Framed in time

Unveiling plaque at Old Kirk Yard, Selkirk''Councillor Ella Phaup, Provost Len Thomson, historian Walter Elliot, Scottish nationalist Wendy Wood
Unveiling plaque at Old Kirk Yard, Selkirk''Councillor Ella Phaup, Provost Len Thomson, historian Walter Elliot, Scottish nationalist Wendy Wood

We turn the clock back this week to August 1970 when this plaque was unveiled on the remains of the Auld Kirk, or the Kirk o’ the Forest, in Selkirk.

It is claimed that the Scottish patriot and freedom fighter William Wallace was proclaimed Guardian of Scotland on this site in 1298 after leading the Scottish army to victory at Falkirk the previous year.

Some historians disagree where Wallace’s elevation to guardianship took place. Some argue for Carluke, while others say it was at St Mary’s in the Yarrow Valley, overlooking the loch. None deny that it took place somewhere in Ettrick Forest where Wallace was masterminding his guerilla warfare against the English. And it has to be remembered that the great forest of Ettrick stretched from the Borderland and well into Lanarkshire. But Selkirk has the plaque.

It was unveiled by a latter-day patriot, Wendy Wood, right, supported by staunch Scottish Nationalist councillor Ella Phaup and local historian Walter Elliot, second from right. Also there was town council head, Provost Len Thomson – a strong Conservative and Unionist. And for some time to come he was heard to make clear his feelings on the political outpouring he had to endure from Wendy during the unveiling ceremony.

The plaque also bears testimony to the fact that buried in the kirk’s Murray Aisle are the maternal ancestors of four-times USA president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It was in 1735 that Selkirkshire lad James Murray took passage to Charleston at a time when British colonies formed much of north America. He returned home only once to marry his cousin, Barbara Bennett – and a few generations down the line came the 32nd president of the United States of America.

He served from 1933 until 1945 and is believed to have made a highly-secret visit to the Murray Aisle graves during one of his visits to Britain during the Second World War.

– compiled by Bob Burgess