The Selkirk Pageant

Other names

  • Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935

Pageant type

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Place: The Haining Estate (Selkirk) (Selkirk, Scottish Borders, Scotland)

Year: 1935

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 2


Friday 14 June 1935, 3pm; Saturday 15 June 1935, 5.30pm.1

The Selkirk pageant, like many similar events in the Borders, took place during Common Riding week: this is an annual festival and the pageant was an addition to existing activities which celebrated aspects of local heritage.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Jeffrey, Dorothea Mary
  • Assistant Pageant Master: Bowden, W.D.
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs D. Meade
  • Master of the Horse: A.H. Harper
  • Designer of Costumes: Mrs D.C. Graham
  • Director of Music: David Stephen
  • Amplification: J.P. Blair, Selkirk.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Provost Roberts
  • Vice-Chairman: Judge James Brownlee
  • Hon. Secretary: Bailie [sic] Thomas B. Hood
  • Hon. Treasurer: Councillor D. Burrell
  • Executive Committee Convenor: Provost Roberts

Finance Committee:

  • Convenor: Bailie J. Murray

Sports committee:

  • Convenor: W.Currie

Entertainment Committee:

  • Convenor: A.S. Macvey

Publicity Committee:

Reception Committee:

  • Convenor: R. Tait

Committees specifically concerned with the pageant were as follows:

Pageant Committee:

  • Convenor: N. Matheson

Historical Sub-Committee:

  • Convenor: William Hunter

Costumes Committee:

  • no office-holder named

In addition there were named ‘Convenors’ for each of the pageant’s episodes:

  • Convenor Of Episode I: Rev. H.B. Gooderham, MA
  • Convenor Of Episode II: J.J. Gemmell, MA
  • Convenor Of Episode III: Mrs Jeffrey And Mrs Meade
  • Convenor Of Episode IV: William Park
  • Convenor Of Episode V: William Park
  • Convenor Of Episode VI: S.M. Roberts, MA
  • Convenor Of Episode VII: Mrs Jeffrey
  • Convenor Of Episode VIII: J. Brydon
  • Convenor Of Episode IX: J.M. Jeffrey, MA
  • Convenor Of Episode X: Dr Horsburgh
  • Convenor Of Episode XI: S.M. Roberts, MA


  • Although part of the Common Riding festivities, it is clear that the pageant had its own organisation.
  • Six of the ten episodes were convened by members of the pageant committee. Most active of all was the Pageant Master, Mrs Jeffery, who also convened episodes III and VIII and sat on the Costumes Committee.
  • The Pageant Committee had 26 members including a Convener (N. Mathieson); there were no other office holders. The membership was made up of 10 women and 16 men. Among the women were the Pageant Master (Mrs Jeffrey) a titled woman (Lady Anderson), 5 married women and 3 unmarried women. The men on the committee included 2 religious Ministers, a Deacon, two town councillors (R.A. Yellowlees and Provost Roberts, who was also Chairman of the centenary committees); the writer W.H. Ogilvie was an ordinary member of the Pageant Committee.
  • The Historical sub-Committee had five members, including the pageant master (Mrs Jeffrey) and 4 men.
  • The Costumes committee consisted of six women, including the pageant master but had no office holders.2

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Boyd, J. H.
  • Kennedy, Donald
  • Ogilvie William H.
  • Selkirk, J.B.
  • Quiller-Couch, Arthur


  • William Ogilvie wrote the Prologue and Epilogue
  • J.B. Selkirk wrote Episode IV
  • Episode III was by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, from The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford, 1910) no. 84

Newspaper articles give the names of some authors, including that of the assistant Pageant Master, Donald Kennedy.3 Editors of the pageant book are also named in press coverage, including the poet Will H. Ogilvie and ‘the novelist J.H. Boyd’.4 The Prologue and Epilogue of the pageant which are written in verse carry Ogilvie’s initials (W.H.O.). Ogilvie (1869-1963) was born in Kelso but later emigrated to Australia, although he returned to the Borders before his death.5 It is assumed that ‘J.H. Boyd’ named in the Scotsman newspaper, was written in error and that this in fact was the writer Halbert J. Boyd who became well known for his novels based on popular Border legends. ‘The Ballad of The Outlaw Murray’ was the basis for episode III using the version collected by Quiller-Couch.

Names of composers



In respect of the music used, a newspaper notice about the pageant published in 1934 states that ‘Dr Mary Grierson, daughter of Sir Andrew Grierson’ was to be asked to undertake the musical arrangement.6 However there is no further evidence of whether she did assist. It may be assumed that local, traditional music as well as religious music were mostly used in the pageant.

Numbers of performers


Most episodes had between 50 and 60 performers involved. In episode I, all of the named characters were men (26 in all); 19 children also took part (10 girls and 9 boys) but their roles are unclear. Most episodes had women and children involved in the drama to some extent with the largest numbers appearing in episode III (Outlaw Murray), containing 32 women and 7 boys—out of a company of 64; and IX (Covenanters) having 41 women out of a total of 74 players. The book of the pageant indicates that many of the women were members of the local branch of the Women’s Rural Institute. Episode X contained the largest number of players: in this, 200 children performed as dancing fairies. A large number of horses were used in many of the scenes.

Financial information

Receipts: £1370. 6s. 10d.

Expenditure: £1369. 12s. 7d.

Profit: 14s. 3d.8

There is a slight discrepancy of 3s. in the figures quoted in the Scotsman’s report. Even so, it is clear that the pageant barely broke even: drawings from the sale of tickets and the car park charges came to £834. 1s, and from sale of the programme £11. 1s. What saved the event from incurring a substantial deficit were the subscriptions made, which amounted to £461. 4s. 6d. By the end of October, profit from the sale of the pageant book came to £48. 14s. 10d., but over 100 books remained unsold.9 A small sum was made from fees made, presumably to traders, for pitches at the pageant ground. The expenses incurred were as follows:

  • Dresses: £474. 15s. 7d.
  • Printing and Advertising: £160. 9s. 1d.
  • Hire of Horses: £184. 11s. 3d.
  • Amplification: £94. 15s.
  • Seating: £122. 13s. 9d.
  • Plaque at the Town Hall: £35. 0s.
  • Rent of Pageant Field: £32. 10s.
  • Miscellaneous: £264. 17s. 11d.10

Many of the miscellaneous charges were for payments to programme sellers and booksellers. A substantial cost was also incurred for repair of roads at the Haining Estate following the pageant.11

The Provost of Selkirk remarked that the weather in June had been bad and inferred that this might have affected income on the pageant.12 However, most press reports of the pageant state the weather was glorious on both days; it is assumed that poor weather before this perhaps affected advance sale of tickets. The local press reported that Friday’s performance was slightly delayed because of rain, but this soon cleared and the performance went ahead without any further weather problems with a crowd of around 10,000 attending.13 A similar sized crowd attended on the Saturday performance.14

A memorial plaque was placed at the Town Hall to commemorate the 400th charter anniversary; this was paid for out of pageant funds.

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

Commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the granting of the burgh charter by James V to the town in 1535.

It was also part of that year’s Common Riding festival and purported to celebrate the 400th year in unbroken succession that the Marches had been ridden.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 10000
  • Total audience: n/a


No record has been found of any rehearsals, although it is assumed that these must have taken place.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Seats: 5s., 4s., 3s.16

The ticket prices recovered are for booked seats; however, it is likely that there were standing-only tickets available for this open-air event but information about these has not been found. While estimated attendance numbers suggest the pageant sold out, this may be misleading as some who attended may have had entry to the ground only.

Associated events

The event was part of the Selkirk Common Riding festival week.
A radio broadcast of a concert entitled 'A Quater-Centenary Celebration in the Royal Burgh of Selkirk devised by George Burnett, relayed from the County Hotel Selkirk’ on the BBC's Home Service for Scotland (4 June). Radio listings were published widely in the Scottish and Northern English press. It is presumed that some of the music used for the pageant was a part of this concert but no further information confirming this supposition has been recovered.

Pageant outline


This consists of a verse, narrated by the ‘Spirit of Selkirk’. It begins:

On this green stage beneath the leaf-lit trees,
With Etterick singing past us in the vale,
We bid you follow through the centuries
The stirring chapters of our Border tale.

And ends:

Then turning homeward, parting far and wide,
Take back to city street and lonely glen
The glamour of our haunted Border-side,
The old proud story of the Selkirk men.

Episode I. The Coming of the Monks, 1113.

The first episode outlines the origins of the town with the establishment of a monastery. The episode opens with the monks arriving to build their abbey. ‘Prince David’ (Earl of Cumbria) and the Bishop of Glasgow are also in attendance. The monks process carrying emblems of their different crafts and singing Psalm 122. All of the assembled, monks and royal courtiers, then group themselves so as to present an outline of the foundations of the future church; the Bishop then walks around this outline and sprinkles them with holy water. He delivers a special benediction to the site of what would be the high altar. After this all performers unite in singing a hymn of thanksgiving.18

Episode II. Wallace Declared Guardian of Scotland.

This opens with townspeople awaiting the arrival of Wallace. One of these, the tenant of the Selkirk Mill, tells the listening crowd how he has been ordered to pay his rent to representatives of the English King (Edward I); the townspeople laugh away his fears and place their faith in Wallace. A bell is then heard and a procession of clergy approaches led by a bishop: a hush descends on the assembled crowd. Then Wallace arrives, riding down a hill along with his retinue of Scottish nobles. They dismount and one of the nobles informs the bishop of their choice of ‘Guardian’ and asks for the blessing of the church. Wallace then lays his sword before the bishop and kneels at his feet in order to be blessed. When Wallace rises, he kisses his sword, raises it aloft and declares, ‘For Scotland’s King and Freedom!’ The assembled clergy chant a psalm and the nobles each in turn swear allegiance to Wallace. When the party rides off, spearmen and archers from Ettrick forest led by a local noble, Sir John Stewart of Bonkyll, go with them.19

Episode III. The Outlaw Murray

This episode is derived from the narrative of a traditional ballad; it is uncertain if the legend told in the ballad developed around a real historical character or not, but is alleged to be based on a member of the well-known Murray family of Philiphaugh in the Borders. In the legend, Murray is a ‘Robin Hood’ type hero. The ballad had been collected and recorded by Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders; and in a more modern version by Arthur Quiller-Couch.20 The episode used the text of Quiller-Couch’s version, with some verses slightly modified and abbreviated; most of the verse was recited by the pageant’s ‘Announcer’ (?The Spirit of Selkirk) with other parts being narrated by the individual characters of Murray, ‘the King’ (likely James II of Scotland), John Boyd (the King’s attendant) and a ‘Lady’ within two separate scenes. The story as outlined in the original ballad first describes Murray and his company of five hundred men and is narrated while a crowd assembles and a group of archers set up their targets. Thereafter, Murray returns from hunting accompanied by his ‘lady’ and a company of his men just as Boyd arrives in Ettrick Forest to deliver the news that the King wishes Murray to pay him homage. Murray refuses, Boyd is sent away and the outlaw and his company also ride off leaving the stage empty. In scene two, Murray is visited by the King himself who offers to make him Sheriff of Ettrick if he gives up his outlaw ways and pays him homage. Murray gives way on the condition that he can keep his lands and that his ‘merrie men’ are pardoned.

Episode IV. Flodden: The Departure and Return, 1513

The description of this episode in the Book of the Pageant opens with a poem by J.B. Selkirk (1852-1904) which tells how local men responded with bravery to the call to arms in 1513.21 It is unclear whether this was recited by the ‘Announcer’. Thereafter, the episode consists of three crowd scenes set in the centre of Selkirk. The first is set on the eve of battle when a Fair is being held in the town. The crowd is in holiday spirit and children are seen playing. A band of gypsies arrives and is chased off by the locals. Then a messenger comes into the town and reads a proclamation that the King wishes an armed troop from Selkirk to join his army at Flodden. The crowd discusses the proclamation and then disperses. In the second scene, a bell tolls and the crowd return to greet the party of Burghers and armed men who have gathered together before their departure to the battle. There is cheering but also distress among the women townsfolk. When the local troops leave, the crowd disperses again. They gather once more for a third scene when everyone is anxious to hear news of the battle. A horseman approaches ‘worn and weary’.22 The local character of ‘Fletcher’ remembered as the only Selkirk returnee from Flodden waves a banner in the air and then throws it on the ground. The crowd presses around him to hear his tale of the battle and a wail arises from the women. The crowd disperses yet again, this time to the strains of the well-known lament ‘the Flowers of the Forrest’.23

Episode V. Granting of the Burgh Charter, 1535

This opens with an excited crowd gathered round the town’s Mercat Cross awaiting a visit from a representative of the King (James V). A Chief Citizen has been appointed and he, along with other leading townspeople including the Town Clerk and ‘Fletcher’ who carries a flag, awaits a royal deputation. ‘A brilliant cavalcade is seen approaching’ and on their arrival greetings are exchanged and the entire crowd assembled bows.24 The messenger then hands over the charter to the chief citizen who passes it to the clerk who reads it aloud. The King’s messenger then takes up some earth and a stone to represent land and houses, and also some grass to represent the ‘teinds’ (tithes); a priest blesses these symbols. There is cheering as the King’s party then departs and is escorted to the town’s boundaries.25

Episode VI. An Early Common Riding, 1540

This episode, in two scenes, recalls a notorious event said to have taken place in 1540 during the yearly riding of the marches. In the opening scene, the town’s first Provost, John Muthag, is included in the party which plans to ride the marches (in Selkirk this is called the ‘Burley Party’); also amongst the riders is Gilbert Ker, a member of a well-known local family. This group of horsemen gathers and drinks a toast with beer. A crowd waves them off, cheering loudly. The crowd disperses and the scene changes to a field where one man, William Renton, is ploughing and two other men (members of the Ker family) are erecting three ‘cairns’ (presumably to mark a boundary) just as the Burley Party arrives. An argument then takes place and a fight ensues; the Provost and another man are killed by the Kers. The scene ends with members of the Burley Party removing the dead bodies.26

Episode VII. Granting of the Guild Charters

This is a short episode with only one scene; it aims to represent the way in which the award of a ‘seal of cause’ was made to five of the common trades which operated in Selkirk. Historically, these awards actually took place over a seventy-year period, but they were presented dramatically in the pageant as a single event involving the Town Council, headed by the Provost, and representatives of the town’s weavers, shoemakers, tailors, fleshers and hammermen. A petition to allow these tradesmen to form guilds is presented to a meeting of the Burgh Council by the leader of the weavers. This petition is then granted to all the different groups and then proclaimed to the townspeople with some pomp (a drum roll is involved). This news is met with cheering from the people.27

Episode VIII. Montrose on the Eve of Philiphaugh.

This episode has a single scene that depicts the royalist supporter, the Earl of Montrose, arriving in Selkirk on the eve of his defeat at Philiphaugh during the Civil War. This battle put an end to Royalist hopes in Scotland and took place near Selkirk. There is no dialogue in this scene; it is described as follows in the Book of the Pageant:

Montrose rides in from among the trees. He has with him Airlie and Napier, also Drummond, Spottiswoode and Ogilvie... [Likely these are representatives of local families.]

Montrose comes to the front of the stage. All but the leader dismount, and one of the staff produces a map. Montrose points out some places in it to the others, and gives directions. An aide, followed by an orderly, rides in. He has come from Selkirk to tell Montrose that he has found billets there. All mount and salute, and Montrose rides off towards the town...28

Episode IX. The Covenanters

Again within a single scene and containing little dialogue, this episode depicts a Conventicle being held on Selkirk Common. The preacher is John Blackadder and one of the worshippers is Bennet of Chesters. Both have spent many years imprisoned on the Bass Rock for their beliefs. As is usual, men are watching out. Onto this scene, an alarm is raised on the approach of the Sheriff and his dragoons. A horse is brought for the preacher so that he can flee, but he refuses. The Covenanters stand firm in support of the preacher as the troops advance. The Sheriff orders them home in the name of the King, but the Covenanters reply that they ‘are met in the name of the King of Heaven’. Then the Sheriff is wrong-footed when his own sister steps out from the crowd of worshippers to declare ‘Fye on ye!... the vengeance of God will overtake ye for marring so good a work!’29 The troopers search for the preacher but are held back by the Covenanters. The sheriff then calls out two local lairds who are in the congregation (Bennet, Laird of Chesters, and Turnbull of Standhill) and he urged them to persuade the worshippers to go home. Bennett then manages to persuade the meeting to disperse and the preacher escapes alongside, thus avoiding capture and certain death.30

Episode X. Passing of the Highland Column, November 1945

In this episode, the much-feared Highland contingent of the Jacobite army is depicted arriving in Selkirk on its famous march south. This scene is played for comic effect during market day in the town. While everyone is busy, a bell rings out and the town bell-ringer announces: ‘Honest people...the Highlanders under Lord Balmerino are marching on our town... I warn you on no account to raise the ire of the fiery horde...’31 This news is discussed in groups and received with mixed feelings. Onto this scene bagpipes are heard in the distance. The noise rises and a cry of ‘the Highlanders!’ goes up, whereupon the women and children flee. The weary Highlanders show some military discipline, until Lord Balmerino gives the signal to fall out. The soldiers are given water and they haggle with market stall owners for food. Two women wearing a white rose (symbol of Jacobite sympathy) came onto the scene. One of the women offers Lord Balmerino a flagon of wine and he raises this and toasts the health of Charles Edward, whereupon the whole column raises their swords three times on each occasion shouting ‘slainte’. While everyone’s attention is on the toast to the Bonny Prince, one of the Highlanders tries to steal a leg of lamb from a butcher’s stall, but he surrenders the meat when he sees the powerfully built stall owner (Muckle Deacon) coming after him.32

Episode XI. A Day in Selkirk, 1804

This episode provides a vehicle for some famous Borderers to be depicted including, the writers Walter Scott and James Hogg, the explorer Mungo Park, and clergyman Dr George Lawson. The scene takes place in the town and opens with a dance; then the four meet and hold a conversation. Following this, Scott, Park and Lawson take their leave and the crowd disperses leaving James Hogg alone on the stage with his dogs. In this second scene, Hogg is seen to rest under a tree and to fall asleep. The figure of Kilmeny appears (the title figure of one of Hogg’s best-known supernatural ballads) and is seen to ‘wander up the centre of the stage’. Then the stage is suddenly filled with children dressed as fairies who ‘whirl into a Rainbow Dance.’33 At the close of the dance, Hogg awakens and leaves the stage with his dogs.34


A poem formed this part of the performance and it is assumed that the Announcer read this. It had three verses, the final of which is as follows:

And we have jewelled thoughts to keep
And golden memories to store
Of heroes wakened from their sleep,
And chivalry wherein to steep
Our hearts for evermore.

The customary singing of God Save the King, concludes the performance.35

Key historical figures mentioned

  • David I (c.1085–1153) king of Scots
  • Wallace, Sir William (d. 1305) patriot and guardian of Scotland
  • James II (1430–1460) king of Scots
  • James IV (1473–1513) king of Scots
  • Graham, James, first marquess of Montrose (1612–1650) royalist army officer
  • Blackadder, John (1615/1623?–1686) Church of Scotland minister
  • Elphinstone, Arthur, sixth Lord Balmerino and fifth Lord Coupar (1688–1746) Jacobite army officer
  • Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832) poet and novelist
  • Hogg, James (bap. 1770, d. 1835) poet and novelist
  • Park, Mungo (1771–1806) traveller in Africa
  • Lawson, George (1749–1820) biblical scholar

Musical production

The music was probably live. Pieces included:
  • Psalm 122 (Episode 1). 
  • ‘The Flowers of the Forest.’ Traditional folk tune (Episode IV).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Southern Reporter
Hawick News and Border Chronicle
Sunday Post
Berwickshire News and General Advertiser

Book of words

The Selkirk Quater-centenary Celebrations, Book of the Selkirk Pageant 1535-1935 (Selkirk, 1935).

With Plates, including Portraits.

Other primary published materials


The financial accounts reveal that a programme was produced; however a copy of this has not been recovered.

References in secondary literature

  • Pentland, Gordon and Stevenson, Katie. ‘The Battle of Flodden and its Commemoration 1513-2013’. In England and Scotland at War, c.1296-c.1513, edited by Andy King and David Simpkin, 355-380. Leiden, 2012.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Hawick Public Library, Hawick (1 copy of the Book of Words).
  • SBC Museums & Galleries Service, Municipal Buildings, High Street, Selkirk (documents not open to the public but holdings include a copy of the Book of Words, a poster for the event and some of the original illustrations for costumes).
  • Borders Heritage Hub, Heart of Hawick, Kirkstile, Hawick (1 copy of the Book of Words).
  • The SCRAN Trust holds a photograph of the pageant. See:

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Hogg, James. The Queen’s Wake. Edinburgh, 1813.
  • Sime, William. A History of the Covenanters. Edinburgh, 1830.
  • Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford, 1910) no. 84.

An account of a conventicle at Selkirk appears in work by William Sime and this description clearly formed the basis for the drama in episode 10.

Both Walter Scott and Arthur Quiller Couch produced versions of a traditional ballad on the ‘Outlaw Murray’ (see synopsis of Episode III for details).

The poetry of James Hogg is referred to in the final episode, particularly the verse ‘Kilmeny’ (from the collection The Queen’s Wake: A Legendary Poem, 1813).


This pageant was described as being for the townsfolk of Selkirk, 'a gesture of articulation' about 'the spirit and achievement of their ancestors'.36 In common with other Border pageants, the Selkirk event was integrated within the week of the annual ‘Common Riding’ festival. The addition of an historical pageant to the Ridings marked this special centenary year; it being the four hundredth anniversary of the granting of a charter to the town, conferring on it the status of a royal burgh. However, this is perhaps where similarities with other Border events end. The front cover of the book portrays in muted colours the mournful image of ‘Fletcher’—the sole returnee to Selkirk from the Battle of Flodden. Yet, despite this imagery and the known fascination for Flodden in this locality, enacted yearly in Common Ridings, and unlike its most recent local predecessor, the Hawick Pageant of 1914, the Selkirk pageant was not a paean to Flodden. A feature that is notable about this pageant is its wider focus on local heritage that goes beyond the legend of Flodden.

Indeed the Selkirk event, also unlike most other pageants of its time in the UK, does not begin with an elaborate display of pre-history; instead, a relatively short prologue in verse traverses time over eight centuries ‘with a modern cast’.37 The pageant begins with the founding of the monastery in the early twelfth century, which gave rise to the town; and it ends with a scene showing Selkirk’s favoured local sons from the nineteenth century, including Walter Scott who was Sheriff of Selkirk and the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’, James Hogg. Sandwiched between these are episodes that cover both locally important happenings as well as events of national importance, which, critically, did have important theatres of action in the nearby vicinity. Each is elaborated upon within eleven relatively short episodes, most of which have only one scene. Included are interpretations of aspects of the Wars of Independence, the Civil War, the martyrdom of the Covenanters and the Jacobite rising of 1745. Naturally, the granting of the Burgh Charter is also covered, although this event is given no particular prominence in the overall, chronological narrative. The same treatment is given to Flodden which is very briefly enacted with a focus on its especially tragic consequences for the town. It is evident that this centenary, although important within Selkirk, was a vehicle for larger interpretation of the town's own history. The inclusion of only a few of the 'usual suspects' of Scottish historical pageantry serves to underline this. Although William Wallace does make an appearance, as does Sir Walter Scott, both of these characters do have strong associations with Selkirk.

A more cynical explanation for the way that the narrative is constructed to include Flodden yet avoid foregrounding it perhaps lies with the fact that the Selkirk Flodden legend had been widely criticised as being a manufactured tale. A previous centenary celebration, for the Battle of Flodden itself, which was held in Selkirk in 1913, had exposed widespread doubts about the veracity of the Selkirk's flag-bearing 'Fletcher'. In order to counter allegations about the manufacture of this past, the writers of the 1935 pageant clearly went to some lengths in order to be clear about what were known facts, even admitting flagrant dramatic license in the introduction to episode VII about the timescale of the incorporation of the town's guilds.38 Further potentially contentious enactments such as that concerning the Selkirk nobility's allegiances during the Civil Wars are perhaps avoided by minimising the dialogue within episode VIII. Contradicting this pattern, however, and perhaps in defiance of historical Gradgrindians, is episode III that tells the tale of a locally popular figure known as the 'Outlaw Murray'. Here, the authors of the pageant may have wished to put on a good show and to underscore the importance of Border ballads in the locality, in which case the inclusion of this character was important. In the Book of Words, the writer anticipates criticism and begins the introduction to this episode by admitting that the tale about Murray 'refusing homage to the King, but finally giving way on being installed as the Sheriff of Ettrick Forest, has long been considered... to be merely a picturesque legend...'39 The writer of the introduction goes on, however, to defend his position by stating that this allegedly fictitious character may have had some grounding in fact, since the locally important Murray family were verifiably Sheriffs 'before 1503'.40 Nonetheless, it is very noticeable that the text of the pageant includes no note of authorship, unlike other scholarly chapters included in the Book on the likes of Scott and Hogg.41 The pageant’s episodes may, of course, have been the results of collective efforts but just as likely no one person wanted to either hog the limelight or take any potential flack. None of the episodes depends greatly on dialogue and they lean more towards spectacle with crowd scenes and activity. Nevertheless, there was amplification at this pageant and this would have been used to good effect for the many instances of recitation of poetry and balladry. Sadly, we have few details of the music used which may have been important for the overall performance in lieu of dialogue.

The Book of the Selkirk Pageant is perhaps one of the less colourful examples of this literary genre. Although, predictably, it contains many photographs of notable locals and advertisements for local businesses, there are no elaborate illustrations aside from the front cover. This is a pity because it is clear that this event did present a vibrant spectacle and ‘brilliant costumes, uniforms and armour’ were evident and shown to their best effect by sunshine on both days of the performances.42 These took place on a nearby country estate ‘on green slopes beside the site of the old Selkirk castle’ and next to a lake.43 The pageant was reviewed favourably in large circulation newspapers such as the Scotsman and the Sunday Post, as well as in local newspapers where the sylvan setting and the colour of the costumes were praised. Most impressive of all for commentators was the final episode that dramatised Hogg's creation of the poem 'Bonny Kilmeny'. In this, 200 local children 'dressed in exquisite pastel hues' danced 'gaily and gracefully' and 'held the spectators spellbound'; they ended their dance by forming themselves into a giant rainbow which 'brought the huge crowd to its feet with cheering and applause.'44 Indeed, the event was well attended, although it seems likely that most of the audience was local to the Borders; this audience would have included émigré 'Souters' who had returned for the Common Riding perhaps in greater numbers because of the centenary year. Unfortunately, between the cost of the commemorative plaque (paid for out of pageant funds), and sundry other expenditure on, for example, the pageant book, amplification, horses and costumes, this pageant barely broke even. Indeed, it appears from accounts that subscriptions of over £400 were not returned.

The centenary was marked additionally by the unveiling by the Earl of Home of the commemorative plaque (affixed to the Town Hall in the centre of the town); and the Common Riding itself attracted a record turnout of riders said to be 'fully 200' in number.45 However, there is no doubt that the crowning achievement of the year was the pageant, and it is worth noting, in addition, that the pageant master for the event was a local woman. Active in various aspects of the pageant's organisation as well as having overall charge, to be able to take such a prominent place in the events of the Common Riding week Mrs Jeffrey must have been a formidable personality. For this was a notoriously martial and masculine-orientated festival. No further details have come to light about her career unfortunately; and while the Scotsman newspaper rhapsodised about how splendid this pageant's spectacle was, stating it to be 'proud, picturesque and...near to poetry', the pageant master was given not a single mention for her efforts.46


  1. ^ See advertisement in the Southern Reporter 13 June 1935, 1.
  2. ^ Officials and Committee members outlined in Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 3-5.
  3. ^ The name of Mr Donald Kennedy is stated in ‘Selkirk Pageant: Scenes for Big Function next June’, The Scotsman, 15 November 1934, 14.
  4. ^ See ‘Selkirk Charter: Celebrations in June Next’, The Scotsman, 18 January 1935, 10.
  5. ^ See the Australian Dictionary of Biography,
  6. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant: Scenes for Big Function Next June; The Scotsman, 15 November 1934, 14. 
  7. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 6-10.
  8. ^ ‘Credit Balance of 14/3 on Selkirk Pageant’, The Scotsman, 26 October 1935, 11.
  9. ^ ‘Pageant Profit: Financial Statement Approved’, The Southern Reporter, 31 October 1935, 6.
  10. ^ ‘Pageant Profit: Financial Statement Approved’, The Southern Reporter, 31 October 1935, 6.
  11. ^ ‘Pageant Profit: Financial Statement Approved’, The Southern Reporter, 31 October 1935, 6.
  12. ^ ‘Credit Balance of 14/3 on Selkirk Pageant’, 11.
  13. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant’, The Hawick News, 21 June 1935, 2.
  14. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant’, The Scotsman, 17 June 1935, 9.
  15. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant’, The Hawick News, 21 June 1935, 2.
  16. ^ Advertisement in The Hawick News, 24 May 1935, 1.
  17. ^ See for example, ‘Broadcasting Features’, The Yorkshire Post, 4 June 1935, 3.
  18. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 16.
  19. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 18.
  20. ^ Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Oxford Book of Ballads (Oxford, 1910) no. 84.
  21. ^ J. B. Selkirk, ‘Selkirk after Flodden’, first published in Blackwood’s Magazine 138, November 1885, 645-647.
  22. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 24
  23. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 23-25.
  24. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 28.
  25. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 26-28.
  26. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 29-30.
  27. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 31-33.
  28. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 35.
  29. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 37.
  30. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 36-7.
  31. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 40.
  32. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 38-40.
  33. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 42.
  34. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 41-42.
  35. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 43.
  36. ^ 'Selkirk Pageant: a Romantic Past', The Scotsman, 15 June 1935, 14.
  37. ^ Prologue in Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935: The Book of the Selkirk Pageant (Selkirk, 1935), 13.
  38. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935, 32.
  39. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935, 19.
  40. ^ Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935, 19.
  41. ^ In Selkirk Quater-Centenary Celebrations 1535-1935, the chapter on the 'The Ettrick Shepherd' is by H. Creedy and Wendy Ogilvie, 59-61, and that on Scott's first law case is by Sheriff Mitchell, KC, 62-65. Also included are chapters on: 'Mungo Park' by Stephen Gwynn, 45-50; 'The Romance of Selkirk Tweeds' by David Mackie jnr., 67-71; and 'The Border Ballads' by the novelist Halbert J. Boyd, 55-58.
  42. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant: Success of Second Performance’ in The Scotsman, June 17 1935, 9; the first performance on 14 June was slightly delayed by rain but the sun quickly came out following this. See 'Selkirk Pageant: a Romantic past', 14.
  43. ^ ‘Pageant of Selkirk’, The Sunday Post, 16 June 1935, 5.
  44. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant: Success of Second Performance’ The Scotsman, 17 June 1935, 9.
  45. ^ ‘Selkirk Pageant’ , The Scotsman, 17 June 1935, 9.
  46. ^ 'Selkirk Pageant: a Romantic past', The Scotsman, 15 June 1935, 14.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Selkirk Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,