On a rough rocky ridge between
Earlston, Greenlaw and Kelso stands the odd looking late 18th
century folly of Hume castle raised by the Earl of Marchmont,
which conceals within it's base the fragments of the original
late 13th century courtyard castle enclosing an L-plan
towerhouse and it's medieval well.
The castle was built for the
Home family (later known as Hume) and was attacked on numerous
occasions because of it's position on the border. Some of the
main assaults being in 1515,1547,1569 and lastly 1651 when it
was demolished by Cromwell's artillery under Colonel Fenwick.
Hume was the Home family's main fortress protecting the Merse.
Though branches of their kin also held Thornton castle, near
Dunbar, Douglass castle and church,
Fast castle and even Coldingham Priory (for a time) all on
the eastern march as well as lands in the west including
But since there are many Home branches
ancestoral connections can be confusing. Some of the main
branches were the Homes of Cowdenknowes, of Wedderburn,
Manderston, Renton and Kames, Blackadder, Crossrigg and
Broomhouse. From the Cowdenknowes line (through John of
Earlston) linked to the Douglases, descended
Douglas - Home the famous Foreign Secretary and Prime
Minister in 1963.The Homes of Wedderburn led to the 'Humes'
of Polworth and Marchmont, Sir Patrick being made Lord
Polworth in 1690,later Earl of Marchmont and Chancellor of
Scotland in 1697.From the Manderston Homes descended
George Home of Spott who became Earl of Dunbar in 1605.
The Home family were anciently descended
from William the son of Gospatrick Earl of Dunbar and
March, though they changed their name to Home after their
estate on the Merse. Interestingly the Gospatricks of
Dunbar castle also changed
their name to Dunbar after their main castle seat and
estate. It was not unusual for families to name themselves
after their lands. For example the Douglas family's
Flemmish ancestors took their name from the dark water or
'dubh-ghlase' where they first settled beside in the west
In 1400 the Dunbars sided with
the English resulting in them facing their old kin the Homes at
the battle of Homildon
Hill near Wooler in 1402,where the Scots were defeated by
'Hotspur' Percy's Welsh archers. Even after the Dunbars returned
to the Scots side in 1409 the Homes continued to conspire
against them by siding with the Dunbar's rivals the 'Black'
Earls of Douglas. In 1424 Alexander Home died at the battle of
Verneuil in France with his master
Archibald 4th Earl of
Douglas. In 1433 the Homes turned Coldingham Priory into a
fortified camp ousting William the 'Red' Douglas from being
'Protector' there (the 'Red' Douglas being an enemy of the
'Black'). He was prevented from attacking the Priory by King
James I (1406-1437)as it was an English monastic cell and such
an attack would give the English an excuse to invade. So the
Douglas could do nothing to the Homes.
In 1460 King James II's
(1437-1460) wife and son Prince James (later James III 1460 -
1488) stayed at Hume castle while he attempted to bombard
Roxburgh castle (then held by the English) into submission.
Unfortunately one of his cannons the 'Lion' (which may have been
tampered with) exploded killing him and wounding his ally
George the 'Red' Douglas 4th
Earl of Angus. The Queen and young Prince rushed to the
siege to encourage the Scots army on to complete the siege in
the King's memory. The Douglas was well enough several days
later to crown James King at Kelso Abbey. With their new boy
King the Scots stormed Roxburgh and cast it down.
In 1473 Sir Alexander Home was
raised to the peerage by King James III. Later though in 1488 he
sided with the rebel Lords of Douglas, Hepburn, Hamilton and
Halyburton at the battle of
Sauchieburn, near Stirling resulting in the King's murder.
The rebel Lords had used young Prince James (later James IV 1488
- 1513) as a figurehead, though he never expected his father to
be killed. Legend claims that King James IV was so grieved by
his father's death that he picked up a horse's bridle and
fastened it round his waist against his bare skin so that it
chafed him as a reminder and penance for his Father's murder.
There is a mention of "one link for the King's chain" in James's
accounts in later life which gives substance to the chain
legend. As with all men over the age of 25 his waist had
suddenly expanded so a link had to be inserted to accommodate
his wider frame.
In 1513 James IV invaded
England taking the castles of Wark, Norham, Etal and Ford.
Instead of pressing on with his invasion James spent several
days dallying with Lady Heron of Ford castle (which allowed the
English time to mass their forces at Alnwick and Newcastle). The
King's actions angered his noblemen as for the Scots army to sit
idle at Flodden field was
strategically unsound and several units began to drift home.
Having finished with Lady Heron James burnt down her castle and
moved on to join his men at Flodden. As the English forces
appeared marching round the Scots position, Lord Lyndsay
requested permission to lead his horsemen in a charge to scatter
the English. James refused as such an action was unchivalrous
and insisted Lyndsay hold his ground or be hung for
insubordination. Lord Borthwick (the King's cannon commander)
pleaded with James for an opportunity to fire on the English
while they were dragging their own cannons into position. Yet
James dismissed the sound advice of his men and insisted
Borthwick fire a salute to welcome the English to the field.
Interestingly the salute was taken by the English to be
incompetence as they thought the Scots gunners were unable to
gauge their position.
Once both sides were ready a
brief cannon exchange ensued in which the Scots came off worst.
The Homes who could not tolerate the farce of James's leadership
any longer charged down the hillside with their horsemen and men
at arms close behind scattering the English right rank into
chaos. At this point a border fable claims the Homes who cried a
"A Home, A Home" as they charged into battle was misconstrued by
their men to mean go home. So once they broke through the
English lines they fled home. Hence their name was changed to a
Hume so as to save any future mistakes!!!
Instead of trying to emulate
the Homes mounted charge, James squabbled with his nobles
demanding that they dismount and fight on foot with his pikemen.
During this time the English right wing regrouped. As the Scots
charged ,the English billmen hooked the heads off their pikes
effectively leaving the Scots holding broom handles. With drawn
swords and dirks they continued to fight but were torn to pieces
by the English bills. James was also slain but the English had
problems finding his body. Since James prior to the Scots charge
had ripped off his Royal surcoat to show his nobles that he was
prepared to fight as an ordinary man at arms. Also the body
later recovered by the English claimed to be the King ,didn't
have a chain round it's waist. So some historians claimed he
removed his chain while dallying in Lady Heron's bedroom.
However, an ancient border poem claimed that during the battle
of Flodden four Home horsemen swept the field snatching up the
King's body as such a prize could not be allowed to fall into
English hands after such a humiliating defeat. This for many
years was dismissed as a border fable. But in the 1800's when
the medieval well of Hume castle was being cleared the skeleton
of a man with a chain round his waist was discovered in a side
cave, could this be King James? Unfortunately this skeleton has
since disappeared and is not able to undergo modern DNA testing.
So Hume castle was not only a "home of the Humes" it may well
have been the tomb of a King.