Drumelzier to Dawyck

You were spared paying a toll at Drumelzier. But now that you are at Dawyck Botanic Gardens (now an outpost of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh), a toll will be extracted if you would like to wander round this arboretum.

Here in 1650 the first horse chestnuts in Scotland were planted and in 1725 the first larches. Among other specimens, you will find the Dawyck Beech and an impressive assortment of conifers from all over the world.

This is a collection we might take for granted today, but consider that it was put together before a local nursery could supply its needs.

Planting here has been continuous for some three centuries. Much of the early work was done by Sir James Naesmith whose family was one of only three who have owned the estates here for over 600 years. (The gardens were, however, gifted to the Royal Botanic Gardens a few years ago).

Naesmith had studied under the famous Swedish Professor Lynnaeus who, some say, helped in the layout of the gardens. If you recognise the name Lynnaeus, but its association just escapes you, he was the founder of the modern scientific convention for the naming of plants and animals - it is he we have to thank for the Latin names of our plants, a universal botanical language.

But let us return to the previous owners of these lands. These were the Veitches, one of whom was known as "Deil of Dawyck". The Deil (devil) was a man of great strength who acquired the nickname because no one ever survived the thrust of his sword, and it was he who sustained the last of the Border blood-feuds - feuds where a quarrel was constantly renewed as son or kinsman would take upon himself the duty of revenge for the last killing.

A feud between the Lairds of Drumelzier and of Dawyck had been raging for two hundred years when James VI of Scotland (James I of England in 1603) intervened personally to try and end it. His first attempt was unsuccessful and some ten years later he wrote to his Privy Council from his court in England recalling "the great Pains in Our Person, enduring our stay there, and by Our continual direction since that time we do hardly think that there be any one feud except this in all that Kindom unreconciled".

Both families must have paid the price for this feuding, for none has survived

© 1996 Douglas Gregor