Douglas family of Ruletownhead

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Vlipping at Rulehead Charlie Douglas of Ruletownhead 


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Nestled near Bonchester Bridge, Ruletownhead farm has been a Douglas family haven for over 150 years. In 2022, the farm celebrated a century and a half of being tended by the Douglas family. The legacy began with Charlie Douglas's grandfather taking the reins in 1872. It then passed to his father in 1920, and now rests in the capable hands of Charlie's son, Peter.

Back in 1966, Ruletownhead wasn't alone. It thrived alongside neighboring Doorpool, together forming a vast 1,000-acre spread dedicated to raising various livestock. The farms provided employment for a small crew – two men and a young boy at Doorpool, and three men with two young boys at Ruletownhead.

The pastures buzzed with life – around 800 ewes, mostly half-breeds with a sprinkling of South Country and Cheviot breeds, grazed freely. These ewes doted on their Suffolk Cross lambs, while Charlie maintained a smaller flock of South Country Cheviot ewes for their more manageable lambs, perfect for spring sales.

But sheep weren't the only stars of the show. Ruletownhead also boasted a herd of 130 majestic Blue Grey Cows. These cows mated with Angus calves, and their offspring found eager buyers at the autumn sales in Hawick and Newcastleton.

Feeding this sizable menagerie required careful planning. Oats (grown on 100 acres) and turnips (covering 50 acres) formed the staple diet. Charlie also added a 20-acre plot dedicated to rape, where Blackfaced lambs from Mainside feasted. To ensure enough winter feed, hay production was crucial, and a pick-up baler made the task a breeze. Oats were harvested using a binder, though a shift towards combining was underway.

Charlie wasn't afraid of a little diversification. He maintained a small, unregistered flock of Suffolk ewes, raising his own rams alongside purchasing around 250 replacement ewe lambs, usually brought in from St. Boswells.

The Douglas family's love for the land extended beyond farming. Both Charlie and his wife were ardent followers of the Jed-forest Hunt, and tasted victory in point-to-point races with their champion horse, Snooker II. Golden Cloud, another of their horses, excelled in the show ring, amassing numerous first prizes and championships under Mrs. Douglas's skilled care. The accompanying photograph captures a glimpse of this bygone era – Dave Hedley clipping wool in the old closes at Ruletownhead, with Charlie and Diana Douglas looking on, a testament to their dedication to their farm and their passion for the equestrian world.

Ruletoonheid (rool-tin-heed, -toon-) n. Ruletownhead, former farm in Hobkirk Parish, once part of the Abbotrule estate. Adam and Walter Turnbull were tenants there in 1643, when it was valued at £140. It had the same value in 1678. It later became part of the Parish of Hobkirk. In the late 17th century part of it was owned by Helen Turnbull, along with West Fodderlee.

In earlier times the farm seems to have been incorporated into West Fodderlee, the Grange and Bowatsyde. In 1788 it was owned by the trustees of George Dickson and valued at £96 11s. George Elliot was there in 1794 and John Walker in 1797, with James Dalgleish being shepherd in the same year. Robert Rutherford was a servant there in 1801. In 1811 it was listed (in 2 parts, split between Hobkirk and Southdean Parishes) along with ‘Bossithill’ and Burnkinford, among the possessions of Charles Kerr of Abbotrule, having a combined value of about £224 and previously being owned by George Dickson and George Elliot.

By about 1874 it was owned by David Henderson, including a part formerly belonging to Walter Turnbull (valued at £96 11s). The tenant was Tom Brown in the mid-to-late 19th century, then passing to the Douglas family. Tom Douglas was owner in the early 20th century, when it was valued at about £300. It seems there was once also a corn mill here (also formerly written ‘Ruletonhead’ and ‘Rule-town-head’, it was ‘Roulltounehead’ and ‘Roultonhead’ in 1678).

Ruletownhead is a tiny hamlet in Roxburghshire, consisting of just a farm and a few cottages along the lane, at the head of the Rule Burn, where that stream is formed by the union of minor brooks off the gentle hills. The burn in time runs down to the Rule Water, a mile and a half to the west of Ruletownhead.



Sources for this article include:
  • A Hawick Book of Words

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024