Crag Douglas

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William 8th Earl of Douglas resolved to retire from the country for a season, and went to the Jubilee at Rome, in 1450, ‘as his enemies did interpret it,’ says Godscroft, ‘to show his greatness to foreign princes and nations. There went with him in company a great number of noblemen and gentlemen, such as the Lord Hamilton, Gray, Salton, Seton, Oliphant, and Forbes; also Calder, Urquhart, Campbell, Fraser, Lauders of Cromarty, Philorth, and Bass, knights, with many other gentlemen of great account.’ At Paris the Earl was joined by his brother James, his successor in the earldom, who appears to have been at this time prosecuting his studies at the University there. He was received by the French Court with the respect due to his rank and the eminent services to France of his grandfather and his uncle Earl Archibald; and even at Rome his reputation and ostentatious magnificence seem to have attracted no small notice.

During his absence the turbulent conduct of his vassals disturbed the peace of the country and drew down upon them the vengeance of the Government. The King marched in person to the Borders, demolished Crag Douglas, a fortalice on the Yarrow, and inflicted summary punishment on the offenders. On his return the Earl sent a submissive message to the King, expressing his displeasure with the conduct of his vassals during his absence, and his resolution to observe the laws and to maintain order among his dependents. He was on this received into favour.

Douglas Scott contributes:
"Craig Douglas: farm on the Yarrow Water, between the Gordon Arms and St. Mary's Loch. Blackhouse tower is up the Douglas Burn to the north. It was formerly also known as `Douglas Craig'.
There was once a tower here, one of the seats of the Earls of Douglas, which was destroyed by James~II in 1451. The lands were owned by the Crown after being forfeited (along with much of Ettrick Forest) by the Douglases. It was leased to Alemoor of that Ilk in the late 15th century and to John Murray and David Pringle in the early 16th century (formerly written `Douglascrag' and variants)"
The place is connected with what is sometimes called the "Douglas Tragedy", whose connection with history is very unclear! Here's my brief entry on that:
"the Douglas Tragedy: traditional ballad telling of the death (in one version at least) of the 7 Douglas brothers. This followed the elopement of their sister Lady Margaret with Lord William, having a tragic ending near Craig Douglas farm, east of St. Mary's Loch. It was further pupularised in the 1755 play by John Home - `Lord William was buried in St Mary's kirk, Lady Margaret in Mary's choir, And from Lord William's breast there grew a red rose, And from Lady Margaret's a sweet brier'[traditional ballad]

•  Crag Douglas is possibly now a farm 'Craig Douglas' previously known as 'Craig of Douglas' (or 'Crag of Douglas'?), where the Douglas Burn joins the Yarrow Water. It is farmed by T Renwick & Son, Selkirk in 2019, together with Blackhouse farm.


Craig of Dougas was in a good substantial dwelling house and farm office, situated near the junction of Douglas Burn, with Yarrow Water, with arable and pasture farm attached. it is on the estate of, and belongs to, the Earl of Traquair. It was occupied by William Mitchell, Tennant; James Mathieson, Shepherd; John Linton, Gamekeeper.

•  Douglas Craig is a precipitous rock on the east side of Douglas Burn about a mile above its junction with Yarrow  Water.  At first look, it gives the impression that it might be the site of the 'fortalice', but on examining the layout of the walls, that seems unlikely.  Current thinking is that is may have been a hunting lodge.

•  Probably the site of the origins of the Douglas Tragedy. The ballad tells of eloping lovers, seven pursuing brothers all killed by the would-be husband who himself was wounded to death etc. Great stuff and amply told in Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. I have never been able to get documentary evidence to ascertain that this was an actual happening or whether it was a minstrel’s tale that grew in the telling. There is so great a similarity between The Douglas Tragedy and The Dowie Dens of Yarrow that I suspect that they may have a common ancestry; and there again both may be total fiction.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Great Historic Families of Scotland; James Taylor, M.A., D.D., F.S.A; published in 1887

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024