The Bones of Drumelzier   


The ‘z’ of Drumelzier is pronounced as a ‘y’.

If you go north by road from Moffat and then turn on to the Peebles road, look out for a conical hill on your right, and if you look carefully, right on the summit, you will see the stones of a ruin. This was Tinnis Castle; a mighty stronghold in its time. On three sides was a steep drop to valley floor and the only approach was by way of a winding path exposed to the fire of the defending archers.

There lived the Tweedies, a formidable family, said to have been feared for their aggressive disposition, and at constant feud with many of their neighbours, but principally, the Veitches.

The Castle was destroyed in 1592 on the orders of James VI. It was blown up by gunpowder and such was the force of the explosion that large pieces of masonry, still bound together by their cement, and were hurled into the valley floor where they still lie.

The Tweedies had moved to new castle they had built on the haugh (river terrace) of the Tweed below. There they established their base feared and avoided by all but folk they favoured. Those who came into conflict with them might quite well find themselves imprisoned until a ransom be paid, or await the pleasure of their captors.

Here once lived Sir James Tweedie who used his position to exert formidable power on his tenants, and, if possible, all who passed his way. Sir James was a bully.

He had devised a method of acquiring a lucrative income by charging a levy on those who passed by. Travellers only needed to cross his land to be required to pay homage to Sir James.  Any defaulters could expect rough treatment at the hands of Tweedie’s men and would regret ever passing nearby. 

One day, a small party of men passed along the way without making the least effort to stop and pay homage. Tweedie was enraged and, accompanied by his retinue, rode furiously after the offending party. Swearing to have them flogged so that they would never gain have the effrontery to ignore him.

As he approached the group, bawling his intentions, their leader turned and Tweedie was horrified that the man he was threatening was none other than the King himself.

King James was moved to investigate Tweedie’s conduct. He was severely reprimanded and ordered to cease immediately his malpractices.

For many years the Tweedies lived at Drumelzier until eventually they were overtaken by the Scotts and the family sank into obscurity.

From the main road, you can see Drumelzier Castle, or what is left of it, a little to the west of Drumelzier Farm. 

Not long ago, perhaps in our great grandparent’s time, the farmer was preparing the foundations for a hay shed when the ground gave way exposing a deep cavity. It was large enough for him to enter and this he did. Shining his torch he found himself in a stone lined room with a barrel-vaulted roof, possibly a cellar. There was much debris littering the floor and he could not at first determine to what use the room had been put. Then he noticed a chain hanging from low down on one wall, and at the end of the chain was a shackle, and within the shackle a bone, the bone of a human forearm.

Soon after more bones were found, this time under a large stone slab by what had been the entrance to the castle keep. In many parts, it had long been the custom to bury the enemy dead under the threshold so that they could constantly be walked over by the victorious survivors.

The farmer carefully collected the bones and placed them in a box, and took them to the house to show his wife. She placed them on a dresser where they remained for a while.

But that night and the following night’s ghostly noises kept the family awake. The noises were very frightening and all at home heard them.

The bones! The farmer’s wife told her husband to take them away and put them back in their resting place where he had found them and then, she said, perhaps those dreadful noises would cease. 

And he did.  And they did.


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