Climate change is topical and understanding it vital. However, looking back, what evidence is there of earlier climatic events?

The winters were colder. The outdoor curling club in Tweedsmuir met regularly and had a steady annual competition with medals from 1860s to 1920s then ceased. There has been little prospect of outdoor curling in recent years.

More importantly, the weather could be grim for farmers, shepherd and livestock.  There are various written descriptions of appalling weather. An example was 1838.

It started badly. Snow and frost continued from the New Year to the middle of April. St Mary’s Loch was frozen over 13 weeks. It was a year of incessant cold, bitter rain; there was no harvest:  corn was pulled up for fodder. An old shepherd in Tweedsmuir ‘Ane couldna look for onything else than flukes as the heevans were gettin’ auld and rotten noo and couldna haud it in’.[1]

Observations of the weather were provided to The Upper Tweed Community News by the late Mr Jim Sharpe, derived from the notebooks of the late Mr William Anderson, Greenbraes, Tweedsmuir in 1989. They are an interesting series of descriptions of cold or wet weather, but not a scientific study of weather patterns in the south of Scotland.  Most were copied from old records of The Scotsman. Here are a few examples from the 17th century to 1902.

‘In March 1620 there were 13 drifty days in succession. Only 45 of 20,000 sheep in Eskdalemuir survived’
‘The hasty or gonial blast took place on 24th January 1794; the rivers were in high flood when it changed to snow in the south of Scotland. Seventeen shepherds perished and 30 were carried away, nearly perished. One farmer in Crawfordmuir lost 1440 sheep. The Esk carried away 1840 sheep, 9 black cattle, 3 horses, 2 men, 1 woman, 45 dogs and 180 hares to the Solway.’
‘In 1838 snow and frost continued from New Year to the middle of April. St Mary’s Lough was frozen over for 13 weeks.’
‘A snowstorm happened on 26th Aug in which a Meggat shepherd perished, and many sheep were lost; never came right fresh all winter and at spring snow and thaw time about a fifth of the sheep died.’
‘The winter of 1885 & 6 was one of the worst of the century. Tweedsmuir high hirsels were all fled and the lower one fothering at home. Thomas Rieve, Hawshaw, scloyed his bales across the Teed below the Riggs. The 20th March came fresh next day. A fortnights severe weather followed snow, sleet and rainstorm: few lambs and small prices.’
‘A severe gale and snowstorm on the 11 Nov 1902, tremendous snow fell on higher hills, fell soft on the howe of Tweed. Heavy losses took place. One big farm lost 20 score, Fruid lost 7 score, few higher places escaped free.’
 

[1] A Scottish country Doctor, recalled by his son T W Pairman, in Ed Evelyn Wright, Flashbacks, 12003 ISBN 1 86232 226 0