Sir Patrick Hume '“ escape and a triumphant return

Wilson's Tales of the Borders is almost 500 stories celebrating our history, legends and people. First serialised in the Berwick Advertiser from the 1830s, it became a best-selling series. The Wilson's Tales Project is re-telling the stories for a modern audience.

Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 3:00 pm
Polwarth Kirk.

PREVIOUSLY: A member of the Scottish Parliament, Sir Patrick Hume defies King Charles II. With a price on his head, daughter Grizel hides him in the family tomb under Polwarth Kirk.

Weeks passed, and the hiding place was threatened only once – when boys were playing in the churchyard and their ball slipped through a gap at the entrance. As they tried to shift the tombstone, they were chased away by a gravedigger.

“But it’s hardly worth covering up again,” the gravedigger grumbled as he straightened the stone. “There’ll be another Hume in here before long, same as his friend Baillie of Jerviswoode, who died on the scaffold yesterday. Gravedigging’s not much of a job in this King’s reign: it all goes to the public executioner.”

Patrick left the vault that night with Grizel. Disguised and claiming to be a surgeon, he managed to get to London with his family, then to France.

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From there, he led a Protestant attempt to dethrone James, crowned King after the death of his brother Charles. It failed and Patrick, calling himself Dr Peter Wallace, settled in Utrecht with his family.

Increasingly short of money, he found exile difficult and Patrick became depressed. It was Grizel who kept the family going, doing housework and steadily pawning what jewellery and other possessions the family had: “provisions in exchange for a bauble”.

Though they were short of money, and often food, Patrick’s table was open to any needy countryman for three years until William of Orange sailed from Holland to Britain in 1688 to become King William.

Patrick was at last successful, landing with William as a friend, counsellor and supporter. He was soon Sheriff of Berwickshire and in 1696 became Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Earl of Marchmont and Lord of Polwarth, Redbraes and Greenlaw.

He was an ardent promoter of the Union of Parliaments in 1707, the peak of his political career. Although deposed as sheriff in 1710 when the Tories came to power, as “the most ardent Whig in Scotland”, he was reinstated in 1715.

Age gradually caught up with the man who had been through so much, and he spent his final years as a widower in Berwick-upon-Tweed. But his spirit was undaunted; and during a final visit by the equally heroic Grizel, now married to the son of Patrick’s unfortunate friend Baillie of Jerviswoode, he insisted on being carried into the hall on a chair as family and friends danced.

“See, Grizel,” he said. “Though your father can’t dance, he can still beat time with his foot!”

He died in Berwick on August 1, 1724, in his 83rd year, an example of piety, courage and patriotism – just like his splendid daughter.

Retold by Fordyce Maxwell and adapted by Joe Lang. Read the unabridged story and historic background in Volume 4 of the Wilson’s Tales Revival Edition (£8.50), on sale at Berwick booksellers or at www.wilsonstales.co.uk