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.)