Linton, Roxburghshire, Scotland
(now Borders County)


Mostly extracted from booklets "The Parish of Linton" and "Roxburghshire Monumental Inscriptions I Hounam & Linton"

thistle in the heather
Linton Hill and Kirk
The parish of Linton lies on the northeastern edge of Roxburghshire, close to the Cheviot Hills. (In 1996 the district of Roxburgh became part of the Scottish Borders unitary area.) Much of the land is low, and was anciently swamp and loch; the higher ridges were covered with heather and scrub. The highest ground, Linton Hill, is just under a thousand feet, and it effectively shelters the gentle slopes where the old village of Linton used to be and where the church still stands. From the top of the hill there are panoramic wiews over the parish farms which have developed in an L-shaped line from Linton Burnfoot round to Hoselaw Mains close by the Border.

For a long time Linton was peaceful and undisturbed. "The prospect from the height which overhangs the church", wrote Doctor Charles Wilson in 1850, "is one of quiet and simple beauty". Three hundred years before that, however, times were very different -- then Linton's position on the Border left it open to plunder and destruction when peace between England and Scotland was a rarer thing. The parish is supposed to have formed "one of the principal thoroughfares betwixt the two kingdoms;" and in the mid-19th century it was remarked that "a narrow aperture between two hills along the verge of Linton Loch appears to have been regarded as an important pass, and there are still obvious marks of its having been once closely guarded".

Parish of Linton -- note Frogden on the leftmost side, about 1.5 miles NW of the church -- date of map unknown
The onsteads (simple farmhouses) of Frodgen, Blakelaw, Hoselaw and Lochinches were shown on a map of about 1600, and to these may be added Linton and (Old) Graden, recorded elsewhere. By 1771 the farms of Linton Burnfoot, Crookhouse, Bankhead, Graden, Greenlees, and Hoselaw Mains were also established, and there were houses or farm steadings at "Priorraw" (in the field called "Priuory" on Linton Farm); Sharpsrig, Blacklawmyres, Dennerlees, Old Frogden*(where the Hays lived!), all on Frogden; Falside or Fauside; and Easterstead. There were various cottages, including Craigiecleuch at the west end of Greenlees, smithies, and the mill. Almost all these houses and cottages have vanished away. Old Frogden was deserted, as were others. In the early 19th century there were 15 farms, but over the next 75 years this was reduced to 10; the population numbered about 400 at the beginning of the 19th century, rose to 630 by 1851 but thereafter declined to under 300. The 1791-1799 Statistical Summary of Linton specified there were only three resident farmers in the entire parish -- and William Hay would have been one of them!

Linton view from the kirk
The earliest known possessors of the lands of Linton were the Somervilles. A William de Somerville had settled in Scotland by 1136 and in the reign of William the Lion he conveyed three acres of land in the "villa de Lintun" to the church of St. Kentigern in Glasgow. It is of this William or his successor John that the strange story of the slaying of a fearfyul dragon or "worm" is told (below). The creature had its lair in the "Worm's Hole" on the eastern boundary of Greenelees farm, and is supposed to be portrayed in the stone "tympanum" above the church door of Linton. A later generation of the Somervilles had a tower built on the mound southeast of the church, and in 1426 Thomas Lord Somerville caused "repair the kirk and quier of Linton, and the tower". At the close of the 15th century the Somervilles were gone and were followed by the Kers, a branch of the Cessford family. They remained about two hundred years, and in their time the tower was destroyed by English forces in 1523, after it had been burned to the "bare stane walles" the year before. The last laird of Graden, Henry Ker, took a vigorous part in the Jacobite rising of 1745. Their residence was at Graden Place.

In 1670 the lands of Linton were possessed by two ladies named Scot, but before 1700 they had passed to the Pringles of Clifton and Haining. The Lairds of Linton owned about two thirds of the parish and were patrons of the church. There were also several absentee lairds in the early 19th century, such as Mr. Wauchope of Niddrie-Marishall, who owned Frogden; Mr. Dawson**, tenant of Frogden and ownder of Graden; Mr. Oliver of Blakelaw, a possession formerly linked with Frogden; and Mr. Davidson of Hoselaw Mains.

The Linton Kirk Stained glass
The Linton Kirk
The Church at Linton. Standing upon its hill of sandy soil, with no obvious solid foundation, the church of Linton is one of the oldest and most attractive in Scotland. Surrounding it, the graveyard is said to contain the earlier Somerviles and the Graden Kers, and several of the worn stones are magnificently carved. The date of the first church in Linton is doubtful, but the site is an ecclesiastical one of great antiquity. There was reference to "Blahan, Presbyter of Linton" in 1127, and excavations suggest the church then had a rectangular Norman nave with semi-circular apse. In 1774 a gale destroyed the west gable which was rebuilt with lancet windows. In the 19th century the church was described as "a queer old edifice, long, low and narrow." Andrew Ogilvy was the minister from 1781-1805 (see minister list).

inside the Linton kirk -- picture circa 2003, courtesy of Becky Hay Thomas
In 1180, John Somerville built the Tower of Linton which was the Norman moat and bailey Castle keep that stood on a knoll a few hundred yards from this church. Linton tower was the stronghold of the Somerville barony for over 250 years. The Somerville Tower and the Linton Kirk were connected by an underground tunnel, until the tower was completely destroyed by English King Henry VIII (1509-1547), during his “Rough Wooing” military campaign (1543-1549) on the Scottish Borders. Now only the church remains.

the Norman font
There are several precious items kept in the church. The Norman font with its bowl and upper part of the stem formed from one block of stone, was "cast out of the kirk" at some time and was used for years by a blacksmith for holding small coal. The oak of the chancel stalls is late 17th century, and the coats of arms are those of the four families who held the patronage of Linton until patronage was abolished in 1875. There are some fine silver communion cups dating from 1700, and an older early 17th century "Dead Bell" inscribed "Linton 1697 John Meikle me fecit Edinburgh." Outside, on the southwest corner is a two-sided sundial dated 1699 with the initials of Walter Douglas, minister 1698-1727, and a Govan tithe chest from the same period. Above the porch entrance is the famous "Somerville Stone", a carved tympanum of weathered sandstone, depicting a knight on horseback thrusting a lance at what may be two bear or wolf-like creatures. The stone is Norman, and it is unique in Scotland.

Somerville Stone and the Linton Worm
The Linton Worm is recorded by Walter Scott in his 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'. This creature is depicted on the carved Typanum above the door of Linton Church, and has been described as a cross between a dragon and a giant serpent. The story of the worm is remarkably similar to other stories extant in the Middle Ages in England and on the continent, the best-known of which is that of St George and the Dragon. This creature, some 'three Scots yards long and somewhat bigger than an ordinary man's leg .... in form and callour to our common muir adders', lived in a hollow on the NE side of Linton Hill, from which it would venture forth to frighten the local people. People refused to go to the market or to the church if it involved going anywhere near the realm of the worm. John Somerville, as the stories regarding the worm grew wilder and wilder, the sprouting of wings and fire-breathing being added to its attributes, went to see this creature which had to be disposed of. He devised a method of killing the creature using a very strongly reinforced lance with a burning peat at its tip. As he approached the worm he thrust the lance into its open mouth and down its throat. Despite breaking, the lance had fatally injured the creature. For this deed of extreme bravery, Somerville was lauded throughout the country, was Knighted, appointed Royal Falconer and made 1st Baron of Linton. So goes the story.

The nearby manse has also undergone many changes. The early building, of stone walls and thatched roof, faced west. In the time of the Rev. Andrew Ogilvie (1781-1805) the manse was altered, and slates replaced the thatch, with an O of pale slates set by Mr. Ogilvie to mark the event in the south-facing slope of the roof. Some religious building stood at Hoselaw in pre-reformation times, near the Hoselaw tower and facing over the Din Moss. After 1560 it was deserted and decayed, although the adjoining graveyard could still be seen in the early 19th century.

graveyard around the kirk
an example of one of Linton's symbolic stones
In the Linton Cemetery, around the old church, many of the old stones are illegible -- the stone used was the local soft sandstone, which suffers noticeable deterioration in just a year, especially so if toppled over. Several of the stones are noted for their intricate carvings. Probably none of our ancestors would be buried in the graveyard, however, William's daughter Margaret should be, and perhaps Annie and even John too. There have been 343 stones transcribed from the graveyard -- 12% from the 1700s, 50% from the 1800s, and 38% from the 1900s. No Hay stones were identified; however, Cranston (Alexander 1763-1807, Isabel Hunter 1755-1848, James 1784-1803, Alexander 1789-1842, Anne Hunter 1797-1877, Ann 1821-1826), Turnbull (Margaret Turnbull Hope 1738-1806, Jane Turnbull Forsythe 1843-1904, Mary Turnbull Young 1719-1804, Margaret Turnbull Minto 1749-1819, William Turnbull 1804-1893, Elizabeth Ferguson Turnbull 1805-1885, Margaret Turnbull 1851-1936), Taylor and Davidson stones were identified.

Education. In many parts of the Borders the ideal of the 16th century Presbyterian reformers of a school in every parish was long in coming to practical fruition, but Linton certainly had a parochial school in the early 18th century and perhaps as early as 1690. This school was under the jurisdiction of the "kirk session," and frequent visitations were made to ensure that satisfactory religious knowledge was imparted. By the 1790's the school was established in a cottage near the manse gate, though the master complained of its "damp and ruinous condition". In 1799 a new school and schoolhouse were erected by the heritors at Dryburn, now Linton Downs** -- our ancestor Thomas Hay would have attended this school!

The quality of teaching varied enormously, depending on the ability and character of the master. School hours were long, often from 7 am until 5 pm or dusk, with two breaks of about an hour. Not until the 1850s did the Presbytery permit the school to close on Saturdays. William Dawson***, tenant of Frogden in the late 18th century, established a school at the Moorhouse, by the Kelso-Yetholm road between Greenlees, Blakelaw and Old Graden for the benefit of those who lived in the northeastern art of the parish.

The Farms and the People. Homes were poor and mean and tenants with capital to spend on improvements were few. Houses were often just huts with one or two rooms, roofs of turf, reeds or heather, walls of turf and stone, and floors of earth. Chimneys were rare, and windows were small square openings without glass. Clothing was equally simple: both men and women wore a woolen plaid, the men with trousers, the women with a linen skirt, and women and children went barefoot. There were few household utensils, amounting to nothing more than necessities. The land was worked in common, each family possessing a small stock of animals and raising some oats and barley. Rent, if paid, was paid in kind and through services (barter, not money).

Linton Parish
In the late 18th century [the time that William Hay was farming there], under the influence of certain local innovators, arose a general spirit of improvement -- enclosures were extended and new methods tried. Almost all the land had been moors, moss and loch, with scarcely a fence to be seen. Then it was transformed into fruitful fields, with only fragments of the moors and mosses remaining. Changes in farming practice accompanied enclosure. One of the best known experimenters was William Dawson***, tenant of Graden, who introduced an improved harrow, drill husbandry for turnips, "red" oats, an Essex system of draining, general use of lime, and the "sowing of artificial grasses." Dykes were built, and thorn hedges, interspersed with oaks and ashes, were planted to separate fields. The scene was further beautified with deciduous woods and shelter belts. One effect of all these developments was to maintain an increase in population, since most people in the parish lived and worked on the farms. Social conditions also improved -- money for luxuries such as pocketwatches for the men and shoes for the women. Houses were better too: the new farm steadings had commodious farm houses with kitchen, parlour and at least three bedrooms, together with storerooms, scullery and milkhouse. Even postal service was initiated, with service from Kelso twice a week.

There are about 6500 acres in the parish, with 4750 cultivated by the mid-1800s. Cattle were mostly shorthorns and the sheep Cheviot and Leicester, crossed to produce Border Leicesters and "halfbreeds." The crops were oats, barley, wheat, hay, potatoes and turnips. Leases were for 19 years. The nearest market town was Kelso, but farmers also bought and sold stock at Jedburgh, Edinburgh and Morpeth, and dealt with corn merchants in Berwick.

Stone Circle. The statistical account of Scotland, Edinburgh, Vol.3, 123, (1792) and the Ordnance Survey 6" map of Roxburghshire (1918-38), record a stone circle about a mile north east of Frogden, on the north side of the road between Frogden and Greenlees at approx. NT 7737 2922. The circle consisted of five or six upright stones forming a small circle about the size of a "cock pit". This circle, which was adopted as a rendezvous by Border raiders in the Middle Ages and became known as the "Tryst", has long since disappeared, but its approximate site is indicated on the Ordnance Survey map by the name Five (misprinted "Fire") Stone Field. Neither the name 'Five Stone Field' nor any circle of stones appears on an estate plan of the lands of Frogden dated 1788.

The Hoselaw loch
The Lochs. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Linton's natural history is that of the freshwater lochs, only one of which, Hoselaw Loch, remains. Fed by the River Kale, Hoselaw Loch, which once dominated the area covering 1000 acres, is but a fraction of its former size as a result of the extensive drainage of the 18th century. The 50 acre remains of its banks can be seen as terraces at the mouth of the Kale valley leading up to Hownam. The old road from Morebattle to Linton, via Linton Burnfoot, and on to Kelso was built around the side of the shrinking loch, the new road crossing the old loch bed. Immediately to the west of the water is a moss of "great extend and depth" called Din Moss, which is not good for peat cutting because of its inaccessibility and poor quality.

These drainage efforts of the 18th century were part of the great agricultural improvements thrust in the Borders. The land recovered from the bed of the loch proved very fertile and excellent for arable farming. Also, with the draining of wet areas, "agues" and similar diseases dimished greatly. There were quarries too, including a good freestone one at Frogden.

Emigration. Although the social and economic position of the people had clearly improved in several ways, there was still dissatisfaction, which grew with wider education. Restlessness led to a desire to emigrate to Canada. Newspapers fostered the unease. After 1851 the population of the parish steadily declined.

The Presbyterian church, at least in theory, encouraged egalitarian attitudes and defended the right of the individudual to make principled judgements -- encouraging "disputatious" habits and a preoccupation with "rights." In the early 19th century in Scotland, only 1 in 250 people had the right to vote. The American Revolution of 1776-1781 was followed by the French Revolution of 1789-1799. The high levels of literacy in Scotland encouraged the discussion of politics, current events, publications and social conditions -- discussing Burns' messages of liberty and equality, and Thomas Paines' insights into the French Revolution with its commitment to "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." After hundreds of years of dispute, especially heightened at the Scottish Borders, it is no wonder that the common Roxburghshire Scot was sympathetic to America and its principles of representation that had been victorious over the British crown and Parliament. Britain's initiation of war with France in 1793 likely further heightened the sense of excitement and dissatisfaction.

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Notes: The 5-page 1791-1799 Statistical Summary of Linton. The 1691 Hearth Tax for Linton and nearby Hounam lists the following people of interest:
Hounam: Andrew Ker for Shatoe and Burnhouses-8; Nether Chatto-Ro[ber]t Tyllor yr-1; Kopup-George Hay-1 and Andrew Hay-1.
Linton: Linton Elder his hous and offices-8; Gradins House-7; Frogdans house-8. No Hays.

*In 1792, the Hay family was living at Frogden, as specified on daughter Bella's Linton birth record and in 1797 in Old Frogden, on Margaret's birth record. Perhaps they were drawn to this area after James Turnbull (perhaps an uncle to William?) was a minister here 1743-1780. Or perhaps William had already known of William Dawson, and he was the impetus. The 1797 Militia List for Linton lists no Hay entry -- perhaps William was too old at 34, with three young children at home.

**Thomas Hay, born 1800, would have attended the new school, as well as his sisters, until the Hay's left to emigrate to America in ~1809-1811. It is unknown if his brother John, who was a schoolteacher, taught at this school.

***it is of interest that in 1804 William and Jane named their newborn daughter Elizabeth Dawson (on her baptism record) -- William Dawson is still remembered as one of the most famous people of the Linton Parish:

William Dawson (1/29/1734-1/29/1815 -- buried at Linton Cemetery). About 1760, William Dawson came to live in the farm at Frogden. While the tenant there, he became involved in agricultural improvements, the most famous of which was his development of the drill system of turnip cultivation. Prior to this time, turnips were not a crop which was included within the normal crop rotation of the farm. Being able to grow them successfully, as a field crop, meant that there could now be sufficient feeding for cattle to be kept on the farms throughout the winter. Previously, some were sold off to farmers in areas with a less severe climate, with those kept being slaughtered and made into salt beef, which would feed the farmer and his family. Sheep could also be kept at these lower levels throughout the winter, grazing the turnips much as they still do today. He was also interested in the improvement of the land quality and was a keen exponent of drainage and the use of marl from the lochside spread on the fields as an improver. With the addition of the natural manure from the cattle, the yields from the fields rapidly improved. Improved grazing allowed sheep to be introduced with a better wool and meat yield - the Cheviot and Blackface breeds.

An Act in 1696 obliged every parish in Scotland to employ a schoolmaster. Poor salaries often meant that university students, or even the Minister himself, had to fill in as the local schoolmaster. William's son John was said to have been a schoolmaster, uncertain in which parish.

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*It is thought that the Hays were at Frogden/Old Frogden in Linton for about 19 years, a subsequent tenant to William Dawson. They were known to reside in Makerstoun in 1788 when their first child Annie was born, and known to be in Linton by 1893, shortly after Bella was born. The 1889 birth of John and the 1792 birth of Bella were entered in the Linton book in 1793 (and not in the Makerstoun books). It is known they emigrated in 1811, however, daughter Ann's 1809 birth is not registered in Linton (or in any Church of Scotland book). As 19 years was the length of a lease at that time, it is assumed they lived in Frogden ~1790-1809; it is unknown where they resided just prior to their emigration.

It is further thought that, despite the entry of their first six children in the Church of Scotland record books, the Hays may have been sympathetic to the secessionists -- seventh child Annie's record is not in a parish book in 1809; they were married outside the Church of Scotland in 1787 (in Cornhill, Northumberland, England, where the Secessionist leader Ebenezer Erskine was from); a third of Linton parishioners belonged to a secession church in the 1790s (statistical account); their party of 100 Scottish immigrants in 1811 were said to be "Scottish dissidents."

A tenant farmer is one who rents the land for farming from the landowner -- there were few landowners in Scotland at that time, and even into the 21st century when some 350 people own half the land. This is due to the persistence of feudalism and the land inclosures of the 19th cent. In 2003, as a result, the Scottish parliament passed a land reform act that empowered tenant farmers and communities to purchase land even if the landlord did not want to sell. A desire to be a land-owner was probably another reason why the Taylors, Hays and Swans wished to emigrate to America where anyone could buy land.