William de Soulis

The Soulis family were associated with Hermitage Castle from the 13th century.  Of a long line of mean officials, William Soulis excelled. He became the Lord of Hermitage in 1318.

He was a giant of a man and quickly became loathed by his vassals on whom he inflicted all sorts of humiliating and oppressive acts. He enjoyed power and ruthlessly exploited his position at the expense of anyone who came his way. 
He took a delight in inflicting pain and misery on his people.

He was indeed an evil man.

Known as the Wizard, he was said to be in league with the devil and indulged in all kinds of black magic and witchcraft.

One day, in 1320, Lord de Soulis, took a fancy to a young lady, an Armstrong,  who lived nearby. To satisfy his passions, he planned to seize her regardless of her wishes. Used to having his own way he brought terror to any woman in whom he took an interest. 

Riding to her home he was confronted by her father who was determined to defend his daughter, even against a powerful figure such as Soulis.

Not being used to having his desires frustrated, de Soulis struck out at the man and killed him.

The local people had witnessed the incident, and Soulis would have been slain by the infuriated mob and he was forced to abandon his prize and flee for his life.

He would certainly have been killed but for the intervention of Alexander Armstrong, the Laird of Mangerton, who, arriving on the scene in the nick of time, restrained the crowd, and escorted de Soulis back to Hermitage.

De Soulis, safe at home, felt no gratitude to the man who had saved his life. Indeed, he was offended that a man whom he regarded as his social inferior could so control his people and save his life.

Brooding over these thoughts, he sent an invitation to Alexander, inviting him to a banquet at Hermitage to demonstrate his appreciation and thank him for his help. 

But on arriving at the castle Alexander was attacked and murdered by De Soulis, stabbing Alexander in the back.

His grieving friends bore away his body to be buried at Ettleton Cemetery. It was nightfall when they rested by the roadside at the foot of the hill below the graveyard. 

Next morning Alexander was laid to rest, and later, by the roadside, beneath the cemetery, a cross was erected, the Milnholm Cross, to mark the event and passing of a respected and much loved laird.

His long suffering people made countless complaints to officials which became so frequent that eventually they reached the ears of the king himself.

Exasperated by the constant barrage of complaints, the king, in despair, clasped his head in his hands and cried out 'Soulis! Soulis! Go boil him in brew!'

That was all that was needed, an order from the king himself!

Soulis was overpowered  and taken to Nine Stane Rig, high up in the hills by a Druid circle. There, a huge cauldron and fire had been prepared and the Lord Soulis was wrapped in lead and placed in the cauldron where he was boiled to his death.

When he discovered that the Borderers had taken him literally the king dispatched officials hastily to Liddesdale. They were too late to save De Soulis and arrived in time to witness the cauldron with Soulis inside 'supping his own broth.'

The story or De Soulis being boiled in molten lead was derived from an 18th century ballad written by an obscure author.

A good story indeed, except from Soulis's viewpoint, but unlikely to be true. There is evidence to believe that Soulis, in fact, died while in captivity in Dumbarton Castle. He had been guilty of a conspiracy against Robert Bruce.


Border People Index