|Thomas Davidson Memorial Stone, erected in 1852 - Kershope Forest|
Thomas Davidson was a game watcher for Sir James Graham, Bart., of Netherby Hall and had given him loyal service for over twenty years. He was the visible expression of 'poacher turned game-keeper', for in his younger days had been an acknowledged artist of that first discipline; which made him expert in the apprehension of poachers, instinctively knowing their ways and how to prevent their unlawful activities. He was married to Margaret and they had eight children up to 1849 and lived at Kettle Hall.
|The remains of Kettle Hall (map ref. NY553810)|
|Further image of Kettle Hall remains|
The other piece of important evidence was that of Joseph Davidson, the son of the deceased. He had been with Turnbull in the middle of June, heading to Newcastleton and met a John Hunter; they all went for a drink together. Davidson threatened that if he met Thomas Hunter, 'at a convenient place, he would be on him'. He warned Turnbull, and Hunter also said it was a sad thing to threaten a man's life, drunk or sober.
That evening Mr. Orridge, the gaol governor, received committal warrants for each of the prisoners to stand trial for the murder at the next Assizes. The next morning he went to Turnbull's cell with Joseph Gallagher, the turnkey, and relayed the news as the prisoner read his bible. Turnbull again said that he had nothing to do with it. Gallagher gave him his supper at 5pm and both passed pleasantries before bidding each a good night; all appeared normal. Gallagher returned the next morning at 6:50am but the cell appeared empty. He shone a light into the corner, only to find Turnbull suspended from the window bars, strangulated by a towel, with his feet 6 inches clear of the floor. He had suffered a lingering death as it was clear from the boot marks on the wall that he had convulsed for a period of time once he had kicked away the stool he had stood on. He locked the door and went for the governor who immediately attended. On checking Turnbull's hand it was quite cold to the touch, so he had been dead a considerable time. He was cut down and laid on the bed, which had not been slept in. On checking the cell Mr. Orridge noticed writing on the walls, which had been done with the charcoaled end of a stick burnt in the fire.
Above the window was: 'The two Hogg' are guilty, I am innocent. I will not come in the hands of man'
Above the fire-place was: 'I commit my soul to God that gave it, take my body to my father's burying place.'
Above the bed was: 'My dear, you and I was lovely, but I am torn from thy breast. Don't weep for me.
Jemima, my dearest, my heart's delight and treasure, I am innocent; I die with pleasure. We meet again with pleasure. Beware of bad company. My parents are not to blame; they did their duty. Adieu, my dear friends.'
Mr. Orridge informed Superintendent Sabbage and the Justices, as he was obliged to. Also, rather than send a message to Turbull's family, being in such an outlandish place, the next day he sent a personal messenger to inform them. He wife arrived that same afternoon, unaware of the death of her husband and Mr. Orridge had to break the news. She was distraught and eventually was keen to fulfil his dying wish to be buried with his father, but the authorities, although desirous to see his request completed, stressed on Gemima that the cost would take all her funds. Eventually he was buried at Christchurch cemetery, Botchergate, with no family member or friend to mark his passing, only strangers.
The inquest was held on the morning of Friday 30th, at The Three Crowns Inn, on English Street, where the verdict was one of suicide, with no evidence as to the state of the balance of his mind at the time.
The jury further considered this matter and after some hesitation, returned a verdict of Not Guilty, without any need for the defence to put forward their evidence; the two Hoggs were released.
A leopard doesn't change its spots, or a poacher his habits. On 27th September 1850, Joseph Hogg was arrested with his two relatives, his cousin John (Nichol) and brother Walter, for poaching at The Flatt, Liddesdale Southern Scotland. They were captured and handed to officers at Newcastleton. On 17th November 1855 a muffler was stolen from a public house in Rickergate; John (Nichol) Hogg was later arrested for the crime and sentenced to 3 months hard labour, just into the new year of 1856. On 20th November 1857 it was reported that Joseph Hogg was charged with illegal shooting of game on Sir James Graham's land but he did not appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Although no news reports appear to have been written, feelings in the local community must have ran deep, with a desire to remember and honour the memory of Thomas Davidson. A memorial stone was erected in 1852 on the place where his body had been found and is the first image of this article. It reads:
|Upper section of the inscription|
|Blacklyne House 'Bothy' (locked).|
|Black Lyne Beck, looking south|
|Black Lyne Beck, looking north|
The disappointment was to reach the location of the former residence of Thomas Davidson, only to find it raised to the ground, although the basic shape and size could be just made out. It would be tiny, yet accommodated a his large family of eight children.
One part of the story appeared to be missing and that was the grave the of Thomas. He was known to have been buried at St. Mary's Church, Stapleton, and we assumed that as there was no image anywhere available, then the grave would be unmarked. That was not the case and my wife located it in a short space of time. Perhaps there is no realisation in the parish to the local significance of this simple marker, there being no clue in the inscription to the violent manner in which he died.
|Stapleton Church and the grave in relation to it.|
Of Joseph Hogg and the murder, the decision of the courts has to be accepted and that was, he was innocent. That said, he was certainly a witness to it and that lingering doubt, raised by the contradictions in his account when compared to those of other witnesses, would always raise doubts on that innocence within his community. Whatever happened, he took the knowledge of the horrific strangulation of Thomas Davidson to the grave with him.