The following excerpt is taken from 'English Border Towns' (sic) by published in 1914.
Returning to the neighbourhood of Tweed, on the bank of a little burn tributary to Biggar Water stands the village of Broughton, reminiscent of Mr. "Evidence" Murray, the Prince's Secretary, who saved his own life after the '45 by turning King's Evidence. Broughton House, his old home, was burned to the ground about 1775, (a couple of years prior to Murray's death on the Continent,) and the estate was after-wards sold to the famous Lord Braxfield, the original of Stevenson's "Weir of Hermiston."
It was at the Crook that William Black makes his travellers in the "Strange Adventures of a Phaeton" spend a night, and the fare to which in the evening he sets his party down was certainly of the frugalest. But when this present writer knew the inn in the 'seventies, it was far from being only on "whisky and ham and eggs" that he was obliged to subsist. It was then an ideal angler's haunt; and no more gentle lullaby can be imagined than the low murmur of Tweed, and the quiet hus-s-s-sh of many waters breathing down the valley on the still night air.
Higher up Tweed, on the farther bank, is Stanhope, in the eighteenth century the property of Murray of Broughton's nephew, Sir David Murray, who lost his all in the '45 ; and not many miles farther up the river is Polmood, where the dishonoured uncle lay hid, and was taken, in June 1746, losing thereafter more than the life he saved – honour and the respect of his fellow men. "Neither lip of me nor of mine comes after Mr. Murray of Broughton's!" cried Sir Walter Scott's father as he threw out of window the cup from which the apostate had but then drunk tea. And: "Do you know this witness?" was asked of Sir John Douglas of Kelhead, a prisoner after the '45, before the Privy Council at St. James's, when Murray was giving evidence. "Not I," said Douglas, "I once knew a person who bore the designation of Murray of Broughton, – but that was a gentleman and a man of honour, and one that could hold up his head!"
Of old, Polmood – the name, I believe, means the "wolf's burn," or stream – was a hunting seat of Scottish kings; In times more modern it was chiefly remarkable for an interminable law plea which dragged its weary length along for forty years and more, probably in the end with ruin to both parties to the suit. Before coming to Polmood, however, we pass Mossfennan, sung of in two ballads, one of the seventeenth century, the other (of which but a fragment remains) of much more ancient date. On the roadside a little further up is a sign-post that points dejectedly towards a dilapidated-looking tree which stands solitary on the haugh below. Here, says the legend on the post, was the site of Linkumdoddie, whereof Burns wrote a song. But to find any point of interest in the scene, or in the identity of Linkumdoddie or of the lady celebrated, it requires, I think, that the gazer should be possessed of a most perfervid admiration of the poet.
And now we begin to open up the wilder part of Tweed's valley, where not so many years ago you might go a long way, and for miles see no human being but a passing shepherd. It is different now, in these days when motor-cars, leaving behind them a trail of dust as ugly as the smudge of a steamer's smoke low down on the horizon, rush along what used to be the finest of old grass-grown coach-roads, smooth as a billiard-table and free from any loose metal – swept bare now to the very roots of the stones by the constant air-suction of passing cars. But even now, in the winter-time, when the rush of the tourist troubles no more, if one trusts oneself in these wilds, there is a reward to be gleaned in the fresh, inexpressibly clean air, and in the sense of absolute freedom that one gains. You have left civilisation and its cares behind; here is peace. And in the great hills lying there so solemn and still, black as blackest ink where the heather stands out against the wintry grey sky, or deep-slashed on their sides with heavy drifts of snow from the latest storm, there is rest to the wearied soul and the tired mind. And if the day be windless, what sweeter sound can any-where be heard than the tinkling melody of innumerable burns blending with the deeper note of Tweed? Nowhere in the world, as it seems to me, is there any scene where Nature lays on man a hand so gentle as here in Tweedsmuir. It is all one, the season; no matter if the air is still, or the west wind bellows down the valley, life is better worth living for the being here. And the glory of it, when snow lies deep over the wide expanse, and the sun shines frostily, and Tweed, black by contrast with the stainless snow, goes roaring his hoarse song seaward!
All burns up this part of the valley used to teem with nice, fat, lusty yellow trout – Stanhope Burn, Polmood, Hearthstane, Talla and Gameshope, Menzion, Fruid, Kingledores (with its memories of St. Cuthbert), and the rest. Doubtless the trout are there still, but most of the burns are now in the hands of shooting tenants, and the fishing, probably, is not open to all as of old. Talla and Gameshope (of which more anon) are now the property of the Edinburgh Water Trust Commissioners, and a permit from them is necessary if one would fish in these two streams or in Talla Reservoir.
Before reaching Talla, almost equidistant between the Polmood and Hearthstane burns, but on the opposite side of Tweed, we come to what used to be the cheery, clean little Crook Inn, standing in its clump of trees. But its history of two hundred years and more as an inn is ended ; modern legislation has seen to that. And there is now on this high-road between Peebles and Moffat – a distance of something like thirty miles – not a single house where man and beast may find accommodation and reasonable refreshment. It is not the so-called "idle rich" who are thus handicapped; fifteen or sixteen miles are of small account to the man who owns a motor-car. It is they who cannot afford the luxury of a car, but who yet desire to be alone here with nature, or to fish in Tweed and in such burns as may yet be fished, it is they who find themselves thus left out in the cold.
Of old, when the mail-coaches running between Dumfries and Edinburgh came jingling cheerily along this smooth Tweed-side road, it was at the Crook Inn that they changed horses. But I doubt it was not then a spot so inviting as it certainly became in the 'seventies of last century. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder speaks of it as it was in 1807 as "one of the coldest-looking, cheerless places of reception for travellers that we had ever chanced to behold.... It stood isolated and staring in the midst of the great glen of the Tweed, closed in by high green sloping hills on all sides.... No one could look at it without thinking of winter, snow-storms, and associations filled with pity for those whose hard fate it might be to be storm-stayed there." But Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's visit in 1807 was paid in the month of November, when snow hung heavy in the air, threatening the traveller with wearisome and indefinite delay. And the hind wheels of his chaise collapsed like the walls of Jericho as the postillion, having changed horses here, started with too sudden a dash from the door of the inn ; and Sir Thomas was bumped most grievously along the road for some hundreds of yards ere the post-boy (who perhaps had made use at the Crook of some far-seeing device to keep out the cold) discovered that anything was amiss. Not unnaturally the nerves of the occupants of the chaise were a trifle ruffled; no doubt the place then looked less cheerful than it might otherwise have appeared. Forty years later, he writes that it had, "comparatively speaking, an inviting air of comfort about it.... The road, as you go along, now wears altogether an inhabited look, and little portions of plantations here and there give an air of shelter and civilisation to it." It was a cheerless place enough, no doubt, in the Covenanting days of the seventeenth century, when the dour hill-men were flying from Claverhouse's dragoons, lurking in the black, oozing "peat-hags," hiding by the foaming burns, sheltering on the wild moors, amongst the heather and the wet moss. It was the landlady of this same Crook Inn who found for one fugitive a novel hiding-hole; she built him safely into her stack of peats. There has been many a less comfortable and less secure hiding place than that; and where could one drier be found?
A mile or more beyond the Crook, there is the Bield, also once an inn. "From Berwick to the Bield, "is the Tweedside equivalent of the Scriptural "From Dan even to Beer-sheba." It was here at the Bield that the Covenanters thought once to trap Claverhouse; but that "proud Assyrian" rode not easily into snares. On the hill above is the site of Oliver Castle, home of the Fraser family, once so powerful in this part of the Border – the site, I think, but nothing more.
And now, to reach that part of Tweedsmuir which more than any other casts over one a spell, it is necessary to branch off here to the left and follow the road shown in Mr. Thomson's charming sketch. Straight ahead of you, as you stand by the little Tweedsmuir post-office, you look up the beautiful valley of the Talla, where the steep hills lie at first open and green and smiling on either hand, but gradually changing their character, close in, gloomy and scarred, and frowning, as the distant Talla Linn is neared. But before you leave the little hamlet of Tweedsmuir – it can scarcely he called a village – by the old single-arched bridge that is thrown here across Tweed, where he roars and chafes among his rocks ere plunging down into the deep, black pool below, you will see on your left a spire peering out over the tree-tops. That is the church of Tweedsmuir, on its strange, tumulus-like mound by the river's brink. And here you will find in the green grass, under the clustering trees, the graves of some who fell for "The Covenant," one headstone, at least, relettered by "Old Mortality" himself. This is the grave of one John Hunter; but doubless there are others, less noticeable, who rest with him in this quiet spot, far from the world's clash and turmoil, where no sound harsher than the Sabbath bell that calls to prayer or the sighing of the wind in the trees, can ever break the silence.
And on a stone in another part of the churchyard – perhaps the grave of a grandfather and grandchild – are the quaint words:
"Death pities not the aged head,
Nor manhood fresh and green,
But blends the locks of eighty-five
With ringlets of sixteen."
The old Session Records of this church are full of references to the troubled times of the Covenant. Here are one or two entries, which I quote from the Rev. W. S. Crockett's "Scott Country." Mr. Crockett is Minister of the Parish. – "No session kept by reason of the elders being all at conventicles." "No public sermon, soldiers being sent to apprehend the minister, but he, receiving notification of their design, went away and retired." "No meeting this day for fear of the enemy." "The collection this day to be given to a man for acting as watch during the time of sermon." And so on. – Sometimes it strikes one as strange, that passion for listening to a sermon which is inherent in one's countrymen. It is but a sombre pleasure, as a rule.
Talla, up to a recent period, flowed through a deep valley, whose bottom for some distance was of a treacherous and swampy nature; its trout, therefore, (in marked contrast to those of the tributary Gameshope,) were dark-coloured and "ill-faured." I do not know that they are anything else now, but there is not much of Talla left. A mile above the church you come to a great barrier thrown across the valley, and beyond that for three miles stretches a Reservoir which supplies distant Edinburgh with water. Picturesque enough in its way is this Reservoir, especially when all trace of man and his work is left behind, and nothing meets the eye but the brown, foam-flecked water, and the hills plunging headlong deep into its bosom. Even more picturesque is the scene when storms gather on the far heights, and come raging down the wild glen of Gameshope, swathing in mist and scourging rain-squall the deep-scarred brows of those eerie hills by Talla Linn-foot. What a spot it must be on a wild December day, when blinding snow drives down the gullies before the icy blast!
This Reservoir has been stocked with Loch Leven trout. But the fishing is not, and never will be, good. There is in-sufficient food; the water is too deep, and except at the extreme head of the loch there are no shallows where insect life might hatch out. The trout are long and lank, and seldom fight well. Nor are they even very eager to rise to the fly. Yet, it is true, some large fish have been taken. But they have a suspiciously cannibal look, and I think an insurance company would be apt to charge a very high premium on the chances of long life of troutlings now put in.
I do not know where Young Hay of Talla lived. If his peel tower was here, no doubt the site is now sixty or seventy feet under water, but I cannot remember any traces of a building, or site of a building, in pre-Reservoir days. Men born and brought up lang syne on the gloomy slopes of Talla, might well be such as he, fierce and cruel, ready for treason and murder, or any crime of violence.
Hay was one of two executed on 3rd January 1568 for the murder of Darnley.
"Wild your cradle glen,
Young Hay of Talla,
Stern the wind's wild roar
Round the old peel tower,
Young Hay of Talla.
"Winter night raving,
Young Hay of Talla,
Snowy drift smooring,
Loud the Linn roaring,
Young Hay of Talla.
"Winterhope's wild hags,
Young Hay of Talla,
Gameshope dark foaming,
There ever roaming,
Young Hay of Talla.
Night round Kirk o' Field,
Young Hay of Talla,
Light faint in the room,
Darnley sleeps in gloom,
Young Hay of Talla.
"Shadow by bedside,
Young Hay of Talla,
Noise in the dull dark,
Does sleeper now hark,
Young Hay of Talla?
"Ah! the young form moves,
Young Hay of Talla,
Hold him grim,
- hold grim,
Till quivers not a limb,
Young Hay of Talla.
"Now the dread deed's done,
Young Hay of Talla,
Throw the corpse o'er the wall,
Give it dead dog's fall,
Young Hay of Talla."
If you would gain a good idea of this part of Tweedsmuir, climb by the steep, crumbling sheep-path that scales the Linn-side, till you reach the spot where Mr. Thomson has made his sketch of the Reservoir. There, Iying on the heather by the sounding waters, or beneath the rowan trees where blaeberries cluster thick among the rocks, you may picture to yourself a meeting that took place by this very spot two hundred and thirty-one years ago. On commanding heights, solitary men keeping jealous watch lest Claverse's hated dragoons should have smelled out the place of meeting; below, where the Linn's roar muffles the volume of other sounds, a company of blue-bonneted, stern-faced men, singing with intense fervour some militant old Scottish Psalm, followed by long and earnest extempore prayer, and renewed Psalms; and presently then falling into dispute as vehement as before had been their prayer and praise.
This was that celebrated meeting of Covenanters in 1682, of which Sir Walter Scott, writing in "The Heart of Midlothian," says: "Here [at Talla] the leaders among the scattered adherents to the Covenant, men who, in their banishment from human society, and in the re-collection of the severities to which they had been exposed, had become at once sullen in their tempers, and fantastic in their religious opinions, met with arms in their hands, and by the side of the torrent discussed, with a turbulence which the noise of the stream could not drown, points of controversy as empty and unsubstantial as its foam." Dour men they were, and intolerant, our old Covenanting forebears, ready at any moment to
"prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks."
Yet who can withhold from them his respect, or, in many points, deny them his admiration ?
If, as Sydney Smith has said, "it is good for any man to be alone with nature and himself" if "it is well to be in places where man is little and God is great"; then assuredly it is well to be alone, or with a friend "who knows when silence is more sociable than talk," up in the great solitude by Gameshope Burn. Nowhere in Scotland can one find a glen wilder or more impressive, nowhere chance on a scene which more readily helps the harassed mind to slip from under the burden of worldly cares. For half a mile or more from its mouth but a commonplace, open, boulder-strewn mountain burn, above that point the broken, craggy hills fall swiftly to the lip of a brawling torrent, which drops foaming by linn after linn deep into the seething black cauldrons below, lingers there a minute, then hurries swiftly onward by cliff and fern-clad mossy bank. Above each pool cling rowan trees, rock rooted, a blaze of scarlet and orange if the month be September, but beautiful always at whatever season you may visit them. Everywhere the air is filled with the deep murmur and crash of falling waters; yet, clamber to that lonely old track which leads to the solitary cottage of a shepherd, and around you is a silence almost oppressive, emphasised rather than broken by the ill-omened croak of a raven, or by the thin anxious bleat of a ewe calling to its lamb from far up the mountain side.
A mile past the shepherd's substantially built little house – it had need be strong of frame to stand intact up here against the winter storms – on your left is Donald's Cleuch, reminiscent of the Reverend Donald Cargill, a hero of the Covenant, Minister of the Barony Church in Glasgow in 1655, who was afterwards deprived of his benefice for denouncing the Restoration. The legend is, I presume, that Cargill hid somewhere in the wild moorland hereabout, up the Donald's Cleuch burn perhaps, or a long mile further on, by Gameshope Loch. A man might have lain long, in the summer time, amongst these rugged hills, safe hidden from any number of prying dragoons; but Heaven help him if he lay out there in the winter season. All is wild, broken country, peat-hags, mosses, and deep cleuchs, over which one goes best a-foot – and, of necessity, best with youth on one's side if the journey be of any great length.
From the height at the head of Donald's Clench burn, one looks down on that gloomy tarn, Loch Skene, lying but a few short miles on the Yarrow side of the watershed. Mr. Skene of Rubislaw tells – it is in Lockhart's Life – how when Sir Walter Scott and he visited this loch, a thick fog came down over the hills, completely bewildering them, and "as we were groping through the maze of bogs, the ground gave way, and down went horse and horsemen pell-mell into a slough of peaty mud and black water, out of which, entangled as we were with our plaids and floundering nags, it was no easy matter to get extricated." Savage and desolate are perhaps the words that best describe Loch Skene; yet, in fine summer weather, how beautiful it may be! How beautiful, indeed, all this wild waste of hills where those dour old Covenanters were wont to lurk, never quite free from dread of the dragoons quartered but a few miles away over the hills at Moffat. Tales of the Covenanting times, such, for instance, as "The Brownie of Bodsbeck," used to possess an intense fascination for Scottish boys; every Covenanter was then an immaculate hero, and, I suppose, few boys took any but the worst view of Claverhouse, or refused credence to any of the countless legends of him, and of his diabolical black charger, of which we firmly believed the story that it could course a hare along the side of a precipice.
A point in some of those tales that used to interest and puzzle at least one boy, was the mysterious fashion in which a fugitive would at times disappear from ken when hard pressed on the open moor, and when apparently cut off from all chance of escape. A possible explanation presented itself to me one day, a summer or two back, when making my way across the bleak upland that lies between Gameshope Loch and Gameshope Burn. As I walked over the broken peaty surface of the plateau, but not yet arrived where the land begins to drop abruptly into the Gameshope Glen, a covey of grouse got up almost at my feet. The day was windless and very still, and as I stood watching the flight of the birds, the faint melodious tinkle of underground water somewhere very near to me fell on my ear.
Glancing around, I saw on the flat ground in front of me within a yard of my feet, what appeared to be a hole, almost entirely concealed by heather. It was from this direction that the sound of the drip, drip of falling water seemed to come. Kneeling down, I pulled the heather aside, and found a hole two or three feet in diameter, and beneath it a roomy kind of chamber hollowed out of the peaty soil. It was a place perhaps five feet deep, big enough at a pinch to conceal half a dozen men; a place from which – unless there was a way out from below – a man might never find exit, if inadvertently he fell in and in his fall chanced to break a limb. In that wild region the prospect of his ever being discovered by searchers would be very small. Unseen of man, he might lie in that peaty grave till his bones bleached, rest in that lonely spot till the last dread trump called him forth to judgment.
The day after I had chanced on this strange cavern, I returned with a friend to whom I wanted to show it, and though we knew that we must be often within a few yards of the spot, search as we might we never again found that hole. Was it in some cache such as this – perhaps in this very spot – that Covenanters sometimes lay hid? Here two or three might have lain for days or weeks at a time, sheltered from wind or rain and secure from hostile eyes; it would be warm enough, and the drip of water into it is so slight as to be hardly worth naming. Doubtless if one took careful landmarks it would be easy to find again, once knowledge of its whereabouts was gained. And so the lurking Covenanters would have had small difficulty but without such landmarks, to find it except by chance seems hopeless. None of the shepherds knew of the hole, save one old man who said he had heard there was some such place. But one might go a hundred times across that moor, passing close to the hidden mouth, and unless the faint tinkle of water betrayed it, or by remote chance one blundered in, its existence would never even be suspected. It is a place worthy to be the abode of the Brown Man of the Muirs; and the district is wild and lonesome enough to breed the most eerie of superstitions.
Harking back now to the Tweed, – a little way above the bridge at Tweedsmuir on the right bank there is a huge standing stone, called the Giant's Stone, of which various legends are told. Two other stones lie close at hand, but these appear to be mere ordinary boulders. According to the Statistical Account of the Parish of 1833, this Giant's Stone is the sole survivor of a Druidical Circle; all its fellows were broken up for various purposes, and carted away ; and we may be sure it was from no feeling of compunction that even the one was spared. Residents tell us that it was from behind this stone that a wily little archer in days of old sent an arrow into the heart of a giant on the far side of Tweed. The range is considerable; it must have been a glorious fluke. But I rather think the place that is credited with this event, and with the veritable grave of the slain giant, is higher up Tweed, opposite the Hawkshaw burn.
Somewhere up this burn stood Hawkshaw Castle or Tower, home of that Porteous who gained unenviable notoriety for his feat of capturing at Falla Moss, with the aid of some of the moss-trooping fraternity, one of Cromwell's outposts, sixteen horse in all, and in cold blood afterwards executing the unfortunate troopers. A contemporary historian relates that: "The greatest releiff at this Lyme was by some gentillmen callit moss-trouperis, quha, haiffing quyetlie convent in threttis and fourties, did cut off numberis of the Englishes, and seased on thair pockettis and horssis." The "pockettis and horssis" were all in the ordinary way of business ; it is another affair when it comes to cutting the throats of defenceless captives.
A few miles further on, the road we follow passes Badlieu, a place famed as the home, away back in the eleventh century, of Bonnie Bertha, who captured the roving heart of one of our early Scottish Kings as he hunted here one day in the forest. Unhappily for Bertha, there was already a Scottish Queen, and when news of the King's infatuation came to that lady's ears, she—queens have been known to entertain such prejudices – disapproved so strongly of the new ménage, that one afternoon when the king (who had been absent on some warlike expedition) arrived at Bertha's bower, he found the nest harried, and Bertha and her month-old babe lying dead. And ever after, they say, to the end the King cared no more to hunt, nor took pride in war, but wandered disconsolate, mourning for this Scottish Fair Rosamond. But how the rightful Queen fared thereafter, tradition does not say.
And now we come to Tweed Shaws, and Tweed's Well, the latter by popular repute held to be the source of Tweed. But there is a tributary burn which runs a longer course than this, rising in the hills much nearer to the head-waters of Annan. As is well known,
"Annan, Tweed, and Clyde
Rise a' oot o' ae hillside,"
a statement which is sufficiently near the truth to pass muster. Near Tweed's Well of old stood Tweed's Cross, "so called," says Pennecuick, "from a cross which stood, and was erected there in time of Popery, as was ordinary in all the eminent places of public roads in the kingdom before our Reformation." It is needless to say that no trace of any cross now remains.
Up here, on this lofty, shelterless plateau, we find one of the few spots now left in Scotland where the old snow-posts still stand by the wayside, mute guides to the traveller when snow lies deep and the road is blotted from existence as effectually as is the track of a ship when she has passed across the ocean. Heaven's pity on those whom duty or necessity took across that wild moorland during a heavy snow-storm in the old coaching days! Many a man perished up here, wandered from the track, bewildered; stopped to rest and to take his bearings, then slid gently into a sleep from which there was no wakening. In 1831, the mail-coach from Dumfries to Edinburgh left Moffat late one winter's afternoon. Snow was falling as for years it had not been known to fall, and as the day passed the drifts grew deeper and ever more deep. But the guard, MacGeorge, an old soldier, a man of few words, could not be induced to listen to those who spoke of danger and counselled caution. He had been "quarrelled" once before for being behind time with the mail, said he; so long as he had power to go forward, never should "they" have occasion to quarrel him again. A matter of three or four miles up that heart-breaking, endless hill out of Moffat the coach toiled slowly, many times stopping to breathe the horses; and then it stuck fast. They took the horses out, loaded them with the mails, and guard and driver in company with a solitary passenger started again for Tweedshaws, leading the tired animals. Then the horses stuck, unable to face the deep drifts and the blinding storm.
MacGeorge announced his intention of carrying the mail-bags; they must be got through. The driver remonstrated. "Better gang back to Moffat," he said. "Gang ye, or bide ye, I gang on!" cried MacGeorge. So the horses were turned loose to shift for themselves, and the two men started on their hopeless undertaking, the passenger, on their advice, turning to make his way back to Moffat. That was the last ever seen alive of the two who went forward. Next day, the mail-bags were found beyond the summit of the hill, – the most shelterless spot of the entire road, – hanging to a snow-post, fastened there by numbed hands that too apparently had been bleeding. But of guard and coachman no trace till three days later, when searchers found them, dead, on Mac-George's face "a kind o' a pleasure," said the man who discovered the body in the deep snow. Some such fate as that ever trod here on the heels of foot passengers who wandered from the track during a snow-storm.
In his "Strange Adventures of a Phaeton," William Black writes of these hills as "a wilderness of heather and wet moss," even in the summer time ; and he speaks of the " utter loneliness," the "profound and melancholy stillness." There is no denying that it is lonely, and often profoundly still. And no doubt to many there is monotony in the low, rolling, treeless, benty hills that here are the chief feature in the scenery. But I do not think it is melancholy. The sense of absolute freedom and of boundless space is too great to admit of melancholy creeping in. The feeling, to me at least, is more akin to that one experiences when standing on the deck of a full-rigged ship running down her Fasting in "the Roaring Forties," with the wind drumming hard out of the Sou'West. From the haze, angry grey seas come raging on the weather quarter, snarling as they curl over and leap to fling themselves aboard, then, baffled, spew up in seething turmoil from beneath the racing keel, and hurry off to leeward. There you have a plethora of monotony; each hurrying sea is exactly the mate of his fellow that went before him, twin of that which follows after. Day succeeds day without other variety than what may come from the carrying of less or more sail; hour after hour, day after day, the same gigantic albatrosses, with far-stretched motionless wings soar and wheel leisurely over and around the ship, never hasting, never stopping, – unhasting and relentless as Death himself. Monotony absolute and supreme, but a sense of freedom and of boundless space, and no touch of melancholy. So it is here among these rolling hills where the infant Tweed is born. There is no melancholy in the situation, or at worst it can be but of brief duration. Who could feel melancholy when, at last on the extreme summit and beginning the long descent towards Moffat, he sees spread out on either hand that glorious crescent of hills, rich in the purple bloom of heather; Annan deep beneath his feet wandering far through her quiet valley, and dim in the distance, the English hills asleep in the golden haze of afternoon. For my part, I would fain linger, perched up here, late into the summer gloaming, watching the panorama change with the changing light when the sun has long set and the glow is dying in the west;
"For here the peace of heaven hath fallen, and here
The earth and sky are mute in sympathy."
And this ground is classic ground. It was at Errickstane, not far below, where, more than six hundred years ago, the young Sir James Douglas found Bruce riding on his way to Scone, to be crowned King of Scotland.
And to the left of the road shortly after leaving its highest point on the hill, there yawns that tremendous hollow, the Devil's Beef Tub, or, as it is sometimes called, the Marquis of Annandale's Beef Stand. It was here in the '45 that a Highland prisoner, suddenly wrapping himself tight in his plaid, threw himself over the edge and rolled like a hedgehog to the bottom, escaping, sore bruised indeed, but untouched by the bullets that were sent thudding and whining after him by the outwitted prisoners' guard. He is a desperate man who would attempt a like feat, even minus the chance of a bullet. It is a wild place and a terrible. The reason of its being called the Marquis's Beef Stand is given by Summertrees in "Redgauntlet." It was, said he, "because the Annandale loons used to put their stolen cattle in there." And Summer-tree's description of it is so truthful and vivid that it behoves one to quote it in full: "It looks as if four hills were laying their heads together to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A d—d deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is, and goes straight down from the roadside, as perpendicular as it can do, to be a heathery brae. At the bottom there is a small bit of a brook, that you would think could hardly find its way out from the hills that are so closely jammed round it."
And so, finally, having overshot the limits of Tweed and her tributaries, we cast back to the hills on the immediate borderline of the two kingdoms, and pass into the country of Dandie Dinmont.
The above is reproduced with permission from 'English Border Towns – Broughton, Tweedsmuir, Talla, Gameshope, Tweed's Well' (originally published in 1914), also published on the Old and Sold Antiques Digest website.