Slides for talk about Melrose regality court in 17th century – a well used Scottish local court

Just put online slides from a talk I gave about 17th century Melrose some years ago.

Viv's Academic Blog

I’ve been spending much time in the last week in the 17th century, transcribing a lengthy poem about a corrupt court judge at Melrose in the 1680s. Doing that reminded me of the talk I gave in September 2013, at the conference of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland, held in Inverness. I thought it would be nice if I put the PowerPoint slides from that online, so have done that – link here. It was a 20-minute talk, as is usual for academic conferences, so I was limited in how much I could say. But I covered a lot in the time allowed.

My talk was titled “Glimpses into a time of turmoil: examining the regality court records of Melrose, Roxburghshire, 1657-1706”, and was based on the dissertation for my taught MPhil degree at Dundee. I studied the voluminous local court records for Melrose regality…

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Smallpox references in Roxburghshire, from my one-place study and personal family history

Just blogged about references to smallpox in Roxburghshire records, and in particular in Melrose records. Both parish registers and memoirs of a childhood inoculation at Toftfield near Darnick, probably in the 1780s.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Reading a recent blog post by Emma Maxwell of Scottish Indexes re finding smallpox references in unusual places reminded me of some references to smallpox I’ve seen in my genealogical research.

Firstly from my Melrose one-place study the Melrose parish registers include a burial register from 1781 onwards which includes causes of death, including many cases of smallpox.

Melrose burials registerNames, addresses and ages at death are also given. The pre-1820 Melrose parish registers have been transcribed and indexed, and a PDF version of the resulting Scottish Record Society book is readily downloadable from archive.org. I intend to analyse these burial registers more fully soon as part of my one-place study, including analysing the causes of death as given.

I also have a nice reference to smallpox from my own family history. In his memoirs my distant uncle Andrew Usher (1782-1855) who founded the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh recalled his smallpox…

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Bible presented to Catherine Dodds in 1919

Here is a blog post about my family’s long-standing tradition of being church officers (beadles) for Melrose parish, and the bible that was presented to my great-granddad’s sister after she acted as church officer while he was away fighting in World War One.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

In my maternal side of the family, through the Dodds side, there is a long tradition of ancestors being beadles or church officers for Melrose parish. The earliest was Alexander Dodds (1816-1877), the first of the family to settle in Melrose. He was succeeded by his son Alexander Burnett Dodds (1836-1895). After that I think his eldest son Alexander Dodds (1866-1935) was beadle for a while – we have a photo with lots of Doddses in it which seems to show an older man of this generation holding the abbey keys. And then his younger brother John Dodds (1877-1945) was beadle for many years, and later John’s son Thomas Cavers Hall Dodds (1910-1981), my granddad.

But when John Dodds was away at war in World War One, having enlisted with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, his eldest sister Catherine Mary Helen Dodds (1868-1929) acted as beadle. We know this because…

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Transcribing 17th century poem about corrupt court official and conventicle hunter

Just blogged about a 17th century poem I’m transcribing about a corrupt court official and conventicle hunter in 1680s Melrose.

Viv's Academic Blog

Before I discovered the joys of book history and researching historic reading habits, which I studied for a PhD, I did a part-time taught postgraduate Masters (an MPhil) in Cultural and Urban Histories 1650-1850. This was taught at Dundee University, mainly by Professor Charles McKean, ably supported by other members of staff, and was superb. The closing part of the Masters saw students do a dissertation on a topic of their choice. And I chose to study the local court records of Melrose in Roxburghshire between 1657 and 1706. These had been transcribed and published, and so were easy to work with. I built up a very large database of cases, pursuers and defenders. There were thousands of cases heard at the Melrose court in the period, and huge numbers of the (small) local population involved with the court. It was a very unusual type of local court, dating from…

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Unearthing a stone relic near Melrose in 1864

Another newspaper report re the ancestors, this time concerning a possibly pre-Reformation church arch unearthed near Melrose, suspected to be from either Melrose Abbey or Newstead.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Southern Reporter, 1864 February 4

MELROSE. A RELIC

On Monday afternoon, while Mr Alex. Dodds, Abbey Gate, was superintending the draining operations which are now going on upon the fair-ground at Bowden Moor, he discovered a piece of carved sandstone which had been thrown up by the workmen, and which he has now in his possession. It has evidently been the groin of an arch, with the carving in wonderful preservation, and probably belonged either to the Abbey of Melrose, or the one of Red Abbeystead at Newstead. From the situation in which it was found, it is supposed that it may have been embedded in the soil since the era of the Reformation, or even an earlier date.

Again this involved my great-great-great grandfather Alexander Dodds (1816-1877), church officer or beadle for Melrose, as well as burgh officer and baron officer.

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Ancestors recording meteorological observations in 19th century

I found out tonight that two of my direct ancestors – a father and son – recorded weather conditions in 19th century Melrose. Here’s the blog post which I wrote about it on my own dedicated ancestry/genealogy blog.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive digitising many decades of Southern Reporter issues, I’ve just found lots of references to ancestors in the Borders. And they include some very unexpected ones, like those described in this blog post, where two generations of Dodds ancestors at Abbey Gate in Melrose were recording the weather conditions, with the results printed in the newspaper.

The first references come from meteorological observations made by Alexander Dodds (1816-1877). As well as being church officer, or beadle, for Melrose parish, he was burgh officer and baron officer, and took a wage directly from the Duke of Buccleuch. His weather observations were reported as below:

Southern Reporter, 1873 January 9

RAINFALL AT MELROSE

The following return of the rainfall for the past year, compared with that of the previous year, is furnished by Mr Alexander Dodds, Abbey Gate. The elevation of Melrose above the sea level is…

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I posted this just now to my blog for general academic historical musings. But it includes a bit about Melrose in 1892, so reblogging here.

Viv's Academic Blog

A TV series which I’ve enjoyed in recent years is Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland using an old 19th century guidebook as his guide. I bought a copy of the same guidebook, Black’s Picturesque Guide to Scotland, in my case the 1892 edition, and have been enjoying reading it. It has useful descriptions – often illustrated – of the main tourist destinations, as well as information on lesser-known attractions.

Edinburgh pages in 1892 guidebook

Although it’s hardly the main focus of the book I particularly like the series of advertisements at the back, many from Scotland, but some from other parts of the UK and Ireland too. These include adverts from hotels touting for guests. The one that really made me grin was the thought of buses transporting people from the railway station at Melrose to the George & Abbotsford Hotel. It’s only about 2 minutes walk round the corner! But I guess…

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