Selkirk, pp.646-651.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   SELKIRK, a parish partly in the north-west verge of Roxburghshire, and partly in the east of Selkirkshire. It consists of a main division, and two detachments. The main part lies principally in Selkirkshire, and has the burgh of Selkirk nearly in its centre, yet overleaps the boundary with Roxburghshire, to the extent of 2½ miles by 1. It is bounded on the north by the Tweed, which divides it from Stow and Galashiels; on the east by Galashiels and Bovvden; on the south-east by Lilliesleaf and Ashkirk; and on the south and the west by Yarrow. One of the detached parts is situated wholly in Roxburghshire; lies 1½ mile south of the nearest part of the main body; is partly bounded by the Ale; measures 2¼ miles by 1¾, but resembles a heart or blunted triangle in outline; and is surrounded by Ashkirk, Lilliesleaf, Minto, and Wilton. The other detached part is all situated in Selkirkshire, but stretches along its verge; it lies 2 miles south of the nearest part of the main body, and 2½ miles west of the Roxburghshire detached district; it measures 2½ miles by ¾; and it is surrounded by Yarrow, Ashkirk, and Roberton. The greatest length of the main body, from north-west to south-east, is 7½ miles; and the greatest breadth of it is 7 miles. The area of the whole parish, as stated by no fewer than four authorities, is only 10 square miles; but seems to us, both from data which these authorities themselves furnish, and from rapid measurement on the map, to be five or six times that extent. The main division is cut into not very unequal parts by the Ettrick, and washed on the west by the Yarrow. The banks of the Ettrick possess much quiet beauty and soft picturesqueness; and add to their own variety of slope and abruptness and haugh and hill-screen, as much well-arranged wood as largely compensates for their denudation of their ancient thickly-feathered forest. The Tweed courses along the boundary amid a profusion of wood, and looks as if still enjoying the wild freedom and basking in the warm umbrage of the period, when the beasts of the chase came down in herds to lave its pure waters. The Yarrow, for 2 miles above its connexion with the parish, and onward to the Ettrick, exhibits nature in a bold and striking aspect; cutting its turbid course along an ingulphing hollow of rugged rocks, richly overhung by its native woods, and exhibiting in a freshet the wild tumultuousness which it displayed to Thomson when he saw it – 

“Work and boil and foam and thunder through.” 

On its left bank are tie modern mansion and wooded grounds of Broadmeadows, – the farm of Foulshiels, where Mungo Park, the African traveller, was born, – the beautiful and richly sylvan lands of Harehead and Hareheadwood; and on its right are Philiphaugh-house, situated on a hill, overlooking the wooded Carterhaugh and the confluence of the stream with the Ettrick, – the modern and elegant ducal pile of Bowhill, diving amongst a sea of forest, – and chief of all, NEWARK CASTLE, [which see,] the place where ‘the Last Minstrel’ sung his ‘Lay,’ and the spot where afterwards 

“Arose the Minstrel’s lowly bower; 

A simple hut; but there were seen 

The little garden edged with green. 

The cheerful hearth and lattice clean. 

There sheltered wanderers by the blaze 

Oft heard the tale of other days; 

For much he loved to ope his door, 

And give the aid he begged before. 

So passed the winter’s day, but still, 

When summer smiled on sweet Bowhill, 

And July’s eve, with balmy breath, 

Waved the blue bells on Newark-heath, 

When throstles sung in Harehead-shaw 

And corn was green on Carterhaugh, 

And flourished broad Blackandro’s oak, 

The aged harper’s soul awoke! 

Then would he sing achievements high, 

And circumstance of chivalry, 

Till the wrapt traveller would stay, 

Forgetful of the closing day; 

And noble youths, the strain to hear, 

Forsook the hunting of the deer; 

And Yarrow, as he rolled along, 

Bore burden to the Minstrel’s song.” 

The surface of the parish is all of a hilly character; but from resting on a high base, and having a rolling and softly-featured contour, possesses much less of an upland appearance than many a district of not half its hilliness. The grounds on the east side of the Ettrick are all green, and may be called swells and undulations rather than hills. The heights between the Ettrick and the Tweed are heath-clad and lofty. Peatlaw and the Three Brethren cairn are the most elevated, and respectively rise 1,964 and 1,978 feet above sea-level, or 1,604 and 1,618 feet above the level of the Ettrick’s bed at Selkirk. The proportions of the parochial area which are pastoral, arable, and under wood, are to one another respectively as 15, 12, and 5. The white-faced breed of sheep walk the pastures, to the exclusion almost entirely both of cattle, and of other varieties of their own species. The soil of the arable grounds is light and dry, and yields a comparatively early harvest. The prevailing rocks are greywacke and greywacke-slate. In addition to the mansions incidentally mentioned, Haining and Sunderland-hall are elegant seats. Oakwood-tower, a ruin in the peninsula between the Ettrick and Wool-burn, and now the property of Scott of Harden, is famous as the residence of the wizard Sir Michael Scott, and as the scene of some traditions and legendary tales in which he figures. On the Ettrick, immediately below the influx of the Yarrow, is the battle-field of PHILIPHAUGH: which see. Andrew Pringle, Lord Alemoor, a lord-of-session during the last century, and a distinguished scholar and orator, was a native and proprietor of the lands of Haining. Roads are carried along all the three principal streams, and in four lines eastward from that on the right bank of the Ettrick. Population, in 1801, 2,098; in 1831, 2,833. Houses 435. Assessed property, in 1815, £20,397. – Selkirk is the seat of a presbytery, in the synod of Merse and Teviotdale. Patron, the Duke of Roxburgh. Stipend £275 5s. 9d.; glebe not stated. Unappropriated teinds £897 6s. 11d. The parish-church was built in 1749, and last repaired in 1829. Sittings nearly 800. – A United Secession congregation was established in the parish about the year 1752. Their present place of worship was built in 1805, at an expense, with subsequent repairs and improvements, of £1,247 7s. 10d. Sittings 856. Stipend £160. – A preaching-station, in connexion with the Secession, is maintained in summer at Hope-house, and, in 1835, had an attendance of about 200. The population, according to an ecclesiastical survey in 1836, was then 3,064, and was about to experience an increase of probably 300 from an influx of factory operatives. The 3,064 were distributed into 1,179 churchmen, 923 dissenters, 41 nondescripts, and 921 persons below 12 years of age. – The parish-school has attached to it a boarding establishment, and affords a very wide range of tuition, including classes, and continental languages and some departments of physical science. The master employs two assistants, and has, including allowance for a house, £50 of salary, and about £80 fees. In 1834, the parish-school was attended by 101 scholars; and 7 other schools were conducted by eight teachers, and attended by 352 scholars. – The earliest church of the district was simply the chapel of the King’s court, and arose from a royal hunting-seat having been established in the Forest. It hence, in the old unrefined English of that age, was called Sele-chyrche, ‘the great or the good church.’ When the abbey – to be mentioned in our notice of the town – sprang into existence, and occasioned the erection of a new village under the name of Selkirk-Abbatis, and flung upon the old village the distinctive appellation of Selkirk-Regis, David I. gave his church, situated in the latter village, to the abbot, on condition of his acting as chaplain to the royal castle. In the ancient statement of the property of the monks of Kelso, the successors or representatives of the monks of Selkirk, they say that they had the church of Selkirk-Regis “in rectoria,” and also the church of Selkirk-Abbatis “in rectoria,” respectively worth £20 and £2 a-year. How long the two churches remained separate is not known; for, as distinct churches, they are forgotten by tradition, and exhibited only in recondite record; but they were probably conjoined at some period by the abbot, that he might pocket the proceeds requisite to support one of the curates. 

   SELKIRK, a royal burgh and county-town, stands on the mail-road between Edinburgh and Carlisle, 6 miles south of Galashiels, 7 south-west of Melrose, 11 north-north-west of Hawick, 22 east-south-east of Peebles, and 36 south-south-east of Edinburgh. Its site is chiefly the summit, and partly the slope, of a high and irregular bank or terrace which flanks a beautiful haugh of the right bank of the Ettrick. During about 7 centuries, and down to the commencement of the present century, it sat in almost utter seclusion from the world, and scarcely maintained its ancient and not very important bulk against the abrasions of time. Its situation, away from any thoroughfare except a mountain one between Edinburgh and Carlisle, and accessible on one side only through a wilderness of wild upland moors, and on the other only by a circuitous and steep ascent up the bank which it surmounts, seemed to have quite incapacitated it for sharing in the modern improvements of Scottish towns. It was all ill-built, irregular, and of mean appearance; and looked like a ten times repaired edifice, originally strong, and toughly tenacious of existence, yet quite time-worn, half-ruinous, nodding to decay, and threatened with desertion. Now, however, it begins to look spruce and prosperous; it has a street or two entirely new and neatly edificed; it possesses many elegant private residences; it is adorned with several modern and public pieces of architecture; it experiences the exhilaration of manufacture and trade; it is kept cleanly in its thoroughfares, and lighted at night with gas; and though still retaining much of the wo-begone street-lines of the days of its dinginess, it resembles, on the whole, a vernal landscape which, while it continues to exhibit the peelings and the scratchings of winter, has donned much of the meek gay dress of the expanding foliage. The ancient access from all places on the further side of the Ettrick advanced up the Philiphaugh, and crossed a venerable bridge, which still stands and is strong and serviceable, and, by a circuitous sweep, climbed laboriously up the bank, so as to enter the burgh from the south or south-west; but the modern access crosses the Ettrick by a new and handsome bridge not far above the confluence with the Tweed, and runs thence up a haugh along the right bank of the stream till within ¼ of a mile of the burgh, and then slowly, and with a very slight curvature, and a beautiful sheet of roadway, ascends the terrace, lined for a great way with neat new houses, and entering the body of the town at the point of the greatest thoroughfare. The chief and central part of the burgh is the market-place, a very spacious triangular area, picturesque in appearance, and airily commodious for fair and market. This area, on the side parallel with the river, receives the new Edinburgh road, and, at the south-west angle, receives the old access; and at other points it sends off thorough-fares which, combinedly with the two thoroughfares to the Ettrick, all having the market-place for their body, give the plan of the town somewhat of the general outline of a crab. The longest of the streets is the Townhead, which goes off wendingly on the east, and climbs the lower acclivities of the slowly ascending moors on the way to Hawick. On the south-west, or shortest side of the market-place, finely overlooking the large area, stands the town-hall, a neat modern erection, winged with good houses whose ground-floors are disposed in large shops, – surmounted by an elegant spire of 110 feet in height, – and arranged in the interior into apartments for the burgh and sheriff courts, and for public meetings, and a library. – In the open area of the market-place stands a very conspicuous public well, embellished with the town-arms, and a monument erected, by the county, in 1839, to the memory of Sir Walter Scott. The latter structure is beautiful, and does much honour to the genius of Mr. Ritchie, of Musselburgh, the sculptor. The pedestal is erected upon a broad base, 14 feet square, and measures 20 feet from the ground to the plinth on which Sir Walter stands. The statue measures from 7 to 8 feet in height. The whole is sculptured from large blocks of the finest freestone, and protected by a handsome iron-railing. Sir Walter is represented in his Sheriff’s gown – one hand holds a law process, the other rests on his staff; on one side the base contains the inscription, which is as follows:- 

“Erected in August 1839, 

In proud and affectionate remembrance 

OF 

SIR WALTER SCOTT, BARONET, 

Sheriff of the County 

FROM 

1800 to 1832.” 

“By Yarrow’s stream still let me stray, 

Though none should guide my feeble way. 

Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break, 

Although it chill my withered cheek.” 

The other three sides are ornamented with the burgh arms. A thistle, forming a magnificent wreath, and the arms of Sir Walter Scott, complete the fourth side; over these the pedestal rises with much elegance, the die of it bearing a winged harp with laurel wreaths, as if flying round the feet of the Bard, with the word ‘Waverley.’ The cornice is well-brought out and finished in excellent taste. A curious structure, which served as a market-cross, once stood also in the area; but, by that extraordinary fatality, that strange perversion of taste which seems to have for half-a-century swept like a simoom over the intellects of the town-councils of Scotland, it was dealt with as an obstructor of the thoroughfare, and delivered to the Gothic admiration of the quarriers of old stones. The ancient tolbooth, and the stalls of the old flesh-market likewise, stood in the fine open area; and, without any person’s having cause to regret them, have disappeared. The new prison stands in the new street leading down to the Ettrick; but, while semi-ornamental, does not seem to be very secure. The two places of worship in the town are of plain but not repulsive appearance. Of two good inns, the larger stands on the side of the market-place which is parallel with the river, is large and commodious, has a spacious room for balls and public meetings, and enjoys the patronage of the gentlemen of the county. 

   An inkle-factory of long standing, but never of any great importance, has become defunct, A small tan-work, about half-a-mile east of the town, is remarkable more for the length of time it has existed, than for the amount of work it has performed. A small fulling-mill and some stocking-looms employ a very few workmen. But three large woollen factories of quite recent origin, situated on the river, at the debouch of the new Edinburgh road, amply compensate the want or paucity of other manufactures. One, known by the designation of the Ettrick mills, belonging to Messers. J. & H. Brown & Co., and another, called the Dunsdale factory, which is occupied at present by several parties, were erected or brought into operation about the end of 1836. The other, belonging to Messrs. G. Roberts & Co. of Galashiels, was erected during the summer of the present year [1842], and is scarcely yet in full operation. The waterfall upon which it is built belonged to the corporation of the burgh; and they having agreed among themselves to dispose of it for £40, it was put up to auction in 1838, and was so sharply competed for as to knocked down at £210. The fabrics produced, and the wages earned, are generally the same as at Galashiels. While in the model-room, at the last meeting of the British Association at Glasgow, splendid carpets in imitation of the rich produce of the looms of Turkey, flaunted conspicuously in the view, an extremely modest, but on that account attractive space was occupied by some varieties of the fabrics woven at the Ettrick mills. This description of cloth, known technically by the name of ‘Tweeds,’ and, until very lately, exclusively of Scottish manufacture, comprehends those kinds of soft and elastic woollen goods, of every variety of checks and mixtures, which are now so generally in demand for trousers, coats, hunting jackets, &c. The finer sorts are undoubtedly beautiful articles, – they have a soft flannelly feel, and are, without exaggeration, the lightest and most comfortable dress that can be worn. The manufacture in question is comparatively new, and such has been the success of those who have embarked in it, and the proven durability and comfort of its productions, that in the course of little more than ten years, it has become an established and extensive branch of our National trade, and competes successfully with the long-established fabrics of Yorkshire and the West of England. Its variegated productions, comprising an immense number of singularly rich and beautiful tartans, and its ‘brown and red,’ and ‘brown and green,’ and ‘black and orange heathers,’ imitations, and successful ones, of the complexion of the Scottish mountains when the heather is in leaf and bloom, have found their way to every quarter of the world. The trade in Tweeds is no doubt carried on, and that to great advantage, in other parts of Scotland; but a steady, even an increasing demand, during a long period of unparalleled depression, may suffer to indicate intelligibly enough the superior quality of those manufactured at the Ettrick mills. There has also been erected, during last summer, on the margin of the river in the neighbourhood of the mills, a large and commodious machine-maker’s shop, belonging to Messrs. Oliver & Bathgate, in which, at present, there are upwards of 30 hands busily employed. Machinery of almost every description, and of a superior quality, is now regularly manufactured by these enterprising individuals, and in certain departments of the trade, they have been enabled to sustain a successful competition with the first and best established houses of the country. This may be regarded as one of the happy consequences that have resulted from the erection of the woollen-mills in this locality, and affords another proof of what enterprise combined with talent may accomplish. The woollen manufacture has been, with a very trifling exception, confined for centuries to England. It was only fairly naturalized in Scotland within the last 25 years. 

   The manufacture of thin or single-soled shoes, it is well-known, was anciently so considerable and dominant a craft, as to give the name of Sutors to the whole body of burgesses. A song, familiar to most persons in the south of Scotland, has for its first verse: 

“Up wi’ the Sutors o’ Selkirk, 

And down with the Earl of Hume! 

And up wi’ a’ the braw lads 

That sew the single-soled shoon!” 

These words have been the subject of fifty times more literary controversy than they are worth; and – in the face, or with some critical explosion, of the facts, that there was no Earl of Home till the year 1604, and that the Selkirk burgess who performed the chief feat at Flodden was a weaver – they have been generally construed by antiquaries who have commented on them, to refer to the poltroonery of Lord Hume on the one hand, and the bravery of the Selkirk shoemakers on the other, at the stern conflict of Flodden. The sutors, at all events, are said to have been so prevailing and ascendant a body at the date of the conflict, that they monopolized the honours won by the united citizens on its field of fame; and they obviously could have acquired their conspicuousness in story, and their nominal possession of all the aggregate rights of burgess-ship, only by a remote and long-continued predominance of both numbers and craft. To be made a sutor of Selkirk, both now and for many ages past, is in the uniform and boasted language of the place, to be created a burgess. The candidate for admission, too, is expected, at a festivity of the town-council and freemen, to pass through his mouth a small bunch of such bristles as are used by shoemakers, and one which has been previously passed through the mouths of all the freemen at the board; and unless he thus, as the phrase is, “lick the birse,” he is construed to decline obedience, or refuse due acknowledgment and respect to the dominant craft, and cannot be allowed to share their burghal privileges. Sir Walter Scott, on being made a burgess, tried to compromise refinement and compliance by rinsing the beslabbered ‘birse’ in his wine; but he was compelled to make amends, both by mouthing the washed birse, and by drinking off the liquor it had polluted. The birse – saturated with the saliva of whatever Selkirk sutors are pleased to attend upon the ceremony – is so cherished an emblem of the ruling party’s power, or at least of their craft and propensities, that it is even appended to the seal of the ticket of freedom, and has, in courtesy, been withheld from not another qualifying burgess except Prince Leopold, now king of Belgium, who visited the town in 1819. So important a body did the shoemakers continue even down to the middle of last century, that, in 1745, when the magistrates of Edinburgh were commanded by the Highland army to furnish them with 6,000 pairs of shoes, they ordered first one-third of the whole, and afterwards a few hundreds more, from the shoemakers of Selkirk, agreeing to pay for them a stipulated price. “At the present day,” very neatly, though mistakenly, says a contemporary, “there are more of this than any other trade in the burgh; and not long ago one whole street was filled with them, – whence the popular rhyme, 

“Sutors ane, sutors twa, 

Sutors in the Back Raw!” 

which, being cried at the top of one’s voice in the said street, was sufficient to bring sutors, and sutors’ wives, and sutors’ bairns, and all that ever lay in sutors’ arms, out like a nest of hornets; and the offender would alone have to thank his heels, if he escaped as comfortable a lapidation as any man could desire to have his bones blessed withal on a summer’s day.” In 1832, the five incorporated crafts of the burgh stood, as to the respective number of their members as follows: Hammermen, 44; shoemakers, 24; weavers, 24; tailors, 22; fleshers, 9; – and, at the same date, the shoemakers remained stationary, while each of the other crafts had been increasing during the preceding ten years. The sutors, even then, yielded the palm of numbers to the hammermen; they have, since the erection of the Ettrick mills, become much outnumbered by the weavers; and they thus continue only by courtesy, and by the proscription and fond associations of ancient usage, to represent either burgess-ship or the productive industry of the burgh. 

   Selkirk has a branch-office of the British Linen company’s bank; the office of the Ettrick Forest Savings’ bank; two subscription libraries; one parochial library; a friendly society; a temperance society; a Bible and Missionary society; and a society for the improving of the breed of sheep and cattle. A weekly market is held on Wednesday; and annual fairs are held on the 5th of April and the 31st of October, for hiring servants; on the 15th of July, for hiring shearers; and on the 31st of July for the sale of lambs. Communication is maintained with Edinburgh and Hawick by a stage-coach, in transit three times northward and three times southward in the week; with Edinburgh and the west of England by the mail-coach in daily transit; and with Edinburgh, Galashiels, and other places, by local carriers. – The burgh, though entitled to have a provost, forbore to elect one during about a century and-a-half preceding the passing of the Reform bill. Their last provost before that period was an extravagant and wasteful country gentleman, who had been foisted on them by the government of James VII.; and the town-council, when reporting their sett to the convention in 1709, naively stated that, in consequence of this person having involved them in heavy debts, they had resolved to content themselves with bailies. The number of the council has been always 33; but the mode of election underwent a change in the course of last century. The sett was extremely complicated; there was no restriction as to re-election; each deacon was elected from leets shortened by the council, and had a colleague freely elected by the corporation; and, in other respects, the old council chose the new. Under the Reform act, the council numbers 33 as before, and consists of a provost, 2 bailies, a treasurer, and 29 councillors. Constituency, in 1833, 110; of whom 68 were burgesses. The town’s property has been estimated at about £26,000; and its debts amounted at 1st October, 1833, to £16,088. Its revenues, as returned to parliament, was £284. In 1833, the revenue was £1,039 15s. 8¾d.; and the expenditure £2,452 12s. 10d., – £1,187 3s. 8¾d. of the latter being for public works. The taxes levied are the cess and petty customs. The burgh-boundaries are extensive, comprehending 2,399 acres of land lying without the town; and they remain unaltered by the municipal Reform act, the burgh having, as regards the elective franchise, been thrown into the county. The magistrates are assisted by the town-clerk as assessor; they exercise the jurisdiction common to royal burghs; and they. have the patronage of the town-offices, and of the burgh-school, and an endowed female-school, and some influence over the parish or grammar-school. Fees paid to the town for entering burgess vary from 3s. 4d. to £1 3s. 4d.; to the hammermen, £15; to the tailors and the weavers, from £5 to £15, according to the scarcity or sufficiency of workmen; and to the shoemakers and the fleshers, nothing short of an actual local apprenticeship of six years, or of marriage to the eldest daughter of a freeman. The effect of the exclusive privileges is to give the incorporations a monopoly; and the last entry, before 1833, with the incorporation of hammermen, for which a line of £15 was paid, was forced upon a skilful tradesman in the south of Scotland, to enable him to carry through a contract within the territory of the burgh. There is no separate police-establishment, and no nightly watch. The only criminal officers are the burgh-officers, and ordinary and special constables; and the public wells are kept in repair, and the streets lighted, cleaned, and paved out of the common good. 

   Selkirk is a town of high antiquity; but, owing to its lying out of the ordinary thoroughfare of both ancient war and modern commerce, it has figured but inconspicuously in history. The Scoto-Saxon kings finding sport through Ettrick woodlands, very early established a hunting-seat on its site, and occasioned the formation of a sort of king’s town. The castle which they built seems to have been princely enough for the reception of the monarchs and their courts; and as it was erected for the amusements of peace, rather than for the struggles of war, it was probably constructed of slight materials; but it looms very dimly through the haze of record, and stood no one can tell on what particular spot. A church which rose in its vicinity, and which was called for both by the castle itself and by the infant town, gave, as we have seen, its name to the locality, and remotely also to the river and the forest. In 1113, a colony of Tyronensian monks was settled near the castle and village; and remained there during 15 years of penitentiary trial. Radulphus – who conducted them to the spot: – was the original abbot; and he was succeeded first by William, who is recollected by Fordun, – and next, in 1124, by Herbert, who became the first abbot of Kelso, and rose to be bishop of Glasgow. In 1128, the monks, on account of inconvenient accommodation, were removed to Kelso; yet they afterwards continued to hold a very intimate connection with their original seat. One curious fact is, that the abbot, while the king’s castle remained in Selkirk, was bound, by the tenure of his land, to act within the castle as the king’s chaplain; and that if ever the sovereign shall be pleased to restore the castle, the Duke of Roxburgh, who wears ‘the fair-lined slippers of the abbot,’ is bound both to act as chaplain in the castle, and to repair the bridge. The distinction between the new village of Selkirk-Abbatis, which rose around the abbey, and the old village of Selkirk-Regis in the vicinity of the castle, speedily fell into disuse after the monks’ removal. Some mills which David I. had at Selkirk, show that, while the chase was the main object of the royal residence, agriculture had made some progress in the vicinity of the town; and they remained royal property till at least the time of Robert Bruce. One mill belonged also to the monks, and afforded them no little profit after they became settled in Kelso. David I., after his accession in 1124, probably did not reside much at Selkirk; as he gave preference to Roxburgh, on account both of its greater security and its superior attractions. The castle of Selkirk was frequently inhabited by William the Lion, and was the place from which he granted and dated many of his charters; and it was occasionally the home of his son and his grandson, Alexander II. and Alexander III. But before the accession of Robert I., this ancient hunting-seat disappears from the eyes of the antiquary. Aymer de Valence built a peel-house at the town, – a fact which seems to intimate that, in his days, the place had ceased to possess a royal residence. Selkirk long continued a town in the king’s demesne; but did not become a royal burgh till a much later period. While the rulers of other towns were obliged to swear fealty to Edward I., we do not perceive any corporate body from Selkirk upon their knees before their superior lord. During the long conflicts for the succession of the Crown, the town was often granted to the successive partisans of the rival kings. When James IV. was marching to his gory death on Flodden-field, 100 townsmen joined him under their town-clerk. They fought stoutly; they all scorned to flee; they almost all fell in the field; and few of them returned with their gallant leader to the Forest. William Brydone, the town-clerk, and his successors in office, were, in guerdon and commemoration of his bravery, created knights by a charter of James V., which recites the valour of himself and of those he led; and 1,000 acres of the Forest, now worth about £1,500 a-year, and divided into a great number of small properties, was given by the monarch to the townsmen. An English standard wrested from the foe, and carried off the field of battle by a weaver who fought by the side of Brydone, is still in the possession of the corporation of weavers, and is annually borne at their head in a processional and gala survey of the 1,000 acres of the royal grant. The sword of Brydone, too, is still preserved in the town by his descendant, and regarded as a venerable relic. So exasperated were the English at the distinguished resistance of the Selkirk band, in circumstances where the proudest of the land had lowered their swords, that they soon afterwards burnt the town; yet, in doing so, they only afforded James V. an opportunity of repeating his approbation of the burghers in giving them timber from his forests, to replace what the fire destroyed. Tradition says, that when the few survivors of the 100 heroes were returning from Flodden, they found, by the side of Lady-Wood-Edge, the dead body of the wife of one of their fallen comrades, with a child sucking the breast; and that, in consequence, the town adopted, and still retains, as its armorial bearings, a female holding an infant, and seated on a sarcophagus, the Scottish lion in attendance, and a wood in the background. The next historical event of note with which Selkirk had connexion, was the brief but decisive and celebrated action of PHILIPHAUGH: which see. When the middle division of the Highland army, in 1745, approached the town in their progress toward England, four foragers, sent forward to make a public levy of provisions, walked into the booths or among the stalls, then situated in the market-place, and began, in the unceremonious style of caterans, to appropriate whatever they found most tempting and portable. Several butchers instantly remonstrated, and seemed willing to try the mettle of their cleavers against the Highland cleavers, when a muscular and agile young fellow of their number tore the shaft from a handbarrow, and, with this rude instrument, and little aided by his comrades, began to belabour the four kilted intruders, and in a few minutes drove them from the town. He, of course, required to lie perdu till the whole brigade had passed quite away to the south. 

   “The burgh of Selkirk,” report the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations, “is said to be of ancient foundation, but the oldest charter preserved is one granted by King James V., dated 4th March, 1535. It proceeds on the narrative that the charters of ancient foundation of the burgh, and liberties thereof, granted to the burgesses and community by his Majesty’s progenitors, had perished, whence merchandizing amongst the burgesses had ceased, to their great detriment, and the prejudice of the liberties of the burgh, and the loss of his Majesty, in regard to the customs and firms due out of the burgh. The charter proceeds to grant of new, and to confirm for ever to the burgesses and community, ‘Nostrum burgum de Selkirk, in liberum burgum ut prius in perpetuum, cum omnibus et singulis terris, communiis et possessionibus, quibuscunque ad eundem spectan. cum potestate ipsis, ballivos et alios officiarios necessarios, prout retroactis fecerunt, temporibus annuatim elegendi.’ The privilege is given of an annual fair, with a court, gallows, and other liberties, and to hold burgal courts, and full privileges of trade, as any other burgh in the kingdom, all to be held in free burgage, for payment to his Majesty of the burgal firms, and other duties used and wont. A precept, under the Great seal, was granted of the same date, upon which sasine followed, and the instrument, dated 22d March, infefts the burgh, inter alia, in the south and north commons of the burgh. This charter was confirmed by James V., after he had attained majority, along with, 1st. A licence to the bailies, burgesses, and community, to till 1,000 acres of their common lands, notwithstanding any acts or statutes to the contrary; and, 2d. A grant of a fair-day at the feast of Conception. In 1540 James V. granted another charter, upon the narrative that the burgh of Selkirk ‘prope Angliam, Liddalisdail, et alias vicinas et minime pacificas provincias, furibus, raptoribus, proditoribus, et aliis transgressoribus, plenas jacet, et per ipsos et alios viros potentes, defectu nobilis et boni viri, ipsum, et incolas ejusdem defendere sepius, combustus, depredatus, destructus, et oppressus extitit,’ giving power to the bailies and community to choose a provost, and granting to them a power of sheriffship within the liberty and territory of the burgh, and to hold courts of sheriffship, with the usual powers, and to repledge the inhabitants of the burgh and territory from other judges. This charter farther confirms the feu of the burgal firms and small customs of the burgh, granted to the bailies and community for payment of £5 of feu farm. And for security of the burgh liberty is given to the bailies and community to have walls and a ditch round the burgh. Upon the precept following on this charter, sasine was taken, dated 11th October, 1540. All these charters were ratified by the Scottish parliament in an act in favour of the burgh, dated 28th June, 1633.” 

   Selkirk gives the title of Earl to a branch of the ancient and once far-dominant house of Douglas, which, previous to the strong check which was given, in 1455, to its bold spirit and careering fortunes, had extensive possessions in the Forest. The 1st Earl of Selkirk was Lord William Douglas, the eldest of the 1st Marquis of Douglas’ sons by his second wife; and he was raised to the earldom, in 1646, with the adjunct of Baron Daer and Shortcleugh. This nobleman married Ann, Duchess of Hamilton, and, in consequence, became the 3d Duke of Hamilton from the date of the dukedom’s creation, and the 1st in the line or family of Douglas. His peerage of Earl of Selkirk became concealed for a time beneath his ducal bonnet; but afterwards descended, first to his 3d son, Lord Charles Douglas, and next to his younger son. Lord John Hamilton, Earl of Rutherglen. In 1744 Dunbar Hamilton of Baldoon, the grand-nephew of the 3d Earl, succeeded to the title; and, in 1799, he left the honours to his 7th son, Thomas. This, the 5th Earl, was the most distinguished of those who have yet inherited the title; and lives in a cheerful nook of history as the advocate of liberal views respecting emigration to British America, and the promoter of a British settlement on Prince Edward’s Island. Dunbar James Douglas, the present Earl, and son of the 5th, succeeded in 1820. The chief seat of the family is at St. Mary’s Isle in Kirkcudbrightshire: see MARY’S ISLE (ST.). – ‘Selkirk bannocks’ have long been in fame, and continue to enjoy their reputation. They originally were made of barley-meal, and had a form and a consistency suited to the name they bear; but now they are composed of the finest wheaten flour, and differ from the ordinary produce of the bakery only by the excellence of their manufacture, and an occasional, intermixture of confections. In their plain form, and as tea-bread, they are greatly in request in all the country lying within 15 miles of the town, and are sent in regular supplies to Galashiels, Innerleithen, and Hawick

One thought on “Selkirk, pp.646-651.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s