Border war horn and James VI.’s hunting-bottle. Sir Walter Scott.

Border war, horn, James VI, hunting-bottle, Scottish, Military, armor, Hermitage Castle,
Border war horn and James VI.’s hunting-bottle

Border war horn and James VI.’s hunting-bottle.


THIS horn was a trophy of one of Sir Walter’s “raids” into Liddesdale. For seven successive years he made these expeditions, accompanied by his excellent friend, Mr. Shortreed, Sheriff-Substitute for Roxburghshire. The charming descriptions of “Charlie’s Hope” and its inhabitants, and much of the material for the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, owe their origin to these journeys; and though we do not know how early Sir Walter had any definite object in his researches, he was, as Mr. Shortreed expressed it, “makin’ himself a’ the time.”

This good friend also thus graphically describes the acquisition of the war-horn. “It was that same season, I think,” says Mr. Shortreed, “that Sir Walter got from Dr. Elliot the large old border war-horn which ye may still see hanging in the armoury at Abbotsford. How great he was when he was made master o’ that! I believe it had been found in Hermitage Castle, and one of the doctor’s servants had used it many a day as a grease-horn for his scythe before they discovered its history.

When cleaned out it was never a hair the worse the original chain, hoop, and mouthpiece of steel were all entire, just as you now see them. Sir Walter carried it home all the way from Liddesdale to Jedburgh, slung about his neck like Johnny Gilpin’s bottle, while I was intrusted with an ancient bridlebit, which we had likewise picked up.

‘The feint o’ pride na pride had he … A lang kail-gully hung down by his side, And a great mickle nowt-horn to rout on had he.’

And meikle and sair we routed on’t, and ‘botched and blew, wi’ micht and main.’ Oh what pleasant days! And then a’ the nonsense had cost us naething. We never put hand in pocket for a week on end. Toll-bars there were none and indeed I think our haill charges were a feed o’ corn to our horses in the gangin’ and comin’ at Riccarton mill.”

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The war-horn, which resembles an ordinary cow horn, is hooped with iron’. It has a double chain attached to each end by rings. The length of the horn is 22 1/2 inches, the diameter nearly 4 inches.


The hunting-bottle is contained in an old tooled and gilt leather case, which has a brass lock and catch highly ornamented with leaf and floral design. The bottle is oval with glass stopper. The size is 8 inches by 4 1/2. This bottle was presented to Sir Walter by his friend and valued amanuensis, Mr. Huntly Gordon, the son of Major Pryse Gordon, Sir Walter’s cicerone on the field of Waterloo in 1815. Sir Walter, in a note to the Fortunes of Nigel, alludes to the hunting-bottle as follows: “The author, among other nicknacks of antiquity, possesses a leathern flask like those carried by sportsmen, which is labelled ‘King James’s Hunting Bottle.” Unfortunately, he adds, “with what authority is uncertain.”

Source: Abbotsford; the personal relics and antiquarian treasures of Sir Walter Scott. Illustrated by William Gibb. By Maxwell-Scott, Mary Monica. London A. and C. Black 1893.


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