Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Rhymer's Stone

Another stop on my recent journey was Rhymer's Stone.   Thomas the Rhymer, lived from 1220 to 1298. He was a Scottish laird with a reputation for prophesy and supernatural powers.  

The Rhymer's Stone was erected in 1929 by the Melrose Literary Society and marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew. It was under this tree that Thomas the Rhymer took a fateful nap while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey.  He was awakened by the Queen of Elfland, who he kissed. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to his home in Earlston for seven years, then disappearing for good - presumably back to the Land of the Elves.

The Queen of the Elves gave him an apple, proclaiming that it would give him a tongue that would never lie.  From that time he was known as 'True Thomas' and made prophesies which came true, notably of the death of King Alexander III.  Thomas predicted  it on a stormy night, 18th March 1226, the night before the King died.

Of more immediate relevance to the Rhymer's Stone was his prediction that a bridge over the River Tweed, which runs through the valley to the north, would one day be visible from the Eildon Tree. In 1865 the impressive Leaderfoot Viaduct opened, carrying the Berwickshire Railway over the River Tweed. The viaduct comprises 19 spans, and carried the railway at a height of 126ft above the river. Because of its height the viaduct can be seen from the viewpoint close to the Rhymer's Stone - apparently proving the prediction correct.

It is a beautiful spot, and I would have stayed longer, but for the midges - as large as life and biting bigger!

PS:  I didn't know what an Eildon Tree was - but I learn it is a sacred hawthorne in the hills of Ercildoun, where Thomas was said to hail from. And the hawthorn is also sometimes known as the fairy bush, for the fey folk are said to inhabit its branches and are its guardians. Sprigs of hawthorn and its flowers used to be gathered to serve as protection from evil (thanks Stephanie).

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