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 The third image (right) shows another version of the shield from Glasgow, but this time the roses have been replaced by more patriotic thistles.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.