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and the mouth has just that rigidity of aspect which is
thoroughly Scotch, and which, it is said, is acquired by too
much inward brooding over the solemnities of life, and
especially the Sabbath day, and repeating too often the
Shorter Catechism.

While in Oxton his peculiarities did not escape ob-
servation. As precentor in the parish church, it was noted
that he had great facility of musical improvisation, and with
" Coleshill " as his theme or " motif," could stretch its notes,
prolonged or abbreviated, over every kind of verse in psalm
or paraphrase. To a precentor with limited selection of
tunes this is a saving gift, and dexterously enables him to
surmount obstacles, turn corners, or bridge gulfs, which to a
man of less genius prove fatal. Mr Dodds' gift of prayer
was also much admired. His foes declared, however, that
a little stimulus of aqua vitcB was necessary to sustain
or rouse the full unctuous "flow." He always upheld the
now almost obsolete custom of family worship at night.
But stern in principle, he was also stern in manner, and
it became awkward when, just at " prayer-time," he would
drop ofif into a sound snooze by the fire. There sat the
"congregation," patiently waiting till he was pleased to
awaken, no one daring to disturb his repose, though all the


younger members were nodding to be in bed. For we must
explain that besides his mother, his young nephew, after-
wards Mr Dodds, teacher in Gordon, and others stayed
under his roof, and received their education from him.

The event of his Oxton career was when the year of 1 843
gave the Scottish Kirk a " shog," and rent a large portion of
its membership after the Free Church. He became a strong
Disruptionist, and gave practical illustration of it by severing
himself from the parish church. This, of course, was tanta-
mount to rending himself from his place as parish school-
master, and from the various perquisites which it yielded. He
had been Session-clerk since 1823, and had acted as an elder
since 1829, although not properly ordained till 1833. He
was very anxious, in 1837, that the parish should be divided
into elders' " districts," so that each elder might superintend
his portion of church members and " use means to induce the
people to attend the church more regularly," but got no
support. But on 5th November 1843, he himself is declared
to have stayed away from church " for some months," and
loses thereby the post of Session-clerk. A more serious loss,
however, was pending. " At Lauder, the 2nd day of April
1844 years, which day and place the Presbytery of Lauder
being met and constituted with prayer — inter alia — Mr
Dodds, schoolmaster of the parish of Channelkirk, having
been summoned apud acta at the meeting of 5th December
last to attend the meeting of Presbytery in April ; compeared
personally, and also by Mr Cunningham as his agent ; being
asked if he was a member of the Established Church —
made answer that he declined to answer that question ;
being further asked if he was a member of any other church
— declined to answer that question ; being further asked if he
adhered to his former declaration that he would not sign


the formula of the Church of Scotland without explanation —
declines again to sign the formula, seeing there was no law
requiring him to do so. The Presbytery having considered
this painful case, find that Mr Dodds, by his refusal to sign
the formula of the Church of Scotland, has disqualified himself
from holding the office of parochial schoolmaster of the parish
of Channelkirk, and hereby declare accordingly that the said
office is vacant from this date, and appoint the minister of
the parish to intimate the same in the parish kirk next Lord's

And so poor Mr Dodds was cut adrift from his means of
livelihood and his status as schoolmaster. To fall among
the wheels of the ecclesiastical Juggernaut is to be crushed
to death. The laws of churches are nearly all begotten of
bigotry, nursed in intolerance, and administered in spite.
Few of them but have passed, or are passing, through the
cycle of pious power, sanctimonious tyranny, and con-
temptuous expulsion and disgrace. It will never be other-
wise until a legal training is given to those who would
usurp a legal authority over others. The root principle
assumed in Church law is " compel them," and the purpose
is not that they may " come in," but that they may go out.
The ideal wheels round with Eden's sword. Dodds was only
a little in advance of the age which saw education lifted
above the sandy bickerings of Presbyteries, and one regrets
that he and so many others should have had to suffer so
much in temporalities to satisfy the cruel maw of so-called
spirituals. But a vast deal must be endured to reverence
formulas, God wot!

In the year previous, his school and schoolhouse had
been insured against fire for ^200. It is a pity the ecclesi-
astical fires cannot be insured against also. Nevertheless,


although he was thrust out, he did not lose heart. Calmly
he set to work and manfully built a new school for himself
in the village — the same building which is yet used as a
storeroom by the principal grocer — and being a first-class
teacher, he drew away almost all the children, and left the
parish school rather high and dry for many a day. In
1853 we find him far from being rooted out of Channel-
kirk ; rather he roots himself more deeply in it, for in August
4th of that year we find him (Sasines, 569) seised in " 5000
square feet of the lands of Heriotshall, on the north side of
the road from Ugston to Wideopen Common — on feu-contract
between Rev. T. Murray and Andrew Reid Smith, Ugston,
March 24th, 1848, and Disp. and Assig. by him, June 5th,
1848." A man who compelled his circumstances, evidently,
and was not driven before them. A brave, enduring man.
All honour to him. The sturdiness and self-reliance of the
Scotch nature were strong in him, — albeit, also, the old Celtic
heat and impetuosity ; but so long as the steam drives in the
right direction we do not despise the steam. He continued
to thrive till the end of his days. He joined the Free Kirk
of Lauder, was an elder and Session-clerk in that denomina-
tion, and died 2nd May 1863. The Records of that church
say : — "At Lauder, 17th May 1863 years. — The Kirk-Session
record their deep regret at the somewhat sudden and unex-
pected death of Mr Nichol Dodds, on the second day of this
month. They record the high estimation in which he was
held, for the simplicity of his character and great Christian
worth. He was the last of the Disruption elders who
belonged to this Session." So another good man passed to
his rest, and the echo of his worth yet sounds in Channel-
kirk parish. A man, truly, who carried his head and heart
above the level of bread and butter, and deemed it better to


suffer in his social and official comforts than bear the inward
snubs of an accusing conscience. As to the lasting wisdom
of the movement which whirled him upwards — or downwards
— on its wings, we have no remark to make, but the worth
of Nichol Dodds remains all the same, and his humble
mission in Channelkirk had a special value beyond the
area of his schoolroom, and adds new lustre to the character
of its schoolmasters. He was buried in Smailholm church-
yard, and his tombstone notes that he was aged 70, and was
forty-four years a zealous and successful teacher in Channel-

The school which was begun by Nichol Dodds, and which
was known as the " Free Kirk School," or locally, the " Side-
School," was carried on after his death by Alexander Den-
holm. He was born at Tynemount, in the parish of
Ormiston, Haddingtonshire, on the 26th September 1842.
He was educated at the Free School, Ormiston, and went
from there to the Free Church Training College, Edinburgh,
on January 1863. He married Margaret Edgar in Tranent
— born at Greendykes, Gladsmuir, September 1865 — and
shortly after came to Oxton Free Church School. He did
not teach many years there, and left Oxton to take up resi-
dence in Hillhouse as shepherd. He died on 14th December
1895, regretted by all the parish, and is buried in Channel-
kirk churchyard. A most lovable man, genial and hearty
in all his ways, a fine singer, a faithful servant and a staunch
Christian, and interested himself in all that concerned the
well-being of the parish.

When Nichol Dodds was deposed in 1844, he was
succeeded in the parish school by Alexander Davidson.
We believe he was a native of Sprouston, having been born
there in 181 2, and he obtained the situation in Channelkirk



in competition with other three candidates. He had been a
teacher for some time in Mowhaugh, and was 32 years of
age when he came to us. He does not seem to have been
so markedly " religious " in his ways as his predecessor, but
was a good man notwithstanding. He was never married.
He was a keen fisher, and every opportunity was embraced
in summer nights to ply the gentle craft. Not being very
robust, the habit was not always in his favour, as he was
consumptively disposed, and ultimately succumbed to phthisis.
He is remembered as a strict disciplinarian, but had " ways "
of getting the scholars into proficiency. A new school was
built in his time.

The Presbytery, in 1847, respectfully drew the attention
of heritors to the necessity for a " suitable building " for
educational purposes. In the usual way the building was
allowed to lapse into a wretched condition, and heritors were
indifferent till cajoled into taking cognisance of it. But six
years between a proposal and the action taken upon it is
not an uncommon occurrence in Channelkirk. So it was not
till 1853 that the heritors, having examined the building,
naively acknowledge that "the schoolroom is at present in
a state of considerable disrepair ; the floor, internal fittings,
and windows are all in a dilapidated condition." The ceiling
is 7 ft. 7 in., and far too low. The schoolhouse is confessed
to be damp also. Therefore, with some grudgings and
protests, it is agreed to build a new school, and turn the old
one into a more commodious residence for the schoolmaster.
Consequently, the stance on the Bowknowe — the present
site — was procured, and a school begun. It was unfinished
in the last days of December of 1854, to the heritors'

Considering, also, that the price of the chalder had fallen


for some time back, and thereby Mr Davidson's salary had
suffered, it was decreed that he receive the maximum allow-
ance of two chalders of meal, with a small compensation of
money sufficient to level it up to the ^^30 sterling. But this
arrangement was then upset by a new Act of Parliament anent
the salaries of parochial schoolmasters, though not till 24th
October 1859 was it known that the schoolmaster was to
receive £^4, 4s. 4d. — the odd pounds being compensation in
respect that the garden ground was less than the statutory
extent. A great deal of interest in schools and schoolmasters
must have been felt at this time in Parliament, and another
Act moved the salaries in the right direction in 1861. On
the 2nd November 1861, heritors "after due deliberation
resolve to fix the schoolmaster's salary, in terms of the above
recited Act (24 and 25 Vict. cap. 107), at the sum of ;^40."
This may have pleased the heritors, but it did not satisfy
the minister, Mr Rutherford. On 12th February 1863, the
heritors meet to consider among other things " the following
report of the parish school made by the late minister of this
parish to the Lord Advocate — * The school is, and has been
ever since the present teacher was appointed, very well
taught, and he ought to have the encouragement of a
higher rate of salary than that which has been fixed b}'
the heritors.'" The minister died in 1862, and this must
have been among his last acts. The heritors, however, say
not a word of all they considered.

The barometric pressure on heritors still continued in
the .schoolmaster's interest till, in 1864, ^^ Davidson's salary
was raised to £^0. With a new school to enter in 1855, and
a new schoolhouse somewhat later (albeit the old schoolhouse
had just absorbed the school below it), and his salary at ;^50,
the schoolmaster must be looked upon as then a prosperous


man. All this luxury was not enjoyed long, for in 1866, on
the 29th April, he paid the debt of nature in his fifty-fifth
year, and passed from Channelkirk school for ever. He was
an elder in the parish church from 1845, ^^^ seems to have
been highly esteemed by the minister and congregation. He
sleeps in Channelkirk churchyard, where his tombstone still
preserves his memorial.

The schoolmaster who came in his room is the present
official, Henry Marshall Liddell.

Mr Liddell was born at Strathloanhead, in the parish of
Torphichen, Linlithgowshire, on 27th January 1839, and was
educated at the parish school there ; he afterwards studied at
the Church of Scotland Training College, and at Edinburgh
University. He holds a first-class certificate from the Educa-
tion Department. The degree of Fellow of the Educational
Institute of Scotland was conferred on him in 1871.

At a very early age he started teaching, and was suc-
cessively in charge of four other schools previous to his
appointment to Channelkirk, which took place on 2nd July
1 866. He has been teacher here for thirty-three years. He
has always taken an interest in educational matters, and has
been secretary of the Lauderdale Local Association of the
Educational Institute since its formation in 1877. He was
elected a member for three years of the General Committee
of Management of the Institute for the South-eastern
Counties, and was president of the Burgh and Parochial
Schoolmasters Association in 1898-99. During his residence
in this parish, he has filled the various offices which usually
supplement that of teaching, viz., — poor inspector, rates
collector, registrar, and heritors' clerk. He was also Session-
clerk from 1867 to 1875, and again from 1885 to 1895.
Since 1872, when the School Board system was instituted.


he has been clerk and treasurer to the School .Board of
Channelkirk. He is secretary and treasurer to the Oxton
Bovial Society, and held the presidentship of the same for
sixteen years. From this Society, and from his pupils and
friends in the parish at various times, he has been the
recipient of valuable gifts. He is married and has family.

Mr Liddell is much esteemed in the parish, is kind and
obliging, is a good " business man," drills his scholars well,
and is most exemplary in his attendance at church.

The number of scholars enrolled in 1890 varied between
120 and 130 : in 1898, between 90 and 100. The children in
general are cleanly and well-dressed, but timid in manner,
and give their answers, if at all, in monosyllables. The
external evidences of politeness, as in most rural districts,
are nil, but the children are not on that account rude. On
the contrar}-, the blate smile and hanging head are to us far
more eloquent of respect than the straight neck and the
" cap " or " kirtsey," and perhaps more sincere. A number
of children go from Oxton to the school at Lauder, and a few
are taught privately.




The Name, Origin, Meaning, and History — The Proprietors — Oxton
"Territory" — Kelso Abbey — The Abernethies — The Setons — Home
of Herniecleuch — Ugston and Lyleston — Heriots of Trabrown — The
Templar Lands of Ugston — James Cheyne — James Achieson —
Division of Ugston Lands — Wideopen Common— Inhabitants of
Oxton — Trades in 1794 and in 1900 — Gentry, Tradesmen, Merchants,
etc., in 1825 and in 1866 — Oxton Church — Societies.

Oxton village is the only considerable centre of population
in this parish. It lies in the form of a cross along the two
roads whose intersection at its heart shows that they must
have practically directed its conformation. It is a pleasant,
sequestered little place, 21 miles from Edinburgh and 4I from
Lauder. Situated on the right bank of one of the tributaries
of the Leader, commonly called Mountmill Burn, but formerly
" Arras Water," it contains 1 54 inhabitants. It never can
have been large, though its prospects in this respect are
now brighter. If it be regarded as the central feature in the
landscape, and taken with a mile radius, it is seen to be
picturesquely environed by Airhouse Hill on the west, Soutra
and Headshaw Hills on the north, the Fells of Carfrae on the
east, with the beautiful expanding valley of the Leader
stretching away towards the south. When the springtime
brings the opening bud and the sportive lamb, or when


autumn brightens the natural pensiveness of the Lammer-
moors with purple heather and sweeping uplands of waving
corn, it were difficult, perhaps, to imagine a more peaceful
scene than that in which it reposes.

It would appear that " Oxton " as a place-name came into
regular use about the middle of the present century. Ugston
is the name which is commonly found in the Parish and other
Records, and on the tombstones in the churchyard ; and it
seems to have been the general form of it for several hundred
years. It must be kept quite distinct from the " Uxtoun " of
Font's map and the Exchequer Rolls, near the Braid Hills,
Edinburgh, and which now appears to be called " Buckstone " ;
and also from the " Oxtoun," or Ugston, in Haddington district.
The Rev. James Rutherford, minister of the parish, writing in
1834 for .the New Statistical Account of Scotland, .says that
Oxton was frequently set down as Agston. We have never
met it in this dress save in his own pages. But it points to
the fact of change being at work in its spelling at that time.
In the " Roll of the Male Heads of Families," the parish
schoolmaster, who was also Session-clerk, puts it down in
1837 as Ugston. Uxton as a variant is sometimes met with,
but in the Exchequer Rolls, the Great Seal, the Retours, the
Sasines, and similar sources, the name appears as Ugstoutt,
Ugstone, Uggistoune, and such like approximations.

The Rev. Henry Cockburne, minister of the parish in
1627, declares that there are "twa husband landis in
Huxtoun " which are kirk lands. He also writes it
Huxstoun. But the " Ugston " model is most general,
although we find it as Uxtoun on Font's map in Blaeu's
Atlas. King James III., for example, at Edinburgh, as far
back as 1464, confirms to Sir William Abernethy in
Rothymay, among many other lands, " the lands of Lilestoun


and Ugistoune." It appears occasionally in such deeds as
" the barony of Ugistoune," or " the territory of Ugistoune."

When we leave secular ground and enter the ecclesiastical
domain, we find that the name undergoes astonishing

In the Liber S. Marie de Drybtirgh, Charter No. 292,
which refers to the lands held in the interests of the diocese
of St Andrews, the following passage occurs : — " And the
tenths of the Mill of Newton and Nenthorn, and two marks
by gift of Sir William Abernethy from the Mill of Wlkeston."
This " Wlkeston " is our Ugston, or Oxton. The charter is
dated circa A.D. 1300.

We get from the monks of Dryburgh the forms Wlkeston,
Ulkeston, and Vlkylyston. Their brethren, the monks of
Kelso Abbey, seem to have been even fonder of va|;ying the
spelling, and, singularly enough, came closer also to the
original form. The reason why Oxton is mentioned in their
Register is because Kelso Abbey for long drew revenue from
the lands of Oxton territory, a connection which appears to
have held good till 1647, when by Act of Parliament it was
separated " from the said sometime Abbacy of Kelso and
Priory of Eccles."*

In the Kelso Register, we find the name set down as
Vlfkelyston, Vlfkeliston, Vlfkiliston, Hulfkeliston, and ulkil-
leston !

Now, at first glance, it does not seem credible that this
Gargantuan " Vlfkylyston " can be the ancient representative
of the modern " Oxton." But thfere is no doubt of it. Both
designate the same place. In a charter from Dryburgh
Register, No. 312, about 1380, the "Mill of Ulkeston" is
said to be in the " Valley of Lauder." This connects

■•' Acts vi.


" Ulkeston " with Lauderdale, and is so far satisfactory. The
charter itself was originally found in the charter chest of
Thirlestane Castle. This connection is still further confirmed
and carried up into the Parish of Channelkirk by a charter in
the Liber de Calchou (Kelso). In Charter No. 245, Alan, son
of Roland of Galway, Constable of Scotland, gives to God
and the Church of St Mary at Kelso five carucates of land in
Vlfkelyston in Lauderdale, with easements, as a composition
for revenues which Kelso monks held in Galway in the time
of his ancestors, in free and perpetual charity. The
boundaries of these five carucates, or 520 acres, Lord Alan
says, " I myself have walked over." This method of
measuring land by perambulation was then a common one,
and they are defined as beginning " from the head of Holdene
(Over Howden) ; descending by Holdene Burn to Derestrete ;
then northwards from Derestrete by Fuleforde and Samson's
Marches to the Leader ; from the Leader to the eastern
head of the same village of Hulfkeliston ; from the eastern
head of Ulfkiliston by a straight road through the south
village, ascending as far as Derestrete ; thence stretching to
the tofts and crofts of William of Colilawe and of Richard, son
of Ganfred, and so by the same way south to a cross, and
thence towards the west as the crosses are placed, and so to
Holdene." This description is quite conclusive. For those
who know the ground, this rugged outline has considerable
interest, and Lord Alan must have been fairly tired when
he finished his walk round it, " reddin' the marches." Five
carucates were five ploughgates, or five times a hundred and
four acres, and our view of the scene is sufficiently clear to
show us that this ancient Hulfkeliston or Ulfkiliston must have
been the venerable ancestor of the present Oxton. All this
perambulation took place about the year 1206, and as we


look down Oxton Street to-day and watch in fancy that
spectral procession of nearly seven hundred years ago
approaching and passing on, wending its way towards Over
Howden, many feelings crowd upon us. The past never
ceases to be wonderful. Over Howden and Over Howden
Burn, the Leader, and the village are still with us, and a
part of our common life, but Fuleforde, Derestrete, and
Sampson's Marches have grown dim in the lapse of time.
Fuleforde may have been a ford over the Leader near
Carfrae Mill ; Derestrete is Deirastrete, the road to
Deira, once a province of Northumbria, and believed to
have been the Roman road ; but Samson's Marches are
obliterated beyond even vague conjecture. They may have
been the west boundary of Addinston property. But one
thing is clear, viz., that the present Oxton is the only place
that can fit into the " Ulfkiliston " of the boundary which
Lord Alan of Galway personally walked over.

Again, in the Liber de Dryburgh, No. 185, — "Thomas,
the writer, son of William of Colilawe, prompted by divine
charity, and for the salvation of his soul and the souls of
his ancestors and successors, gives and concedes and con-
firms to God and the Church of Saint Cuthbert at Channel-
kirk, eight acres of land, four arable, and four meadow,
viz., the haugh under Langsyde in the territory of Ulkilston."
This again connects Ulkilston with Channelkirk, and it is
a reasonable conclusion that these acres were identical with
those that formerly made a part of the glebe in Mount Mill
Haugh, and which were excambed a few years ago for
some acres nearer the manse.

The identity of Oxton with this ancient Hulfkeliston
of the charters is admitted by the Rev. J. Morton in his
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, and by Dr J. Anderson


in his Diploniata Scotice. In Kelso Charters, No. 246, we
are told, moreover, that William of Hartside is to pay
to the monks an annual rent of 8s., to be paid out of
certain land in Ulkiliston which belonged formerly to
Gillefalyn in that place, and the contiguity of Hartside
to Oxton is another though indirect proof that the
present Oxton is meant by the Ulkeliston of the

Having now assured ourselves that Oxton, Ugston,

Online LibraryArchibald AllanHistory of Channelkirk → online text (page 27 of 50)