The Douglas Tragedy


At Craig Douglas, turn right through the gates and follow the track for two miles to Blackhouse Tower, a Black Douglas stronghold, standing in a remote spot in the Yarrow valley. 

The Black Douglases were a very powerful clan and played a great part in Scottish history.  They were so called because of their swarthy appearance. 

Beyond the tower is Douglas Burn and yet beyond, and to the north, is a clump of trees beside which is an ancient circle of stones. There were once eight stones upstanding but now only three remain. It is here the Douglas Tragedy was said to have occurred. 

Blackhouse Tower, at that time, was the home of an imposing family of Douglases which included the father, seven sons and a daughter, the Lady Margaret. A local nobleman, Lord William, and Lady Margaret, fell in love, but the match was not to the liking of the Douglases who determined to prevent it.

And so the couple eloped, but, on making their way to William’s home, they were intercepted by father Douglas and all seven of his sons. 

They fought as gentlemen should fight, one at a time, and, one at a time, William felled a Douglas. 

But Sir William, although he survived, was seriously hurt and he died in his lover’s arms. Lady Margaret, unable to bear the loss of her family and her lover, died of grief and was buried alongside William in St Mary’s churchyard. 

It is said that out of each of the graves grew a brier. And the briers entwined into one.



In the glowing light of a peat burning fire, a Border mother might sing to her child:


                   Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye,

                   Hush ye, hush ye, do not fret ye,

                   The Black Douglas shall not get ye. 

On one occasion Roxburgh Castle, near Kelso, was re-captured by the Douglases. Using SAS type tactics, Black Douglas led is men over the walls and into the castle. Stealthily exploring the nearest rooms, Douglas came upon a women singing her child to sleep. As she sang ‘The Black Douglas shall not get ye,’ a leather-gloved hand was laid on her arm and a voice said: ‘I am not so sure of that!’ 

It was Black Douglas himself!

Read the ballad, The Douglas Tragedy

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