Thomas The Rhymer (1220-1298)
Also known as True Thomas, Thomas of Ercildoun or Earlston was a Scottish laird believed to have the gift of prophecy. Thomas the Rhymer’s prophecy about the Haigs, “Tyde what may, whate’er betide, Haig shall be Haig of Bemersyde” became the Haig family motto.
His reputed prophecies include the prediction of the death of Alexander III in 1286 when he said, “On the morrow, afore noon, shall blow the greatest wind that ever was heard before in Scotland.”
When there was no change the next morning in the weather the Earl of Dunbar, to whom the warning had been given sent word to Thomas chastising him, only to be told that the time had not yet come. Shortly after came word of the King’s untimely death.
The ballad around Thomas The Rhymer was first printed by Walter Scott in 1803 and sourced from Mrs Brown of Falkland who maintained she had heard it sung as a child.
The legend is that Thomas encountered the Queen of the Elves on Huntley Bank, a slope on the Eildon Hills. Tempting Thomas to kiss her, the Queen then entices Thomas to follow her to fairyland for twelve months. Thomas stays three years, and on his return, he finds he has a tongue that cannot lie.
There have been many musical and literary adaptations including Rudyard Kipling’s The Last Rhyme of True Thomas and Steel Eye Span, the folk-rock band.
South East of Melrose on the old road to Newton St Boswells, is the Rhymer’s Stone, erected in 1929 by the Melrose Literary Society at the site of the fabled Eildon Tree where Thomas fell asleep and was awakened by the Queen of Elfland.
On the southern edge of Earlston are the remains of an old keep known as the Rhymer’s Tower believed to be the site of Thomas’s castle.