Moffat and the Devil`s Beef Tub 

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An early stopping place on my journeys to Scotland is the near border town of Moffat,  where a welcome break and a cup of tea with a home baked scone can be taken in the cafeteria of the woollen shop. Moffat was for a long time an important junction on the early roadways with routes from there to Selkirk to the north east, Edinburgh to the north and Glasgow to the north west. Located in a district  famed for it wool and its sheep, the visitor is reminded by  the statue of the` Moffat Ram` - locally called the `Great Sheep`, that dominates the town centre.

A stroll down to the old church yard which lies just off the main street, will introduce you to the `table` gravestones which are quite common in Scotland. Some of the original church wall still stands and several notable gravestones are to be found, including that of James McGeorge , macadam.jpg (21126 bytes)a railway guard who died in a severe snowstorm in 1831 trying to get the mail through. Close by is the burial place of John Loudon MacAdam (1756-1836) the Scottish engineer who invented the road surfacing used worldwide. Born in Ayr, he was the son of James McAdam one of the founders of the first bank in that town, and attended school in Maybole. The family originated from Waterhead in Kirkcudbright where they had a presence in the mid seventeenth century. When his father died in 1770 he was sent to America under the care of an uncle, a merchant in New York. While there, throughout the War of Independence, he married the daughter of William Nicoll.  He returned to Scotland in 1783 and bought an estate at Sauchie near Ayr where he began his experiments in road making. He became Deputy Lieutenant of the county and then took on the job of  organising stores for the navy in Bristol. It was here that in 1815 he became the surveyor to the Turnpike Trust and began to put his theories into practice with great success. Like so many inventors, he was almost destitute in later years having expended a substantial fortune on his work. Belatedly the government voted him 10,000  but he only ever received 2000; and he subsequently declined the offer of a knighthood. 

From Moffat we took the A 701 and headed for Biggar where there is a  Covenanter Museum, this is a fully restored seventeenth century  farmhouse  that has been moved to its present site. An earlier reminder of the Covenanters comes, however, with the monument alongside the road to John Hunter of Tweedsmuir, a farmer who was shot by troopers in 1685 when trying to outrun them up the steep bank of the `The Devil`s Beef Tub `. The `Beef Tub` is so called because it is a blind valley with very steep sides at its end, in which stolen or `houghed` cattle were hidden away by the Border Reivers. At the bottom of the deep valley can be seen a stone enclosure which is probably a relatively modern sheep pen but the imagination can easily see a  corral where the stolen cattle were held. It is recorded that Hunter was in the locality visiting a sick friend at nearby Corehead and he and another man,  Welsh of Tweedlehopefoot, (also called the `Babe of Tweedlehopefoot` from his gentle nature) had made a dash for it when troopers came to the house. Welsh later found sanctuary at a farmhouse where he fell asleep in front of the fire. The troopers soon arrived at that farm but the quick thinking housewife slapped Welsh and berated him for lazing in front the fire and drove him out the house, fooling the troopers and saving Welsh`s life.

On the way keep an eye open to your right for the origins of the River Tweed, - the area known as Tweeds Well, where spring water rises to  bk20.jpg (26530 bytes)the surface and  begins its 100 mile journey to the sea. There is a small lay by and monument on the left hand side of the road. A few miles further on it is only a small diversion off the main road to turn into the quiet village of Tweedsmuir and visit the local church where John Hunter lies buried. A picturesque churchyard with many table stones, the grave of the martyr is in the lower yard. Next the door to the church is a tall 19th century monument to him which records the savage manner of his death.

John Hunter Memorial











          JOHN HUNTER

a Tweedsmuir lad was accidentally visiting a sick friend at Corehead when timely in the morning he was surprised with Douglas and his dragoons. He fled to the hill a great way, but one named Scott, being well horsed compassed him and came before him He was most barbarouslie shot through the body, felled on the head with the neck of a gun, and casted headlong over a high steep craig

Biggar Covenanter Museum

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