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St. Boswells Scotland

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Information on the village of St. Boswells in Scotland.

St Boisil

Among the youths brought by Aidan to Mailros was one named Boisil. The legend of St Boisil, Confessor, taken from St Bede Histor C27, is as follows:

"Boisil was a monk of the Monastery at Mailros (on the River Tweed) in the time of the primitive fervour of our English Saxon Church. He was in all appearance one of those English youths that were trained up by St Aidan and his Scotch and Irish associates in Christian piety and monastic discipline in both of which he became so great a proficient as not on;y to be judged worthy of the priestly degree, and of the office of Proepositus, or Prior, of the Monastery, but also to be fames all over the country for his rare and excellent virtues."

When Boisil had been fully trained he was sent out by the Abbot - Eata - on missionary work. He may have travelled down Tweedside until he came to a suitable site; he certainly settled, and built a chapel, on top of a high bank above the river to the north east of the old churchyard. The fact that a well or spring lay down the bank may have helped him in his choice of site.

To him were brought the sick and ailing from far and near to be cured by his herbal remedies, and by the healing properties of the two chalybeate springs quite close to his chapel. These wells are clearly marked on the OS maps of today - the Wellbury Well in the bank just below his chapel, and the Hare Well which lies near St Boswells Burn.
{ Chalybeate means bearing dissolved iron salts.
Hare is a corruption of "Heir" meaning holy.}
Quite a large community grew up near his chapel, extending to the Maxton Road (A699) on both sides of the road. Maxton House is built on part of the site. Traces of dwellings have been found in the field on the left of the Kirk Road. When it was being drained many years ago, hearth stones and hewn stones were unearthed.

On the death of the Prior, Eata, of Mailros, Boisil was appointed to take his place, and left his work at the village, later known as St Biosil's. No one came to fill his place and his chapel became a ruin except for the smaller building at the end of it. This remained in good condition and was still standing in 1794. It was called a "Queer" - the Scots word for a choir or chancel of a church - and during Boisil's minstry had been used for the celebration of marriages, baptisms, and for worship when the congregation was small.

Boisil died in 664 of the pestilence, and his body was removed to Durham in 1030. Three fragments of creamy-white sandstone - two from Jedburgh and one from Ancrum - are to be seen in Jedburgh Abbey. These could have been one sarcophagus, and, according to the "Ancient Monuments of Roxburghshire", is dated about 700 AD, and could have been the shrine made to contain the body of St Boisil. It is pointed out that when Boisil's bones were removed to Durham there would be no use for the shrine and the slabs might have been removed to Jedburgh and Ancrum.
Sir David Stuart Erskine in his "Annals of Dryburgh" (1836) quotes a ballad telling of the founder and monks of the Abbey. This part deals with St Boisil - who, according to the ballad, came from France.

"That is the great St Boisille
He came from Franca Abbaville,
Upon the south burn built a cell
Just by the sainted holy well;
A church now stands upon this place
He ran a sainted holy race
The green he blest, and there a fair
Is held for sale of horse and mare,
Or mule or cow, or crinkum crack
Or a good coat to buy for back
St Boisil died on gay May day
On Eildon top where he did pray."

It is generally understood that Boisil died in Mailros - the ballad writer may be using poetic licence, when he mentions Boisil's death on the Eildons. Only one other source mentions Boisil's birthplace as France, and that is the Statistical Account for 1794.

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