Whita Monument

Known to locals simply as ‘the monument’, this hundred-foot-high obelisk on Whita Hill, near Langholm, was erected in 1835 in memory of Major-general Sir John Malcolm GCB, KLS. Its official title is the Malcolm Monument.

John Malcolm was one of seventeen children of George Malcolm, an impoverished tenant farmer of Eskdale, and one of four brothers to be knighted (who came to be known as the ‘Four Knights of Eskdale’). Leaving home, family, and country at the age of thirteen, Malcolm rose swiftly to high renown and acclaim for his actions as soldier, diplomat, historian, and statesman. Spending much of his life in India as a British diplomat, he advocated a lenient form of colonial rule, one in which Britons were not to settle India, Indians ruling themselves instead (acting essentially as vassals to Britain), with minimal disturbance to traditional methods of governance, religion, and social structure. In about 1805, Malcolm aided the ailing Dr John Leyden in his recovery from illness, at his home in Seringapatam (Srirangapatna), India. He inscribed some complementary lines of verse in Leyden’s Scenes of Infancy, to which Leyden reciprocated.

When Malcolm was a boy at Westerkirk School, so the story goes, he was regularly a source of mischief, and so his teacher would often say of any trouble: “I’ll warrant Jock’s at the bottom of this.” Apparently, many years later, the same teacher received a parcel bearing Malcolm’s two-volume History of Persia (the first English-language history of Iran written using Iranian sources). Inscribed on the fly-leaf were the words: “Jock’s at the bottom of this.”

‘Bonnie Langholm! Flower of Eskdale!
Nestling ‘neath old Whita’s crest,
There alone, ‘mid Scotia’s splendour
Lives the scene my heart loves best,
Stream and woodland, hill and valley,
Nature’s choicest gifts are thine,
Like a wreath of glory round thee,
Gems of beauty rich entwine.’
- David J. Beattie from an unknown work
‘There’s a spot supremely blest,
Sweeter spot than all the rest,
It’s a wee bit toon that lies near Whita Hill’
- Matthew Ewart from an unknown work