Herbert Maxwell.

The story of the Tweed online

. (page 9 of 25)
Online LibraryHerbert MaxwellThe story of the Tweed → online text (page 9 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

towers. The way slants through a sharply sloping
wood, and as the stranger saunters down he becomes
suddenly aware of a stupendous Presence a colossal
graven image towering above him on the crest of the
brae. It is a statue of Wallace which the eleventh
Earl of Buchan, living at Dryburgh in the early part
of the nineteenth century, caused to be hewn out of
red sandstone and set up here. The figure is twenty
feet high ; of small artistic merit, yet impressive from
its bulk and commanding position, fronting the
Eildon Hills and the westering sun. The sculptor
was one Smith of Darnwick.

Of all the abbeys in the Tweed valley, none is so
sweetly placed as Dryburgh none so reverently
tended. Founded by Hugh de Morville, it was con-
secrated on St. Martin's day, nth November 1150,
* that no demons might vex it, ' and colonised by
White Friars, or Premonstratensians, from Alnwick.
Of the original building there are considerable re-
mains, which formed the monastic buildings sacristy,
fratery, chapter-house, and so on surrounding the
cloister. These are in the transition style between Nor-
man and pointed Gothic. This is well shown inside
the chapter-house, which has an arcade of intersecting
round arches, surmounted by pointed windows. The
church is of later work, and has been a noble example
of the best period of Gothic building. The nave and


choir are roofless, but the arches and fine clerestory
of the north transept and the vaulting of the side aisle
remain to show what we have lost in the ruin of this
splendid fane. It suffered at the same intervals as
Melrose, being greatly injured in 1322 by Edward II.,
who camped in the grounds, and set the building on
fire when he marched away. Rebuilt with funds
provided by Robert I., it was destroyed again in 1385
by Richard II., and received its death-blow in 1544
from Evers and Layton, who carried off the internal

It is worth returning upstream from Dryburgh to
cross the suspension-bridge, were it but for the bird's-
eye view of the abbey and its charming environs as
one stands on Braeheads, the crest of a lofty red clifF
overhanging a right-angled turn in the river. The
quiet little hamlet of Lessuden lies between the high-
road and the Tweed, a mile apart from the parish
church of St. Boswells, where stood the original vil-
lage, containing sixteen * bastel ' or fortified houses.
The place was ruined and burnt by Evers and Layton
in their last fatal raid of 1 544 ; and fragments of
Norman carving are all that remain to lend interest
to the church itself. Lessuden consists of a single
street, ending on St. Boswells green, where are the
kennels of the Duke of Buccleuch's foxhounds, and
an excellent inn of the old coaching fashion. A new
village, distinguished as Newtown St. Boswells, has
sprung up round the noisy North British railway-
station, a mile to the west of Lessuden, and is in-
teresting only to farmers and salesmen, by reason of
the importance and frequency of its cattle and sheep

Bowden, the next parish, contains the burial-vault


of the Kers of the Roxburghe line. The sixth duke,
who died in 1879, was the twenty-second chief of the
clan in succession to be buried there. The seventh
duke was laid in the south transept of Kelso Abbey
in 1892. No explanation can be hazarded of a
strange jingle connected with this place. It doe^ not
even rhyme, though it runs.

* Tillieloot, tillieloot, tillieloot o' Bowden !
Oor cat's kittled in Archie's wig ;
Tillieloot, tillieloot, tillieloot o' Bowden !
Three o' them naked and three o' them clad.'

It is probably no more than a nonsense rhyme, re-
presenting the iteration of the song of a thrush.



AT no part of its course does the Tweed wind so
wantonly as between Dryburgh suspension-
bridge and the woods of Merton. The
river's destiny is in the North Sea, and eastward it
must flow to meet it ; but it is ever turning back to-
wards the beautiful abbey, as if unwilling to desert it.
At first it runs an even course of two miles straight
north-east. Presently it sweeps round under Clint
Hill and turns back south-west almost to Lessuden
again ; then comes another majestic loop which brings
it to the rocks of Craigover, the first serious turmoil
in its whole course from Tweed's Well. The river
is now running due north, but, yielding to a red sand-
stone barrier, it bends gently away to the east close
under Lord Polwarth's substantial mansion, graced
with splendid trees.

Lord Polwarth is a Scott of Scotts, in direct descent
from Auld Wat of Harden, whose ample lands he has
inherited. A mile below his house, on the right bank
of the river, stands the ruined castle of Littledean, a
remarkable building, unlike any other of its class in
Scotland. It was once the home of a branch of the
Ker clan, though it belongs to Lord Polwarth now,
and probably dates from the early part of the sixteenth
century. The walls are fully six feet thick, those to


the south and west being built in a semicircle (a very
unusual feature), well furnished with shot-holes.
The steep river-bank ensured defence from attack on
the north, and a ravine on the east side the * little
dean ' which gives the place its name made that
aspect secure.

Rutherford, now in the peaceable possession of the
English family of Antrobus, was once a place of im-
portance in the Border annals, and through its
proprietors in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
gave its name to a small clan famous for its fighting
men. From very early times there was here a church
and hospital for the reception of strangers and the
maintenance of poor and infirm persons, originally
dedicated to the Holy Virgin, but consecrated afresh
in the reign of Robert III. to St. Mary Magdalene.
About the year 1 820 the very sites of these buildings
were obliterated by the plough, * and the grave-stones
were broken up and thrown into drains by an im-
proving farmer. ' l Before the Reformation the Kers
of Littledean had obtained possession of the lands of
Rutherford, and the family of the former owners had
moved eastward into Jedworth Forest, where their
descendants still own the estate of Edgerston. Max-
ton, the parish containing the lands of Rutherford,
probably derives its name from Maccus, the son of
Undewyn, who obtained extensive lands in Roxburgh-
shire in the twelfth century, and founded the house
of Maxwell.

After passing Rutherford, Tweed enters the rocky
defile of Makerstoun, from immemorial time the
dwelling-place of a branch of the great Celtic family
of Macdougal or M'Doual, long and still connected

1 New Statistical Account.


with Argyle and Galloway. Mention has been made
above or Michael Scott's attempt to dam the Tweed,
to which some attribute the formation of the cauld at
Kelso ; 1 but others, with at least equal confidence,
assign that origin to the Trows of Makerstoun.
These Trows (Anglid Troughs) consist of a bar of
trap rock 450 feet in width through which the river
rushes in four narrow slits, descending 16 feet in the
transit. Two of these channels are 35 feet deep, and
they used to be so narrow that at low water an active
man might leap from one to the other without wet-
ting his feet. But one came to grief here on a day, so
further mischance was avoided by artificially widening
the channel.

Below Makerstoun, on the left bank, lies the stately
demesne of Floors, the palace of the Duke of Rox-
burghe, whose ancestors, in days when chieftainship
carried definite privilege and power, hotly disputed
Ker of Fernihirst's claim to be reckoned head of the
* cappit Kers. ' It was one of those questions which
can never be decided except by agreement, and agree-
ment was hard to come by in feudal times. So luck-
less William Ker of Ancrum, grandson of the laird of
Fernihirst, found to his cost in 1590, when Robert
Ker, younger of Cessford, the rival house, ended the
dispute by murdering him, being instigated, it is said,
by his mother to adopt that conclusive form of
argument. The Fernihirst branch, now represented
by the Marquess of Lothian, spell their name Kerr,
and are said to be descended from Thomas Ker of
Fernihirst, a younger brother of Ker of Cessford in
the fifteenth century. Sir George Mackenzie, how-
ever, declared that the Fernihirst Kers must be des-

1 See p. 72 ante.



cended from the elder brother, because they carry the
same arms as the Kers of England and France without
any difference, namely a white chevron on a red field
with three red stars on the chevron ; and so the
Marquess of Lothian displays them at this day ;
whereas the Duke of Roxburghe, as Ker of Cessford,
carries his white chevron on a green field, with three
black stars on the chevron. This difference Sir
George accounted for in the following manner. In
the reign of James IV. a laird of Cessford was killed
fighting the English in a green meadow ; wherefore
the King directed that thenceforward the Kers of
Cessford should display their chevron upon a green
field instead of a red one, with the honourable addition
of three unicorns' heads ; which arms are now carried
by the Duke of Roxburghe.

The battle of Melrose in 1526, where Ker of Cess-
ford fell, 1 marked the outset of a deadly feud between
the Kers of both branches and the Scotts, which ran
its bloody course for thirty-eight years. When need
arose, these families fought side by side to repel
English invasion ; but so soon as the Border was se-
cure again they were at each other's throats. In 1535
the laird of Buccleugh was imprisoned and his lands
forfeited for levying war upon the Kers, but he was
restored by Act of Parliament in 1542. Ten years
later Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch was set upon by
some of the Ker faction in Edinburgh and slain in the
street, and so matters went on till the year 1564, when
the Government made a determined effort to stanch
the feud. The provisions of a contract, undertaken
in that year before the Lords of the Council, between
Sir Walter Ker of Cessford on the one part and
1 See p. 56 ante.


Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm (Buccleuch) on the
other, are of a singular kind. Each chieftain ans-
wered for his whole clan. First, Buccleuch under-
took that neither he nor any of his people should
take any action, criminal or civil, against the laird of
Cessford * for ony slauchter or blude committit in
tyme bypast,' including the slaughter of Buccleuch's
grandfather in 1552, and Cessford undertook the
same obligation towards Buccleuch, including the
slaughter of Cessford's father in 1526. Each family
having bagged the chief of the other, they should
now cry quits. But whereas the laird of Fernihirst,
with that section of the Kers represented by the
lairds of the Hirsell, Woodhead, Prymsydloch,
Torbet, Graden, and Highton, had refused to stanch
the feud, Buccleuch and his friends were declared to
be * na wayis prejugit [prejudiced] anent thair
actionis quhatsumevir that thai haif intentit or may
intent ' against these gentlemen. Finally, the laird
of Cessford undertook to come to St. Giles's Church
in Edinburgh, and there, in presence of the con-
gregation, * reverently upone his kneis ask God
mercy of the slauchter foirsaid [that of the laird of
Buccleuch], and siclyk, ask forgevenes of the same
fra the said Laird of Bukcleucht.' 1

Fernihirst and his friends must have found the
combination of Buccleuch and Cessford too strong
to be withstood, for we find their signatures append-
ed to a remarkable ' band, ' concluded at Kelso in
April 1569, between the barons, municipal officers,
and others on the East and Middle Marches for the
repression of crime on the Border. The signatories,

1 Original in General Register House, Edinburgh, vol. vii. fol. 131.
Also printed in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, iii. 390.


thirty-two in number, represent the chief families of
Scott, Ker, Home, Douglas, Turnbull, Cranstoun,
Macdougal, etc., and the burghs of Jedburgh,
Hawick, and Selkirk ; they bind themselves to put
an end to * the innumerabill slauchteris, fyre-rasings,
heirschippis [plunderings], and detestabill enormities
dalie committit,' and to that end declare war upon

* all personis of the suirnames of Armestrang, Eliot,
Niksoun, Croser, Littil, Batesoun, Thomsoun,
Irwing, Bell, Johnnestoun, Glendonyng, Routlaige,
Hendersoun, and Scottis of Ewisdaill, ' together
with their wives, families, and tenants, who should not
find surety before the Wardens for good behaviour
within eight days of the completion of the * band. '
Those who could not find surety * we shall persew to
the deid [death] with ffyre, swerd and all vther kynd
of hostilitie, and expone thaim and all thing in thair
possessoun in pray to the men of weir [war]. ' Truly
a formidable measure of police ; but it failed. The
barons could not afford to put down those hardy
moss-troopers, upon whom they relied as auxiliaries
in quarrels among themselves and in the English war;
so Armstrongs, Elliots, and others in Liddesdale,
Eskdale, and the Debatable Land continued their
system of rapine and blackmail until the union of the
Crowns forced them into more orderly courses.

Meanwhile, however, the great feud between the
Kers and Scotts was finally stanched ; and, in the same
year that witnessed the completion of the above

* band, ' Sir Thomas Ker of Fernihirst married Janet,
daughter of William Scott, younger of Branxholm and
Buccleuch. The third son of this marriage was the
well-known Robert Carre, James VI.'s favourite,
created Viscount Rochester and Earl of Somerset.


Immediately opposite Floors on the right bank of
the river is a low green ridge, with scattered groves,
lying between the Tweed and Teviot above their
junction. This Mesopotamia this tongue of land
between the rivers must ever have powerful attract-
ions for Scotsmen, apart from the grandeur of the
landscape, for here stood the town and castle of Rox-
burgh, a name famous in our early annals. In the
twelfth century the town was girt with wall and fosse ;
it contained three churches, schools, and a royal mint,
was the fourth town of the realm in respect to popu-
lation, and its castle was one of the four great national
strongholds, the others being Edinburgh, Stirling,
and Berwick. The total disappearance of this once
important town, and the erasure, almost as complete,
of the great fortress which gave it importance, is one
of the most remarkable features in Scottish topo-
graphy. Cities may dwindle and decay, but they
seldom vanish altogether ; here was one where King
Edward I., coming on the Monday after Ascension
Day 1295, found good entertainment at the house of
the Grey Friars ; on the following day he moved to
the castle, where he lodged eight days. l Yet of this
town not even the foundations can be traced ; and of
the great castle only a few shapeless fragments of its
massive walls remain.

Originally an integral part of the Saxon kingdom
of Northumberland, Roxburgh town and castle be-
came incorporated with Scotland when David I., hith-
erto Earl of Northumberland, ascended the throne
in 1124. From the moment that Bruce drew the
sword against King Edward in 1306, the possession
of .this key to the Middle Marches was the cause of

1 Voyage ofKynge Edwarde into Scotland (Archaeologia, xxi. 478).


incessant conflict. It was in English hands in that
year, James the Steward having surrendered it to
Edward on ijth May 1296, immediately after the
sack of Berwick. In the autumn of 1306, when the
Prince of Wales captured the Queen of Scots and the
King's two sisters Marjorie and Marie de Brus in
Kildrummie Castle, Edward ordered that the two
princesses were to be confined in cages in the castles
of Roxburgh and Berwick ; the Countess of Buchan,
also, was to be caged in the Tower of London. This
sounds a more barbarous doom than it really was.
Directions for the construction of these cages have
been preserved : they were made of wooden lattice
strengthened with iron, and were erected inside turrets
of the respective castles. Moreover, English wait-
ing-women were provided to attend on the ladies, and
comforts denied to ordinary prisoners were attended
to ( et q la kagt soit east fait q la contesse y eit essement de
chambre cortoise). l Edward 1. malleus Scottorum
showed no mercy to men among his enemies, but it
is an error to suppose that he inflicted indignity or
suffering upon the ladies whom he had to imprison in
pursuance of his policy. He was a ruthless foe, but
a chivalrous one.

Roxburgh Castle remained in English possession
until 1314 the year of Bannockburn, when it was
recovered by a neat stratagem of Good Sir James of
Douglas. Choosing Shrove Tuesday, when he knew
the garrison would be merry-making on the eve of
Lent, he picked sixty stout fellows and made them
cover their armour with black frocks. Then in the
dusk he led them to the green brae under the walls,

1 Documents, etc., illustrating the History of Scotland. Edited by Sir
R. Palgrave, p. 358.


where they scattered on all fours, so that the sentries
should mistake them for browsing cattle. A crafty
fellow named Sym of the Ledous (Leadhouse) had
rigged up some rope-ladders with hooks to fling over
the battlements, and was the first to scale the wall.
Sym slew the sentry, and also another man who heard
the scuffle and came to his comrade's help, before they
could give the alarm ; Douglas and his men followed
quietly, forming up outside the great hall where
dancing was in full swing. Suddenly the doors were
flung open; the black-coated Scots rushed in crying c A
Douglas ! a Douglas ! ' and we may imagine that the
revellers got a short shrift, poor fellows ! However,
the governor, Sir William de Fiennes, a knight of
Gascony, was in the keep, and managed to hold it all
next day. Receiving a fearful wound in the face (of
which he died not long after), he capitulated on con-
dition of being allowed to march out with the honours
of war and pass into England. King Robert caused
the castle to be rased, according to his uniform
strategy in this war.

The year 1332 is a black one in Scottish annals.
The Regent, Randolph Earl of Moray, last of the
famous trio who had accomplished the independence
of their country, died suddenly, of poison, as was
confidently affirmed. There was no hand firm
enough to handle the reins except that of March, who
betrayed his trust, and threw in his lot with the
usurper, Edward Baliol. Roxburgh Castle must
have been rebuilt by this time, for here Baliol acknow-
ledged Edward III. as his feudal lord and alienated
to him the towns, castles, and territories of Berwick
and Roxburgh. 1 King Edward thereafter was often

' Fcedera, iv. 536, 538, 548 (folio edition).


in Roxburgh, twice celebrating his birthday there.

So matters remained till 1342. David II. had not
long returned from his nine years' exile in France,
when they brought him word that Sir Alexander
Ramsay of Dalwolsey (Dalhousie) had taken Rox-
burgh Castle by a night escalade. 1 The young King
showed his gratitude for this signal service by making
this gallant knight Sheriff of Teviotdale and Cons-
table of Roxburgh Castle fitting reward, indeed,
but, as it turned out, a fatal honour for Ramsay.

Experienced men foresaw the trouble, * for few
were the things that King David did with mature
deliberation and the advice of wise men ; but his acts
were often headstrong, on his own judgment and
without counsel, as afterwards became plain. ' J For
Sir William Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale and
Flower of Chivalry, of whom we have heard before,
had recovered all Teviotdale from the English by his
own good sword, and held those offices which he was
now bidden to resign in favour of Ramsay. Rox-
burgh Castle he had failed to win ; he could not brook
that the honour of taking it should be another's.
Ramsay was his old comrade-in-arms, yet he should
pay for this affront. Douglas handed over his offices
to his successor with perfect outward show of friend-
liness ; but in his heart he cherished a horrible ven-

The new sheriff, having summoned a court to meet
in the church of Hawick, was waiting while it as-

1 Sir Thomas Gray, the English writer of Scalacronica, expresses
himself as scandalised by the impiety of this act. It took place on
Easter morning ' at the very hour of the Resurrection, ' and he draws
the moral that all concerned therein came to an evil end (Leland's
synopsis : the original passage in Scalacronica having been written on
the missing folio).

* Liber Pluscardcnsis, ii. 222.


sembled, when superuenitfilius invidiae c there arrived
that brat of jealousy ' 1 the Knight of Liddesdale
with a strong following. They seized Sir Alexander
Ramsay, bound him in a saddle, and carried him off
to the lonely castle of Hermitage, where this brave
knight was flung into a dungeon (horse and all, they
say), and literally starved to death. a inexterminabilis
invidia diaboli ! c O the unquenchable jealousy of the
devil ! ' exclaims Bower in relating this tragedy, 3 and
winds up with an appropriate quotation from Seneca ;
but, after all, what shocked this pious Abbot of
Inchcolm most in the whole affair was the sacrilege
committed in Hawick Church. To King David, the
worst part of Douglas's crime was that it was com-
mitted upon the person of his officer ; but he pardoned
the offender and actually bestowed the offices rendered
vacant by the murder upon the assassin himself!
The first obligation upon the Crown of Scotland,
overriding justice and humanity, was ever to keep
in good humour enough powerful barons to overawe
the rest. Among all the kings of Scots, after
Alexander III., Robert the Bruce was the only one
whose lords were made to feel that violence and
treason did not pay.

Thenceforward, Douglas rose ever higher in favour
with King David, receiving enormous tracts of for-
feited lands : albeit there can be little doubt that he
was in treasonable negotiation with the King of

1 Liber Pluscardetisis, ii, 222.

1 In his notes to The Lay, Scott says that one ' digging for stones
about the old castle of the Hermitage, broke into a vault containing a
quantity of chaff, some bones and pieces of iron ; amongst others, the
curb of an ancient bridle, which the author has since given to the Earl
of Dalhousie, under the impression that it may possibly be a relic of his
brave ancestor. '

1 Bower's Continuation of Fordun's Chronicle.


England for the restoration of Edward Baliol. The
Flower of Chi valry held high command under David in
the ill-starred expedition to Tynedale in 1 346, and was
taken prisoner with his king at the battle of Neville's
Cross, near Hexham, on iyth October. Where so
many Scottish knights died in their harness, this
Douglas might have found a fitting end. But he
had two strings to his bow. King David entered
upon eleven years of captivity in England ; but
Douglas purchased his freedom by treason. He
bound himself by an indenture executed in London,
iyth July 1352, to be the King of England's faith-
ful liege, and to hold his lands of Liddesdale always
open for the free passage of English troops into
Scotland. l It has been told in an earlier chapter
how that foul compact was voided and the knight
balked of his wages by the sword of another and a
truer William Douglas. a

One of the evil consequences to Scotland of the
disaster at Neville's Cross was that Roxburgh Castle
passed once more into English keeping, and hither
came the victorious Edward III. after the capture of
Berwick in 1355. Hither also came another Edward
Edward Baliol and totally resigned to the King
of England his kingdom of Scotland. He laid his
crown at the stronger Edward's feet, together with
a portion of Scottish soil, and disappeared from
history with a pension of ^2000.

In 1435 James I. laid determined siege to * the
castell of Marchmound, that is to say, Roxburgh....
At last quhen the kyng had lyne at the sege fore-
said XV. dayis and waistit all his munitioun and

1 Bain's Documents, etc., iii. 286.
' See p. 29, ante.


powder, he returnit haim. ' 1 Another attempt,
made by James II. in 1460, had a better issue,
though not for the King of Scots himself. He had
taken the town, and levelled it ; but on 3rd August
he was watching his gunners serve the great piece
called The Lion, when it burst and killed him on

Online LibraryHerbert MaxwellThe story of the Tweed → online text (page 9 of 25)