12 September1999 alan.hewat@gmail.com

Hewat Haunts in old Roxburgh

Great great grandfather John Hewat, who sailed to Australia in 1856 to join the gold rush, called his house in Bairnsdale Dalcove. And here I found the original Dalcove on the Mertoun Estate near Makerstoun, to whence John's grandfather Andrew had returned, expelled from Carolina by the rebels. John must have known it as a young man. In his distant exile, the name Dalcove, half remembered, was all that remained to him of Scotland.

There are in fact three houses; Dalcove Mains is the big farm house down the road from Makerstoun. It is less than 3 kilometers from father Richard's old house Ettrickbraes; Andrew was indeed coming home, with Mertoun Newstead, his first residence, just across Dalcove's field. The road from Makerstoun (pronounced MacErstoun with emphasis on the Er) is no more than a dirt and gravel track. Once started on it, there is no turning back. The wheel tracks are deep, and the tough grass in the middle of the track increasingly tall; I thought that I might reverse all the way out, but finally I reach the end of the sea of grass. I found the Mains occupied today by a distinguished elderly lady with a very British accent and a kindly husband. She knew nothing about the history of the place beyond this century, but directed me to the Estate offices, which I later visited.

50 paces down the road from the Mains stands Dalcove Cottage, apparently used as a holiday house, spick and span, with the cross of Scotland flying proudly over it and a Range Rover parked on the now paved road in front. Then a little further down the road, another dirt track to Old Dalcove, a more substantial house rented, no doubt to more serious people intent on fishing the salmon from the waters of the Tweed, above whose banks we stand. I hope that it was to Old Dalcove that Andrew returned after the traumatic birth of the new America. A few hundred yards and 200 years seperate me now from the smart people up the road and Old Dalcove. A hare hops in front of me, unhurried and ungainly on two great feet. I have to stop to avoid the pheasants, foolish birds unsure of such a strange intruder. They run back and forth until they find a gap in the hedge, escaping to the field of brown barley. No-one is home, but a pair of old trousers flapping on the line offer a warm welcome.

But now I am back on the road to Ettrickbraes and 1750 when Andrew was born. It's just a short walk from the Makerstoun church, as befits father Richard, the sincere and devout Christian. There are no Hewat gravestones here, since Richard, like so many others, was taken back across the river, to rest in Roxburgh. But surprisingly the old church is being renovated, with its new steeple gleaming for such a small congregation. The lady behind the Manse, the mother of the laird of Greatridgehall, explains. Many years ago a parishoner had left a large sum for the maintenance of the fabric, and still the benefit remains, although the Edinburgh folk had subtracted from it I am told. She shows me the enterior, plain and stolid like that at Roxburgh, disappointing for such a romantic place. The old school is a hundred yards away, and now used as a girl-guide training house. In another hundred yards, I find the gate to Ettrickbraes. The cottage has had an addition to the roof, modern conveniences fitted, and the exterior rendered white. There is no-one home, but I admire the gardens, full of flowers, bushes and great trees. Some old raw stones of an out-house remain behind bushes by the road. I climb upon these stones, laid perhaps by five times great gradfather Richard, and look back towards Roxburgh, as he must once have done. The land seems poor compared to that of Barns or Dalcove, but Richard was an honest and industrious man.

Alan William Hewat (alan.hewat@gmail.com)