Copyright
Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

. (page 21 of 66)
Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 21 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


India with Lord Minto, who was at that time Governor-General, as his
interpreter, for Leyden was a great linguist. He died of fever caused by
looking through some old infected manuscripts at Batavia on the coast of
Java. Sir Walter had written a long letter to him which was returned
owing to his death. He also referred to him in his _Lord of the Isles_:

His bright and brief career is o'er,
And mute his tuneful strains;
Quench'd is his lamp of varied lore,
That loved the light of song to pour;
A distant and a deadly shore
Has Leyden's cold remains.

The Minto estate adjoined Hassenden, and the country around it was very
beautiful, embracing the Minto Hills or Crags, Minto House, and a castle
rejoicing, as we thought, in the queer name of "Fatlips."

The walk to the top of Minto Crags was very pleasant, but in olden times
no stranger dared venture there, as the Outlaw Brownhills was in
possession, and had hewn himself out of the rock an almost inaccessible
platform on one of the crags still known as "Brownhills' Bed" from which
he could see all the roads below. Woe betide the unsuspecting traveller
who happened to fall into his hands!

But we must not forget Deloraine, for after receiving instructions from
the "Ladye of Branksome" -

[Illustration: "FATLIPS" CASTLE.]

Soon in the saddle sate he fast,
And soon the steep descent he past,
Soon cross'd the sounding barbican.
And soon the Teviot side he won.
Eastward the wooded path he rode.
Green hazels o'er his basnet nod;
He passed the Peel of Goldieland,
And crossed old Borthwick's roaring strand;
Dimly he view'd the Moat-hill's mound.
Where Druid shades still flitted round;
In Hawick twinkled many a light;
Behind him soon they set in night;
And soon he spurr'd his courser keen
Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.

* * * * *

The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark; -
"Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark." -
"For Branksome, ho!" the knight rejoin'd.
And left the friendly tower behind.
He turn'd him now from Tiviotside,
And, guided by the tinkling rill,
Northward the dark ascent did ride.
And gained the moor at Horsliehill;
Broad on the left before him lay,
For many a mile, the Roman Way.

* * * * *

A moment now he slacked his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed;
Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
And loosen'd in the sheath his brand.
On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint,
Where Barnhills hew'd his bed of flint;
Who flung his outlaw'd limbs to rest,
Where falcons hang their giddy nest
Mid cliffs, from whence his eagle eye
For many a league his prey could spy;
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber's horn!

We passed through a cultivated country on the verge of the moors, where
we saw some good farms, one farmer telling us he had 900 acres of arable
land with some moorland in addition. He was superintending the gathering
of a good crop of fine potatoes, which he told us were "Protestant
Rocks." He was highly amused when one of us suggested to the other that
they might just have suited a country parson we knew in England who
would not have the best variety of potatoes, called "Radicals," planted
in his garden because he did not like the name. He was further amused
when we innocently asked him the best way to reach Hawick, pronouncing
the name in two syllables which sounded like Hay-wick, while the local
pronunciation was "Hoike." However, we soon reached that town and had a
twelve-o'clock lunch at one of the inns, where we heard something of the
principal annual event of the town, the "Common Riding," the occasion on
which the officials rode round the boundaries. There was an artificial
mound in the town called the "Mote-Hill," formerly used by the Druids.
It was to the top of this hill the cornet and his followers ascended at
sunrise on the day of the festival, after which they adjourned to a
platform specially erected in the town, to sing the Common Riding Song.
We could not obtain a copy of this, but we were fortunate in obtaining
one for the next town we were to visit - Langholm - which proved to be the
last on our walk through Scotland. From what we could learn, the
ceremony at Hawick seemed very like the walking of the parish boundaries
in England, a custom which was there slowly becoming obsolete. We could
only remember attending one of these ceremonies, and that was in
Cheshire. The people of the adjoining parish walked their boundaries on
the same day, so we were bound to meet them at some point _en route_,
and a free fight, fanned by calling at sundry public-houses, was
generally the result. The greatest danger-zone lay where a stream formed
the boundary between the two parishes, at a point traversed by a culvert
or small tunnel through a lofty embankment supporting a canal which
crossed a small valley. This boundary was, of course, common to both
parishes, and representatives of each were expected to pass through it
to maintain their rights, so that it became a matter of some anxiety as
to which of the boundary walkers would reach it first, or whether that
would be the point where both parties would meet. We remembered coming
to a full stop when we reached one entrance to the small tunnel, while
the scouts ascended the embankment to see if the enemy were in sight on
the other side; but as they reported favourably, we decided that two of
our party should walk through the culvert, while the others went round
by the roads to the other end. There was a fair amount of water passing
through at that time, so they were very wet on emerging from the
opposite end, and it was impossible for the men to walk upright, the
contracted position in which they were compelled to walk making the
passage very difficult. What would have happened if the opposition had
come up while our boundary walkers were in the tunnel we could only
surmise.

Hawick is in Roxburghshire and was joined on to Wilton at a house called
the Salt Hall, or the "Saut Ha'," as it is pronounced in Scotch, where a
tragedy took place in the year 1758. The tenant of the Hall at that time
was a man named Rea, whose wife had committed suicide by cutting her
throat. In those days it was the custom to bury suicides at the dead of
night where the laird's lands met, usually a very lonely corner, and a
stake was driven through the body of the corpse; but from some cause or
other the authorities allowed "Jenny Saut Ha'," as she was commonly
called, to be buried in the churchyard. This was considered by many
people to be an outrage, and the body was disinterred at night, and the
coffin placed against the Saut Ha' door, where Rea was confronted with
it next morning. There was a sharp contest between the Church
authorities and the public, and the body was once more interred in the
churchyard, but only to fall on Rea when he opened his door the next
morning. The authorities were then compelled to yield to the popular
clamour, and the corpse found a temporary resting-place in a remote
corner of Wilton Common; but the minister ultimately triumphed, and
Jenny was again buried in the churchyard, there to rest for all time in
peace.

[Illustration: WILTON OLD CHURCH.]

We had now joined the old coach road from London to Edinburgh, a stone
on the bridge informing us that that city was fifty miles distant. We
turned towards London, and as we were leaving the town we asked three
men, who had evidently tramped a long distance, what sort of a road it
was to Langholm, our next stage. They informed us that it was
twenty-three miles to that town, that the road was a good one, but we
should not be able to get a drink the whole way, for "there wasn't a
single public-house on the road."

Presently, however, we reached a turnpike gate across our road, and as
there was some fruit exhibited for sale in the window of the toll-house
we went inside, and found the mistress working at her spinning-wheel,
making a kind of worsted out of which she made stockings. We bought as
much fruit from her as the limited space in our bags allowed, and had a
chat with her about the stocking trade, which was the staple industry of
Hawick. She told us there were about 800 people employed in that
business, and that they went out on strike on the Monday previous, but
with an advance in their wages had gone in again that morning.

The stockings were now made by machines, but were formerly all made by
hand. The inventor of the first machine was a young man who had fallen
deeply in love with a young woman, who, like most others living
thereabouts at that time, got her living by making stockings. When he
proposed to her, she would not have him, because she knew another young
man she liked better. He then told her if she would not marry him he
would make a machine that would make stockings and throw her out of work
and ruin them all. But the girl decided to remain true to the young man
she loved best, and was presently married to him.

[Illustration: GOLDIELANDS TOWER.]

The disappointed lover then set to work, and, after much thought and
labour, succeeded in making a stocking machine; and although it created
a great stir in Hawick, where all three were well known, it did not
throw any one out of work, but was so improved upon with the result that
more stockings were made and sold at Hawick than ever before!

We thanked the old lady for her story, and, bidding her good-bye, went
on our way. Presently we came to the ruins of a castle standing near the
road which a clergyman informed us was Goldielands Tower, mentioned with
Harden by Sir Walter Scott in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel." He told us
that a little farther on our way we should also see Branxholm, another
place referred to by Scott. Although we were on the look out for
Branxholm, we passed without recognising it, as it resembled a large
family mansion more than the old tower we had expected it to be.

[Illustration: BRANXHOLM TOWER.]

It was astonishing what a number of miles we walked in Scotland without
finding anything of any value on the roads. A gentleman told us he once
found a threepenny bit on the road near a village where he happened to
be staying at the inn. When his find became known in the village, it
created quite a sensation amongst the inhabitants, owing to the "siller"
having fallen into the hands of a "Saxon," and he gravely added to the
information that one-half of the people went in mourning and that it was
even mentioned in the kirk as the "awfu'" waste that had occurred in the
parish!

[Illustration]

We were not so lucky as to find a silver coin, but had the good fortune
to find something of more importance in the shape of a love-letter which
some one had lost on the road, and which supplied us with food for
thought and words for expression, quite cheering us up as we marched
along our lonely road. As Kate and John now belong to a past generation,
we consider ourselves absolved from any breach of confidence and give a
facsimile of the letter (see page 198). The envelope was not addressed,
so possibly John might have intended sending it by messenger, or Kate
might have received it and lost it on the road, which would perhaps be
the more likely thing to happen. We wondered whether the meeting ever
came off.

[Illustration: COVENANTER'S GRAVE.]

Shortly after passing Branxholm, and near the point where the Allan
Water joined the River Teviot, we turned to visit what we had been
informed was in the time of King Charles I a hiding place for the people
known as Covenanters. These were Scottish Presbyterians, who in 1638, to
resist that king's encroachments on their religious liberty, formed a
"Solemn League," followed in 1643 by an international Solemn League and
Covenant "between England and Scotland to secure both civil and
religious liberty." These early Covenanters were subjected to great
persecution, consequently their meetings were held in the most lonely
places - on the moors, in the glens, and on the wild mountain sides. We
climbed up through a wood and found the meeting-place in the ruins of a
tower - commonly said to have been built by the Romans, though we
doubted it - the remains of which consisted of an archway a few yard
longs and a few yards square, surrounded by three trenches. It occupied
a very strong position, and standing upon it we could see a hill a short
distance away on the top of which was a heap of stones marking the spot
where a bon-fire was lit and a flag reared when Queen Victoria drove
along the road below, a few years before our visit.

In former times in this part of Scotland there seemed to have been a
bard, poet, or minstrel in every village, and they appeared to have been
numerous enough to settle their differences, and sometimes themselves,
by fighting for supremacy, for it was at Bradhaugh near here that a
deadly combat took place in 1627 between William Henderson, known as
"Rattling Roaring Willie," and Robert Rule, another Border minstrel, in
which, according to an old ballad, Willie slew his opponent, for -

Rob Roole, he handled rude.
And Willie left Newmill's banks
Red-wat wi' Robin's blude.

[Illustration: HENRY SCOTT RIDDELL.]

At Teviothead our road parted company with the River Teviot, which
forked away to the right, its source being only about six miles farther
up the hills from that point. In the churchyard at Teviothead, Henry
Scott Riddell, the author of _Scotland Yet_, had only recently been
buried. Near here also was Caerlanrig, where the murder of Johnnie
Armstrong of Gilnockie, a very powerful chief who levied blackmail along
the Border from Esk to Tyne, or practically the whole length of
Hadrian's Wall, took place in 1530. Johnnie was a notorious freebooter
and Border raider, no one daring to go his way for fear of Johnnie or
his followers. But of him more anon.

The distance from Caerlanrig, where Armstrong was executed, to Gilnockie
Tower, where he resided, was about seventeen miles, and we had to
follow, though in the opposite direction and a better surfaced road, the
same lonely and romantic track that he traversed on that occasion. It
formed a pass between the hills, and for the first seven miles the
elevations in feet above sea-level on each side of the road were:

To our right: - 1193. 1286. 1687. 1950. 1714. 1317. 1446. To our
left: - 1156. 1595. 1620. 1761. 1741. 1242. 1209.

The distance between the summits as the crow flies was only about a
mile, while the road maintained an altitude above the sea of from five
to eight hundred feet, so that we had a most lonely walk of about
thirteen miles before we reached Langholm. The road was a good one, and
we were in no danger of missing our way, hemmed in as it was on either
side by the hills, which, although treeless, were covered with grass
apparently right away to their tops, a novelty to us after the bare and
rocky hills we had passed elsewhere. We quite enjoyed our walk, and as
we watched the daylight gradually fade away before the approaching
shadows of the night, we realised that we were passing through the
wildest solitudes. We did not meet one human being until we reached
Langholm, and the only habitation we noted before reaching a small
village just outside that town was the "Halfway House" between Hawick
and Langholm, known in stage-coach days as the "Mosspaul Inn." It was a
large house near the entrance to a small glen, but apparently now
closed, for we could not see a solitary light nor hear the sound of a
human voice.

How different it must have appeared when the stage-coaches were passing
up and down that valley, now deserted, for even the railway, which
supplanted them, had passed it by on the other side! In imagination we
could hear the sound of the horn, echoing in the mountains, heralding
the approach of the stage-coach, with its great lamp in front, and could
see a light in almost every window in the hotel. We could picture mine
host and his wife standing at the open door ready to receive their
visitors, expectant guests assembled behind them in the hall and
expectant servants both indoors and out; then staying for the night,
refreshing ourselves with the good things provided for supper, and
afterwards relating our adventures to a friendly and appreciative
audience, finally sinking our weary limbs in the good old-fashioned
feather-beds!

But these visions passed away almost as quickly as they appeared, so we
left the dark and dreary mansion whose glory had departed, and marched
on our way, expecting to find at Langholm that which we so badly
needed - food and rest.

The old inn at Mosspaul, where the stage-coaches stopped to change
horses, was built at the junction of the counties of Dumfries and
Roxburgh, and was very extensive with accommodation for many horses, but
fell to ruin after the stage-coaches ceased running. Many notable
visitors had patronised it, among others Dorothy Wordsworth, who visited
it with her brother the poet in September 1803, and described it in the
following graphic terms:

The scene, with this single dwelling, was melancholy and wild, but
not dreary, though there was no tree nor shrub: the small streamlet
glittered, the hills were populous with sheep, but the gentle bending
of the valley, and the correspondent softness in the forms of the
hills were of themselves enough to delight the eye.

A good story is told of one of the Armstrongs and the inn:

Once when Lord Kames went for the first time on the Circuit as
Advocate-depute, Armstrong of Sorbie inquired of Lord Minto in a whisper
"What long black, dour-looking Chiel" that was that they had broc'ht
with them?

"That," said his lordship, "is a man come to hang a' the Armstrongs."

"Then," was the dry retort, "it's time the Elliots were
ridin'."[Footnote: Elliot was the family name of Lord Minto.]

The effusions of one of the local poets whose district we had passed
through had raised our expectations in the following lines:

There's a wee toon on the Borders
That my heart sair langs to see,
Where in youthful days I wander'd,
Knowing every bank and brae;
O'er the hills and through the valleys,
Thro' the woodlands wild and free,
Thro' the narrow straits and loanings,
There my heart sair langs to be.

[Illustration: THE COMMON RIDING, LANGHOLM.]

There was also an old saying, "Out of the world and into Langholm,"
which seemed very applicable to ourselves, for after a walk of
thirty-two and a half miles through a lonely and hilly country, without
a solitary house of call for twenty-three, our hungry and weary
condition may be imagined when we entered Langholm just on the stroke of
eleven o'clock at night.

We went to the Temperance Hotel, but were informed they were full. We
called at the other four inns with the same result. Next we appealed to
the solitary police officer, who told us curtly that the inns closed at
eleven and the lodgings at ten, and marched away without another word.
The disappointment and feeling of agony at having to walk farther cannot
be described, but there was no help for it, so we shook the dust, or
mud, off our feet and turned dejectedly along the Carlisle road.

Just at the end of the town we met a gentleman wearing a top-hat and a
frock-coat, so we appealed to him. The hour was too late to find us
lodgings, but he said, if we wished to do so, we could shelter in his
distillery, which we should come to a little farther on our way. His men
would all be in bed, but there was one door that was unlocked and we
should find some of the rooms very warm. We thanked him for his kindness
and found the door, as he had described, opening into a dark room. We
had never been in a distillery before, so we were naturally rather
nervous, and as we could not see a yard before us, we lighted one of our
candles. We were about to go in search of one of the warmer rooms when
the thought occurred to us that our light might attract the attention of
some outsider, and in the absence of any written authority from the
owner might cause us temporary trouble, while to explore the distillery
without a light was out of the question, for we might fall through some
trap-door or into a vat, besides which, we could hear a great rush of
water in the rear of the premises, so we decided to stay where we were.

The book we had obtained at Hawick contained the following description
of the Langholm "Common Riding," which was held each year on July 17th
when the people gathered together to feast on barley bannock and red
herring, of course washed down with plenteous supplies of the
indispensable whisky. The Riding began with the following proclamation
in the marketplace, given by a man standing upright on horseback, in the
presence of thousands of people:

Gentlemen, - The first thing that I am going to acquaint you with are
the names of the Portioners' Grounds of Langholm: -

Now, Gentlemen, we're gan' frae the Toun,
An' first of a' the Kil Green we gang roun',
It is an ancient place where Clay is got,
And it belangs to us by Right and Lot,
And then frae here the Lang-Wood we gang throu'
Where every ane may breckons out an' pu',
An' last of a' oor Marches they be clear,
An' when unto the Castle Craigs we come,
I'll cry the Langholm Fair and then we'll beat the drum.

Now, Gentlemen. What you have heard this day concerning going round
our Marches, it is expected that every one who has occasion for
Peats, Breckons, Flacks, Stanes, or Clay, will go out in defence of
their Property, and they shall hear the Proclamation of the Langholm
Fair upon the Castle Craigs.

Now, Gentlemen, we have gane roun our hill,
So now I think it's right we had oor fill
Of guid strang punch - 'twould make us a' to sing.
Because this day we have dune a guid thing;
For gangin' roun' oor hill we think nae shame,
Because frae it oor peats and flacks come hame;
So now I will conclude and say nae mair.
An' if ye're pleased I'll cry the Langholm Fair.
Hoys, yes! that's ae time! Hoys, yes! that's twae times!!
Hoys, yes! that's the third and the last time!!!

This is to Give Notice,

That there is a muckle Fair to be hadden in the muckle Toun o' the
Langholm, on the 15th day of July, auld style, upon his Grace the
Duke of Buccleuch's Merk Land, for the space of eight days and
upwards; and a' land-loupers, and dub-scoupers, and
gae-by-the-gate-swingers, that come here to breed hurdums or durdums,
huliments or buliments, haggle-ments or braggle-ments, or to molest
this public Fair, they shall be ta'en by order of the Bailie and Toun
Council, and their lugs be nailed to the Tron wi' a twal-penny nail,
and they shall sit doun on their bare knees and pray seven times for
the King, and thrice for the Mickle Laird o' Ralton, and pay a groat
to me, Jemmy Ferguson, Bailie o' the aforesaid Manor, and I'll awa'
hame and ha'e a bannock and a saut herrin'.

HUZZA! HUZZAH!! HUZZAH!!!

[Illustration: GILNOCKIE BRIDGE, LANGHOLM.]

The monument on the top of Whita Hill was erected in memory of one of
the famous four Knights of Langholm, the sons of Malcolm of Burn Foot,
whose Christian names were James, Pulteney, John, and Charles, all of
whom became distinguished men. Sir James was made a K.C.B, and a Colonel
in the Royal Marines. He served on board the _Canopus_ at the Battle of
San Domingo, taking a prominent part in the American War of 1812. He
died at Milnholm, near Langholm, at the age of eighty-two. Pulteney
Malcolm rose to the rank of Admiral and served under Lord Nelson, but as
his ship was refitting at Gibraltar he missed taking part in the Battle
of Trafalgar, though he arrived just in time to capture the Spanish
120-gun ship _El Kago_. He became intimately acquainted with Napoleon
Bonaparte, as he had the command of the British worships that guarded
him during his captivity at St. Helena. Sir John Malcolm was a
distinguished Indian statesman, and it was to him that the monument on
Whita Hill had been erected. The monument, which was visible for many
miles, was 100 feet high, and the hill itself 1,162 feet above
sea-level. Sir Charles Malcolm, the youngest of the four brothers, after
seeing much active service, rose to be Vice-Admiral of the Fleet.

[Illustration: GILNOCKIE TOWER]

If the great fair-day had been on when we reached Langholm we should not
have been surprised at being unable to find lodgings, but as it was we
could only attribute our failure to arriving at that town so late in the



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 21 of 66)