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Bunkle Castle

(variously Boncle, Bonkil or Bonkyl)


Remains of Bunkle Castle

Although only a few yards from the road from Duns to Reston it is very easy, particularly in summer time, to drive
past the not exactly inspiring remains of Bunkle Castle without even noticing although at one time the building
must have been quite an imposing structure. Built on what has been described as a natural knoll but perhaps a
Norman motte the Castle has a long history as borne out by the well known Berwickshire rhyme;

'Bunkle, Billie and Blanairne
Three castles strong as airn
Built when Davie was a Bairn
They'll all gang doon,
W' Scotland's Croon
An ilka ane shall be a cairn'

The Davie referred to would be King David 1 of Scotland (1084 to 1153). More or less all trace has been lost of
both Billie and Blanairne and even their exact location is in dispute.
The earliest records show the Castle as belonging to Sir Alexander de Bonkle and there is a legend concerning how the original owner refused to pay the builder who in revenge gained access to the Castle by subterfuge while
the Lord was absent and slew his wife and their baby. R. G. Johnston managed to tack down a ballad recounting
these events extending to 34 verses and this was published in the History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club
Vol.33 1953. A copy is in the Society Archives.


However in 1298 through marriage the property came into the possession of Sir John Stewart second son of
Alexander, the Steward of Scotland who was created Earl of Angus by Robert the Bruce. Later again through
marriage it passed into the hands of the Douglases.
Archibald the Sixth Earl of Angus in 1514 married Margaret sister of Henry V111 of England and widow of King
James 1V of Scotland who had died at Flodden the previous year. This was a highly unpopular marriage and the
marriage itself soon ran into difficulty so much so that Angus fled to England for safety. In 1524 he returned to
Bonkyl and wrote a letter to his wife trying to effect a reconciliation. The letter (State Papers, Record Series Vol
1V p.217) commences;


Madam,"In my most humble and lowly manner I commend my service to your Grace. It will please your Grace to know that I have been with the King your brother the which is one of the most cristened (Christian) Princes and his Grace has entreated me so marvellous well that he hath addebted me to do his Grace service and honour so far as lies in my power - mine allegiance accepted to the King (James V of Scotland) and your Grace...." and finishes "At Bonkle the first day of November by the hand of your humble servant. Angus"


However even by the time of the Second Statistical Report (1834-45) the Castle had already fallen into a very
ruinous state, the Report, written by the minister of the Parish the Rev. Archibald McConechy recording;
"Of the ancient Castle of Bunkle, once the residence of the Stewarts only small vestiges remain. It seems to have
been a place of considerable strength, surrounded with a moat, which is now greatly filled up"


A Report of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records in 1972;
"The remains of Bunkle Castle occupy a natural knoll which has been artificially scarped and levelled and has a
ditch on the north, west and south sides. All that survives of the Castle is a stretch of curtain wall running north to
south 20 meters long by up to 1.2m high and up to 1.6 meters thick and on the north west a large portion of
masonry 4.0 meters long by 4.0 meters high and 1.0 meter thick. The interior is irregular and overgrown and no
buildings or wall can be identified. The Castle is approached on the north west by a causeway and there is also a
possible entrance in the south, indicated by a distinct break in the steep scarp"
However at one time there must have been quite a settlement around the Castle (which accounts for the location
of the Parish Church of Bunkle) almost adjacent the Castle but now in a completely isolated rural situation.
It would appear that most or many of the inhabitants were wabsters (weavers) and there has survived the
following not exactly complimentary rhyme regarding their wives;

The Wabsters' Wives of BunkleLaird i' the midden up to the knees,

The clartiest clatches1 within the four seas,

Smellin' o' peat-reek oot and in

Bleared2 and girnin' 3 yellow and dun,

Beardy and runkled4 grisly and grim

Fu' o' shern 5 up to the chin

The wabsters' wives o' Bunkle toon

Wad frichten the Turks or auld Mahoun6

And boulie-backed7 Tam o' the Green

His wife was wi' the  Deil yestreen.

And gray-faced barkin't sutor Gibb

Wi' a' the wives is unco sib8

And barmy breeks o' Lintlaw Mill

Grips deep o' the mooter9 for his yill10

and Pate o' the Mains your wife's a witch

She's fa'en i' the fyre and burnt her mutch11

 1= slut 2= debauched looking 3=whining 4=wrinkled 5=cow dung 6 = The Devil 7= hunchbacked 8= unduly friendly 9 =multures (duty paid for the milling of grain) 10 = ale 11= a tight fitting bonnet. 

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