Neidpath Castle, Scottish Borders
Stately and commanding, Neidpath Castle stands on the banks of the River Tweed just outside Peebles. It is over 800 years old, the walls are 15 ft thick and it has a long and bloody history. Here Lady Anne Douglas died in the chapel when she was praying and her gown was lit by a candle and prisoners perished in the pit prison which you can still see. A really sad story connected with it is that of the “Maid of Neidpath” as Sir Walter Scott called her in the Waverley Novels.
Maid of Neidpath
The real “Maid of Neidpath” was probably Jean, the youngest daughter of the Earl of March who died in 1705. He is buried in the grounds of the Cross Kirk in Peebles. Jean fell in love with Walter Scott, the son of the last Laird of Tushielaw. Her father was not pleased about this, the boy was well below her social class so he sent a rider to Tushielaw with orders for the Laird to send the boy off to pledge allegiance to William of Orange in Holland. His father sent him away and Jean showed all the symptoms of heartbreak, probably not eating or sleeping etc. and her father became so concerned as she got weaker and weaker that he sent another rider to Tushielaw with orders to have young Walter brought back.
News reached the castle that Walter was on his way and the Earl took Jean to his townhouse on Peebles High Street (this is today the library and museum). They waited eagerly for Walter’s return and eventually they saw him from the window riding along the High Street. Jean was so frail by then that her father lifted her up to the window where she waved madly but Walter didn’t recognise the pale, sick-looking girl and rode on. She is said to have died of a broken heart.
Jean had two sisters Isobel and Mary who lived for 75 and 76 years respectively after the death of their father so they must have been quite old. However, if any of the Earl’s family were buried next to him there is no indication on the tomb.
“Ere such a distant form was kenned,
She knew and waved to greet him:
And o’er the battlement did bend,
As on a wing to meet him.
He came, he passed a heedless gaze,
As o’er some stranger glancing.
Her welcome spoke, in faltering phrase,
Lost in his courser’s prancing –
The castle arch, whose hollow tone,
Returns each whisper spoken,
Could scarcely catch the feeble moan,
Which told her heart was broken.
Sir Walter Scott
This article was written by Irene Tirtoprodjo who has written a book about legendary characters of Peebles, We hope to have more stories from Irene soon, Thanks Irene.