Welcome to the Curio Cabinet


Researching ballads, particularly those collected, written and stolen around the turn of the 18th / 19th centuries, one picks up a great deal of interesting and curious matter by-the-by. Particularly if men such as Walter Scott have anything to do with it…

We’ve decided to make a virtual space where such material may come to light.

Pull up a clawed chair, have your manservant pour the claret, and open the door…

Stones of Remembrance: The Dream

A little indulgence, if I may, while suggesting this small memorial as part of our occasional remarks on stones …


Linlithgow is an ancient burgh and contains many historic sites. For example, this was where James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray was  assassinated on 23 January 1570 by James Hamilton– an assassination notable not only for the planning and audacity, but for the fact Moray was shot.  On a more benign note, Linlithgow Palace, although still impressive in its decine, was a renaissance glory in its prime, and Sir Walter Scott makes mention of it in  Marmion:

Of all the palaces so fair
Built for the royal dwelling
In Scotland, far beyond compare,
Linlithgow is excelling

But let us turn to our stone …


On what is now Friar’s Brae, above the houses of Priory Road, a wall stands and embedded in it  is a stone plaque which reads ‘WJD The Dream   1888’. It is not so very legible now, but during my childhood, most children of the area knew exactly where it was. The Dream was the name of a grey horse owned by Mr W. J. Drybrough, and the feat the stone recalls occurred on a run of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt of 8th December 1888. Let us turn to  Chapter X of the publication ‘The History of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt by James H. Ruhterford, W.S., for an account of the proceedings.

It was in this run that Mr W. J. Drybrough, riding his horse The Dream, leaped the Preston march-wall, a performance so remarkable that it deserves description, and “Croppie Boy” shall tell the tale as he told it at the time. “But what is this in front? The Preston march-dyke, a wall like the side of a house, built with mortar and with square, uncompromising coping stones on top. There is no disgrace in turning from this obstacle, for it is all but utterly unjumpable, so we go round. But the well-known rider of the grey means to have a whet at it, and with three mighty bounds the horse, with 16 st. on top of him, launched clear over nearly six feet of solid masonry. On the other side is a drop, measured next day, of fourteen feet some odd inches, so of course they fall—in fact, the horse’s hind legs never touched the ground, but he landed on his fore legs and head and rolled over, sending his rider prospecting, but on the right side of the fence—no mean feat early in the day before the first gloss is off horse and man, and when the performance is towards the close of a hard day [as this was], the merit is enhanced … It should be added perhaps, that when coming down to the wall, Mr Drybrough called out to a man who was sitting or standing upon it, “What’s on the other side?”, that The Dream, who never hesitated an instant, was in the air before his owner received the reply, “Ye canna jump here,” and that after their fall horse and rider picked themselves up at once, and went on to the finish.

I should add, that during my childhood, there were several accounts which were at odds to this: the horse fell and died, the rider was thrown and died, both horse and rider perished. And it was a given understanding that, at midnight on the date every year, the phantom pair would reappear to attempt the jump once more. To date, I have not put this supernatural theory to the test.


What’s legal and what’s not …

… the debate snarled on, with Scrope arguing Kinmont that was a notorious reiver, and trying to promote the idea that any opportunity to apprehend such an individual should be an opportunity taken: the Border Law, however, was not so flexible – after all, there had to be politic measure to ensure any cross-border negotiation and legal proceedings could take place on a local scale. Ralph Eure, experienced in Border affairs, explained the situation to Lord Burghley to clarify matters on 19th  June 1596 …

In answer to your inquiry–Whether at a day of truce, the peace endures from sunrise that day to sunrise of next day, or only till sunset of the day of truce, and whether a subject of either realm can enter the other to recover goods during the truce? It is usual for both wardens to agree at their meeting for a truce to begin and endure while the business in hand requires. By the words of the treaty in her Majesty’s time, they are not by custom to be limited “from sonne to sonne,” except specially agreed between them. Therefore usually when they remain but one day, they take assurance from sunrise of the one day till sunrise of the next, that every man may likely be returned safe to his dwelling as he came to the place of meeting.  Therefore this question between Lord Scrope’s deputies and the laird of Buccleuch’s will be decided according to their assurance. If “general”, it includes both safety of goods and men, and all actions tending to breach of peace. Therefore “me thinkes” it agrees with the law of treaty that in either of their governments, the wardens shall take general assurance “for all the March left att home as for the companie then in present, and if anie offence be committed to the breache thereof of eyther partie, it is commonlie tearmed  to be under assurance, and so held hateful and unlawfull.”  This question of Lord Scrope for Kinmonthe may arise with any other warden, and your lordship may now take occasion to prevent future “harmes”. Lord Scrope by his assurance, is “tyed in honor” to answer for his whole March – Buccleuch for his office only, an unequal assurance. If any, either of the west or east of his office, with whom Buccleuch is in kindness, do ride, his assurance is not broken, yet the warden in whose wardenry such acts are committed is justly moved to revenge. So if your lordship would hold that warden should answer warden only, not an officer, and for the like circuit, or else that the opposite warden should at least grant assurance for the whole March, for the time agreed by the officer.

Eure to Burghley June 19th 1596 (Calendar of Border Papers II: 138)

Buccleuch is referred to as an ‘officer’, as the Keeper of Liddesdale was not a Warden, and was not considered to have equal standing … something perhaps best never brought up directly in the presence of Buccleugh – or indeed that of other Keepers – given the relentlessly unruly nature of the place.

A curious gift from abroad

In the summer, as people take trips here and there, it is common for gifts to be bought or acquired for friends and family. These may be symbolic or sentimental. They may be expensive purchases, or a beautifully wave-smoothed stone from a beach.  They may be welcomed or merely accepted  with civility. Few, however, may have received a gift as gruesomely splendid as that sent to Walter Scott by Lord Byron.

It consisted of an ornate silver urn. The contents, however, were rather more towards the gothic leanings than the romantic, for the urn contained human bones, which Byron was convinced were of Ancient Greeks – ‘Attic bones’. Scott, however, did not appear in any way repulsed, but received the gift with his usual grace and turn of phrase, recalling

I was to play the part of Diomed, in the Iliad, for Byron sent me, some time after, a large sepulchral vase of silver. It was full of dead men’s bones, and had inscriptions on two sides of the base. One ran thus:—‘The bones contained in this urn were found in certain ancient sepulchres within the land walls of Athens, in the month of February, 1811.’ The other face bears the lines of Juvenal:

Expende—quot libras in duce summo invenies. —Mors sola fatetur quantula hominum corpuscula.” Juv. x.39

To these I have added a third inscription, in these words—‘The gift of Lord Byron to Walter Scott.


We do not recommend that this is a suitable gift to recall travels, and the authors indicate that they will decline any similar presentations.

Stones of Remembrance

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Craig Wallace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Craig Wallace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Throughout the country, there are stones which commemorate instances in history. The Chisholm Stone at Struy is just one of them. It is perhaps pertinent to recall

the tale connected to it on this, the 270th anniversary of Culloden.

This is the spot where Christiana Fergusson took leave of her husband, William Chisholm. Chisholm was a standard bearer for Chisholm of Chisholm, and was leaving to fight at Culloden. Like so many, he never returned. It was said that she did not give up hope of his return until she recognised her husband’s coat on the back of an itinerant beggarman.

The tale associated with it has become one of the myths which now represent 1745 The Rising, as much as history, and such tales ignited sparks of imagination in

following generation, including one of our esteemed antiquarian muses, Walter Scott. Scott, and others, developed the myth of the Highlander, which replaced the Lowland distrust, fear and cultural dismissal which existed before and certainly perpetuated through the mid 18th century.

That said,  the stone remains, and Christiana Fergusson went on to author one of the most poignant songs associated with the ’45 – Cumha do dh’Uilleam Siseal or Rùn Geal Òg

In recent years, the inscription has been restored, and some may think added to, but such is the way of the world, and the only way, at times, that the importance, emotional or cultural, of such local icons are recalled.

Who’s Who in the Kinmont Rescue … and why

Despite Scrope’s initial insistence that there were 500 riders,  the actual number was much lower. Eure, writing to Elizabeth I, informed her of his estimate  – “not fouertie as I here”.

No doubt there were many others involved, besides the riders: those Grahams with whom Buccleuch had met with and had assured safe passage from, and even the Laird of Johnstone, and the Goodman of Bonshaw (Irwen/Irvine of Bonshaw) were part of the rescue:

the Lairde of Johnston laye with an ambushment in one place and the Goodman of Bonshawe with an other, on the paile of Scotland, to have given defence to there owne and resisted the pursuers, if any had followed so farre.


According to an informant, Richie’s Will (a Graham who was part of the rescue party), the following men were involved:


The Laird of Buccleuch, Walter Scott of Buccleuch (The Bauld Buccleuch)

(The informant says Buccleuch brought 24 Scott and Elliots)

Walter Scott of Goldelandes

Walter Scott of Hardinge (Wat of Harden)

Walter Scott of Branxholme

–– Scot named Todrigges


Will Ellott, goodman of Gorrombye

John Eliott called “of the Copshawe”


the Laird of Mangerton

the young Laird of Whithaugh and his son

(they brought 8 men)

three of the Calfhills, Jocke, Bighames, and one Ally, a bastard

Sandy Armestronge, son to Hebbye

(Hobb’s Sandy brought 2 men with him)

Kinmont’s Jocke, Francie, Geordy, and Sandye, all bretheren, the sons of Kinmont

(4 of Kinmont’s men also attended)

three bretheren of Tweda, Armstrongs

Young John of the Hollace and one of his brethren (Kirste)

 Christie of Barneglish and Roby of the Langholm

The Chingles


 Willie ‘Kange’ and his brethren with their “complices.”


Willie “Redcloake” Bell, and two of his brothers, John and Rob

(John Bell’s horse “tireit” and he stayed at Fergus the Plump’s overnight)

Walter Bell of Godesby


Andrew Graham, brother-in-law of Will of Kinmont was involved, as was one Hutcheon Graham, who may have been Kinmont’s father-in-law.

Ritchie of Brackenhill, Willie of the Rosetrees, Fergus the Plump – all Grahams – were also involved

Family loyalty and  bonds of loyalty were important to this rescue. An informant informed Scrope that Thomas Carleton, who had been discharged from his station in Carlisle Castle, had a hand in the scheme, as did Geordie’s Sandy Graham, who aided Buccleuch’s safe journey, due to the fact that Carleton was his brother-in-law;  Willie ‘Redcloak” Bell “did nothinge but that Richey of Brakonhill caused him to doe”, and  was the nephew of  Willie of the Rosetrees: and Willie ‘Kang’ was “Buckclughes owne man”.

Rescue and Release

On the night of 13th/14th April, in the “deade time”  William Armstrong of Kinmont was rescued from the apparently impregnable Carlisle Castle.

The weather that night was foul, many of the guard took shelter from “the violence of the wether”. Others, who had held office within the castle,  Thomas Carlton and his brother Lancelot, were in league with the rescuers.

Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the Bauld Buccleuch, seems to have been the mastermind, and the leader of the rescue.  Indeed, he was in the van – the fifth man in – , and was seen in the castle’s courtyard.

Thomas Scrope’s worst nightmares had been realised, and he had the unenviable task of reporting the audacious rescue to Elizabeth’s Court … it is not wonder, perhaps, that he seems to have exaggerated the numbers involved:

500 horsemen of Buclughes and Kinmontes frendes, did come armed and

appointed with gavlockes and crowes of iron, handpeckes, axes and skaillinge

lathers, unto an owtewarde corner of the base courtof this castell, and to

the posterne dore of the samewhich they undermyned speedily and

quietlye and made them selves possessores of the base courte, brake into the

chamber where Will of Kinmont was, carried him awaye, and in their discoverie

by the watch, lefte for deade two of the watchmen, hurt a servante of

myne one of Kynmontes keperes, and were issued againe onte of the posterne

before they were discried by the watche of the innerwarde, and ere resistance

could be made. The watch, as yt shoulde seeme, by reason of the stormiye

night, were either on sleepe or gotten under some covert to defende them

selves from the violence of the wether; by meanes wherof the Scottes

atcheived theire entreprise with lesse difficultie.

Scrope to the Privy Council

(Original image: Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Horse Racing: the Buccleuch method

On this day, 1596, Buccleuch arranged a horse race, which took place at Ewes Water.

We should remember, that this 101 years before The Byerley Turk was set to stud, 118 years before Flying Childers (who remained undefeated in his racing career) was sired by the Darley Arabian, and 135 years before The Godolphin Arabian first proved his bloodline with his first offspring Lath. The horses which were raced at Ewes Water, then, had none of the Thoroughbred genes – Thoroughbreds as a breed had yet to be created.

Instead, these horses may have been some of the hobbyes, mentioned by Carey in his Memoirs, and if we even pause to dismiss the event as being, perhaps, of little merit therefore, we should recall that in Cavelarice, or The English Horseman: Contayning all the Art of Horse-manship, as much as is Necessary for any Man to Understand the author, Gervase Markham, noted:

… when the best Barbaries that ever were in my remembrance were in their prime, I saw them overrunne by a black hobbie at Salesburie of Master Carlton’s …

However, the prime concern may not have been the speed of the horses.

Buccleuch was in conversation with other attendees, notably the Grahams. He was making last minute arrangements for a matter he had to attend to, with others, later that day, assuring that he had clear passage through the English Grahams’ lands “without shout or hindrance” as Scrope would describe it in the coming days.


But surely, a horse race meeting is merely a horse race …?