The old churchyard of Teviotheid Kirk, as Teviothead Church is colloquially known, contains the site of the former Chapel of St. Mary’s of Caerlenrig – the infamous spot of Border reiver Johnnie Armstrong’s hanging. Lured to Caerlenrig by the young James V and his supporters, Armstrong and his followers were promised a fair trial should they submit to the king. Alas, it was a ruse, and legend tells of how all bar one of Johnnie’s retinue were there executed (his brother turned loose, that he may spread the news of their deaths). The murder of Armstrong threw the Border regions into disarray, and sowed a resentment for the nobility deep into the furrows of the Border hills. Johnnie’s gravestone still stands in Teviothead Graveyard, as well as his memorial stone of 1897. (There is also present here another, more ancient, yet unconnected stone).
The next time a church in Teviothead is mentioned is in 1715, regarding the existence of a ‘chapel of ease’ nearby. In 1725, a petition signed by one-hundred locals called for the Duchess of Buccleuch to supply an allowance for a Teviothead-based preacher. However, it was not until 1855/6 that the current Teviothead Church was constructed – a plain rectangular building of whinstone, with freestone edges and buttresses. The church was linked with Hawick Old Parish from 1972-89, and with Wilton from 1989; it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005, with the present Duke of Buccleuch in attendance.
One of the more eccentric ministers of Teviothead Church’s history must surely have been Reverend Thomas Dyce (1792-c.1804), nicknamed ‘Lang Tam Dyce’. He was said to be a highly intelligent and eccentric man, who on one occasion had his congregation sing the one-hundred-and-seventy-nine verses of the 119th Psalm, instructing them to “chow on that the
Now, till A gaun throwe to Falnesh for ma denner!” (In other words, occupying them long enough that he could go and have his dinner, before returning.) On another occasion, impatient at shepherds’ dogs fighting in the church, he apparently quipped “A’ll hev a shillin on the black yin!”