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Yetholm Scotland

Near Kelso Scotland UK
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Information on the village of Yetholm, near Kelso in Scotland.

Smuggling

It will be no surprise to anyone that the proximity of the parish to the border led to a thriving cross-border trade. As Baird remarks:

'The illegal practice of smuggling, till lately so prevalent in this neighbourhood, and so openly practised, must no doubt have had a very demoralizing influence upon a considerable portion of the population; otherwise I am disposed to regard them as a quiet amd well disposed people.'

After the crushing of the Jacobite rebellion, in 1745, the Hanoverian government put swingeing taxes on distilling north of the Border with a malt tax. This led to a 'ganging up' of all walks of life to join those smuggling the whisky out of Scotland through Kirk Yetholm. Smuggling also took place going the other way, with illegally imported wines and spirits being landed on the Northumberland coast, and then taken across the border, back into Scotland, again through Kirk Yetholm.

So popular was whisky in the mid 1700's that smuggling had become a huge business. It has been reckoned that twenty percent or more of the population were involved in the trade.

The Rev John Baird notes:

'There are no branches of commerce or manufacture carried on in this parish, with the exception, perhaps, of the illicit commerce of smuggling whisky across the border, which, I have said, formerly gave employment and subsistence to one-fifth or one-sixth of the inhabitants of the two villages. Of this commodity, I am informed that from 10,000 to 20,000 worth annually have been sold from Yetholm into England in this manner; but now the quantity disposed of illegally for the English market is scarcely worth calculating. Within the last three or four years, effectual means have been taken by a stricter police, and by heavy fines imposed upon delinquents, to put an end to this demoralizing and illicit traffic, which have succeeded in a great measure for the present. A considerable trade is also carried on here in buying cows in Northumberland, and driving them for sale to the Edinburgh markets.'

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