Allanhaugh Toor (or Allanmouth Tower) is a former pele tower, situated on the high left-bank of the Allan Water, and surrounded by a semi-circular bank and ditch. The existing structure, probably built toward the end of the 16th century, was the former home of the Scotts of Allanhaugh. It has supremely thick walls, and is built with dimensions of 7.5m by 7.5m. Only the lower vaulted storey now remains, its brickwork carved with the initials of 19th century visitors. Though there is scant evidence to support it, Sir Walter Scott states that the Scotts’ Tower eventually fell to two brothers, one of whom slew the other. As retribution, the Duke of Buccleuch had the surviving brother executed, and took Allanhaugh Tower and the land belonging to the Scotts of Allanhaugh into his possession.
The lands surrounding the tower have long been populated, notably by the Scotts of Allanhaugh, later by farmers and millers, in a settlement which shifted over time to its current site at Newmill (found at the confluence of the Allan Water and Teviot). Elderly residents of Allanhaugh, interviewed in 1820 for the Edinburgh Magazine, recounted a story of witches entertaining the devil on the land beside the tower. In 1627, whilst drinking at New-Mill, the local and rambunctious minstrel Willie Henderson got into a quarrel with a fellow bard – a man known by the curious name of Sweet Milk. Willie and Sweet Milk retired to the land beside Allanhaugh Tower to decide the contest with their swords, and Sweet Milk was killed on the spot. A thorn-tree marks the scene of the murder, and is still known as Sweet Milk Thorn. Willie Henderson was tried in Jedburgh, and there sentenced to hang.
Robert Burns references Henderson in Rattlin Roarin Willie, though it is only in Sir Walter Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and Allan Cunningham’s later version of Burns’ poem that we find evidence of how the fated Willie met his end.
‘On Teviot’s side in fight they stood,
And tuneful hands were stained with blood.’
- The Lay of the Last Minstrel, by Sir Walter Scott
‘Our Willie’s away to Jeddart,
To dance on the rood-day,
A sharp sword by his side,
A fiddle to cheer the way.
The joyous tharms o’ his fiddle
Rob Rool had handled rude,
And Willie left New-Mill banks
Red wat wi’ Robin’s blude.’
- Rob Rool and Rattlin Willie, collected or reworked by Allan Cunningham