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The Black Dwarf of Kirkton Manor (David Ritchie)
A statue of David Ritchie 'the Black Dwarf' of Kirkton Manor in Tweeddale, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is to his memory (1740–1811) and stands today (April 2017) in private grounds at Hallyards. It was commissioned by Andrew Clason (who bought Hallyards from the Campbells in 1836) and is still situated just in front of the main house, close to his former home and Manor Kirk churchyard where he is buried.
The son of a local quarryman from Stobo in the Scottish Borders, he originally trained as a brush maker in Edinburgh but his appearance proved too challenging and so he eventually settled in Manor back in the Borders. Even there, superstition and unease made the locals wary of him, believing he could cast and evil eye on them and so they tended to blame him for any ills with their livestock.
Also known as known also as David of Manor Water, Bow'd Davie, Crooked David, he stood three foot six tall and was immensely strong with a powerfully developed upper body and arms that gave him immense strength which compensated for his dishevelled, deformed legs and disfigured feet, which were wrapped in cloth as shoes were not of any use. He walked with the aid of a large stick and yet in a show of strength, reputedly transported a massive heavy stone from the river Tweed which can be seen today in a roadside dyke in the area. In the picture below you can see the tree-line of the river cutting past the stone's head.
He lived the majority of his life in the Manor district in an adapted cottage with his sister. His cottage had a tiny door and window (below) and sat between two adjoining buildings on either side. His sister lived next door (see large door on right) and was of normal stature. Some sources commented on him as being an intellectual who enjoyed reading Milton's Paradise Lost and and other poetic works by William Shenstone.
Sir Walker Scott (writer and poet of great renown) visited him in 1797 and wrote a novel around him called The Black Dwarf. When he died his legs were removed and kept for medical study. His headstone was commissioned by W and R Chambers (publisher) in 1845.
My sense of him has left a lasting impression on me and I am grateful for my local guide and friend Ross Happer who took me to the locations and ignited my interest in this delightful character and local legend.
Keywords: Black Dwarf, Manor, Manor Valley, Scottish Borders, Tweeddale, dyker, history, intellectual, legend, story, strong man
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