Vampires of the Borders

by MJ Wayland

Scotland and England have very prolific stories of the vampire and that is no different for the towns that are situated on the Scottish/England border. Stories of vampirism are rife in all the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Scotland and England have very prolific stories of the vampire and that is no different for the towns that are situated on the borders.

The famed Croglin Vampire case claimed that during the mid-Victorian times a bout of vampirism occurred in a quiet village just 30 miles from the Scottish border, this has been discussed further on this website. Vampires were not restricted to Eastern Europe, as we already know but there were ‘Vampires’ close to the two border towns of Berwick and Melrose.

The Berwick Vampire

The Canon William of Newburgh, a highly respected priest who lived during the reign of Richard I in the thirteenth century, introduced the tale of the Berwick Vampire to folklore. This was the time when the plague devastated whole towns and cities in one swoop and the northern counties were no exception.

William’s story concerns a rich merchant who was a victim of the plague but was known as a religious, thoughtful man. Only after his death did the villagers of Berwick discover that the man had led a corrupt, sinful life and they denied his burial on consecrated land. Soon after his funeral, inexplicable and terrible incidents took place in Berwick. The merchant had begun to rise from his grave in search of human flesh and blood amongst the villagers. The demented demon would bolt through the streets looking for victims shouting “Until my body is burnt, you folk of Berwick shall have no peace!” Behind the Vampire a pack of howling dogs followed him, their loud baying keeping villagers awake.

The villagers had to end the horror of the Vampire and decided to meet. Ten young farmhands were selected to exhume the merchant’s grave and dismember the body and burn it until only ashes remained.

But tragedy would not go away, shortly after the destruction of the vampire, the plague returned to Berwick levelling half the population. Villagers claimed as they buried their dead that the sound of baying hounds and the fearful screams of the Vampire could be heard.

Melrose Vampire – The Hundeprest

Canon William also introduced the similar tale of Vampirism that happened in Melrose. The vampire in this case was the “Hundeprest” a priest who enjoyed the material pleasures of life and hunting.

After the priest had died, his former mistress would complain that his loud moans and groans haunted her bedchamber. The church decided to help and sent four monks to despatch the ghost. The monks kept vigil at the priests grave to see if he would rise again. In the days before street lighting the monks sat in darkness, with only the half giving light in the autumn night. The monks expected the Hundeprest to emerge during the witching hour but the hour passed without incident. Chilled to the bone, three monks sought warmth from a nearby cottage.

No sooner had they left the Hundeprest attacked the remaining monk but in the form of a terrible monster. The monk stood his ground as the Hundeprest charged towards him. The monk side-stepped the vampire and swung his axe, driving it deep into the demon. The monster groaned and fled into the night with the brave monk in pursuit. Soon they reached the grave, where the vampire disappeared back in to its grave.

As dawn broke the other monks returned, shocked to hear what had happened, they decided to open up the grave. As they dug, blood seeped through the ground and when the corpse was finally revealed, the corpse looked fresh apart from a huge gaping, bleeding wound. The monks took the corpse away from the monastery and burned it to ashes.

References: Myth and Magic of Northumberland
Notes and Queries of Northumberland

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