Witch or Warlock

 
Living locally I heard the name Camp Meg often. I must admit I thought it was an old Roman Military establishment, as the Old Roman Camp. Nothing more. To  my surprise Camp Meg had a history of a different kind worthy of note and  local  interest to the elderly and young about a woman of extraordinary  character.

From somewhere in the region of Galloway, Margaret Hawthorn is said to have originated. Belonging to a family well known in social standing and  reputation, she showed promise by marrying a landed gentleman and producing a lively   son.  Unfortunately in a short time her husband died and left the estate   vulnerable to entitlement. A challenge by a nearby so called gentleman for a   sizable part of the property was raised. He had no real legal weight for the   rights to the land. Margaret was incensed by his wrongful attempt to take her  due  inheritance and flew into a rage. She appropriated a pistol and confronted   him and in her infuriated state shot him dead.

Now realising the enormity of  the deed she had committed ran for her life, leaving behind her recently born  son. Making her way to Newbattle in  Midlothian to a small isolated hill used in  antiquity by the Roman occupation force.  There she found a small hut known in  the vicinity as Camp House as it had been  used in the Napoleonic alarms as a  signal beacon point. On her arrival, the  Napoleonic wars had just come to an end  in 1815 by the Combined force victory  at Waterloo and the factor of Newbattle  gave permission to occupy the house  which became know as Camp Meg. Meg was happy  in that house spending the rest  of her days there in the privacy she demanded.  It was said she had a way of  addressing her superiors of the time in a high  style of polite and flowery  words, this led the local residents to wonder of her  education and upbringing. Dressed as a man to scare away unwanted attention  she lived alone in the  sheltered woodlands and her past remained obscure. It is  possible to imagine a  woman in a pair of trousers, vest and coat, wearing a wide  brim hat. Her close  friend was her large bulldog named Help, no doubt to signal  to the creature  her need for assistance.
This is as near as we can find in that changed woodland to Meg's  Home.

Picture of woods near Meg's homeLater by gaining a well earned reputation as a Veterinary expert of considerable skill she shed some of her solitude. On one occasion finding an  injured  mare considered to be beyond help begged to for its life. The owner  allowed  this and it was taken back to Meg's house. Some time later she sold the  mare  for a tidy sum of seven pounds as it had recovered as good as it would ever  be.

 During local festive horse races in old Dalkeith she showed exceptional   talent as a horse expert, winning many a first prize with her stallion Skewball.   At that time there was a intriguing practice where one horse could be  exchanged  for another provided it was grazing in the parkland. This was how she  obtained  Skewball a magnificent horse of good stock, it may be because it was lame  in one  leg and no longer of use to the Duke of Buccleuch as a hunter.  The   Caledonian Hunt took her to their heart and treated her with considerable   respect, giving her some money collected from the hunts. Holding some back in   case Meg spent it on her favourite drink Whisky. When watching her stallion run   to first place in a much contested race she was heard to cry out Talla,  talla,  tall, ada, daum, dae, adding to the myth of her magical powers and   witchery. 
 
Her fame attracted several hundred folk from the nearby locality and  further a field. Once, in her charismatic company strangers were indoctrinated  in  her fondness of religion and faith. She often told stories of confronting the   Devil, who according to Meg was tall and wore a red hat brimmed in blue.  Despite  her religious fervour many had deemed her a witch, it may have been her way  of  dress or her ability to help animals and her extraordinary horse riding  skills. Nevertheless her fame grew and  she became know as Camp Meg.

Her son  searched far and wide to find his lost mother till one day his travelling lead  to her camp house. He stayed with her for three days trying to  convince her of a  return to Gallowayshire.  Her years of concern for him had  ended , but  wished to spend the rest of her days in the old camp house. Meg bore  her lonely  life with immense courage not to mention the years of poverty and  insult, before  her legend grew.

This inward strength was accredited to her good upbringing  high breeding and her belief in the words of the Holy Bible which she taught in  her own Sunday  School class.

Below is the Old Burial place where Meg would have been put to rest.

Picture of Meg's burial placeIn the winter of 1827 Meg departed this life  away during a night of a powerful storm, that conveyed the passing of a strong  willed woman. She was found on her door step covered in snow, where I think,  Meg knowing  she was near death confronted the storm as she had confronted the  devil.  It is said that a number of farm workers dragged her coffin held  steady by a  local blacksmith through the drifting snow. He had a bottle of  whisky in one  hand and a willing glass in the other, while he cried out hunting  halloos,  in celebration of her riding skill.
  It is not known whether her Will was approved for her body to be used for medical research to a Dr Oliver or  a man called Laidlaw.
 
We believe Camp Meg was buried at the very centre or near the wall of Newbattle old Cemetery.Her fame as a wise and caring woman with enviable  religious strengths may  have diminished in decades that followed. But the name  of her solitary abode is  still known as Camp Meg, changed beyond recognition to  the people of 1827,  still carrying a legend to other generations.

Dressed as  a man with the gentle powers of a woman and often called a Witch or a  Warlock. 
 
Researched by the twa Eddies.  Edward Anderson and Edward McCarthy.

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