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Old County of Selkirkshire

(Ettrick Forest)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Selkirkshire or Ettrick Forest, an inland shire in the S of Scotland, and one of the Border counties, lies between 55° 22' 20" and 55° 41' 54" N lat., and between 2° 47' 40" and 3° 18' 46" W long. It is bounded on the N by Peeblesshire and Midlothian, NE, E, and SE by Roxburghshire, SW by Dumfriesshire, and W by Peeblesshire. Its greatest length, from the source of the Ettrick on the SW to the confluence of the Tweed and Gala on the NE, is 28 miles; its greatest breadth, from Roberton Kirk on the SE to where Haystoun Burn leaves the county on the NW, is 17 miles; and its total area is 260 square miles or 166,524 acres, of which 1997 are water. In point of size Selkirkshire is twenty-sixth among the Scottish counties; and in point of rental and population it is twenty-seventh. Its outline is very irregular, but its shape may be described as roughly resembling that of Ireland, with a deep indentation on the NW. Besides the main body, the county includes two small detached portions, embedded respectively in Roxburghshire and Peeblesshire. From the point on the NE where the Tweed leaves the county, the boundary line runs with a south-westerly slope, at first along the bank of the Ettrick, but afterwards more irregularly to Borthwick Water in Roberton parish. Thence after describing a considerable loop it runs pretty constantly westwards along the N of Dumfriesshire, by Crib Law, Moodlaw Loch, and Gair Hill, to Whin Fell, where it trends tolerably due N by Herman Law, St Mary's Loch, Glenrath Heights, and Hundleshope Heights, to t-he junction of Waddenshope and Glensax Burns, from which point it makes a wide irregular sweep to the SW to Glengaber, and thence NW to the Tweed opposite Gatehope Burn, forming a kind of irregularly shaped arc, divided into three parts by two narrow peninsulas, the W extremities of which just touch the Tweed, which forms the chord. The bounding line follows the Gatehope Burn NE from the Tweed for some distance, then sweeps round towards the NW, and from the source of Caddon Water runs in a comparatively straight line SW till it strikes the course of the Gala, which continues to bound the shire till we reach the Tweed at the point at which we began to trace the outline.

Selkirkshire forms parts of the southern Highlands of Scotland, and lies from 300 to 2433 feet above sea-level. It rises in a continuous succession of uplands, and, excepting a narrow portion on the E side, is nothing more than a congeries of heights intersected by gorges, glens, and narrow bays. The pastoral nature of the country causes human habitations to be few and far between, so that an air of solitary stillness seems to hang over the verdant hills. Between the Tweed and Yarrow the hills are mostly heather-covered, but elsewhere they are more grassy.

Hills.—The positions of the chief heights are most conveniently indicated with reference to the rivers and river basins. In that part of the shire N of Tweed and W of Gala, the chief summits are Gala Hill (904 feet), Neidpath Hill (1203), Mossilee Hill (1264), Meigle Hill (1387), Great Law (1666), Ferniehurst Hill (1643), Deaf Heights (1844), Redscar Law (1837), Seathope Law (1778), and Windlestrae Law (2161). In the parts of Yarrow and Selkirk parishes N of the Yarrow are Linglee Hill (1123 feet), Three Brethren (1523), Foulshiels Hill (1454), Ashiesteil Hill (1314), Elibank Law (1715), Lewinshope Rig (1320), Minchmoor (1856), Stake Law (2229), Blackhouse Heights (2213), Deer Law (2064), Plora Craig (1212), Dun Rig (2433; the highest point in the county), Hundleshope Heights (2249), and Birkscairn (2169). In the parts of the parishes of Ettrick, Yarrow, and Selkirk, between the Yarrow and Ettrick, are Black Andrew (1364 feet), Newark Hill (1450), Fastheugh Hill (1645), Fauldshope Hill (1532), Sundhope Height (1684), Bowerhope Law (1569), Wardlaw Hill (1951), and Herman Law (2014). In the SW of Ettrick parish rise Bodsbeck Law (2173 feet), Capel Fell (2223), Wind Fell (2180), Ettrick Pen (2269), Blacknowe (1806), and Gair Hill (1601). In Selkirk and Yarrow parishes E of the Ettrick, and in Ashkirk, are Stand Knowe (1528 feet), Dun Knowe (1459), Dodhead Mid Hill (1118), Shaw's Hill (1292), Bleak Law (1215), Bellendean Rig (1144), The Craigs (1238), Whiteslade Hill (1134), Cavers Hill (1209), Hutlerburn Hill (1178), Huntly Hill (1146), and Moat Hill (744). Firestane Edge (1155 feet), Hangingshaw Hill (1044), Blackcastle Hill (908), are between the Ale and Borthwick; Philhope Hill (1121) and Calfshaw Head (1320) between the Borthwick and Teviot.

Rivers.—The largest river in Selkirkshire is the Tweed, which for 10 miles flows across the N part of the county, from its confluence with the Gatehope Burn, to the junction with the Gala, and divides the Selkirkshire portion of Stow and Innerleithen parishes, and Galashiels parish on the N, from Yarrow and Selkirk on the S. At two points, as has been noticed, Yarrow parish sends out narrow peninsulas which just touch the S bank of the river. Within the bounds of Selkirkshire the Tweed receives on its right bank the Glensax or Haystoun Burn, Kirkburn, Quair, Plora, Bold, and Glenkinnon Burns; and on the left, Gatehope Burn, Caddon Water, and the Gala. The Quair receives the Newhall and Fingland Burns as affluents. But the two specially Selkirkshire rivers are the Yarrow and the Ettrick, both flowing diagonally through the county from SW to NE in parallel courses till they meet at Carterhaugh, about 2 miles above Selkirk, whence the united stream, under the name of Ettrick Water, flows north-eastward to the Tweed. The Yarrow rises in the SW corner of the county, and flows through the Loch of the Lowes and St Mary's Loch, at the NE end of which begins the true Yarrow of Scottish song. Its whole course of 25 miles towards the NE through the 'dowie dens o, Yarrow' is studded with scenes of historic and romantic interest. It has about forty affluents, of which the chief on the right bank are the Altrieve and Sundhope Burns, and on the left, the Megget (from Peeblesshire), Kirkstead, Dryhope, Douglas, Mount Benger, Catslack, Deuchar, Lewinshope, and Hangingshaw Burns. The Ettrick, perhaps only second to the Yarrow in Scottish song, rising on Capel Fell, flows NE for 325/8 miles before it joins the Tweed a little below Sunderland Hall. On the left bank it receives the Rangecleuch, Kirkhope, Tushielaw, Crosslee, Birkindale, Singlie, and Philiphaugh Burns; and on the right, Tima Water (receiving Dalgleish and Glenkerry Burns), Rankleburn, with its tributary the Buccleuch Burn, Deloraine, Baillie, Huntly, and Windy Burns. After these rivers the Gala, in the N, ranks next in importance, which, flowing from Midlothian, forms the W boundary for about 5 miles. It is joined by the Heriot, Armit, and Lugate. In the SE of Selkirkshire, the Ale Water, taking its rise in Roberton parish, flows through Ale. moor Loch into Roxburghshire. Its four Selkirkshire tributaries, each flowing from a separate little loch, are the Byrelee Burn from Kingside Loch; Wilson Burn from Hellmoor Loch; Todrig Burn from Shaws Loch; and Blindhaugh Burn from Akermoor Loch. Borthwick Water, which skirts a short reach of the SE boundary, receives from the county, on its left bank, Wolfcleuch, Dirthope, and Hoscote Burns.

Lochs.—The lochs of Selkirkshire, though numerous, are small. St Mary's Loch, at the middle of the W boundary, is by far the most famous. This clear and calm sheet of water, 3 miles long and less than 1 mile broad, is beautifully situated in a sequestered valley, overlooked by rounded verdant hills, which impart a striking air of solitude to the scene. Sir Walter Scott, Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, and Wordsworth have each celebrated its beauty in their poetry. Separated from St Mary's by only a narrow isthmus is the little Loch of the Lowes, 1 mile long and ¼ mile broad. The district about these lochs is inseparably associated with the Ettrick Shepherd, a monument to whom stands at the N end of the isthmus referred to. In the NE of Roberton parish are Hellmoor and Alemoor Lochs; the latter, an expansion of the river Ale, about 2 miles in circumference. Other small lakes, all in the same district, are Kingside, Crooked, Shaws, and Akermoor Lochs; while the Haining Loch was, till recently, the chief source of the water supply of the town of Selkirk.

Geology.—There is little variety in the geology of this county, as the stratified rocks belong exclusively to the Silurian formation. The strata represented are divisible into three groups, which are easily distinguished by marked lithological characters. Of these, the lowest consists of brown crusted greywackes, flags, and shales; the beds being singularly destitute of fossils. They form the high ground along the S border of the county, and at Ettrick Bridge End plunge underneath the overlying black shales, flags, and sandstones-the prolongations towards the NE of the Moffat Black Shale series. These are in turn overlaid by the members of the third group, composed mainly of massive grits forming the Queensberry series of the Geological Survey. A line drawn from Ettrick Bridge End, SW to the county boundary at the Blue Cairn Hill, indicates the outcrop of the black shales, where they rest on the underlying greywackes and flags and pass underneath the Queensberry grits. The general inclination of the strata along this line is towards the NW, so that there appears to be a regular ascending series from the brown tinted strata through the black shales to the Queensberry grits. The order of succession of the black shale series has been admirably worked out by Professor Lapworth in Moffatdale-the region where they are typically developed. A generalised section in the basin of the Ettrick shows at the base hard flinty black shales with chert bands, the shales being characterised by Dicellograpti, Dicranograpti, Thamnograpti, etc. These are overlaid by grey shaly mudstones, with occasional calcareous nodular bands, and two thin bands of black shale containing Dicellograptus anceps. To these succeed black flaggy shales, with thin partings yielding the following forms: Graptolithus gregarius, Diplo. graptus acuminatus, D. vesiculosus, Climacograptus teritiuseulus, etc. Next in order come alternations of dark blue, almost black and white shales with clay bands; the black shales yielding Graptolithus gregarius, G. Sedgwickii, G. tenuis, and several Diplograpti. At the top of the series come about 20 feet of blue shale, like the overlying Grieston beds, with occasional beds of silky and dark shales containing mainly simple graptolites, several species of Rastrites, and a few Diplograpti. Perhaps the finest sections are to be met with in that part of the county extending from St Mary's Loch and Altrieve to the head waters of the Ettrick. In that region the black shales come to the surface along a series of anticlinal folds in the overlying Queensberry Grits, and present much the same order of succession which obtains in Moffatdale. To the S and E of this area, however, there is a remarkable change observable in the members of this series. On the crest of each successive anticline of the Moffat series, as we pass towards the S, there is a gradual increase in the thickness of the sedimentary strata associated with the black shales, until, near Ettrick Pen, the latter are represented only by a few thin zones belonging to the highest subdivisions of the group. For some miles to the E of St Mary's Loch the Moffat series is buried underneath the overlying Queensberry Grits, but where they reappear the main subdivisions are still traceable with certain variations.

At the base of the Queensberry group there is a variable thickness of shales and flags representing the well-known Grieston shales. They are not typically developed in this area, but in the neighbourhood of Ettrick they assume the flaggy character which towards the NE merges into the Roxburgh type.

Throughout the county the strata are thrown into a constant succession of synclines and anticlines, and over a considerable part of the Ettrick area the folds are inverted. If the black shale series had not been exposed by denudation along the crests of the anticlines, it would have been very difficult to unravel the geological structure of that region. But with the aid of the various subdivisions and their embedded fossils, it is possible to decipher the most complicated sections-

The Silurian strata are singularly free from intrusive igneous rocks. The dykes of minette or mica trap, referred to in the article on the geology of Roxburgh, are also represented in this county near Todrig, where they are much decomposed, weathering frequently into a ferruginous sand, while the walls of the dyke are hardened and silicified. These dykes were intruded among the Silurian strata prior to Upper Old Red Sandstone time, but the evidence in favour of their being older than the lower division of that formation is extremely doubtful. Quartz-felsite occurs in the form of dykes on the heights surrounding the Caddon Water; but perhaps the most interesting development of these veins is in the small detached area of Selkirkshire to the NE of Innerleithen. Basalt dykes of Tertiary age are also represented in the county. One of them crosses the Bowerhope Law, overlooking St Mary's Loch, and probably is a prolongation of the dyke which passes through Hawick. Several small basalt veins occur in the neighbourhood of the head waters of the Ettrick. These are probably the continuations of the great basalt dykes that cross the Clyde near Abington, which have been traced far to the N W into Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

The general trend of the ice movement throughout the county was from W to E, as proved, both by the striæ and the dispersal of the stones in the boulder clay. In the neighbourhood of St Mary's Loch the direction is a few degrees to the N of E, while on the heights between Eskdalemuir and Borthwick and Ettrick it is ENE. Near Selkirk the trend varies from ENE to NE. There are extensive deposits of boulder clay along the valleys, presenting the features commonly met with in Silurian areas. An examination of the stones in the boulder clay points to the conclusion that blocks were carried in the moraine profonde from Moffatdale into the vale of Ettrick towards Eskdalemuir, surmounting, in fact, the highest ground in the county. In the valleys situated to the N of the line of outcrop of the black shales at Ettrick Bridge End, the boulder clay forms well marked terraces which have been cut through by the streams. The same distribution of the deposits is observable throughout the area occupied by the flags and greywackes underlying the black shales. The valleys or depressions are smaller, however, and the rib-shaped features formed by the rock project above the deposit of boulder clay. There is one interesting feature connected with the Selkirkshire valleys which is worthy of note. The slopes of the hills facing the ice flow are usually steep and rocky, while the opposite sides of the valleys are covered with drift. Such a disposition of the boulder clay is readily accounted for when we remember that the deposit would naturally accumulate in the lee of the hill ranges, while the slopes of the hills exposed to the sweep of the ice sheet would be subjected to a vast amount of erosion.

Many of the valleys in the upper part of the county nourished glaciers during the later phases of the ice age. Nearly all the tributary valleys in the upper part of the basin of the Ettrick possessed glaciers that united in the main valley, relics of which are still to be found in the groups of moraines. Excellent examples occur in the Coomb Burn-a great basin-shaped hollow scooped out of the shoulder of Ettrick Pen, and another conspicuous group is to be seen on the watershed between the head waters of the Yarrow and Moffat, where the ice seems to have moved E towards St Mary's Loch. This sheet of water and the Loch of the Lowes seem to have formed originally one lake, filling an ancient rock basin, which was probably excavated during the extreme glaciation. The Loch of the Lowes has been isolated from St Mary's by the cones of detritus accumulated by the Whitehope Burn on the S and the Oxcleugh Burn on the W.

Economic Minerals.—Excellent building stone is obtained from the massive grits of the Queensberry series, and the harder greywacke bands underlying the Moffat black shale group.

Soil.—The soil, lying largely on a bottom of gravel, or whinstone, is, generally speaking, sound and dry. Marshy ground is, however, found near the tops of some of the hills, and among the moors of the SW. What little clay soil there is in the county lies mainly midway between the base and summits of the hills. The soil of the arable land is light and easily worked, an d is well drained by the configuration of the surface. The sheepwalks lie mostly on greywacke rock or gravel, and are sound and dry.

Climate.—More rain falls on the moors and lofty hills of the W than on the other parts of the county. Snowstorms used to be frequent, and in some of the deep gullies the snow used to lie till almost summer. The air is pure, and the climate healthy; and the people attain a fair average of longevity.

Industries.—Besides the manufacturing industries which centre wholly in the towns and larger villages, Selkirkshire carries on arable and pastoral farming- which indeed is the sole county industry proper. According to the returns of 1881, 984 of the male population were engaged in agriculture, 5732 in industrial pursuits, 425 in commerce, 4898 unproductive, and the rest variously employed. As its title of Ettrick Forest suggests, this county was in early times covered with woods, and so more adapted to the chase than to tillage; indeed it was only in the third decade of last century that any considerable agricultural improvements were set on foot. Since then, however, great advances have been made, though the county has always been far more pastoral than agricultural. An estimate made near the close of the 18th century, assuming the total area of the county at the much exaggerated extent of 181, 000 acres, distributed 169, 650 to pasturage, 300 to arable ground, 2200 to plantations and coppice, and 250 to garden and pleasure-ground. The present proportions, though different, do not deviate very largely from these results. Wheat has been raised in tolerably good crops at a height of 700 feet above sea-level; and oats, turnips, barley, and clover-hay thrive in regular rotation on ground from 700 to 800 feet above sea-level, near the head of Ettrick Water. According to the returns of 1881 there were in the county 35 farms of 1000 acres or more, 30 between 500 and 1000, 14 between 100 and 500, and 5 between 5 and 100 acres. The following table exhibits the acreage under the chief crops at various dates:—

  1857. 1868. 1377. 1884.
Wheat, . . . 261 41 53 16
Oats, . . . 4162 4255 4449 4494
Barely, . . . 949 636 676 376
Turnips,. . . 2624 2671 2942 2553
Cabbages, etc., . .. 102 253 263
Other Green Crops, .. 223 252 252
Bare Fallow, . . 65 .. .. 38
Grass, Permanent
Pasture, . .
.. 5789 6286 7518
Grass in Rotation,. .. 6950 7374 7753

In 1884 there were 3228 acres under plantation, and 7 acres in market gardens and nursery-ground.

The following table shows the numbers of live-stock in the county at various dates:—

  1857. 1868. 1876. 1884.
Horses, . . . 598 .. 568 580
Cattle, . . . 2,449 2,402 2,572 2,657
Sheep, . . . 145,732 170,305 162,719 165,061
Pigs, . . . 474 359 447 449

As will be seen from the above table, sheep-farming is a highly important industry in the county, and is largely developed. The common breed of sheep is the Cheviot, which is highly valued for its wool. The blackfaced breed, at one time more numerous than any other kind, is reared in more limited numbers.

The manufacture of woollens is very important, but has been already treated in the articles on the towns and chief villages. Its development has contributed largely to increase the value of property in the county. The trade of Selkirkshire consists chiefly in the sale and export of sheep, lambs, and the manufactures of the towns; and the import of food, Australian wool, coal, and lime. Among the other resources of the county are the salmon fisheries on the Tweed, and the other fishings and shootings. According to the Sportsman and Tourist's Guide for Oct. 1884, the annual value of fishings let in Selkirkshire was £305, and the annual value of the grouse and other shootings was £1473. The extensive vineries at Clovenfords, where enormous quantities of grapes are grown for the markets, should also be classed among the industrial institutions of the county.

All the habitable portions of the county are well provided with good roads. The chief roads run along respectively the banks of the Tweed, the Yarrow, and the Ettrick; and various cross roads and minor thoroughfares intersect the portions of the county between these. The line of the North British railway from Edinburgh to Carlisle skirts the NE boundary for about 5 miles, with stations within the county at Bowland and Galashiels. A branch of the same line, 6 miles long, extends from Galashiels southwards to Selkirk, intersecting a part of Roxburghshire, and passing the Selkirkshire station of Abbotsford Ferry. Another branch runs from Galashiels westwards along the course of the Tweed to Innerleithen and Peebles. Its Selkirkshire stations are at Clovenfords and Thornilee. Thus the whole county S of the Tweed is as yet quite untouched by any railway, with the exception of -the short branch line to Selkirk, so that visitors to St Mary's Loch district must avail themselves of the coaches plying from Selkirk or from Innerleithen, if they are dependent on the public means of conveyance. The only royal burgh in the county is Selkirk (6090); the only other town is part of Galashiels. Villages and hamlets are Clovenfords, part of Deanburnhaugh, Ettrick Bridge, Yarrow-feus, and Yarrow-ford. The chief seats are Bowhill (Duke of Buccleuch), Broadmeadows, Elibank Cottage (Lord Elibank), Gala House, Glenmayne, Haining, Hangingshaw, Harewoodglen, Holylee, Laidlawstiel (Lord and Lady Reay), Philiphaugh, Rodono (now let as an hotel), Sunderland Hall, Thirlestane (Lord Napier and Ettrick), Torwoodlee, and Yair. The chief landowner in the county is the Duke of Buccleuch. According to the Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 161, 815 acres, with a total gross estimated rental of £103, 030, were divided among 706 proprietors; the Duke of Buccleuch holding 60, 428 acres (rental, £19, 828), six together holding 42, 868 (£12,272), twelve 35, 964 (£19,122), ten 14, 923 (£7777), six 5060 (£3031), seven 1684 (£2124), etc.

Selkirkshire is governed by a lord-lieutenant, 12 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, sheriff-substitute, and its justices of the peace. Sheriff and other courts are held at Selkirk and Galashiels periodically as detailed in our articles on these towns. The county police force in 1884 comprised 14 men, under a chief constable. From 1832 till 1867 the county, inclusive of the burgh, sent one member to parliament; but it now unites with Peeblesshire in returning one member, and the burgh of Selkirk unites with Hawick and Galashiels in returning another. The parliamentary constituency of the county in 1885 was 306. Valuation of the county (1674) £6692, (1865) £63,651, (1885) £67, 709, plus £6174 for railway. According to the census of 1881 Selkirkshire had an average of 99 inhabitants to the square mile, 12 counties being more densely populated, and the average for all Scotland being 125. Pop. (1801) 5388, (1811) 5889, (1821) 6637, (1831) 6838, (1841) 7990, (1851) 9809, (1861) 10,449, (1871) 14,005, and (1881) 25, 564, of whom 13, 405 were females, and 11 Gaelic-speaking. Houses (1881) occupied 5082, vacant 264, building 86.

The registration county takes in part of Yarrow parish from Peeblesshire, parts of Selkirk, Galashiels, and Roberton parishes from Roxburghshire; gives off part of Stow parish to Edinburghshire, part of Ashkirk parish to Roxburghshire, and parts of Peebles and Innerleithen parishes to Peeblesshire; and comprehends 5 entire quoad civilia parishes, and had in 1881 a population of 26,346. All the parishes are assessed for the poor. The civil county includes two entire quoad civilia parishes (Ettrick and Kirkhope), the greater part of Galashiels, Selkirk, and Yarrow, and portions of Ashkirk, Innerleithen, Melrose, Peebles, Roberton, and Stow. It contains four entire quoad sacra parishes, and has two small parts of quoad civilia parishes in the presbytery of Peebles and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and another small part quoad civilia in the presbytery of Lauder and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; and all its other parts are in the presbytery of Selkirk and synod of Merse and Teviotdale. There are in the shire 20 elementary schools (15 of them public), which, with a total accommodation for 4191 children, had in 1883 on their registers 3551, and an average attendance of 2875.

Antiquities.—Selkirkshire seems always to have maintained its character as a' forest' or hunting place, so that the remains of its ancient inhabitants are not numerous. In the eastern parts there are remains of several British forts, and what has been described as a square or Roman camp, has been traced on the Borthwick Water. The chief British antiquity is the Catrail, which intersects part of this county. Three crosses, called William's, Tait's, and Craik, stood respectively on a height near Broadmeadows, on Kershope Hill and on Craik Moor. Among the less ancient, but the most interesting, antiquities of the county are the ruined castles and moss-grown towers of the old Border troopers, none of them older than the 14th, and most belonging to the 16th or the 17th, century. The names of very many of these are familiar in Scottish Border ballad and history; for none of the Border counties is more celebrated in song than Ettrick Forest. Among the more famous of these towers are Dryhope Tower, where dwelt Mary Scott' the Flower of Yarrow;' Hangingshaw, the scene of the ballad of 'The Outlaw Murray;' 'the shattered front of Newark's Tower, renowned in Border Story,' as Wordsworth sings, Thirlestane, Gamescleuch, Tushielaw, the hold of Adam Scott,' the King of the Borders;' Oakwood, Deuchar, Blindlee, and Kirkhope. Blackhouse Tower was the scene of the Douglas tragedy; and' seven large stones,' says Sir Walter Scott,' erected, upon the neighbouring heights of Blackhouse, are shown as marking the spots where the seven brethren were slain; and the Douglas Burn is averred to have been the stream at which the lovers stopped to drink.' There are still vestiges of a tower to mark the site of the abode of 'Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead;' and the position may still be traced of St Mary's Kirk, near St Mary's Loch, which was destroyed by the Scotts in a feud with the Cranstons in 1557. The old church of Buccleuch, also, has left some remains.

History.—The territory now known as Selkirkshire formed part of the domains of the ancient Gadeni, who seem to have occupied it rather as hunters than as settlers. The Saxons, also, who followed upon the retirement of the Romans, seem not to have cleared away the woods to any great extent; for, many centuries after their first appearance, the shire still was famous for its forests and its facilities for the chase. Under the Scottish kings, the forest was a royal demesne; and the barons and Border nobles who dwelt in it, held their lands nominally as kindly tenants or rentallers of the crown; and according to Sir Walter Scott, did not receive charters till about 230 years ago. But in point of fact, the Border chieftains paid little attention to the conditions of their holding, and acted with complete independence — requiring James V. himself to take strong measures to reduce them to order. Sheriffs were appointed by the king; the earliest on record appearing before 1214. King Edward I. of England, in 1304, granted to the Earl of Gloucester the keeping of the forest of Selkirk, and in 1305 recognised the Earl of Pembroke as the hereditary sheriff of the county. From soon after the accession of Bruce till 1455, the forest was, however, held of the Scottish crown by the Douglases. In 1346 William Douglas succeeded in expelling the English from at least part of this county. In 1509 the sheriffdom was assigned to John Murray of Falahill; and in 1748, on the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, John Murray of Philiphaugh received £4000 in compensation, and the Duke of Douglas a lesser sum. The more romantic features of its history are closely interwoven with its literature; and the numerous Border ballads commemorate more or less accurately various historical incidents connected with the shire. The pathetic ballad of The Flowers of the Forest refers to the desolation caused in the district by the disaster of Flodden; while the ballad of the Battle of Philiphaugh records the victory within the county of the Covenanters over Montrose in 1645. The labours of Scott, who lived for a time at Ashiestiel, and was sheriff of Selkirk; of Hogg, who was born in the vale of Ettrick in 1770; and others, have either preserved or caused the lyric fame of countless spots within the county, from the 'Dowie Dens o' Yarrow,' to the famed anglers' hostelry of Tibbie Shiels at St Mary's Loch.—Ord. Sur., shs. 25, 17, 16, 24, 1864-65. See Mr T. Craig Brown's forthcoming History of Selkirkshire.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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