Bridget turns her pen to the drovers

Bridget Gubbins
Bridget Gubbins
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ANOTHER tale of Morpeth’s past has been brought to the fore by a local author and historian.

Bridget Gubbins, who penned the popular book The Curious Yards and Alleyways of Morpeth last year, has now turned her attention to the town’s history with Scottish drovers.

For hundreds of years, the hardy men herded their cattle and sheep to Morpeth from as far north as the Highlands and Hebridean Islands.

Morpeth was first granted a market charter by King John in 1190.

With the union of the crowns on both sides of the border in 1603, King James opened up the trade in Scottish cattle, making the town a focal point on the drovers’ journey south to sell their animals.

Now Mrs Gubbins is telling their tales in The Drovers are Coming to Morpeth.

And to give her research a true sense of reality, the author joined her old college friend Mary Harris to re-trace three of the most commonly-used trails into Morpeth from Coldstream, Kelso and Jedburgh.

Walking or cycling the hills and byways, they sustained themselves with traditional drovers’ provisions, such as a bag of oatmeal to make into biscuits and cakes, and a dram or two of whisky to keep out the cold.

Their only concession was a tent and sleeping bags, but even those offered little comfort from inhospitable weather and one July evening in the Cheviots above Alwinton, the temperature plummeted almost to zero.

Mrs Gubbins said: “If a storm had come with gale force winds we could have died that night.

“We wanted to be like drovers, but as we are both 66-years-old, we made excuses for ourselves another night and took shelter in the pub at Glanton.”

The book is peppered with first-hand recorded accounts from the drovers, such as George Robson who brought his cattle south from the 1790s to the 1830s.

It concludes with input from some of the surviving family members of butchers who sold the drovers’ meat.

Mrs Gubbins has again teamed up with the Greater Morpeth Development Trust to publish her work, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Drovers are Coming to Morpeth will be officially launched tomorrow at 2.15pm at Morpeth Town Hall on the opening day of the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.

The book will be available in local book stores priced £10, or it can be ordered direct from the trust on 01670 503866, or online at www.gmdt.net