Home for juicy tales of long ago

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A SERIES of scandalous tales from across the Borders are being exposed at the Heart of Hawick complex, writes Kenny Paterson.

But you won’t find these stories splashed across a national tabloid as these historical records of Kirk Sessions in the Borders date back to the 17th century.

The important documents were handed over by George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, to the Heritage Hub, the art and culture regeneration project. The records tell of scandal such as irregular marriages, with shocking but also compassionate stories, according to a Heritage Hub spokesman.

Rachel Hosker, the Hub’s archive manager, said: “There are some fascinating stories about life and times which can be hard for us to imagine.

“Although unrest and suspicions could start a series of events that could have terrible consequences, we also see evidence of community and looking after your own in the parish, including making sure the children had shoes, supporting farming business when bad harvests came and starting to develop and invest in an education system.

“The relevance of these stories today endures not only for us learning about our culture and society, but in comparing stories of the past with what is happening today in communities.”

Among the stories included in the documents, which were previously housed at the National Archives of Scotland, include details of Cromwell’s Army in the Westruther area in 1650.

And records from Stow tell of John Kincaid, the famous witch pricker, who found the mark on a family named the Henrisons.

Mr MacKenzie added: “These records are about people, about events, and about decisions in the past that have helped form our communities.

“They tell us much about the history and culture of our nation, allowing us to understand who we are and how we got there.”

The Heritage Hub has also been provided with access to digital records of all Scotland’s Kirk Session and Presbytery records online which will be made available in Hawick for researchers. It will also be used by schools to provide further access for pupils to find out information for local history, culture, community and environment projects.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for culture, sport and community learning, Councillor Graham Garvie, is delighted with the return of the records.

He told TheSouthern: “This truly displays the work of the Heritage Hub in fostering national partnerships and the importance of having a professional archive service to make such treasures available to all.

“The team has built up a strong working partnership with the National Archives of Scotland and we continue to see the benefits of this work in the Borders.”