The roots of Sir Walter Scott were very much implanted
in Kelso. Although he was born in Edinburgh in 1771, Sir
Walter Scott spent much of his childhood in or near Kelso.
His great - grandfather Walter “Beardie” Scott held land in
Kelso, including a house on the corner of Simon Square. His
grandfather was Robert Scott of Sandyknowe Farm, his uncle
Captain Robert Scott of Rosebank House and his Aunt Jenny
who lived at the Garden House – now Waverley Lodge.
One of his main Kelso inspirations was Lancelot Whale – a teacher at Kelso Grammar School, who tutored him in the classics. Whale, however was not keen on “profane” English or Scottish literature which the young Scott enjoyed and would read at night by firelight. A solution was “a respectable subscription library, a circulating library of ancient standing, and some private bookshelves” in Kelso. His favourite book was Bishop Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry, which he recalls reading for the first time under a large tree in Aunt Jenny’s garden.
It was at Kelso Grammar School that Scott first encountered James Ballantyne, who was later to become his business partner and printer of his books. Scott went on to study law at Edinburgh University and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates. During a later visit to Rosebank, Ballantyne asked Scott to supply an article on some legal question of the day for the Kelso Mail of which Ballantyne was the printer and editor. Scott on delivering the article to the printing office asked why they did not try to get a little booksellers work, to keep his types in play during the rest of the week. From that remark a partnership was borne that would lead even in adversity to a lifelong friendship.
Ballantyne printed Apology for Tales of Terror and Scott was delighted with the result. Scott had spent many years on a labour of love, he had travelled around the Borders gathering old Border ballads. These were collected into two volumes and printed by Ballantyne. In early 1802 the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border was printed in Kelso. Owing to the success of this collection, Ballantyne moved his business to Edinburgh and became Scott’s business partner and lifelong friend.
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border was Scott’s first major success and he went on to become one of the most successful and prolific Scottish writers.
Kelso can boast many buildings that were associated with Sir Walter Scott.
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: Sir Walter Scott