The Scotts



(From Chambers's "Domestic Annals of




WALTER SCOTT OF HARDEN, a famous Border chief, was this year (1567*) married to Mary Scott of Dryhope, commonly called the "Flower of Yarrow." The pair had six sons, from five of whom descended the families of Harden (which became extinct) ; Highchesters, now represented by Lord Pol­warth, Raeburn (from which came Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford), Wool, and Synton ; and six daughters, all of whom were married to gentlemen of figure, and all had issue.

It is a curious consideration to the many descendants of Walter Scott of Harden that his marriage contract is signed by a notary, be­cause none of the parties could write their names. The father-in-law, Scott of Dryhope, bound himself to find Harden in horse meat and man's meat, at his own house, for a ‘yea' and a day’; and five barons engaged that he should remove at the expiration of that period, without attempting to continue in possession by force.


Harden was a man of parts and sagacity, and living to about the year 1629, was popularly remembered for many a day thereafter under the name of "Auld Watt." One of his de­scendants relates the following anecdote of him : —His sixth son was slain at a fray, in a hunting-match, by Scott of Gilmanscleuch. His brothers flew to arms ; but the old laird secured them in the dungeon of his tower, hurried to Edinburgh, stated the crime, and obtained a gift of the lands of the offenders from the Crown. He returned to Harden with equal speed, released his sons, and showed them the charter. " To horse, lads !" cried the savage warrior, " and let us take possession. The lands of Gilmanscleuch are well worth a dead son."
" Border Minstrelsy," i. 157].



* This date (1567) appears to be erroneous. The marriage-contract is dated March 21, 1576, and is still preserved in the charter-room of Mertoun, the seat of the present Baron Polwarth, auld Wat's descendant. But it does not confirm the story of the " horse meat and man's meat for a year and a day," nor of Harden undertaking to give his father-in-law the "profits of the first Michaelmas moon." Auld Wat's son and heir, William, afterwards knighted by King James, married (1611) Agnes Murray, daughter of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, but the story of the wooing of " Muckle-mou'd Meg," as told by Sir Walter Scott, is pure fiction, as is proved by docu­ments preserved at Mertoun House.



Walter Scott of Raeburn, brother of Wil­liam Scott of Harden, had been converted to Quakerism, and on that account was incar­cerated in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. There it was soon discovered by his relations that he was exposed to the conversation of other Quakers, prisoners like himself,  whereby he is hardened in his pernicious opinions and principles, without all hope of recovery, unless he be separate from such pernicious company."

There was, however, a more serious evil than even this, in the risk which his children ran of being perverted to Quakerism, if allowed to keep company with their father. On a peti­tion, therefore, the Council gave the brother Harden warrant (June 22, 1665) to take away Raeburn's children, two boys and a girl, from their father, that they might be educated in the true religion. He,  after some pains taken with them in his own family, sent them to the City of Glasgow, to be bred at the schools there."

On a second petition from Harden, the Council ordered an annuity of 11000 Scots to be paid to him, out of Rae-burn's estate, for the maintenance of the child­ren; and they also ordered the father himself to be removed to Jedburgh Tolbooth, " where his friends and others may have occasion to convert him." To the effect he may be se­cured from the practice of other Quakers, the Lords  discharged the magistrates of Jedburgh to suffer any persons suspect of these principles to have access to him."


The younger son of the Quaker Raeburn was Walter Scott, commonly called " Beardie," great-grandfather of an illustrious modern novelist. Beardie, so styled from wearing a long beard, escaped Quakerism, but fell into Jacobitism at a time when that was not less dangerous than Quakerism had once been. The circumstances here narrated form part of what is alluded to by Sir Walter Scott, when he makes Jedidiah Cleishbotham confess himself as bound to a kind of impartiality between the Prelatic and Presbyterian factions of the seventeenth century by reason that "my an­cestor was one of the people called Quakers, and suffered a severe handling from either side, even to the extenuation of his purse and the incarceration of his person." (" Introduction to the Heart of Midlothian.")



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