Rough justice for Selkirk at new home of the Shirra

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During his 33 years as the worthy sheriff depute of Selkirkshire, the poet and author Sir Walter Scott handed down some knowledgable and extremely wise and canny judgements.

The Edinburgh-born advocate had learned much of the way of the Borders since spending some of his childhood at Smailholm and gaining an early education in Kelso.

His wisdom of, and his insight into, the Borders and its people was broadened when he moved to near Clovenfords before a final flit to what was to become his beloved Abbotsford.

He flirted both with the nobility and with what would then be known as the ordinary people. In dispensing justice in matters both criminal and civil, he used that knowledge to ensure that common sense was a common ingredient of his many rulings.

How sad it is then, that the current custodians of Sir Walter’s abode at Abbotsford have failed to ingather – or at least – use a key principle of what Scott learned at an early age. You meddle with Borderers and you push them around at your peril.

Many of the trustees of Abbotsford are true Borderers, so this should have been well known to them. So why is that Selkirk, where Sir Walter sat in justice until his death in 1832 and where his court still stands, has been ignored at the new Abbotsford visitor centre? There is scant mention of the role that Selkirk played in the life of the Shirra.

Local councillor Gordon Edgar and Scott enthusiast Viv Ross led the case for the prosecution when they blasted the new exhibition as ignoring a massive piece of Scott’s life. For the defence, the Abbotsford Trust’s Jason Dyer maintained the exhibition did give an overview of Scott’s life and legacy. But he said they wanted to rectify the situation.

Scott, the astute advocate, would surely have pointed out that if it needs rectified then something must be wrong.