The day that changed lives and landscape

Ravensheaugh , Selkirk
Ravensheaugh , Selkirk

The afternoon of Friday, May 30, will not be forgotten by the residents of Bannerfield, Broadmeadows, Yarrowford, or even Selkirk’s wider community.

Ten years ago today, a flash flood poured millions of gallons of filthy flood water, and thousands of tonnes of rock, rubble and timber, into people’s homes, gardens and businesses, after a ferocious thunder and lightening storm rained for an hour in the hills above Selkirk.

Water swept down the Three Brethren, the Corbie Linn, and Foulshiels, tearing rocks and boulders from the steep hillsides and picked up felled timber, sending down a wall of destruction – causing hundreds and thousands of pounds worth of damage, but thankfully no loss of life.

With two weeks to go before the town’s common riding, parts of the cavalcade route to Tibbies and the Cairns were washed away, and one burn crossing now had a 15ft drop. Selkirk provost Johnnie Thomson and Linglie farmer Alistair Hogarth were the first on the scene up the hill, following the trail of devastation up the Long Philipburn, past the Corbie Linn waterfall, to the Three Brethren.

“Alistair was devastated by the dramatic change of landscape,” Johnnie said. “It was almost unrecognisable. Just the sheer tonnage of mud and rubble coming down the hill. There were massive boulders just lying up by Tibbie Tamson’s grave. It had gouged out a deep ravine at the Weaver’s Well. It was impassable for the horses. We just had to shift what we could, and get on with it.

“Luckily we only had to make minor alterations to the route, but we felt about people first. We had an overwhelming sense of feeling sorry for those tossed out of their homes for months.”

From the hills, the torrent of flood water surged down the Long Philip Burn into the garden of Ravensheugh House, home of Adair Anderson, who had raced home from work in Edinburgh with his daughter, after an alarming phonecall from his wife.

“I had to park in the Corbie Linn car park,” he told TheSouthern, “because of the amount of water and rocks on the driveway. I took off my trousers, and walked up the drive in my pants, carrying my daughter on my back. We had a French girl staying. I told her, ‘This is normal life in Scotland’.

“The water picked up a pile of 20ft-long timber logs stacked at Shepherd’s Haugh [behind the house], taking out the back wall, and sweeping away the garden and flower beds. There were marks three feet up the trees where the logs had struck. It picked up the horsebox and lodged it in the fence. The water level sat around a foot above the drawing room windowsill, so we got a new carpet out of it. The cellar was full of water. We opened the door to the cellar and there was a frog looking at us.

“The helpful spirit was wonderful. We had people working, all voluntarily, wielding spades for a week, taking a couple of inches of mud off the garden by hand. We now have banks three to four feet high to prevent further floods.”

“It was just a freakish flash flood,” Johnnie observed. “It may never happen again in a lifetime, it may happen next week, we don’t know.” Meanwhile, as the flood water raced past Ravensheugh, more homes and businesses lay in its destructive path.