On Saturday the 19th October a large group of us went on a visit to Ancrum. It was a thoroughly miserable day - as you can see from the photos! - but everyone agreed we had a fantastically interesting time. We were met at Harestanes where we were given a background talk about the recent dig at Mantle Walls, on the edge of Ancrum village. It is hard to believe that this is the site of what was once a splendid medieval bishop's palace. The photo above left shows us looking at some of impressive stonework that was rescued by the recent dig. More information - and better photos (taken on a sunny day) - can be found on the Ancrum and District Heritage Society website HERE.
For those interested in finding out more about the recent excavation there will be two talks about the results of the dig on Monday 4th November at Ancrum Village Hall at 3.00 and 6.00pm. If you are interested in attending free tickets can be booked by emailing HERE.
After lunch at Woodside we then visited the site of Ancrum old church, a beautiful spot beside the Ale Water. The photo above right shows us hearing about the fine hogback tombstone that can be found there. It is believed to have been inside the church and was only moved outside when a new kirk was built in the village in the late nineteenth century. Sadly, like the bishop's palace, this has resulted in it deteriorating and it has recently been taken for conservation.
Finally we were taken on a guided tour of the Monteath Mausoleum (below), which stands on a ridge looking out over both the Eildon Hills and Ruberslaw. It is a magnificent situation and structure - but also monstrously egocentric, being built by General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas (1788 - 1868) to house his mortal remains (which have apparently disappeared). We were given a guided tour of the cavernous interior by one of the friends of Monteath Mausoleum, who have recently restored this monument to its original glory. Many of us have glimpsed the dome while driving along the A68 but it was a revelation to see it at close quarters.
Earlier blog-posts mentioned our ongoing work creating interpretation panels for the planned Yetholm Heritage Centre. We have recently received from the National Museum in Edinburgh a high-quality image of the Yetholm weaver’s flag (above) for us to use on another of these panels.
Decoding heraldic devices can be a complicated business, however in this case the meaning of the various features shown in the flag are relatively straightforward. The golden sheaf of corn (‘a garb or’, to use heraldic terminology) is used on the coats-of-arms of several branches of the Wauchope family – as is the motto ‘Industria Detat (sic, ‘Ditat’), Latin for "Diligence Enriches" (Proverbs 10:4). The Wauchopes of Niddrie were the lairds of Town Yetholm, having acquired the barony in 1643
The shield is a variation of that used by numerous weaver’s guilds across Britain. The photo below shows three versions of the crest of the weaver’s guild. The first image (left) shows a window in the Trades House in Glasgow – an azure background with a ‘chevron argent with three roses between three leopards' faces, each holding in the mouth a shuttle’. The second image, centre, shows an eighteenth century version of the guild’s shield from Edinburgh – the colouring is slightly different and the motto at the bottom reads ‘Improve your time it’s very little & swifter than a weaver’s shuttle’. The third image (right) shows another version of the shield from Glasgow, but this time the roses have been replaced by more patriotic thistles.
Another weaver's flag has survived from Haddington which, like Yetholm's, also uses the motto about life being swifter than a weaver's shutle - a discussion and image of it can be found HERE. Yetholm's flag uses two leopards (?) as supporters which is unusual, as it is usually wyverns (armless dragons) who perform this duty. It also deletes the roses on the chevron, replacing them with a single thistle. But clearly such variations were widespread.
The records of the National Museum state that the Yetholm flag dates from 1779. This date is not visible on the flag - a small '17' can be seen at the beginning of the motto and '79' may well have been placed at the end, but this part of the flag has frayed and disappeared. Perhaps this information was provided when the flag was donated to the museum - ? However, a newspaper account of a Yetholm weaver's flag published in the Jedburgh Gazette on February 2nd 1884 complicates matters. The context of this account is that a bonfire had been organised on Venchen to celebrate the birth of twin sons to the laird, Captain (as he then was) Andrew Wauchope. The newspaper article claims that:
'For the most part of the day an ancient flag bearing upon it the coat-of-arms of the Wauchope family, and the date 1694 - so that it must be 190 years old - floated from the window of the Plough Inn. This flag belonged to the "Corportation of Weavers of Yetholm, constituted by the Hon. Andrew Wauchope, 1694." It is in the possession of Mr William Rutherford, shoemaker, Yetholm, who says that for about thirty years it has never been exposed to daylight. It is to be regretted that, owing to it's frailness, and the high wind, it received a little damage. There are very few in Yetholm who knew of the existence of such a valuable relic.'
So much of this description suggests this is the same flag that is now in the National Museum - and the damage caused by the wind on this festive occassion may well have been the reason why the bottom corner of the existing flag has disappeared. However, the date given in this account is clearly not 1779 - the newspaper article twice gives the date 1694. How to explain the discrepancy? Was this information not actually on the flag, but came from documents also in the possession of William Rutherford - ? It seems most unlikely that there were ever two weaver's guild flags in Yetholm!
An Andrew Wauchope was the laird of Town Yetholm in 1694, so it is possible that the guild in Yetholm could have been founded in 1694. If this is the case, it suggests that efforts to constitute Yethom as a proper 'town', complete which such civic institutions as guilds pre-dates the eighteenth century, which is the period usually assumed to be when Town Yetholm began to grow. Such ambitions were never properly realized. No other guilds are known to have been formed. Town Yetholm became a locally significant commercial hub, but it has never lost it's status as a satellite of Kelso, where there were not only weavers, but guilds of hammermen, whipmen and others.
YHS was delighted to receive a copy of Linda Hendry Lennen's recently published book Scotland's Other Royal Family. Linda - of Blythe stock - has used some images from our archive and the end result is a fascinating account from her perspective of the story of some of her ancestors.
The first part covers relatively familiar territory - the various kings and queens from Will Faa to Charles Faa Blythe. Intriguing new material is brought to light in the second half. Firstly, she uncovers the long and fascinating relationship between her great grandmother Jeannie Blythe and the well-known artist Samuel J Peploe. Jeannie sold flowers at the top of Waverley Steps in Edinburgh and it was there that she met Peploe. She modelled for him many times and paintings of her can be found in many galleries around the world - the one below is in Aberdeen Art gallery. Not many people have such vivid images of one of their ancestors. Frustratingly, the family were gifted one of his portraits of her by the artist and it hung of their kitchen for many years - only to disappear at some point! Linda provides a black-and-white copy, but if anyone knows where the original has gone then I am sure Linda would be glad to find out.
The book also includes personal reminiscences of Matthew Kennedy, who led a semi-wandering life in the 20th century. Such a way of life always seems to have been the case, even before Will Faa I moved to Yetholm. It's intriguing that, for example, the court papers relating to Patrick Faa, sentenced to transportation for burning down Bridge End House in Kelso in 1714, show that the family had some sort of settled status in Roxburgh.
For anyone interested, the book is available via Amazon - see HERE - a bargain at £8.99!
Work on the project to convert the Old Mission Hall into a YHS Meeting-place/Archive/Heritage Centre is progressing steadily. We have just received news that we have been granted £2,500 from the Garfield Weston Foundation. This brings us closer to our goal of raising £27,300. In addition to this recent grant we have also received £14,340 from the Fallago Environment Fund and £4,000 from the Hugh Fraser Foundation (specifically for creating a new disabled access to the hall). We have also made over £2,000 from sales of our guide to the village - Yetholm Past and Present, A Walking Guide. We are very grateful to these grant-giving organisations. We are now just £4,460 short of our goal, so if anyone has bags of money lying around perhaps they could post them to us.
While the hard work of applying for grants is still on-going we are also working on other aspects of the project. The image above, created by Janet Canning, who also produced the images for Yetholm Past and Present, shows reivers from the Bowmont valley and will be used on one of the interpretive panels inside the Heritage Centre. Perhaps we could raise the remaining money by going on a raid across the border and helping ourselves to some English cattle ...?
This year's Festival Week runs from Saturday 8th June to Sunday 16th and all during that period YHS will be running an exhibition in the old Mission Hall. It's FREE - so you have no excuse for not coming! - and the hall will be open from 10am to 5pm. The title of this year's exhibition is 'Criminal Spirits: Gin and Whisky Smuggling in Yetholm and the Cheviots' and it coincides with the publication of a new booklet (see above) featuring a song about smuggling by Robert Gray (1796-1844), the 'Yetholm Poet'. Copies of the book and other YHS publications will be available in the exhibition.
Yetholm has been a holiday destination since the early nineteenth century – with the result that it has been much photographed and many postcards published showing the two villages and surrounding countryside. YHS has many postcards in its archive, three of which are shown above. Two of them are entitled ‘On the Bowmont near Yetholm’, while the third is ‘Among the Yetholm Hills’. None of them have postmarks, so it’s hard to date them. Our best guess is that the colourised image is from the 1930s, while the one showing a wooden bridge is later – possibly from the 1940s - ?
The cards are puzzling because none of them actually show Yetholm and the view is difficult to place. After pondering the issue – and looking at possible views close to either Town- or Kirk-Yetholm – it turns out the photographs were taken over 2½ miles from Town Yetholm, over the border, on the road from Mindrum (B6352). A recent image of the same scene can be seen below. Why did the photographer choose this place to set up his tripod and take a photograph? Possibly because this is the view many visitors would first see, especially if they came from Mindrum station. While not overly dramatic, the panorama is still striking as you drive over the brow of the hill just after Bowmont Hill Farm and you get a glimpse of the valley ahead. The photographer has travelled a little bit further on, dropped down, and paused for a moment to capture the loop of the river.
Clearly the tree in the centre of the image has now gone – as has the rickety footbridge in the middle photograph. Perhaps both were swept away when the Bowmont Water was in a less tranquil mood, as it often is. The straight line of trees shown on the left of the images runs along a dyke - dug when? - which is there to hold back flooding from the fields on the other side. The bridge presumably linked Bowmont Hill Farm with Shotton, but who built it and why exactly it was needed is not known. Any ideas? Not only has the tree gone, but the general scene as shown in the postcards seems much more wooded – the slope that drops down to the river on the right has mature trees growing on it, rather than the scrubby gorse that grow there today. In fact, it is gorse that dominates the recent photograph of the scene, taken in April 2019 - colourful, but perhaps a sign that the pastures are less carefully maintained today.
The rather undistinguished field shown above, which can be found at the side of the road from Kelso to Yetholm, is known locally as the Drovers Field. The name presumably reflects the fact it was used as a resting place for stock, but whether this was sheep being driven to Yetholm Fair or cattle being driven south into England is unknown.
The practice of droving of sheep in our area survived into twentieth century. YHS has recordings of shepherds who recall driving sheep across the Cheviots and the Storey Diaries, a copy of which has recently been given to the society, which record the day-to-day life at Cocklawfoot from the nineteenth century up to the 1940s, frequently mention sheep being driven from the head of the Bowmont valley over to Rothbury.
Cattle droving, though, which could involve cattle from the highlands being taken to markets in England had its heyday at an earlier period. However, there are hints that cattle drovers too passed through Yetholm. The Yetholm Heritors Records, for example, amongst many charitable payments to vagrant individuals and families, who needed a night’s lodging and a meal, mentions - ‘Paid lodging for a Highland Drover’ – one meal – 3d - December 1st 1849. It sounds like this man may have been returning home rather than driving cattle.
Another, much more detailed account, is given at a meeting of the Heritors on 19th August 1854:
The Case of Archibald Blue residing at Kirk Yetholm – This old man is about 70 years of age – he was born, he solemnly declares, at Farnach in the parish of Kilmichael, Glassary, Argyllshire, and resided in family with his father in the Parish of his birth till he was about 20 years of age – for the last 20 years of his life, he has been a Wanderer, sometimes acting as a drover of Sheep or Cattle, at other times, as a Hawker of Oranges and other small wares, but almost never remaining longer than one night in one place – and till he arrived at Yetholm always able to support himself by his own exertions without being chargeable to any Parish – He came to Yetholm on the 26th of June last to attend Kirk Yetholm Fair and was found by the Inspector, in an outhouse in Kirk Yetholm on the 28th June, in a state of great bodily distress and in absolute destitution – And from that time he has been chargeable to this Parish – The Inspector of Glassary refuses to admit the claim made for Relief on that Parish and now even declines to answer letter addressed to him on the subject …
Here we glimpse, for a moment, the fascinating life of an otherwise forgotten man. The details he gives of his early life can be confirmed from other sources. There are, in fact, two possible baptisms for an ‘Archibald Blue’ in Glassary at around the correct date – one in 1787 and the other in 1791. It seems likely that he is the first individual, in which case his parents are Donald Blue and Anne Morrison, who were married in the area and baptised several other children. St Michael Glassry is very close to the famous archaeological site of Dunadd and at this date would have been a Gaelic speaking area. ‘Farnach’ seems likely to be ‘Fearnoch’ an isolated and remote farm further down Kilmichael Glen.
The Yetholm Heritors were within their rights to claim recompense from Archibald’s home parish, but it is clear the Kilmichael Heritors were unwilling to recognise their responsibility. Fortunately for everyone concerned Archibald Blue was soon back on his feet and 'had now left this part of the country and ceased to be burdensome to the parish'. The Heritors decided it wasn’t worth pursuing their claim. What happened to the elderly drover after this date is unknown.
A few years ago Tom Broad of the Borders Archaeology Society (BAS), supported by Northumberland National Park and SBC, organised a project to conduct an archaeological survey of the Halterburn valley. After a certain amount of work had been carried out the survey had to be put on hold for various reasons. Since then YHS member Jean Hirst has taken over. This project has now been going for a number of years and the first report, covering the area at the head of the valley, should be published shortly. The survey is conducted by members of ACFA (Association of Certified Field Archaeologists - see HERE for more info) led by Dugie MacInnes, many of whose members come from as far afield as Lanarkshire to help, along with folks from BAS and from YHS. The Halterburn Valley turns out to be packed with fascinating, but previously unrecorded, sites - ranging from relatively modern shielings through to a number of Bronze Age hut platforms and a burnt mound.
The group have recently spent three days (27th-29th March) hard at work. The weather was beautifully sunny, if cold - curlews could be heard calling on the hilltops, sadly an increasingly rare phenomenon. The photos above and below show members of the team surveying new features in the large and complex Witchcleuch Burn site. Piers Dixon suggests that this may be the site of 'Colpenhope Grange' - the property used by Kelso Abbey to manage the area, which once belonged to them. It may well also be the site of a secular settlement called 'Elter', which is known to have existed at a later date. Whatever the case, the large site is littered with fascinating lumps and bumps, suggestive of a long and complex history. The last feature we mapped was a beautifully preserved corn-drying kiln. YHS members and other who are interested in joining in with the project will be very welcome - notice of the next survey will be sent out via our Mailchimp email list.
In last month's blog we looked at a fragment of sundial recently found in Town Yetholm. Another instrument for measuring time, which was found at Venchen Cottages, close to the border with England, is shown above - the rusted remains of a pocket watch. What makes this interesting to us at YHS is that the watch was made by Robert Chalmers, Yetholm's very own watchmaker, as can be seen by his neatly engraved signature.
Robert Chalmers, though, was not the only watchmaker in town. He was preceded by John Baird Waddle. This man was the son of Andrew Waddle, a very long lived tailor (he died aged 98 in 1864), who resided in a thatched cottage on the site of the house now called Hilltoun View in Town Yetholm. The extended Waddle clan lived in this cottage and the tiny one-roomed house next door called Wayside Cottage. John Baird Waddle was born in Yetholm in 1830. He began his working life like his father as a tailor, but in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses he describes himself as a watchmaker - and he is also listed as such in the 1878 Slater's Directory for Yetholm. As far as is known no watches by Waddle are known to survive.
Robert Chalmers, on the other hand, is listed in several works on Scottish clockmakers and his watches occassionally turn up for sale. Robert was born in 1859 in Ancrum, the son of a tradesman, who shortly thereafter moved to Yetholm. He is listed in the 1881 as a census as a watchmaker, as he is in all subsequent censuses. His shop was in the house on the High Street now called Graystones House. He married a local girl Mary White Young in 1896, but the couple had no children. He died in 1926.
Did Robert learn his trade from John Baird Waddle? During the 1880s both men seem to have been working in Yetholm as watchmakers. Or were the two men business rivals? Sometime in the 1890s John Baird Waddle left Yetholm and moved to a terrace house in Monkwearmouth, where he died in 1906. Was he driven out of business by his younger competitor - or did Robert Chalmers amicably take over the older man's trade? What is striking is that a small 'town' like Yetholm could in the nineteenth century support one watchmaker, let alone two.
Chalmers didn't just make watches, but he also assembled clocks. The photograph below shows a grandfather clock made by 'Robert Chalmers - Yetholm' which turned up at the Antiques Roadshow held at Mellerstain in 2000. Unfortunately the YHS collection doesn't include such a grand item - all we own of Chalmer's work is the rusted fragment shown at the head of this blog-post!
Around 60 people attended our meeting on 5th March - a packed house! - when David Jones gave a fascinating talk on the archaeology of Dere Street between Rochester and Whitton Edge. He covered everything from pre-Roman settlements to post WW2 blast shelters. Before the meeting Jan Rae, an eminent quilter and expert on Scottish textiles, and wife of Bill, a founder member of YHS, presented the society with her embroidery, appropriately named 'Dere Street'. It shows a Scottish hiker heading south towards Eboracum (York). Among other fascinating details the ghosts of Roman Soldiers can be seen marching along the road ahead. This is the second work (see here) which Jan has gifted to the society and will help make our meeting place a colourful and welcome area when it is eventually transformed into 'Yetholm Heritage Centre'.