Walter turns historical eye on to Selkirkshire

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THE second volume of one of the most comprehensive histories of the Borders has just been published and looks set to garner its author even wider acclaim.

Selkirkshire and The Borders: From 1603 to 1815, by Selkirk historian and archaeologist Walter Elliot, is on bookshop shelves now, priced £25.

It comes three years after the first volume and like its predecessor is published by the local Deerpark Press.

But whereas book one told the story of the Borders in general and Selkirkshire only when it fitted into this wider story, this second tome concentrates on the story of Selkirkshire, its towns and the county and how the Borders fits round it. The intervening three-year period has seen Walter digging even deeper into the Walter Mason Papers, the local archive which he helped edit.

“There is a lot of stuff in the Walter Mason papers and the great thing about them is that they deal with the lives of the common, ordinary people,” Walter explained to TheSouthern.

“So the book is their view of things and how the countryside changed during this period.”

Book two begins in 1603, when James VI became king of Great Britain and finishes in 1815, at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.

It touches on the bloody demise of the reiver society that had dominated the Borderland for so long, as well as looking at the civil war of the mid-17th century, religious wars and the Covenanters, Jacobite rebellions and wars with the French.

Walter’s talent is his ability to describe and understand the countryside, the farm places, the villages and the towns.

As a fencer, working for many years in the hills and valleys of Selkirkshire, Walter knows the detail of the local landscape better than anyone now living.

It is that combination of man of the land and thorough, fastidious, historical researcher which makes this book and its predecessor such valuable contributions to the study of this region.

At the time of the publication of volume one, Deerpark Press publisher, the local broadcaster and fellow historian, Alistair Moffat, said there were secrets in Selkirkshire, whose history was lost or half-forgotten, but that Walter had rediscovered them.

Alistair had gone on to add that it took “enormous determination and great physical effort” to write a book on this scale, to keep it all in your head and make sense of it on the page.

He added that, in Selkirkshire and the Borders, Walter’s achievement was huge. No less impressive then is the level of work and study that he has put into this second volume.

Together with the first book, it will long stand as the premier work on the history of Selkirkshire. But volume two only runs until 1815 – so a third volume in the works then?

“My wife says no!” Walter laughed, but without discounting the possibility. “This was a lot of work. I think the book looks great – but then I’m biased!”