Britannia, by William Camden

Merchia, Merch or Mers.

Big M MERCH, which is next, and so named because it is a March-Country, lieth wholly upon the German Ocean. ⌈And as it hath its present name from being the boundary or march between England and Scotland; so was it also call’d Berwickshire, because the town of Berwick was formerly the chief burrough thereof; which was afterwards given away by King James the third upon capitulation, for redemption of Alexander Duke of Albany. But (if we may believe some Scotch Authors) a name more ancient than either of these, was Ordolucia, and that of the Inhabitants Ordolutæ, a branch of the Scottedeni. Ordolutae

It is the south-east Shire of all Scotland, bordering upon the sea; and divided from Berwick by the Bound-rod; and from Northumberland, by the river Tweed, running between them for about eight miles. This river is one of the three that rise out of the same tract of hills; Clide runs west towards Dumbarton; Anand, south towards Solway-sands; and this, east, towards Berwick. It is of a swift course, environ’d with hills, running through Tweedale-forest, and Teviotdale, before it go into the Ocean. It’s current is above fifty miles: in all which compass it hath only two bridges; one at Pebles of five arches, and another at Berwick of fifteen. It had one at Melross; the pillars whereof are yet standing.

The length of this County is twenty miles, from Lamberton to Ridpeth on the south side, and from Cockburns-path to Seeing-hill-kirk on the north-side. But take the length anglewise, it is from Lamberton to Lauclugh, direct east and west, twenty-four miles. It’s breadth is about fourteen miles; whether you take it on the west end, south-end, or middle of the Shire.

It is divided into three parts, Mers, Lammermoor, and Lauderdale. The Mers is a pleasant low ground, lying open to the influence of the sun, and guarded from storms by Lammermoor. So that the soil is fertil, and affords great plenty of oats, barley, wheat, pease, &c. with abundance of hay. LammermoorLammermoor. is a great tract of hills on the north-side of the Shire, above sixteen miles in length, and six at least in breadth; abounding with moss and moor. The west end of them, for four miles together, belongs to Lauderdale; the rest of it eastward is almost equally parted between East-Lothian and Mers. The peculiar use of this tract, is pasturage in the summer time, and the game it affords by the abundance of Partridge, Moor-fowl, Plover, &c. But the product of these parts is not reckoned so good as of others, being generally sold at a lower rate. LauderdaleLauderdale. is a tract of ground lying on each side of the water of Leider, abounding with pleasant haughs, green hills, and some woods; well stor’d also with corn and pasturage.

The Judicatories this Shire are; 1. The Sheriff-Court, which sits at the town of Duns. 2. The Commissariat, which sits at Lauder. 3. The Regality of Thirlstan, belonging to the Earl of Lauderdale. 4. The Regality of Preston, and Forest of Dye, belonging to the Marquis of Douglas. 5. The Lordship of Coldingham and Stewarty of March, belonging to the Earl of Hume; who is Sheriff, and has his residence at Hirsell.⌉

Here Hume-CastleHume-castle. first presents it self, the ancient possession of the Lords of Home or Hume; who being descended from the Earls of Merch, have spread themselves into a numerous and noble family. Of which, Alexander Hume, who was before Primier Baron of Scotland, and Sheriff of Berwick, was * * Lately, C.advanced by James the first King of Great Britain, to the title of Earl of Hume:Earl Hume. ⌈But the Castle was demolished by the English in the late Wars.⌉ Below this lieth Kelso,Kelso. formerly famous for a Monastery founded by King David the first, with thirteen more; for the propagation of God’s glory, but, in the consequence, to the great impairing of the Crown-Lands: ⌈This is a Burgh of Barony, and a large beautiful Town.⌉

Thence we have a prospect of Coldingham,Coldingham. called by Bede Coldana, and Coludi urbs, perhaps the ColaniaColania. of Ptolemy; and, many Ages since, a famous House of Nuns, whose Chastity is recorded in ancient Writings, for their cutting off (together with Ebba their Prioress) their Noses and Lips; chusing to secure their Virginity from the Danes, rather than preserve their Beauty: but they, notwithstanding that, burnt them, together with their Monastery. Hard by, is Fast-castle,Fast-castle. ⌈heretofore⌉ belonging to the Humes; so called from its strength, and situated near the Promontory of S. Ebbe, who, being the daughter of Edelfrid King of Northumberland, when her Father was taken Prisoner, seized a Boat in the Humber, and passing along the tempestuous Ocean, landed in safety here, and became famous for her sanctity, and left her name to the place. ⌈Besides these, there are in this Shire, Duns,Duns. a Burgh of Barony, standing upon a rising ground in the midst of the Shire. Every Wednesday, it has a great market of Sheep, Horses, and Cows; and is reputedVide Northum­berland, p.1095. by some the birth-place of Joannes Duns Scotus. Eymouth,Eymouth. the only port in the Shire for shipping; which was fortified by the French in Queen Mary’s minority; and from which place, Colonel John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough in England, was created by King Charles the second, Lord Churchil of Eymouth. ErsiltonErsilton. or Earlstown, famous for the birth of Thomas Lermouth, called Thomas the Rymer. Caldstream,Caldstream. a market town lying close upon Tweed. Greenlaw,Greenlaw. a burgh of Barony, with a weekly market. Fouldon, a large town. Rosse,Rosse. famous for its harbour and plenty of fish. Aton, situate upon the water of Ey. White-coat,White-coat. where is a harbour for herring-fishing.

Sir James Douglas,Lord Mordington. second Son to William Earl of Angus, marrying Anne, only daughter and heir of Lawrence Lord Oliphant, was by King Charles the first created Lord Mordington, with precedency of the Peerage of Oliphant.

At St. Germains, the Templars, and after them the Knights of Rhodes and Malta had a Residence.

About BastenrigBastenrig. on the east-hand, and the Moristons and Mellerstoun downs on the west, they frequently take the Dotterel,Dotterel. a rare Fowl, towards the latter end of April and beginning of May.⌉

But MerchEarls of Merch. is much more celebrated in History for its Earls, than Places; who were renown’d for their Martial Courage. They were the descendants of Gospatrick Earl of Northumberland, who, after being driven out of his Country by William the Conqueror, was entertain’d by Malcolm Conmer, that is, Great-head, King of Scotland, and honoured by him with Dunbar-Castle and the Earldom of Merch. His Posterity, besides very large possessions in Scotland, held (as appears by an old Inquisition) the Barony of Bengeley in Northumberland, on condition that they should be Inborrow and Utborrow, between England and Scotland. What the meaning should be of these terms, let others guess; what my conjecture is, I have told you already.In Northum­berland at Brampton, p.1097. But in the reign of King James the first ⌈of Scotland,⌉ George of Dunbar, Earl of Merch, by authority of Parliament, and upon account of his Father’s Rebellion, lost the propriety and possession of the Earldom of Merch, and the Seigniory of Dunbar. And when he proved by undeniable Evidence,1434. that his Father had been pardoned that fault by the Regents of the Kingdom, he was answered, that it was not in the Regents power to pardon an offence against the State; and that it was provided by the Laws, that the Father’s transgression should succeed to the Children, lest at any time being Heirs to their Father’s Rashness as well as Estate, they should, out of a vain opinion of their power, plot against their Prince and Country. The Title of Earl of Merch was afterwards, amongst other honourable titles, confer’d on Alexander Duke of Albany. And in our † † So said, ann. 1607.memory, this Title of honour was reviv’d in Robert the third, Brother of Matthew Earl of Lenox, who being from Bishop of Cathness made Earl of Lenox, soon after resigned that Title to his Nephew (created Duke of Lenox,) and received of the King, by way of recompence, the name and stile of Earl of Merch. ⌈But he dying without issue, the title of Earl of Merch lay vacant, till it was confer’d on the Lord William Douglas, second Son of William first Duke of Queensberry, by King William the third.⌉

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52