The countryside of the Scottish Borders, and more particularly that of Peeblesshire, famed for its beauty and the friendliness of its people, has an enduring appeal for tourists from all over the world. However, although the landscape has certainly been appreciated for hundreds of years, in times past, enjoyment of it would have been curtailed by the colourful, treacherous characters who chose to dwell there. Stories of local feuds, battles, and murders abound, with the area itself in dispute for more than two thousand years.
Despite their well deserved reputation for order and discipline, even the Romans struggled to control this area of southern Scotland. It fell between their two famous fortifications, the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall, and was probably of strategic importance even at this time as it is likely that the main Edinburgh to Moffat road passed through Broughton. With waves of settlers driven North by the constant conquering and reconquering of England, the Borders was already a mish mash of different peoples including Ancient Britons such as the Cymri.
After the Romans abandoned the area north of Hadrian’s Wall, and then the British Isles altogether, there is evidence of continuing strife. The fort at Lyne, a notorious Roman stronghold, is thought to have been later occupied by the Angles, and it has even been suggested that around here is the “Cadmore” or “Cademuir” (meaning “great battle”) that the legendary King Arthur could have fought in this part of Peeblesshire.
Following the Dark Ages, the trouble continued and the surviving histories could even put names to some of the enduring miscreants. King Edward I of England, famous for his subjugation of Scotland and indeed of Wales also, seems to have had little more luck than the Romans in dealing with The Borders. In 1296 he appointed the somewhat dubious character Finlay de Twedyn as Count of Lanark, perhaps with the hope that one of the more assiduous troublemakers would be able to control all the others. This is the first recorded mention of the notorious Tweedie family and as later years were to show, royal favour did not precipitate a change of behaviour.
A local family of standing, the Tweedie’s principal home was at Drumelzier Castle which stood on the banks of the Tweed, close to where Drumelzier Place now stands. Their name originated from a place called Twedyn or Tweedie in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, not anything to do with the river. By 1490, the family’s allegiance had switched to the Scottish king and the family itself had grown to include branches at Dreva and Oliver Castle, in Tweedsmuir. History describes the whole family as being “associated with violence and bloodshed”, and many stories of a treacherous nature have survived to support this allusion.
In the 16th century the Tweedies had made many enemies of many of their neighbours, the Flemings, the Veitches and the Geddes. Lord Fleming was murdered as was John Geddes, the heir to the Rachan Estate. Veitch of Dawyck was waylaid by Neidpath Castle and he too was murdered. Even in the murder of David Rizzio in 1566, a favourite of Mary, Queen of Scots there were two of this infamous family implicated although both William and Adam Tweedie declared they were loyal to Mary. However at the beginning of the 17th century James Tweedie encountered the Laird of Dawyck by the side of the Tweed. This “turbulent Baron”, as Tweedie was known, was found dead the following morning. His memorial can be found in the wall of Drumelzier Church and says “ Hic Jacet Honororabilis Vir Jacbus Tuedy De Drumelzier” or here lies the honorable James Tweedie of Drumelzier. The Tweedies were never to be heirs of Drumelzier again.
It is perhaps ironic that a branch of this notorious family, a Thomas Tweedie bought the Rachan Estate in 1841, added to Rachan House and authorised the building of our house, Merlindale, then called Rachan Cottage. It is a beautiful spot by the River Tweed in an outstanding part of Peeblesshire and we are lucky to live here.
Denise and Samantha Lintott