The Undead Dead Earl of Minto

This is another snippet from Highways & Byways in The Border by A&J Lang. It reminds me of a lot of local history research I’ve done.

Below Denholm, but on the other side of the river, nearly opposite the junction of Rule Water with Teviot, is Minto, in the 14th century a property owned by one of that unruly clan, the Turnbulls. Later it passed to the family of Stewart and finally, somewhere about the beginning of the 18th century it was bought by Sir Gilbert Elliot, ancestor of the Minto branch of that family. the  present house dates only from 1814, but it has a curious legend attached to it, which is mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s diary, under date 23rd December, 1825. He says, “It is very odd that the common people about Minto and the neighbourhood will not believe at this hour that the first earl is dead. [He died in June, 1814] “they think he had de something in India which he could not answer for – that the house was rebuilt on a scale unusual large to give him a suite o f secret apartments and that he often walks about the woods and crags of Minto at night, with a white nightcap and long white beard. The circumstances of his having died on the road down to Scotland is the sole foundation of this absurd legend, which shows how willing the public are to gull themselves when they can find no one else to take the trouble. I have seen people who could read, white and ciphers shrug their shoulders and look mysterious when tis subject was mentioned. One very absurd tradition was made on occasion of a great ball at Minto House, which it was said was given to draw all people away from the grounds that the concealed earl might have leisure for his exercise.

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