The Bowmont Valley

The bonnie Bowmont Valley, through which courses the Bowmont Water, runs parallel with the Scottish-English border. Across the river, Kirk Yetholm faces Town Yetholm, twin-villages finally substantially-linked by bridge in the 1830s. Kirk Yetholm being slightly older, first mention of the villages is found in 1200, and famously it is said that the Scottish nobility killed at Flodden are buried in the churchyard there. Once the centre of whisky smuggling, and the seat of the Faa gypsies (including Johnnie Faa of ‘Little Egypt’, permitted by royal writ to rule over all the gypsies of Scotland) until the last king of the gypsies died in 1902, Bowmont Valley is also the renowned haunt of fairies (as, for example, noted by Sir Walter Scott). Border poet Will H. Ogilvie immortalised the Bowmont in a poem of his, entitled ‘Bowmont Water’ and published in his first anthology Fair girls and gray horses (1898).

‘We have wandered down the valley
In the days of buried time,
Seen the foxgloves dip and dally,
Heard the fairy blue-bells chime
Seen the brier roses quiver
When the West-wind crossed the dell,
Heard the music of the river
And the tale it had to tell,
Where the melody Love taught her
Is the laverock’s only lay,
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water — far away!

… I have tried the spots, in order,
Where the brightest sunbeams fall,
But the land upon the Border
Is my own land after all,
And I would not take the glory
Of the whole world’s golden sheen
For the white mists down the corrie
And the naked scaurs between
And my heart a shrine has sought her
That will last her little day,
At the foot of Bowmont Water,
Bowmont Water — far away!’
- Bowmont Water, by Will H. Ogilvie 1898