- YARROW, a parish, in the county of Selkirk, 9 miles (W.) from Selkirk; containing, with the village of Ettrick-Bridge and part of Yarrowford, 1264 inhabitants. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, was originally designated as the parish of St. Mary; its present name was acquired from the removal of the church to the banks of the river Yarrow, about the middle of the 17th century, since which time the parish has invariably retained the name of that river. The surrounding district formed part of the royal forest of Ettrick, and in the reign of Bruce was recovered from the English by Sir James Douglas, upon whom, as a reward for his fidelity, that monarch conferred the lands, which at the same time he erected into a free royalty. On the attainder of the Douglas family in 1455, the lands became forfeited to the crown, and part of them were granted to Sir Walter Scott, ancestor of the dukes of Buccleuch, in consideration of his active services in the suppression of the rebellion of that period. The forest of Ettrick was afterwards given by James IV. to his queen, the Lady Margaret, of England, and James V. frequently resorted to this place to enjoy the diversion of the chase, the memorial of which is still preserved in the name of a pass called the "Hart's leap," marked by two stones said to have been placed there by the king and his attendants.The parish is of very irregular form, about eighteen miles in extreme length and nearly sixteen miles in breadth; and comprises 71,410 acres, of which 2740 are arable, 640 woodland and plantations, and the whole of the remainder moorland, affording rough pasturage for sheep and a few cattle. The surface is hilly and mountainous, and intersected by three continued and precipitous ranges, which traverse the parish in a north-eastern direction, and of which the Blackhouse Heights have an elevation of almost 2400, the Minchmoor of about 2300, the Hangingshaw Law of 2000, feet above the level of the sea. The chief rivers are, the Yarrow, the Ettrick, and the Tweed, which last in some parts forms the northern boundary. The Yarrow has its source in the hills of Dumfries-shire, among numerous other streams that form two lakes of considerable extent; and after a course of many miles through the parish, it falls into the Ettrick. The valley through which this beautiful river winds abounds with picturesque and romantic scenery, and perhaps no stream in the country is associated with reminiscences of deeper interest, or more closely identified with the finest strains of Scottish minstrelsy. Among the lakes are the loch of St. Mary and the loch of The Lowes. The former, seven miles and a half in circumference, is separated from the latter, which is about a mile and a half in circuit, by a narrow neck of land, or sandbank, thrown up by opposite currents of two small streams; the larger lake is thirty fathoms, and the smaller eleven fathoms, in depth. Their borders are thinly ornamented by some dwarfish trees, part of the remains of the ancient forest, and by a few plantations of recent date; and near them till lately stood the picturesque ruins of the church of St. Mary. There are also several lakes of less importance, some of them containing rich beds of shell-marl, which is used as manure for the lands. Numerous springs of excellent water afford an abundant supply for domestic use.The soil is generally a light brown loam, of good quality, but thickly intermixed with stones; along the banks of the rivers it is gravelly, and in some other places clayey, inclining here and there to bog. The crops are, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips; the system of agriculture is much improved, and the four and five shift courses are now adopted. Bone-dust has been introduced with success in the cultivation of turnips. The marshy lands have been mostly drained, and irrigation has been practised on lands requiring it; the arable farms have been inclosed, and also the sheep-walks in the hilly pastures. The farm-houses are well built; and improvements in the agriculture of the parish have been much promoted by the encouragement held out by the Selkirkshire Pastoral Society, established under the patronage of the late Lord Napier, and which holds a triennial meeting in this parish, for distributing prizes among the successful competitors in every department of husbandry. Considerable attention is paid to the livestock. About 45,000 sheep are reared annually: they are chiefly of the Cheviot breed, with about 1200 or 1500 of the black-faced kind, which was once the prevailing breed; also a few of the Leicestershire on some of the farms. The cattle are of the Ayrshire crossed by the short-horned breed: the number of milch-cows is 200, and of young cattle nearly the same; and about 150 Highland cattle are pastured on the hills. There are but very few, and these widely scattered, remains of the ancient forest; the chief are some oak-trees on the West Faldshope hill, but they are more remarkable for their great age than for the stateliness of their growth. There are also some remarkably fine trees at Hangingshaw, among which are a plane and a beech of very large dimensions. The plantations consist of Scotch, silver, and spruce firs, intermixed with ash, elm, larch, and birch; they are well managed, and in a thriving condition. The substrata are chiefly greywacke and clayslate, and the rocks generally of the transition formation. Sandstone is found in some places, with aluminous shale; pyrites of iron and calcareous spar are also prevalent, and nodules of galena are occasionally obtained. The rateable annual value of the parish is £11,690. Ashiesteel, the seat of Major General Sir James Russell, K. C. B., is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Tweed; the mansion-house has been enlarged and beautified, and the grounds are tastefully laid out, and embellished with plantations. Elibank Cottage, which had also been enlarged and improved, was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1840. There are small villages at Yarrowford and Ettrick-Bridge, chiefly inhabited by persons employed in the handicraft trades requisite for the wants of the parish. A circulating library is supported by subscription. Facility of communication with the neighbouring towns is afforded by good roads along the banks of the rivers, and by bridges kept in excellent repair by contributions from the proprietors and tenants in lieu of statute labour.The parish is in the presbytery of Selkirk, synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and patronage of the Crown the minister's stipend is £233. 8. 1., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £34. 10. per annum. The church erected in 1640, and thoroughly repaired in 1826, is a neat plain edifice adapted for a congregation of 430 persons. There are two parochial schools, one at Yarrow, and the other at Ettrick-Bridge. The master of the former has a salary of £31. 6. 6., with £12 fees, and a good house and garden: a handsome and commodious schoolroom was built for this school in 1830. The master of the school at Ettrick-Bridge has £20 per annum, with £10 fees, and a house and garden. Three other schools are supported by subscription of individuals, for the instruction of the children of those districts in which they are situated; but there are, notwithstanding, in the remoter parts of this extensive parish, some children who are not within the reach of instruction. A branch of the Selkirk Savings' Bank, established in 1815, has tended to diminish the number of applications to the poor's fund. There are in various places remains of the strongholds or castles occupied by the chieftains of feudal times. The most considerable ruin is Blackhouse, seated in a lonely glen, and anciently the seat of the Black Douglases; and in the immediate vicinity are seven large stones, pointing out the spot where seven brothers of that family were killed. A portion, also, of Elibank Castle still overhangs the river Tweed; and the lower portions of the massive walls of Dryhope Castle, the seat of the Scott family, are entire. To the west of the church is a spot regarded as the scene of a sanguinary conflict between some rival clans in the feudal times; and two large upright stones are supposed to indicate the sepulchres of the chieftains who fell on that occasion. In the progress of cultivation, a large flat stone was discovered by the plough, inscribed with a legend in Latin, of which the chief legible portion was Hic jacent in tumulo duo filii liberali. On Dryhope Haugh was a large cairn, of which the stones were removed some years since to furnish dykes for inclosures. Connected with this parish have been numerous remarkable persons, of whom were, Mary Scott, celebrated in minstrelsy as the "Flower of Yarrow," daughter of John Scott, of Dryhope; Sir Gideon Murray, senator of the College of Justice by the title of Lord Elibank; Dr. John Rutherford, pupil of the celebrated Boerhaave, and subsequently professor of the practice of physic in the university of Edinburgh, who was born in the parish during the incumbency of his father; Russell, the historian of ancient and modern Europe; and his kinsman, Colonel William Russell, distinguished for his military exploits in India, and more particularly at Manilla. Sir Walter Scott resided at Ashiesteel for ten years after the demise of Colonel Russell. Soon after he had been appointed sheriff of Selkirkshire, while resident here, he is said to have composed some of his earliest works; and a small hillock, now covered with shady trees, and which was his favourite resort for study, is still called the Sheriff's Knowe. James Hogg, better known as the "Ettrick Shepherd," was also long resident in the parish.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.