Dryburgh Abbey

[wds id=”14″]

There is a striking stillness and an atmosphere at this abbey. This, to me, of the four abbeys in the Scottish Borders, is the most special.

It is the small things that I home in on – all singularly unrelated- to the fragmented jumble of history  over the ages. The abbey has become  a testament to the tumultuous English/Scots battles which raged in the area over a protracted period of time.

Burnt down, sacked and rebuilt  but it was the reformation which sounded the final death knell in the late 16th century.  I think of the last four monks living out their lives in the ruins of their abbey and all gone to their graves before the year 1600. Their names were David Erskine, Mungo Wilson, James Jameson and Robert Myll and these faithful four are last mentioned in 1581. You can almost feel them in the Chapterhouse – they are here yet.

 The quiet stillness and beauty of the grounds.

The musical name of ‘Hugh de Moreville’ (local landowner who invited the Premonstratensian monks to settle at Dryburgh, by the river, in 1150 and then. so he must have had it thought out,  lived out his days as a novice at the Abbey and died there in 1162. Such a beautiful site and all because he invited them to come. I have written a slow air on my fiddle, composed after several visits,(in inspiring autumn light) after reflection on the fact that the abbey survived so many English attacks it was the  Reformation in 1560 that sounded the death knell. 

   The tune, Dryburgh Abbey is reflective and lingering and, for the live acoustic environments of the Chapterhouse is written in lower frequencies (D and G strings on fiddle)

       The recording attached was done in the 12th century Chapterhouse  itself and I was so pleased to be allowed to play and record there ( video clip here).

By all accounts, within a  background of political unrest, the abbey seemed to experience only  ‘ a gradual extinction of the religious life so auspiciously started …….with the natural change …and passing of the old order and the change from the sacred to the secular moving forward ’ (Manuel:1922:275)


Manuel, D.G.(1922) Dryburgh Abbey [online]pp(4th November 2018)275  – 308..Available at <https://archive.org/stream/dryburghabbeyinl00manuuoft/dryburghabbeyinl00manuuoft_djvu.txt>[
Woolf ,J.(2015). Dryburgh Abbey. [online]. Available at  www.hazeltree.co.uk. [1.11.18]
(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)  http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/descriptions/105920
Image of Chapterhouse Jo & Colin Woolf (2015) http://www.thehazeltree.co.uk/2015/09/11/dryburgh-abbey>  21.10.18
Woolf(2015) Dryburgh Abbey.< http://www.thehazeltree.co.uk/2015/09/11/dryburgh-abbey >21.10.18