Unforgettable Characters

Few districts are without memorable characters and Eckford is no exception.

Furthest back in history is Hobby Hall of Haughhead, near Grahamslaw. A powerful antagonist, he refused to surrender his property to Ker of Cessford and ‘boldly maintained his right’. An old ash tree still exists near Haughhead where Hobby Hall used to baptise his numerous children, one of whom became the zealous covenanter, Henry Hall.

There is a stone tablet to his memory on a small knoll on the Grahamslaw side of the B6401 between the crossroads and Eckford Quarry. It says:

Repaired and restored
Lady John Scott 1854
Here Hoby Hall bold maintained
his right
gainst REFC Plainforce
armed w lawless might
for twenty pleughs harnesd
in all their gear
could not his valid noble
heart mak fear
but w his sword he
cot the foremosts soam in two hence drov
both pleughs and
pleughmen hom

The Reverend Joseph Yair was minister here for 63 years and died in 1892 aged 94. In his youth, he courted the beautiful Miss Elizabeth McDougall, daughter of the farmer at Cessford. On calling one day, he handed her his hat and received it back from her on leaving. Only they knew that notes were exchanged inside the hat. The first said, ‘Will you marry me?’ and the answer was ‘Yes, I will’. Considerable parental opposition was encountered and there is a romantic but possibly apocryphal story that Mr Yair one day drove up to Cessford in his carriage, accompanied by a minister, married his bride on the doorstep of Cessford and bore her away in triumph. Many descendants of this couple are spread throughout the world and some revisit the Manse from time to time.

Mr Yair was an indefatigable guardian of local rights of way and on one occasion, finding a crop sown across the pathway, returned home for a scythe and cleared the way. Each year he walked all the rights of way in the parish to preserve them. There was only one occasion when Mr Yair was defeated. The precentor of the church had served for many years and Mr Yair thought it suitable that some sort of recognition be given .The precentor disagreed and begged him to say no more. However it was announced on the following Sunday was to be raised for this purpose. The precentor stood up and publicly rebuked the minister for breaking faith. Mr Yair was outraged and sought the Sherriff to admonish the precentor but returned home without this being done. Local people were intrigued and the then owner of Kirkbank, in huge delight, gave a decanter of whisky to the precentor as a reward. The decanter, in 1966, was owned by his great-grandson.

Another tale of this same precentor belongs to the days before the suspension bridge at Kalemouth was built. People then stilted across the river but one day, while in the Kirk, the water rose rapidly and they could not get back as the only boat was on the far bank. The precentor ordered everyone to go behind the trees (to protect his modesty or theirs?) stripped off his clothes and swam across to the boat.

A less worthy character and one possibly more legendary is the blacksmith whose smiddy stood at the foot of the Manse brae. A coarse fellow, he saw no merit in churchgoing and each week jeered at the congregation as they passed by. He jeered once too often for one Sunday the cottage, smiddy, blacksmith and all had disappeared into the ground. To this day there is a green hollow where the place once stood which fills with water after heavy rain and is known as the blacksmith’s pool.