Turnbull Clan Association

An excerpt from, The Churches and Churchyards of Teviotdale.
By James Robson. 1893.

Bedrule KirkConcerning the old church of Bedrule we know very little. About the earliest notice refers to 1479 when James Newton was parson of Bedrule. It is recorded also, that in 1482, James Rutherford of that ilk obtained a charter of the patronage. Subsequently to the Reformation. it was attached to the barony of "Edgarstoun", and belonged to the Earl of Traquair, who ,had at the same time the lands of Rutherford. The present building occupies an elevated situation on the right bark of the river Rule, two miles above its junction with the Teviot. It was restored in 1876. Only a portion o' the old walls remains, while a vestry and porch were added. The surrounding scenery is exceedingly fine. From the church an excellent view is to be had up the water to Hobkirk, over to Cavers parish, and across the Teviot to Minto. From the vestry window is obtained one of the finest views in the South of Scotland, including the beautifully wooded estate of Wells, which lines the skirts of Ruberslaw, while the dark hill itself towers up far above, and its rugged peak from this point presents the most picturesque appearance.

The building of the church is a simple oblong with the pulpit at the west-end, the style being Gothic. It has a neat belfry on the east end. It is supposed that several of the stones used in the old building were taken from the old castle nearby, The stone to which the 'jougs' were attached is built into the end of the porch: two links of the chain are now all that remains of this relic of olden times, and, it might be added, of a barbarous custom, The church is small, being seated for 130, and, though neither elegant nor highly decorative, is neat and comfortable. The building which survived up till 1876 was a very primative affair, cold, comfortless, and destitute of all ornamentation, or anything to relieve the monotony of bare dingy walls and the plainest doors and windows, It was built in 1803 on the site, and partly on the foundations, of an older building which differed slightly in shape from that of 1803. It extended further towards the east, and after the style of the older churches, was considerably narrower than its successors. This - the narrow building - was a pre-Reformation church, and from its proximity to Jedburgh Abbey, to which it undoubtedly belonged, and its still closer proximity to the famous castle of Bedrule, home of the powerful clan Turnbull, it witnessed many stirring scenes, and possibly sheltered many a daring thief.

A noted prebend of Bedrule Church was one "Hairie Elliot", a cadet of the family of Stobs, admitted in the year 1640, died 1653 aged 42. It would seem from the following that 'Elliot had a somewhat rough time of it. The extract is given word for word. Elizabeth Dowglas, relict (of Harie Elliot), and seven children, petitioned Parliament in 1662, showing that he "suffered so much persecution and affliction for maintaining and defending his Majesty's interests and prerogatives in the pulpit, both at home and abroad, publicly praying for and maintaining his majesty's forces at the expedition 1648 that he was driven from his charge, and lived in a most dejected, miserable, sad, and downcast condition, and had it not been the charity of some faithful, loyal, and well-wishing Christians they had quite famished, and been never able to have subsisted.

The Rev. James Borland was minister of Bedrule during the latter part of the seventeenth century, of whom it was said that he had power over witches, and that he was on one occasion sent for to the house east of Minto Crags to exercise his power over a baby that had been bewitched, and after making a decoction of herbs gathered from the crags, he succeeded. The writer is not able to vouch for the accuracy of this story, but in those days the power of exorcising evil spirits was supposed to be a common attribute of the clergy.

There are two silver cups belonging to the church, engraved thus: "This cup gifted by Newton Ker and his ladie to the church of Bedaroule, 1716"

The churchyard surrounds the church, in which are a considerable number of stones bearing the crest (a bull's head) of the Turnbulls, a powerful family, belonging originally to the valley of the Rule. These are mostly flat stones, and are so old.that the words of the inscriptions are mostly obliterated. A peculiarly shaped "through" stone, being long and narrow, bears on its upper surface the initial letters and dates thus:
G T  H Q
1618

I T  M T
1638

There is no other mark on the stone, except what appears to be a mason's mell, very rudely carved. The Ts doubtless indicate the name Turnbull, The following inscription on a small stone is only partially decipherable, and unfortunately the name has gone:
"Here lyes ------ who departed this lyfe the 22 day of December, 1627. His age 69. On the other side are the crossbones and skull, with a number of other devices. In digging graves here within recent years large numbers of bones have been, from time to time, unearthed. These, in some cases, have been found to be exceptionally large. This has led to the assumption that possibly they were the remains of some of the chiefs of the clan Turnbull, who were known to be men of large and powerful build. The man who first bore the name Turnbull (turn-e-bull) was undoubtedly an individual of great strength, else he could not have succeeded by the power of his single arm in laying the huge bison helpless at his feet. The story of the bull is well-known and is no myth, though it occurred nearly seven centuries ago, An excellent story is told concerning the discovery of human bones in this churchyard, which took a dozen years ago, It also has the advantage of being true, as the writer can vouch for its accuracy, Two young worthies from the neighbouring village of Denholm appeared at the church one Sabbith morning. It happened there was an interment that day, and in digging the grave the sexton had come upon two very large thigh bones. The two worthies, antiquaries to boot, and possessing a lively sence of imagination, had no difficulty in identifying the osseous relics as being those of the veritable and original Turnbull, the hero who saved the life of 'King Robert the Bruce. It was a Sunday; nevertheless they appropriated the prize, and to prevent exposure and avoid suspicion, they each stowed one of the huge bones down his trouser leg, and with perfect composure and serenity marched home in company with their unsuspecting fellow churchgoers, It need 'hardly be added that the uncouth relics were refused house-room, and had to submit to an unceremonious burial, one in a "yaird" on the east, and the other on the west, side of the village, where they still remain. The theory entertained by our two worthies as to the original ownership of the bones is not, even yet, quite exploded, and so Denholm, unawares, may thus hold the remains of a great Scottish hero. Leyden, the poet of Teviotdale, and native of Denholm, thus refers to the Turnbull exploit:

“His arms robust the hardy hunter flung
Around his bending horns, and upward rung,
With writhing force, his neck retorted round,
And rolled the panting monster on the ground,
Crushed with enormous strength his bony skull,
And courtiers hailed the man that turned the bull."

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