Stories are often handed down the generations through families, offering a tangible link to the past. Local man Jack Cockburn recalls a story about Peter Darling, ‘the very nice, kindly, gentle old soul’ who was also apparently fond of a drink, and an omen he believed he had seen of his own death.

Peter Darling lived in a little cottage at Bankhead, built by Jack Cockburn’s grandfather. A few days before his unfortunate end, Peter told Jack’s father: ‘I saw a ghost… and I know I’m going to die’. Peter Darling was a general dealer and postman for the area, travelling to Duns twice a week to collect the neighbourhood’s letters. A few days after his deathly vision, he was on his way back from Duns to deliver the mail and other groceries, including ‘a consignment of tallow candles’ as Jack recalls. With the Whiteadder in spate, one family warned that Peter avoid a particularly treacherous bit of water, but unfortunately he got a little too close and ‘horse, cart and Peter and everything went head over heels into the raging torrent.’ Jack recalls ‘the candles and boxes of matches and things were floating in little backwaters of the Whiteadder for a day or two after.’ Peter’s body was found after two days of searching and his horse was pulled out of the water but lay there for weeks, leaving a dark green patch in the grass in the shape of the horse that local children talked of and remembered for years and years. ‘That was the end of Peter Darling.’

Since 1930, the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University has captured hundreds of memories, folklore, songs, music, traditions and stories from local people across Scotland and beyond. This recollection from Jack Cockburn was recorded in 1966 by Alan J Bruford from the School of Scottish Studies.

Listen to the full story here:

Cockburn, John W, School of Scottish Studies
Archive SA1966.019
Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches,, accessed 7 March 2020