Skelfhill Pen

Skelfhill Pen, more commonly known just as Skelfhill, is a prominent hill located southwest of Hawick. Its name means ‘shelf hill’, from the Old English ‘scylf’. This is probably in reference to the hill’s shape, which has a small peak at the end of a long shelf-like plateau. Atop the hill there stands a triangular pillar and cairn, which was re-erected by local children to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. Border reivers would have needed to know the lands of Skelfhill in familiar detail, in order that they might ride across them with only moonlight guiding their way. An infamous episode in reiving history took place at Skelfhill in 1546, when John Deans was murdered whilst defending his neighbour’s goods (probably cattle) from raiders. An exact replica of his gravestone can be found in St. Mary’s Churchyard in Hawick (the original being preserved in the museum, having become illegible). It reads: “Heir lyis ane honest man, Johne Deanis, qvha vas tenant kyndlie of Havik Miln and slan in debait of his nichtbouris geir, the zeir of God, MDXLVI”. The tablet stone of his grave is particularly elaborate, perhaps suggesting that townsfolk paid for its erection as tribute to his sacrifice.