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.