Heartfelt plea to save historic Auld Kirk

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One of the things that all Selkirk people will agree on is that they would like to see a more commercially-successful town, one with a greater appeal to visitors and a more attractive burgh altogether.

Many projects are already working along those lines and with those aims in view.

William Wallace pageant-held-in-Selkirk-circa-1950

William Wallace pageant-held-in-Selkirk-circa-1950

Recently, with Scottish Borders Council’s help, we tried to put together a group of volunteers to exploit the unique history and secure the preservation of the Auld Kirk, both its place in Scotland’s early independence and the building itself.

It is important that Selkirk people realise that these aims cannot be achieved by magic and that their help, on behalf of the royal burgh, is needed.

From an admirable response last month which drew some 30 interested individuals together, another meeting in late February attracted only eight people.

If we don’t manage to get a group of willing and interested helpers together, the Auld Kirk will revert to what it has been for years – a rather uninteresting and deteriorating ruin, surrounded by fallen gravestones with an interesting past which it is difficult to visualise or get a handle on.

Last year, a geophysical survey of the interior of the Auld Kirk revealed what looks like the footings of a medieval chapel.

This accords with what we know from historical records and may be the first clear indication of the site of the Kirk o’ the Forest where William Wallace was appointed guardian of Scotland.

It is presumed that a church was established in Selkirk at roughly the same time as the monastery was established in (Old) Melrose, around 650AD.

By the time of the 12th century founding of Selkirk’s abbey, there was already a church in Selkirk separate from the abbey church.

The findings at the Auld Kirk last year brought more into focus the possible site of a kirk where Wallace’s guardianship ceremony took place.

Perhaps we have found where it was.

We need to mobilise as many helpers as possible to develop the Auld Kirk, enhance its appearance, publicise it and possibly investigate the site archaeologically (without upsetting the residents!)

More importantly, we need the help to preserve and make another corner of the Borders worth visiting.

Work by contractors will start shortly to re-erect fallen and disturbed grave stones and to secure the crumbling walls, but there are many more jobs for volunteers and not all physical!

Wallace had the guardianship of Scotland thrust upon him – let’s see if Selkirk can manage the guardianship of just the Auld Kirk.

There will be another round table meeting in the County Hotel on Tuesday, March 21, at 7pm.

Please attend and be willing to volunteer help.

Dr Lindsay Neil

Selkirk Regeneration Company, the Auld Kirk Group