Jedburgh Place Names

 This book was originally published as a series of articles by George Watson in the Jedburgh Gazette of 1924.  Jedforest Historical Society decided to bring it out as a book in 2012 with an introduction by Norrie McLeish,who has also included a short biography of George Watson.

The names of places can provide us with valuable clues to the history of an area.  George Watson was a Jeddart man and in his spare time, he worked as a lexicographer in Oxford, he searched out place names round the locality he knew so well.  Even as he carried out his research, many places were disappearing from the map and his recording of the names of places and buildings, and sometimes fields help the present day historian to build up a picture of Jedburgh’s history through the centuries. 

George Watson was a great examplar of the Scots “lad o’ pairts’.  He was born and brought up in the Castlegate, then a poor and overcrowded part of Jedburgh.  He left school at an early age and through sheer hard work and enthusiasm for his subject he overcame lack of academic qualifications to become a leading light in Oxford University.

Paperback  74pp  Illustrated   Published by Jedforest Historical Society.

The Haunted Borders

The Scottish Borders experienced a great exodus of people in the 19th and early 20th centuries mainly as a result of changes in the organisation of agriculture.  With them went many of the old stories of haunted places, deserted towers and forgotten villages.  In addition to the movement of people, changes were taking place in the Borders landscape, a haunted wood would be razed to the ground and put under the plough, towers would be destroyed and their stones used to build dykes. Gradually the stories associated with these places faded from local memory. 

This is not a book about ghosts in white sheets, though sometimes it is about things that go bump in the night.  It is rather about the stories of our ancestors who lived in the now deserted villages and abandoned towers that pepper the Borders landscape.

The stories cover the Borders from the coast of Berwickshire to the edges of the debatable lands in western Roxburghsire and from Peebles to Yetholm.

Here you will find the tale of a ghostly spectre in Hobkirk, an ancient royal tragedy in Tweedsmuir as well as a Covenanting horror story in Gala.  The supernatural world of our forebears is retold in the ballad of Tam Lin in Selkirkshire and the historical nature of Thomas the Rhymer is revealed. Among many other tales the shameful persecution of women during outbreaks of witch hysteria is examined.

These tales make up an important part of our Borders heritage and should not be forgotten.  

The book is paperback  188 pages.  Illustrated.    ISBN1873708149

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Borderline cases

​Thirteen true-life murder cases from the Scottish Borders   The earliest is in 1517 and is an apt illustration of the savage tribalism that marked the Scottish Borders at that time.  The latest case took place in Ednam in 1923 when a father died at his son's hand, but whether it was murder or not remains controversial. ​In the intervening years Norrie, drawing in the main from the Criminal Precognition records in the Scottish Record Office, examines murder cases and sets them within the context of the social history of the Scottish Borders. Poverty and drink played their part in the violence that occasionally broke out in the Borders along with prejudice against the Irish and Romanys that sometimes ended in tragedy At the end of each chapter there is a guide to the scene of each case.  PB. Illustrated. Indexed. isbn 1873708114  110 pages 
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​Jethart Worthies - Thomas Smail (Edited with notes by Norrie MacLeish)

Thomas Smail in 1868 was a publisher and bookseller in Jedburgh when he put together this book.  He took a strong interest in the history and archaeology of his native Jedburgh. 
The expressed aim of the book was to preserve the memories of a generation of worthies whose faces had been well known on the streets of Jedburgh in the early 19th and late 18th centuries.  The Jedburgh in which they lived out their lives is glimpsed once again. It was in many ways a society that was at once harsh, but also caring, narrow minded and intolerant, but with a strong sense of community. The book is enhanced by an Introduction, with a description of Jedburgh when the worthies walked its streets.  There are genealogical notes on the main characters as well as many of the other people who are mentioned in the book.  PB Illustrated 63 pages. Published by Jedforest Historical Society

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Promises, Promises - Scottish Breach of Promise Cases

In 19th century Scotland, marriage for many women was the perceived route to a fulfilled life. That was not always the case for men. When a woman after a long engagement found herself dumped, it was not only humiliating but could also mean prolonged spinsterhood and reduced financial circumstances.
In the early 19th century it was a brave woman who went public and sued the man who had jilted her. ​Norrie has researched the lives of ordinary people and their families who were involved in extraordinary situations. In doing so he turns a spotlight on a neglected aspect of Scottish social history and brings back individual lifes that history would have forgotten. From the Highlands to the Borders come the tales of women, some distraught, some angry whose passion still reaches out to us down the years There are a couple of men as well but they did not engage the sympathy of the juries of the time. The author also outlines the development of the law on breach of promise of marriage in Scotland and its subsequent decline and abolition in the 20th century and in doing so illustrates how the laws of the land adapts to changing social circumstances. It is however, the stories of the people themselves, set against the landscape of 19th century Scotland that will linger in the reader's mind


​Death in the Borders

Thirteen cases of violent death in the Scottish Borders in the 19th century are studied in some detail.  In contrast to the urban area of Scotland, murder was an unusual event in the Borders, so when it did happen it was of great interest to the Borders population.  Several commentators who attended murder trials at the High Court in Jedburgh observed how crowded the public galleries were, a large number of whom were women. This book should appeal to those interested in local history and in crime generally.  Using the Criminal Precognition records, held in the Scottish Record Office, Norrie shows how a murder case in can provide a greater insight into the crime but also into prevailing social attitudes.
PB  Illustrated Indexed 144 pp isbn 1873708075    

 ​    Norrie McLeish

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Currently out of print.

Glimpses into the Past in Lammermuir  John Hutton Browne  Edited and with Foreword, Introduction and Notes by Norrie McLeish

​John Hutton Browne was the schoolmaster in Longformacus from1866 until his death in 1913.  In his book he gives us insights into the lives and manners of a past way of life.. "The "spirits of the past" of the Lammermuir hills are brought back to life and the shepherds, farmers, blacksmiths,bondagers, weavers and maidservants once again walk the silent spaces of Lammermuir.  A way of life now long gone is recreated, and the triumphs, loves and superstitions of the 'hill-folk' are remembered and written down by the village schoolmaster."
PB  Illustrated  Indexed 126 pp  isbn 1873708099

Ancestral Voices The Story of the McLeish Name

If you have a ‘McLeish’ among your ancestors you will be fascinated by this book.  It places the history and development of the name within the broad sweep and Scottish history as well as examining the origins of Scottish surnames.  From old Perthshire records the stories of family life and passions among McLeish families are uncovered almost three hundred years later. 

The McLeish connection with the Celts of ancient Ireland and St Columba’s settlements in early Perthshire are examined as well as the links with the Earldom of Strathearn.  The evidence of the relationship of the name to Clan McPherson is tested and some of the assumptions about that relationship are challenged.

Included are portraits of the humble as well as the famous; George McLeish tranported to Australia for murder, Archibald McLeish,  poet and librarian to the American Congress.  Beatrix Potter provided the background for the fascinating account of a successful Australian family.  The story behind "The Laird of Cockpen” is revealed and the McLeish involvement with the Jacobite rebellions is detailed.

Front cover is “A Quaint Corner of Muthill” by John P.Downie, R.S.W
The book is hardback  192 pages.  Illustrated.
ISBN 1873708017