In December 2019 we did a post about John Graham, gamekeeper, who lived in a cottage on Yetholm Law in the nineteenth century. The cottage is no longer there - it has been replaced by a large modern house - but Gordon Common, who worked at the research station at Sourhope and who now lives in Town Yetholm, lived in the cottage in the early 1970s and has given us some photographs of it. The one shown above gives the best idea of what it looked like. It was taken in 1972. Gordon says the cottage had it own water supply, which ran from a tank and collection point further up the Law, close to where the current Scottish Water pumping station is now located. During the summer months the flow was reduced to a dribble before eventually drying up. During the winter months the cottage was somewhat damp. Those were the days!
YHS are privileged to have been given by Robbie Blacklock of Kirk Yetholm a neatly typed collection of poetry by his ancestor Thomas Davidson. Davidson is a fascinating character. Born to a Scottish Shepherd’s family in 1840 in the remote cottage of Yearning Hall, Alwinton, Nothumberland, he actually spent most of his early life at Cocklawfoot in the Bowmont valley. In the early 1860s the Revd John Coventry came to Yetholm as the Free Church minister and a led an evangelical mission in the valley. Davidson, an athletic young man, who frequently triumped in wrestling competitions all around the Borders, was one of the young shepherds in the area who were profoundly affected by Coventry’s work. He is almost certainly one of the men referred to in the following newspaper article:
YETHOLM. —On Tuesday evening last, meeting was held in the Free Church here, the Rev. John Coventry, minister of the congregation presiding... In spite of the festivities of Fastern's Eve (an English festival, Shrove Tuesday, which has crept across the Border), there was a numerous attendance, chiefly of those interested in the late religious awakening. The work at Yetholm … has stood the test of time well. … The faithful, earnest addresses of the speakers wore listened to with deep attention, and were well calculated to do good. An interesting feature of the meeting was the presence of a band of shepherds from the Cheviots, some of whom used to be the chief competitors and victors at the Yetholm, Kelso, and all the Border games, but who have now been brought under the power the truth. They stayed after the meeting to thank their visitors for their coming so far. Several of the gipsies who had been converted and are walking in newness of life were also present. Daily Review - Monday 23 February 1863.
His father died after the 1861 census and his brother William took over at Cocklawfoot (in the 1881-1901 Censuses brother William is the shepherd at Halterburnhead). Thomas married a girl from Perthshire and by 1871 had moved to Cheshire, where he worked as a shepherd – he spent the rest of his life there, dying in 1915. His obituary appeared in a local paper:
DEATH OF MR. THOMAS DAVIDSON.—We have to record with regret the death of Mr. Thomas Davidson, aged 75, this village, which took place Sunday week after a painful illness extending over six months. Mr. Davidson was a native of Roxburghshire, Scotland, and came to about 50 years ago farm bailiff to the late Mr. Reginald Ratcliffe, of the Oaks, and was closely associated with that gentleman in the great evangelical work conducted by him the district. He greatly interested himself in the welfare of the young men of the neighbourhood, and at that time held night school for boys in the Presbyterian Hall, which was then also used a day school. Mr. Davidson was some 25 years ago correspondent for “The Chronicle,’’ and for many years was also contributor in the Poets’ Corner of this paper. As stated, he was a patient sufferer during the last few months his life. He was held in much esteem by all in the district. The interment took place at on Thursday week. The Rev. A. E. Cooper officiated.
He obviously loved writing poetry, mainly concerned with his spiritual experience. He kept in touch with his Scottish relatives and typed up his poems to present to them partly, no doubt, as a witness to his faith. The copy we have been given belonged to James Newlands (born 1872), shepherd at Yeavering in Northumberland – his mother was a Isabella Davidson (1844), the sister of Thomas Davidson. Davidson is an able versifier and his poem on the death of his daughter (one of two children, who died as a young woman) is particularly moving. We give here his poem on a water crow (dipper) as these birds are so characteristic of the Bowmont valley. Their blackbird-like song in the midst of (often snowy) winter is always a memorable experience. For Davidson the water crow, 'song-glad, all alone' in the middle of bleak winter, is an emblem of the Christian, who can sing joyfully, unthreatened by the darkness of sin
Hume Castle Preservation Trust are organising a couple of workshops in Kelso on 2nd February which may be of interest to YHS members - see poster above.
In the past year, YHS has been lucky enough to have been sent digital copies of a number of letters written in the first half of the 1800s, some of which relate to Yetholm. The sender, Victoria Oxford, has inherited the letters through her family who descend from John Brown who emigrated to Cincinnati on the 26th March 1838. Just as John left Liverpool for America, his brother Colville was killed in an accident in Yetholm. This disaster is described by a third brother, George, in a letter to Cincinatti that arrived months after the death.
It is clear from George’s letter, that Colville had made a living carting lime and coals, while his wife, Jane, ran a shop close to the site of the present Yetholm village shop. George’s letter describes what happened. On the morning of the 22nd:
about half past eight oclock he [Colville]. . . brought out Jess [his horse]and the filly . . . Adam Paxton was helping him. The cart was standing at Grahamslaw’s yard dike before N.Davidsons door. They put Jess in the first Cart and having put the filly in the other behind, N. Davidson yoked one side, Adam Paxton the other; Colvill held her by the head. Paxton then went to put Jess back to get the filly made fast to her Cart . At that moment the filly, leaping, sprung forward and passing the near side of Jesse’s cart crushed Colvill against the near hind corner. Paxton not having got hold of Jesse’s head - whether he attempted taking hold of the filly or was trying to escape he himself cannot tell - but she, the filly, went over him trampling on him and the wheel passing over his thigh broke it but he was no farther hurt. Colvill immediately on the cart passing him came to Jane who was all the time standing in the shop door and bid her help him of with his cloaths for he was so crushed it was impossible for him to live. He went straight upstairs and put off his cloaths with little assistance . They got Dr Turner and bled him and sent to Kelso for Dr Purves who also came, but medical aid was unavailing for after living in great agony about twelve hours he died at half past 8 oclock that night. His mortal remains was enterred on Monday the 26th at Kirk Yetholm churchyard.
[We have kept the original spelling but modernized the punctuation]
The 1841 census shows the Grahamslaws and Davidsons, mentioned in George’s letter, were located next door to one another in dwellings more or less where the Village shop and Twizel House are now. The most likely spot for the accident, outside Grahamslaws’ yard, would be in the back lane, or in the vennel (then known as Cuckolds’ Slap) leading from the green to the back lane.
The Kelso Mail report on the 24th March, milked the incident for its drama:
The Kelso Chronicle on the other hand, emphasised the human loss in its report on the 30th March:
Tragedy continued to stalk the Browns in Yetholm. Colville Brown’s shop and carting business was taken over by his brother George, who had been living in Gatherick in Northumberland. We know a lot about George from the exceptionally literate and lengthy letters he wrote to his brother in America. The letters show that he read the local papers avidly, commenting on what was happening in the turbulent world of national politics, especially the ideas of the Chartists, as well as on markets and prices. He was a leading light in the musical life of Yetholm. He proudly reports on the 28th February 1839 that ‘I was engaged eight weeks teaching the Yetholm Church Music Society. I had 25 s[hillings] a week 5 nights in the week. I got a present of One Pound from Mr T. Oliver. Our Concert was on Friday 24th Feb.y and went off with great Eclat. The singing was said to be the best that ever was in Yetholm, better than either of the two schools last year.’ Clearly, George, like his dead brother Colville, was ‘a valuable and, in all respects, an exemplary member’ of his community.
Alas, two years later, George, like his brother Colville, was dead. He contracted an illness which the doctor identified as typhus and died on the 11th August 1840. In a letter to John’s wife in Cincinnati, another of the brothers, William, wrote: ‘Sister, I am sorry to inform you that our Brother George is numbred with the dead. Yes, he and Collvile leys side by side in Yetholm church yeard. Peace be to there ashes. They have had a short but toilsome journey through life, but now there toils are all over. Thus you see in three years Yetham has swallowed them both up.’ George left a widow and four small children; the last, born in Yetholm, was just 18 months old.
The two widows of Colville and George were themselves sisters, Jane and Sarah Lockie, whose family farmed at Gatherick in Northumberland. The two of them returned with their children to Gatherick where, census records show, they later took over the farm, managing it with great success. We will write further about them and the family more generally in a later blog.
Gravestone of the Brown brothers in Yetholm kirkyard. Its inscription is much obscured, but reads: ‘Erected by JANE and SARAH BROWN in memory of their husbands viz. COLVILLE BROWN husband of JANE, who died 22.3.1838 aged 31 years and GEORGE BROWN husband of SARAH who died 11.8.1840 aged 37 years. [no.136 in the Yetholm volume (III) of the Roxburghshire Monumental Inscriptions series. The date of Colville’s death is mistakenly transcribed as 1858.)
The photograph shown above is one of a pair of postcards that we have recently bought on ebay. The message on the back is fairly straightforward: ‘The show was a very large one and fine weather. Sorry you did not come. Hope you are all keeping well. Willie will know this place – “Craggs”’ – G. Graham’ The card is addressed to Mrs William Graham, Oxton and has a Edward VII stamp, postmarked Yetholm and probably dated 24th October 1904. The other card, written by the same person, addressed to the same person and dated 24th November 1904, shows a view of Cherrytrees taken ‘from our kennels’ and adds ‘Severe snowstorm here just now hope all well. Do not send the Russian cat or you come down G.G.’
Leaving aside the mystery of the Russian cat, where are the ‘Craggs’ shown in the picture? The card was almost certainly produced and written by one of the sons of John Graham, gamekeeper, who lived on Yetholm Law. John and his family are present in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. John was born in Yetholm and began life as a stone mason, but became a gamekeeper in the 1870s.
The only house on Yetholm Law can be seen on the 1863 map below, marked with a red arrow. Beside the house is a building labelled ‘kennels’ – it must be from here that the photograph of Cherrytrees was taken. The image shown above must then surely show ‘Tod Craigs’, marked with a blue arrow, which could be reached by a footpath from the gamekeeper's cottage.
Tod Craigs are above a steep and dramatic cleugh which runs through the side of Yetholm Law. This hidden valley is seldom visited today and probably was little visited in around c 1910 (which, judging by the stamp and the costume of the girl sitting below the crag, must be when the photograph was taken). There are no other postcards known which show this secluded place – and, in fact, it is probably wrong to think of these cards as commercial postcards. Rather, they would appear to be personal images which, as often happened at this date, were printed up as a postcard. Who, then, took the original photograph?
The censuses show that John Graham had several children, including two sons, one called Gilbert and the other George. In the 1901 census Gilbert, aged 20, is described as a gamekeeper – presumably assistant to his father – and George is aged 13 and a ‘Scholar’. The family are untraceable in the 1911 census, so what became of both George and Gilbert is unclear, but could one them be the 'G. Graham' who sent the cards? In 1904 Gilbert is gainfully employed, but could he have had an amateur interest in photography? George is rather young at that date to be able to afford a camera, but the Kodak Box Brownie camera was launched in 1900 at a very low price, so it's not inconceivable that a keen teenager might be able to save up enough to buy one. A recent book - Photographers in Edinburgh & the Lothians to 1914, by D Richard Torrance – lists a George Graham as a photographer based in 75 Princes Street, Edinburgh, and active 1914-15. Could this man be John Graham’s son, George? Could this photograph be an early example of his work? More investigation needed …
Despite the fact that we are in the middle of one of the most fraught election campaigns since the Second World War things are fairly quiet in Yetholm - not many canvassers knocking on doors or election posters on show yet! Perhaps it's because the recent weather has been so dismal - everyone is staying at home, huddled in front of the fire for warmth.
There have been equally fraught elections in the past - the 1830s saw crucial changes that extended the voting base in Britain from 6 per cent of the population to 12 per cent. This inevitably led to competition between politicians and parties to win the support of the new voters, and among the tools used by the opposing sides were campaign leaflets like the one shown above. The candidate it recommends, Captain George Elliot, (1784-1863) clearly supported the Reform Bill, and was a Whig. He was captain of H.M.S. Victory from 1827-1832. He was the son of Gilbert Elliot, 2nd Earl of Minto, who was Whig MP for Roxburghshire from 1812-14. Lord John Douglas Scott, (1809-1860), was a prominent Tory and opponent of the Reform Bill. Efforts to present him to the new electorate as a 'reformer' are ridiculed here. Elliot defeated Scott in the first election after the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, but the tables were turned in the election of 1835. Yetholm - and Morebattle - were, it would appear, strongly in favour of Elliot. The newspaper cutting below is from the Morning Advertiser of the 8th of August 1832 and shows that things were a lot more boisterous in Yetholm in those days. No doubt the warm weather had something to do with it ...
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 ...?