Hullo ma wee blog,
I was out with my camera yesterday and passed by this local spot which has always intrigued me. It's on the road out of Innerwick, a neighbouring village a few miles from home, and is situated at the roadside of a what is a very quiet minor road these days but in times past was what used to be a 'Drove Road' used as a route for driving animals to market. These Drove Roads are some of the most ancient pathways, used from the far distant past and were designed to allow movement of beasts with decent fodder and watering along the way. They also followed routes which gave as much protection as possible to both animals and men in what must have sometimes been dangerous times. This watering place is much more ancient than the sandstone water fountain that is there now and may have been a spring or a place where fieldwater conveniently gathered.
I've never seen one with an inscription like this before and it dates from the 1870's. It takes Victorian sentimentality and Scots God fearing and blends them well together in an appeal - or warning - to drovers to look after the animals in their care, as well as providing them with a place to stop and water them before carrying on with the journey to market. They must have been a hardy breed these travelers and their animals. Often highlanders would walk their famous black cattle down from the mountains - even the islands off the west coast - to markets and fairs many miles south in the lowlands or even down into England if they felt they could get a good price before turning and walking all the way back home. Cattle from the Isle of Skye were swam across the narrow strait to the mainland at Glenelg while their masters rowed across before they would be walked to the markets at Falkirk and Lanark or further afield. The journey could take weeks and involved avoiding raiders and gangs bent on extortion or robbery. Once the market town had been reached, a price agreed and paid, drovers would return home with their fee and the money belonging to the farmers before returning to their own crofts and families.
The taking of money payments to allow drovers and their charges past unscathed was an activity that thrived in the highlands and in the lands controlled by Border Reivers in the south and became known as blackmail from two Gaelic words blathaich pronounced (the th silent) bl-aich (to protect) and mal (tribute, payment).
See you later.