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John Telfer, Esq.,
By STUART DOUGLAS ELLIOT, S.S.C.
President of the Edinburgh Borderers' connection with Barclay Free Church. He died
Union that Mr. John Telfer claims a in August, 1889, at the ripe age of 83. Eduplace in the Border Magazine series of Bio- cated at Eckford Parish School, with an occasional graphies. As an enthusiastic Borderer, his spell of farm work during the busy seasons, name is known not only in Edinburgh but John Telfer at the age of 13 was apprenticed to throughout the whole Border Counties. As a a grocer and wine merchant in Jedburgh, where highly successful business man of sterling integ- he remained for ten years, and rose to be rity and honesty, who has risen from the ranks, manager with the prospect of a partnership. as an earnest and conscientious politician, But a change in his views on the “ drink municipal as well as imperial, as an ardent question” having led him to renounce his temperance reformer, as an advocate of pure and excellent prospects there, he abandoned the trade, healthy literature, and as a sincere and devout and came to Edinburgh. Obtaining an appointChristian worker -in all these different spheres, ment in the well-known firm of Andrew Whyte & he is well and favourably known. For forty Son, wholesale stationers and paper merchants, years he has devoted his time, his money, and he set himself with diligence to learn his new his talents to the moral, social, and religious business, and speedily rose to be manager, was improvement of his fellow men. With great admitted to a share in the business, and is now and undoubted powers of organisation, a fine the senior partner of the firm. Having excellent presence, an aptitude for public speaking, and a health, superabundant energy, and great capacity fearless independence and honesty of purpose, for organisation, he was able not only to meet he has done much good in the City, and the heavy demands on his attention in the especially among the young.
inanagement of the large and still increasing For two generations the Telfers (grandfather business in all its multifarious details, including and father) were Land Stewards at Easter the supervision of upwards of 200 employees, Nisbet near Jedburgh, and here under the but also to devote much time and interest to shadow of Penielheugh, the subject of our sketch various schemes for the benefit and welfare of was born some sixty-two years ago. Thomas his fellow-men. Telfer, the father, was a man of character. These schemes can only be briefly indicated After forty years service at East Nisbet, he came here. They include Band of Hope and other to Edinburgh in 1870, and for nineteen years Total Abstinence movements, licensing reforms
establishment of libraries, church work in all its branches, Sabbath schools, etc. While a member and elder of the Free Church, he has no
in Session and in Presbytery without fear or favour. In work for and with the young, Mr. Telfer has always taken great pleasure, and his gifts of organisation, tact, and discipline have found full play. Nor has he neglected to visit the sick and afflicted, to many of whom he has given welcome aid. To many young men, his helping hand, friendly council and discriminating recommendations have been of the utmost value. In parliamentary and municipal elections, Mr. Telfer has been a tireless worker. A consistent and life-long Liberal, he is free from dogmatism, and much of his social and temperance work has been undertaken and carried through in conjunction with men of all parties. He has been frequently invited to enter the the Town Councils both of Edinburgh and Portobello (where he resides), but has hitherto declined.
It is, however, as a Borderer that our chief interest in Mr. Telfer centres. In all his work he has never forgotten the “ crystal streams" and “sylvan banks” of Jed, or "sweet Teviot's ” "silvery shore," and he has always cherished fond remembrances of his native district. Accordingly, he was one of the first to join with Mr. Thomas Usher, and the other gentlemen animated with similar sentiments, who, in 1865, founded the Edinburgh Border Counties Association. But that Association, excellent of its kind, did not reach the class which Mr. Telfer wished to get hold of—the working Borderers, and the young men and women coming from the Borders to Edinburgh, and in 1874 he brought about the formation of the Edinburgh Borderers' Unionnow a flourishing Association with upwards of 800 members. Although the Founder of the Union, Mr. Telfer, with native modesty, was pleased to hold a subordinate position in the management until 1893, when he was unanimously and enthusiastically elected President. As President, he has instituted a Juvenile Prize Scheme to encourage young Borderers to read and study Border Literature, and otherwise to foster an interest in Border History and Tradi. tions. He has also established reading-rooms for the members, which are open every night all the year round, and in other ways done much to strengthen the position of the Union, over which he has kept a watchful eye since its formation. The objects of the Union, shortly stated, are the promotion of the welfare and happiness, spiritual and temporal, of fellow Borderers; and Mr. John Boyd of Maxpofile, his predecessor in the chair, in proposing Mr. Telfer as President, said that the idea represented by the Union had been strikingly exemplified in Mr. Telfer's own life. As President of the
Union, Mr. Telfer assisted at the unveiling, in September, 1895, of a Memorial Tablet, inserted in the front of the cottage at Denholm, in which the Poet Leyden was born, and delivered an interesting address. That cottage has since been purchased by the Edinburgh Border Counties Association for preservation as a memorial of the poet.
Mr. Telfer conducts his business with the strictest honour and integrity, and knows how to temper justice with mercy. With dodgings or evasions, however, he has no patience. In
every promise of being the worthy son of a worthy sire. Miss Telfer gives willing assistance to her father in Sabbath school and other philanthropic work, and being an accomplished vocalist as well as instrumentalist, her services are often required, and are always cheerfully given.
During the last year or two, Mr. Telfer has required to be somewhat more careful of his health, but as yet his snowy locks are the only visible symptoms of advancing age. His figure is still as erect and his step as light and buoyant as in the days of youth. A life of activity and
the family circle, he is genial and cheerful, pro- usefulness, of regular and abstemious habits, moting innocent mirth and recreation, while gives promise of a green old age, and it is the sternly setting himself against everything unbe- hope of his many friends that he may be long coming or unworthy. In his family relations, spared to work for the benefit of his fellow-men. he has been singularly happy. His wife, Jane By persevering and conscientious attention to MʻLaren, is a Highlander by descent, but a business, and the diligent use of his great Borderer by upbringing. She was his school natural abilities, Mr. Telfer has, through his own companion at Eckford, and has proved a true unaided exertions and force of character, risen and faithful life companion and helpmeet to to his present honourable position, and his him. Their family consists of a son and example is one which must prove stimulating daughter. The son, Thomas Telfer, is junior and encouraging in the highest degree to all partner of Andrew Whyte & Son, and gives young Borderers, and indeed to all young men.
Border Battles and Battlefields. in the suppression of a Welsh rebellion under BY JAMES ROBSON.
Glendower, an opportunity was afforded Douglas Author of "Churches and Churchyards of Teviotdale," etc.
of paying off scores with the victors of Nisbet BATTLE OF HOMILDON HILL.
Moor. He collected his whole strength, and, Fought 14th September, 1402.
being joined by Murdoch, eldest son of the Duke 'HE year after Otterburn a truce was of Albany, governor of Scotland, the united force
arranged between England and Scotland. amounted to ten thousand men. This force
For ten years the dwellers on either side embraced the greater part of the chivalry of , the Border enjoyed comparative quiet, laying Scotland, and such powerful Border chiefs as the aside their weapons of war and applying them- Earls of Moray and Angus, Fergus Macdowall, selves to more profitable pursuits. To the more with a considerable force of half-armed restless Border chiefs, however, peace became Galwegians, the heads of the noble houses of irksome. At intervals between the renewals of Erskine, Graham, Montgomery, Seton, Sinclair, the truce there had been quarrels and bloodshed, Lesley, the Stewarts of Angus, Lorne and till, at length, the terms of peace were utterly Durisdeer. With this army, confident in his own disregarded.
strength, and inspired with the memory of During an invasion of England by a Scottish Otterburn, Douglas pushed on without opposition force of four hundred, a battle took place at to the gates of Newcastle, plundering and laying Nisbet Moor, in which the Scots were defeated. waste the country as he went. The fate of his It was with a view to revenge the loss sustained own relative, 14 years previously, doubtless at Nisbet that, three months later, the Scots nerved him to still greater exertion. undertook a second invasion of England, which Although the English king was not able himself resulted in the fight at Homildon Hill. In to repel the invasion, he had taken precautions that year, 1402, while Henry IV. was occupied to leave the protection of the northern counties
in able hands. The veteran Earl of Northumber- into one dense column. Now it is well knownland and his son Hotspur kept a close watch on no one knew better than Douglas himself—that the Scottish raiders. The Scottish Earl of March, the most fatal foe of the Scots, in almost all their who had renounced his fealty to the king of encounters, was the English longbow. To allow Scotland, and become a subject of England, the English archers to play upon an army, transferring at the same time his military influence densely packed and crowded as were the Scots and power to the cause of Southern aggression on Homildon Hill, simply meant the nearest joined the Percys. It was probably by the approach to utter extermination. It has been sagacious counsel of March, that Douglas was said that the Scots were so closely wedged permitted to march unmolested through together that a breath of air could scarcely Northumberland. He was thrown off his guard, penetrate their files. Thus it was, that almost and thus led to believe that there was no every English shaft, aimed with skilful precision, sufficient force willing to cope with his own, or could hardly fail to take effect. able to stop his progress. Thus it was that, over The two armies stood facing each other on confident in his own strength, Douglas had eminences about a mile apart. Hotspur, always probably become somewhat careless, using no precipitate-an example of which we have already precaution to avoid a collision with the powerful had in his action at Otterburn-was about to Earl of Northumberland, and his bitter personal charge the Scots in person, accompanied by his enemy the Earl of March.
men-at-arms. The Earl of March here exercised Loaded with an immense quantity of spoil, the a wise restraint. No one knew better than he Scots slowly and incautiously (marching though the strength and deadly effect of the English they were through an enemy's country), returned longbow. He rapidly approached the English homeward. They had reached Wooler and leader, seized his horse's reins, remonstrated struck their camp near by, when intelligence with him, and pointed out the opportunity he reached them that Hotspur, with a strong force, was about to throw away. To charge the Scots held the pass which lay directly in the line of the they must first descend to the lower ground, Scottish army on their way home. The English and then climb the hill on which their opponents leader had kept a watchful eye on the marauders, were strongly posted. This, as March observed, and only waited a favourable opportunity to would place them at a very great disadvantage. attack them. Even while the Scots were pre- Breathless and tired with climbing the steep paring to bivouac on English soil with about as ascent, they could not hope to break the Scottish much coolness and self-possession as if they had ranks. He thus prevailed upon Hotspur to been at home, flanked and protected by their allow the archers to make the first charge. This native mountains, Hotspur was advancing to they did with what effect the Scottish host knew meet them. At once, on perceiving the English to their bitter cost. Slowly advancing down the host, Douglas drew up his army in a deep square hill, they poured their volleys “as thick as hail on Homildon Hill, an eminence in the upon the Scots.” The Scottish light armour neighbourhood of Wooler. The position was an was not proof against the cloth yard shafts of excellent one, and only required good generalship England. That worn by the greater number of to turn the conflict into glorious victory, instead Douglas's men consisted of a steel cap, and a of mad rout and wholesale slaughter. Douglas, thin jack or breastplate ; while others wore from his high vantage ground, saw the movements nothing more than the leather acton or quilted of the English army. He had abundant coat. This latter especially afforded but a feeble opportunity to check their progress as they defence against such deadly missiles. advanced in the direction of another and higher It is a disputed point whether there were any eminence opposite that of Homildon. Had he Scottish archers at all to offer any resistance. chosen to direct his light cavalry, with the large Several historians make no mention whatever of force of Scottish knights and squires, to attack these. We know at any rate that, in the Scottish the English bost on the lower ground before army, this was always a weak point, and that they had time to reach their strong position, in when pitted against the English longbow, they all probability the first charge would have could offer but a feeble resistance. Even the decided the fortunes of the day in favour of the armour worn by the knights and squires was Scots. Instead of this, Hotspur was permitted unable to withstand the force of the deadly to reach the height and arrange his army in shaft; the more so as the English advanced regular order without opposition. Another, and nearer, and were thus able to take more level not less serious blunder on the part of Douglas and precise aim. As the unequal combat contended largely to the discomfiture of the Scottish tinued, confusion and panic began to show themarmy. On Homildon Hill he arranged his men selves in the Scottish ranks. Many of the bravest