another. There is nothing new to be said of Yarrow, no fresh beauty to be pointed out. Its charm affects each one differently ; each must see and feel for himself But whether the season be sweetest summer-tide, or that when winter’s blast comes black and roaring down the glens, fiercely driving before it sheets of water snatched from the tortured bosom of lone Saint Mary’s,—there, still, abides the indescribable charm of Yarrow. Yet on the whole, I think almost that I should prefer my visit to be in the winter time, if a few fine days might be assured, or days at least without storm. In the summer season now, and especially since the advent of the motor car, from morning till night so constant a stream of visitors and tourists passes through the vale, and along the lake side, that even Yarrow’s deathless charm is broken, her peace disturbed ; one’s soul can take no rest there now, far from the clamour of the outer world. No longer may one quote Alexander Anderson’s beautiful lines :

” What boon to lie, as now I lie, And see in silver at my feet Saint Mary’s Lake, as if the sky Had fallen ‘tween those hills so sweet.

” And this old churchyard on the hill, That keeps the green graves of the dead, So calm and sweet, so lone and still, And but the blue sky overhead.”

And yet, even in summer, if one can betake oneself to the old churchyard of St. Mary of the Lowes, at an hour when the chattering, picnic-ing tourist is far from the scene, one may still lie there and dream, unvexed by care ; and, if fate be kind, one may yet spend long restful days among the hills, beside some crooning burn that

” . . . half-hid, sings its song In hidden circlings ‘neath a grassy fringe ” ;

still rejoice in the unspoilt moorlands and the breezy heights :

” There thrown aside all reason-grounded doubts, All narrow aims, and self-regarding thoughts, Out of himself amid the infinitude, Where Earth, and Sky, and God are all in all.”

And in these hills, what fitter place can there be for dreams than St. Mary’s chapel, overlooking the silent lake, with Yarrow gliding from its bosom ? Here you will find a Sabbath peace, placid as when

“….on sweet Sabbath morns long gone, Folks wended to St. Mary’s Forest Kirk, Where mass was said and matins, softly sung, Were borne in fitful swell across the Loch ; And full of simple vision, there they saw In Kirk and Quire, the brier and red rose, That fondly meet and twin’d o’er lover’s graves, Who fled o’ night through moor up Black Cleuch heights Pass’d through the horror of the mortal fight, Where Margaret kiss’d a father’s ruddy wounds.”

The ballad of the Douglas tragedy is known to everyone; it need not be quoted. This is the kirk where the lovers lie buried, almost within distant sight of the ancient tower from which they had fled, and whose ruins are still to be seen near Blackhouse, on the Douglas Burn. The Douglas stones, which, tradition tells us, mark the spot where Lady Margaret’s seven brothers fell under the sword of her lover, are out high on the moor ; but there are eleven, not seven, stones, though only three are left standing. It was at Blackhouse, one may remember, that Sir Walter first made the acquaintance of Willie Laidlaw, whose father was tenant of the farm. James Hogg was shepherd here from 1790 to 1800, but he had left before Sir Walter’s visit, though the two met very shortly after. It was whilst Hogg was in service here that there came the tremendous snow storm of 1794, of which he gave so vivid a description in Blackwood’s Magazine of July, 1819.

There are now no remains of the chapel of St. Mary ;

“O lone St. Mary of the waves, In ruin lies thine ancient aisle.”

It was destroyed about the year 1557, and was never rebuilt. A Cranstoun, flying from the Scotts, sought sanctuary in the holy building, and the Scotts, heedless of the terrors of excommunication, burnt it down. “They burned the Chapel for very rage,” says The Lay, because Cranstoun escaped them. The churchyard is little used now, but a few privileged families do still, I understand, bury their dead in that quiet spot. It is an enviable place in which to lie at rest, where the lark sings high in air, and the free wind comes soughing over the hill.

Near to the burial ground is the mound called Binram’s Corse, the grave, they say, of a wizard priest, whose bones might not find rest in hallowed ground.

Strange stories linger’d in those lonely glens,— Of that weird eve when wizard Binram old. Was laid in drear unrest, beyond hallow’d ground ; How, at bell-tolling by no mortal hand, And voices saying words which no man knew, There rose such shrieks from low depths of the lake, And such wild echoes from the darken’d hill, That holy men fled from the scant fill’d grave, And left bare buried that unholy priest.”

Across the loch from the quiet grave-yard on the hill, lies ” Bowerhope’s lonely top,” and Bowerhope farm, so loved of its tenant of many years ago. In his ” Reminiscences of Yarrow,” the late Rev. Dr. Russell mentions that ” Bowerhope farmhouse was so low in the roof that my father at the exhortations had to stand between two of the rafters, so that the Kitchen full of people and full of smoke was not the most pleasant place to speak in. Yet old Sandy Cunningham, the tenant, used to say : “Ministers may talk o’ Heevin’ as they like ; commend me to Bowerhope ; I cud tak a tack [lease] o’t to a’ eternity.”

On our right, on the same side of the loch with us as we stand facing Bowerhope, is Henderland, where, on a spot called the Chapel Knowe, is a grave-slab, and on it, sculptured, a sword and what appear to be armorial bearings, with the inscription :

” Here lyis Perys of Cokburne and hys wyfe Marjory.” This, we used to be told, was the grave of a famous freebooter, whom King James V, (dropping in, as it were, one day while the unsuspecting reiver sat at dinner,) took, and hanged over the gate of his own castle, the tower whose weather-battered fragments are still to be seen here. His wife, it was said, fled to the adjacent Dow Glen, a rocky chasm through which rushes the Henderland burn, and ,there, says Sir Walter Scott, cowering on what is still called the Lady’s Seat, she strove “to drown amid the roar of a foaming cataract, the tumultuous noise which announced the close of his existence.” But Cokburne of Henderland, like Adam Scott of Tushiealaw, was executed in Edinburgh, before King James set out on his expedition. Moreover, that Cokburn of Henderland’s Christian name was William. This, therefore, cannot be the grave of James’ victim in 1530. But whatever the real story of ” Perys Cokburne and hys wyfe, Marjory,” their fate has given rise to a ballad fuller of pathos than all the countless pathetic ballads of Yarrow.

” My love he built me a bonny bower, And clad it a’ wi’ lilye flower, A brawer bower ye ne’er did see, Than my true love he built for me.

” There came a man, by middle day, He spied his sport and went away ; And brought the King that very night, Who brake my bower, and slew my knight.

” He slew my knight, to me sae dear ; He slew my knight, and poin’d his gear ; My servants all for life did flee, And left me in extremitie.

” I sewed his sheet, making my mane ; I watch’d the corpse, myself alane ; I watch’d his body, night and day ; No living creature came that way.

” I took his body on my back, And whiles I gaed, and whiles I sat ; I digged a grave, and laid him in, And happ’d hint with the sod sae green.

” But think na ye my heart was sair, When I laid the moul’ on his yellow hair ; O think na ye my heart was wae, When I turn’d about, away to gae ?

“Nae living man I’ll love again, Since that my lovely knight is slain, Wi’ ae lock of his yellow hair I’ll chain my heart for evermair.”

Just by Henderland is Coppercleuch, (called Cappercleuch in my boyhood,) and below it, Megget, flowing into the loch—a troutful stream, at least in earlier days. Pike used to bask in the shallows here of a hot summer’s day perhaps even yet they do so. But I think these fish are more numerous now in the Loch of the Lowes than in St. Mary’s. Up Megget’s left bank runs a hill road leading over into Tweedsmuir. It has been negotiated by motors, but it is far from being a desirable road for that form of traffic, or indeed for any except foot traffic. The surface is rough and hilly, and where it plunges down past Talla Linns it is exceedingly steep, and in places very soft.

Higher up the loch than Coppercleuch is the Rodono Hotel, and beyond, on the isthmus at the very head of St. Mary’s, “Tibbie’s,” that famous little hostelry, haunt lang syne of Christopher North and Hogg; “Tibbie’s,” with its queer little antiquated box-beds, that I believe even yet exist. But it is not the ” Tibbie Shiels ” of North’s day, or even of much later days; it has not the same simplicity; it has grown, and is no longer the simple little cottage into which Tibbie and her husband entered just ninety years ago this year of 1913. Robert Chambers described it in 1827 as “a small, neat house, kept by a decent shepherd’s widow . . . It is scarcely possible to conceive anything more truly delightful than a week’s ruralizing in this comfortable little mansion, with the means of so much amusement at the very door, and so many interesting objects of sight and sentiment lying closely around.”

Perhaps in some ways it is as delightful now as ever ; but motors and bicycles have changed its air, and its aspect. They seem as inconsistent with the air of “Tibbie’s” as would be a railway train, or penny steamers on the loch. Necessarily, there is now about the place a more commercial air; it is no longer the mere cottage, with its simple fare of oatmeal porridge,—cooked as nowhere now it is cooked ; milk, rich and frothy ; of ham and eggs, the mere whiff of which would bring you in ravenous from loch or hill ; of fresh caught trout fried in oatmeal and still sizzling as they were brought in. There are trout now as of old, no doubt, and hens yet lay eggs, and pigs are turned to bacon; but you eat now with a sense of having a train to catch, or a motor hurriedly to jump into; your eye seems to be ever on the clock, and the old air of leisure and of peace is gone. Tibbie Shiel herself departed in time. She who, when all the world was young, listened many a time to that Shepherd who had

” Found in youth a harp among the hills, Dropt by the Elfin people,”

I think could ill have brooked this twentieth century rush and hurry ; she was spared the trial of finding the pure air of St. Mary’s poisoned by the stench of petrol fumes. A native of Ettrick, born in 1782, Tibbie lived at her home in Yarrow till the summer of 1878, and she lies in the same kirk-yaird that “haps” all that is mortal of James Hogg. And here by the loch, almost at her door, with plaid around him, the Shepherd sits in effigy, as Christopher North predicted to him in 1824, with ” honest face looking across St. Mary’s Loch and up towards the Grey Mare’s Tail, while by moonlight all your own fairies will weave a dance round its pedestal.”

They were weird things, those box-beds, that have been mentioned as still existing in Tibbie Shiel’s cottage, weird, and responsible for much ill-health, more especially one would suppose, for consumption. They were built into the wall of a room, and they had wooden doors that could be drawn close at night, entirely cutting them off from the room, and jealously excluding every breath of fresh air. Some had a very small sliding trap, or eyelet hole, in one of the doors, opening at the side just above the pillow, but the custom was, as I under-stand, to shut even that. The box-bed was of old almost universal in peasants’ cottages in the Border. No doubt it gave a certain amount of privacy to the occupant or occupants, but what countless forms of disease it must have fostered ! The present writer can remember the case of a young man of twenty-five or so, who, to the puzzled wonder of his friends, died of a galloping consumption. “1 canna think hoo he could hae gotten’t,” said his sister to the daughter of her mistress. ” He was aye that carefu’ o’ himsel’. Od ! he wad hap himself up that warm, an’ he aye drew the doors o’ his bed close, an’ shuttit the verra keek-hole. Na ! I canna think hoo he could hae catched it.” To add to the sanitary joys of those homes of disease germs, it was, too, the almost universal custom to use the space below the bed as a kind of store house. The writer can remember as a boy to have seen in one of the most decent and respectable of such cottages, bags of potatoes stowed under the sleeping place occupied by a husband and wife !

Quitting now the Loch, and following the road that leads down Yarrow to Selkirk, on our left, half a mile or so from the road and overhanging the burn, stands the massive little tower of Dryhope. This was the birthplace, about the year 1550, of the beautiful Mary Scott, the Flower of Yarrow, bride of Scott of Harden. I suppose that Harden must have succeeded his father-in-law in the possession of Dryhope, for in 1592, James VI issued orders to demolish the tower of Dryhope, ” pertaining to Walter Scott of Harden who was art and part of the late treasonable act perpetuate against His Highness’ own person at Falkland.” James’ instructions, however, cannot have been carried out very effectually, if at all, for Dryhope, though roofless, is in rather better preservation than are the majority of Border peels.

And now, on the far side of Yarrow, we pass Altrive, the farm which, from 1814 till his death in 1835, Hogg leased from the Duke of Buccleuch, at a merely nominal rent. Here, as Allan Cunningham said, he had ” the best trout in Yarrow, the finest lambs on its braes, the finest grouse on its hills, and as good as a sma’ still besides.” Indeed he must almost have needed a ” sma’ still,” in order effectually to entertain the crowds of people who came here unasked, to visit him, once he had established his reputation as a lion. The tax on him must have been even heavier in proportion than it was on Sir Walter at Abbotsford.

Farther down, by the intersection of the cross road that leads over to Traquair and Tweed, there is the Gordon Arms, snuggest of fishing quarters, where in the endless twilights of June and July you may lie long awake, yet half steeped in sleep, listening contentedly to the wavering trill of whaups floating eerily over the hill in the still night air ; or in the lightest dream-land you forecast the basket of tomorrow. It was here, at the Gordon Arms, that Scott and Hogg parted for the last time in the autumn of 1830, when the waters were already rising high that were so soon to close over Sir Walter’s head. Slowly they walked together a mile down the road, Scott leaning heavily on Hogg’s shoulder, and ” I cannot tell what it was,” wrote the latter afterwards, “but there was something in his manner that distressed me. He often changed the subject very abruptly, and never laughed. He expressed the deepest concern for my welfare and success in life more than I had ever heard him do before, and all mixed with sorrow for my worldly misfortunes. There is little doubt that his own were then preying on his vitals.” In truth Sir. Walter then might well “never laugh.”

He had already had a slight paralytic stroke, and he could not but realise that the end of his titanic labours was approaching.

A few miles down stream from the Gordon Arms, we come to Yarrow Kirk, and Yarrow Manse, smiling in a valley that to me in some strange way always speaks of sunshine and of peace. Perhaps it is due to thoughts of those who laboured here so long, and who gave to everyone

” That best portion of a good man’s life His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love,”

I think I am not mistaken in saying that in this Parish of Yarrow there have been during a hundred and twenty-two years only three ministers. From 1791 to 1883 there were the Russells, father and son,—the Reverend Dr. Robert Russell and the Reverend Dr. James Russell, whose names were household words far beyond the bounds of Yarrow, and at whose manse old and young, rich and poor, were equally made welcome. And after them came the Reverend Dr. Borland, who died in 1912, and whose “Raids and Reivers ” is a Border classic. It is a remarkable record, and a wonderful testimony to the pure air of Yarrow. During his long life Dr. Robert Russell never spent a single day in bed, nor until three days before his death was he ever prescribed for by a doctor.

Yarrow Kirk was built in 1640, and the first minister of the Parish after the Revolution was the Reverend John Rutherford, maternal great-grandfather of Sir Walter Scott. Dr. James Russell gives a quaint account of the church as it was in 1826, in the time of his father. ” The interments,” he says, ” which had taken place in the course of nearly two hundred years, and the wish for proximity to Church walls, had had the effect of raising the ground of the graveyard around the church considerably above its level. In front, the earth outside was two feet, and at the corner of the aisle fully four feet higher. In consequence, the lower walls were covered with a green damp, and the rain water flowed into the passages. In winter the water froze, and my father used to say that he often got a slide to the pulpit.” This matter, however, was remedied in 1826, when many improvements were made in and around the church. One improvement which Dr. Russell mentions had to do with the shepherds’ dogs, which then invariably accompanied their masters to church—a practice which I think died out but recently. “There were no doors on the seats,” says Dr. Russell, ” and nothing but a narrow deal in each as a footboard, and no separation below between them. The planking on the passages was very deficient, and a great deal of the earthen floor was thus exposed, and it can easily be imagined that when the shepherds from Ettrick, as well as from Yarrow, carne to church, each shepherd as regularly accompanied by his dog as encased in his plaid—no matter what the weather or the season—what frequent rows there were. On the slightest growl they all pricked up their ears. If a couple of them fell out and showed fight, it was the signal for a general mêlée. The rest that were prowling about, or half asleep at their masters’ feet, rushed from their lairs, found a way through below the pews, and among the feet of the occupants, and raised literally such a dust as fairly enveloped them. Then the strife waxed fierce and furious, the noise became deafening, the voice of the minister was literally drowned, and he was fain to pause, whether in preaching or in prayer. Two or three shepherds had to leave their places and use their nibbies unmercifully before the rout was quelled, and the service of the sanctuary resumed.” Such a scene as the above was quite an ordinary occurrence in a country church in Scotland, early in the nineteenth century—and in remote districts even later than that ; minister and congregation were accustomed to it, and took it as a matter of course. The shepherd’s dogs could not be left behind to their own devices ; and it was a matter of necessity that their master should go to church. There was no more to be said, not even when the dogs (as they often did) with long-drawn howls joined in the singing of the psalms. And when the benediction was pronounced, (which ” to cheat the dowgs,” was always done with the congregation seated,) then, at the first movement after it, a perfect storm of barking broke out as the dogs poured out of the building ahead of the people.

Just below Yarrow Church are the ruins—I think not much more than the foundations—of Deuchar tower, a Scott stronghold,perhaps, like so many others, or maybe a holding of some descendent of the Outlaw Murray. And hard by Deuchar Mill is the picturesque old bridge with its broken arch stretched, like the stump of a maimed arm, towards the farther shore of Yarrow. It is a bridge that dates from about the year 1653. The burgh records of Peebles for that year show that the magistrates then ordained “that all in the town who have horses shall send the same for a day, to carry lime for the said brig, under a penalty of forty shillings.” That bridge stood till 1734, when the south arch was wrecked by a great flood. To restore the arch was a task at that time beyond the means of the district, and for some years those who lived on the south side of Yarrow and who wished to attend Yarrow Church, could do so only at the cost of wading the water, a feat in flood time impossible, and in the winter season a trial to be endured with difficulty even by the most hardy. The dead, in many instances, could not be buried beside their friends in the old churchyard; children born in parts of the parish south of Yarrow could be baptised only at uncertain times and after in-definite delay ; and marriages frequently had to be postponed. Finally, of the money required for repair of the bridge, owing to various circumstances only the half could be raised, and the arch put in after a delay of several years was of such peculiar construction, and so steep and causeway-like on the south side that it was not without difficulty that even an empty cart could cross. ” Besides,” says Dr. Russell, ” there was little earth on the stones that formed the arch to steady and protect it.” Nevertheless, it held together for the best part of a century, and then, suddenly, it collapsed one winter’s afternoon, just after the roadman’s cart had crossed. A new bridge had been erected just opposite the church, and no farther attempt was made to repair the old one. There it stands, a pathetic and picturesque memorial of old days.

It seems always to me that these old broken bridges—there are two in Yarrow—strike a note fittingly attuned to the dirge murmured by the water as it wanders through the vale, strikingly in keeping with its mournful traditions and with the inexplicable sadness that for ever broods here. This is the very heart of the Dowie Dens of Yarrow. Here is the scene of the so-called “duel” between John Scott of Tushielaw and his brother-in-law, Walter Scott, third son of Robert Scott of Thirlestane.

” Late at e’en, drinking the wine, And ere they paid the lawing They set a combat them between, To fecht it in the clawing.”

Assassination, however, rather than duel, seems to have been the word applicable to the combat.

” As he gaed up the Tinnies Bank, I wot he gaed wi’ sorrow, Till, down in a den he spied nine armed men, On the dowie boums of Yarrow.

” ` Oh, come ye here to part your land, The honnie Forest thorough ? Or come ye here to wield your brand On the dowie houms of Yarrow?’

I come not here to part my land, And neither to beg nor borrow ; I come to wield my noble brand On the bonnie banks of Yarrow.’

‘If I see all, ye’re nine to ane, And that’s an unequal marrow ; Yet will I fight while lasts my brand, On the bonnie banks of Yarrow.’

Four has he hurt, and five has slain, On the bludie braes of Yarrow ; Till that stubborn knight came him behind And ran his body thorough.

` Yestreen I dreamed a doleful dream ; I fear there will be sorrow ! I dreamed I pu’d the heather green, Wi my true love on Yarrow.

O gentle wind that bloweth south, From where my Love repaireth, Convey a kiss frae his dear mouth, And tell me how he faireth ‘

` But in the glen strove armed men ; They’ve wrought me dule and sorrow ; They’ve slain—the comeliest knight they’ve slain– He bleeding lies on Yarrow.’

As she sped down you high, high hill, She gaed wi’ dule and sorrow, And in the glen spied ten slain men On the dowie banks of Yarrow.

She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair, She searched his wounds all thorough ; She kissed them till her lips grew red, On the dowie boums of Yarrow.”

Here too, a little above Deuchar Bridge, and beyond the church, is the famous “inscribed stone” of Yarrow, on the merits of which, as on the question of its age, I am not qualified to express an opinion. The place where it stands was waste moorland about the beginning of last century, and the stone was uncovered when the first attempts were being made to reclaim it. In his ” Reminiscences of Yarrow,” Dr. James Russell says on this subject : “On more than twenty different spots of this moor were large cairns, in many of which fine yellow dust, and in one of which an old spear-head, was found. Two unhewn massive stones still stand, about a hundred yards distant from each other, which doubtless are the monuments of the dead. The real tradition simply bears that here a deadly feud was settled by dint of arms : the upright stones mark the place where the two lords or leaders fell, and the bodies of followers were thrown into a marshy pool called the Dead Lake, in the adjoining haugh. It is probable that this is the locality of ” the Dowie Dens of Yarrow.” About three hundred yards westward, when the cultivation of this moor began, the plough struck upon a large flat stone of unhewn greywacke bearing a Latin inscription. Bones and ashes lay beneath it, and on every side the surface presented verdant patches of grass.” The inscription is difficult to decipher, and readings differ; all, however, seem to agree as to the termination : ” Hic jacent in tumulo duo filii Liberalis ; ” and it is supposed to date from about the fifth century.

Still following the stream downwards we come to Hangingshaw, in ancient days home of the Murrays. In Hangingshaw tower—long demolished—dwelt the Outlaw Murray, who owned “nae King in Christentie.”

” Fair Philiphaugh is mine by right, And Lewinshope still mine shall he ; Newark, Foulshiells, and Tinnies baith, My bow and arrow purchased me.

” And I have native steads to me, The Newark Lee and Hanginshaw. ”

Of the bold Outlaw’s stock there remains now in the Border not one representative, and the last of their lands has passed from them.

At Foulshiels, a couple of miles farther down, by the roadside stand the walls of the modest dwelling in which was born Mungo Park, the famous African explorer of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a man of whom another traveller of our own day, himself among the greatest, has said : ” For actual hardship undergone, for dangers faced, and difficulties overcome, together with an exhibition of the virtues which make a man great in the rude battle of life, Mungo Park stands without a rival.” His dauntless spirit stands out conspicuous in the last words he ever sent home : ” Though the Europeans who were with me were dead, and though I myself were half dead, I would still persevere, and if I could not succeed in the object of my journey; I would at last die on the Niger.” That, I think, is the same fearless spirit that has so recently touched to the core the inmost heart of the Nation, the spirit displayed in the last message home of another dauntless explorer and his comrades, who have perished also for duty’s sake.

But Park was less heard of then—more than a century back ; news filtered slowly in those days ; he did not at the moment become a national hero. And if a man is seldom a prophet in his own country, it is surely from members of his own family that he is apt last of all to receive the honour which is his due. When Mungo came home in 1797 from his first African expedition, his elder brother, then tenant of Foulshiels, (“a man,” says Lockhart, “remarkable for strength both of mind and body,”) chanced to be in Selkirk when the explorer arrived there. That night, as the worthy farmer lay asleep in bed, he was awakened by his mother, who told him to get up; there was “a man chappin’ (knocking) at the door.” “Oh, ay ! ” drowsily muttered the disturbed sleeper, weary from a long day passed at the market, turning himself over in bed, “I daursay that’ll be oor Munga. I saw him gettin’ aff the coach in Selkirk the day.” It was this Archibald Park who was riding one day with Sir Walter Scott—” the Shirra “—when, in a desolate part of the country, they came unexpectedly on a desperate gang of gipsies, one of whom was ” wanted” for murder. Park did not hesitate an instant, but seized the man and dragged him away from under the very noses of his law-less, threatening comrades.

Opposite to Foulshiels, on the farther bank of Yarrow, stands ” Newark’s stately tower,” the most famous, and I think, from its situation, the most beautiful of all the Border strongholds. Situation and surroundings are perfect ; I know of no scene more captivating, whether you view it from Foulshiels, or stand by the castle itself, or, climbing high up on its ramparts, gaze around where wood and hill and stream blend in a beauty that is matchless. And from far below comes the voice of Yarrow, chafing among its rocks and boulders, moaning perhaps as it moaned that cruel day after the battle of Philiphaugh, when, on Slain Man’s Lea, hard by the castle, Lesly’s prisoners were butchered in cold blood.

Newark is the best preserved of all the famous Border towers. And this we owe to the House of Buccleuch. Writing of the ancient towers of Ettrick and Yarrow, the Reverend Dr. James Russell says : ” Some of them were burned down when clans were in conflict with each other; but what was allowable in the period of Border warfare was without excuse in our times of peace. Even the grim grey ruins were interesting features of the landscape, and worthy of being spared. But, worse than `time’s destroying sway,’ the ruthless hand of vandalism has swept the greater part of. them away, as standing in the way of some fancied improvement, or to employ the material for building some modern dyke or dwelling. Even Newark Castle, the stateliest of them all, was thus desecrated through the bad taste of the factor of the day, so recently as the beginning of this [the nineteenth] century, and the best of the stones from, the walls and enclosing fence pulled down for the building of a farmhouse immediately in front on the Slain Man’s Lea. The present noble proprietor [the fifth Duke of Buccleuch, who died in 1884], was so displeased and disgusted with the proceedings, that when he came into power he swept the modern houses away, and restored stones that in an evil hour had been abstracted, and put the ancient pile into a state of perfect preservation.”

Built sometime before 1423—it is referred to as the “new werke ” in a charter of that date to Archibald, Earl of Douglas, —Newark Castle was a royal hunting seat; the royal arms are carved on a stone high up on its western wall. But in its time it has seen war as well as sport; in 1548 Lord Grey captured it for Edward VI, and in 1650 it was garrisoned for a while by Cromwell’s men after Dunbar. It is of peace, however, rather than of war that one thinks when wandering here ; and one recalls how Anne, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch, quitting the throng of men and the hideous later turmoil of her life, retired here with her children after the execution of her unhappy husband in 1685. To what more beautiful and restful scene could she have carried the burden of her sorrows ?

It is she to whom, in Newark, the ” Last Minstrel ” recites his Lay.

” The Duchess mark’d his weary pace, His timid mien, and reverend face, And bade her page the menials tell, That they should tend the old man well : For she had known adversity, Though born in such a high degree ; In pride of power, in beauty’s bloom, Had wept o’er Monmouth’s bloody tomb ! ”

Turning away now from sight of Newark, and from Foulshiels, the road sweeps winding down the Yarrow, high over wooded banks, and

” . . . sweet in Harewood sing the birds, The sound of summer in their chords ; ”

past Harewood, its braes shimmering in the summer sun, Yarrow far below, plunging through deep black pools that seem fathomless, and boiling angrily where hindering rocks essay to check its course. This, I think, is the most beautiful part of all Yarrow, as beautiful as the stream’s higher reaches, but wilder, with higher,—almost precipitous—banks, rich draped in woods. Away far over to the right across the river, among the trees lies Bowhill ; and down past the ” General’s Brig” we leave Philiphaugh House on the left, and the cairn that commemorates the battle, pass near the junction pool of Yarrow and Ettrick then quitting Yarrow, we rejoin the Tweed road opposite Selkirk, and once more come to Yair Bridge.

” Sweet smells the birk, green grows, green grows the grass, Yellow on Yarrow’s braes the gowan, Fair hangs the apple frae the rock, Sweet the wave of Yarrow flowan.”

” Flows Yarrow sweet ? as sweet, as sweet flows Tweed, As green its grass, its gowan yellow, As sweet smells on its braes the birk, The apple frac the rock as mellow.”