The Plague and the Borders

This is from Highways & Byways in The Border,

Away back in the evil ties when the Plague ravaged through Scotland very many its victims were buried in a common grave in Linden churchyard. But the church was demolished after the Reformation and the churchyard gradually feel out of use as a pace of burial There came a time wen the people had no further need for it; why, though some practical person, should it not be ploughed up and cultivated? There was but one thing that saved it from this tae; to reverence for the ashes of the rude forefathers of the hamlet that lay here at rest but he sure and certain belief in the minds other descendants that in the event of the soil been d disturbed there must inevitably be a fresh outbreak of the dreaded Plague. …

In that outbreak during the 17th century temporary houses or shelters were erected in many parts of the Border and into them were hurried persons smitten by he pestilence and often, no doubt, persons suffering from some very minor ailment which their panic-stricken neighbours diagnosed as Plague. …If they died so great was the dead i the indy of the living act in many places to save unnecessary risk the authorities merely pulled down the building over the dead [and not quite dead?]  and heaped bart on top. At a period even so late as in the writer’s boyhood there were many spots – perhaps in very remote districts there may het be a few where the Plague was said to be buried and where to disturb the soil was believed to be a matter of extreme danger; …

In his Scenes of Infancy Leydon eludes to the belief:

“Mark, in yon vale, a solitary stone,

Shunned by the swain, with loathsome weeds o’ergrown!

The yellow stonecrop shoots from every pore,

With scaly sapless lichens crusted o’er:

Beneath the base where starving hemlocks creep

The yellow Pestilence is buried deep.

Here oft at a sunny noon, the peasants pause,

While many a tale hate met attention draws;

And as the younger swains with active feet,

Pace the lose weeds and the flat tombstone mete,

What curse shall seize the guilty wretch, they tell

Who drags the monster from his midnight cell.

All manner of precautions were adopted to hinder the spreading of the pestilence. Orders were even issued forbidding the assembling together of more than 3 or 4 persons at any one place but the Privy Council record of the time show that this regulation was obeyed only when it suited the people to observe it. There were limits to the dread in which the pestilence was held, and evener of the consequences did to always reconcile the Borderers to such an interference with their liberty. It is in record that in 1637 when in the execution of his day as Convenor of the Justices of the county, Sir John Murray of Philiphaugh went to Selkirk he found that a marriage was about to take place and that out part of the community had been invited to be present. Sir John at once forbade the assemblage and later he sent for the father of he bride, a man named James Murray and informed hi that  on no account would ore than 4 or 5 guests be permitted. But James was not to be thus coerced. “Na, Na!” he cried, “If ye be afeard, come not there. But the folk are comin’”

So Sir John called on the bailies to commit the offender at once to prison. The dailies however, were probably included in the number of the wedding guests and were looking forward to the “ploy” with as much pleasurable anticipation as was even the most responsible of hose invited. They paid no heed to Sir John’s demand; “there was no obedience given thereto” say the Records. And next day who the postponed wedding took place, “there was about 4 or 5 score persons who met and ran together all the day tis night.”

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