News 79 July 2024

Wilson’s News 79 July 2024
1  Diary Dates and Dates to keep open
2  The Tales, Words and Phrases
3  A Demolished House and a Cared for Grave
4  Wilson’s Tales: Revival Edition 8 Requested for Public Library Depositories
5  The Wilson’s Project Catalogue
6  100 Words
7  Note from the Editor

1  Diary Dates and Dates to keep open

The Wilson’s memorial “Beans & Bacon” dinner will be held at the The Assembly Room, The Kings Arms, Berwick on 2nd October 2024.

More information shall follow but we hope this will be rather a special event including a live short play.

The Project has applied for funding from Destination Tweed to make the dinner part of a wider celebration of Wilson during early October, which, it is hoped, would include the performance of 6 short plays based on Wilson’s tales by the Border Pub Theatre Co in the picture Gallery at Paxton House on 4th October 2024.


2  The Tales, Words and Phrases

Chris Adriaanse, local story teller and spoken word artist, whom some of you may have been lucky enough to hear perform at the last “Beans and Bacon” dinner has submitted  this item. His passion for words and language, their use and how they have changed or been lost over time has led him to reflect on the language and specific words used in the original tales. I am hoping he might become an occasional contributor to the newsletter, with short pieces offering and sharing his own insights into the value and richness of the tales.This first piece links to the revival edition Vol 6 ( pg 62/63) which contains a short extract from the glossary of the Scots dialect published within some editions of the originals.

Wilson’s words and phrases – which ones do you know?
Like contemporary works such as the novels of Sir Walter Scott, the writing in The Tales of the Borders follows a similarly rich and ornate style that some might call long-winded.

However, once you adjust to the literary style, there are plenty of delights to discover. Where else can you find insults such as a “hoary-headed knave” or threats of being “buried in a dunghill without benefit of clergy”.

Sometimes, however, there are some words that are both obscure and essential to the plot. Here’s a sample selection from “Bill Stanley; or, A Sailor’s Story” to test your knowledge. It’s a tale about the life of a young sailor William Stanley, his beloved Mary Danvers and the villainous Squire Wates.

Which of the following would send you searching for a dictionary?

Lubber – a clumsy seaman

Brook – to tolerate or allow

Iniquity – immoral or grossly unfair behaviour

Calumnies – slander

Inveigle – to persuade by deception

Fetter – a chain used to restrain a prisoner

With your expanded vocabulary in hand (and some clues to what happens), you can learn the fate of young William by diving into the original here. Alternatively, you can read a modern retelling (in more familiar words) in the Wilson’s Tales Revival Edition Volume 6.

And if all the words were new to you (as they were to me), don’t be put off. As this word cloud of the original shows, while there may be some words you’ve not encountered before, most will be familiar.

Image: Word cloud of “Bill Stanley; or, A Sailor’s Story”

Contributor: Chris Adriaanse

3  A Demolished House and a Cared for Grave
Berwick Advertiser 5th May 2027

Board Member Richard Wilson has unearthed the attached newspaper article, published in the paper he (Wilson) had edited.

Readable copy to be found at
At the same time as announcing the demolition of Wilson’s former home, the article marks the start, of an ongoing journey, aimed at keeping alive the value of Wilson’s contribution to our cultural heritage, within the published Tales. His last resting place was to be marked with due respect and recorded. You can see in the article, the details of the plan of how it was intended the grave was to be restored which are touchingly precise and considered, ”It is proposed to have a small plot of grass in the centre and a narrow border of flowers all around”.

And so to where we are in the present journey in the efforts to ensure the upkeep of that last resting place.

As followers will be aware Board Member, Stephen Platten has been working for some (long time) time to try and ensure there is an enduring memorial to JMW.

This week the Project has received and banked a contribution of £500 from the Guild of Freeman of the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed towards the tomb restoration. We also have a pledge of some further support from the Berwick Preservation Trust.

Stephen and Project Director Andrew are leading the Board considerations on how best to try and source the balance of funds needed, options under consideration include making this part of a self guided “Walk with Wilson” trail, similar to the Lowry Trail. It is hoped making it part of a bigger project with more impact and drawing more attention to it may make it more appealing to more funding sources.

Contributors: Richard Wilson and Andrew Ayre

4  Wilson’s Tales: Revival Edition 8 Requested for Public Library Depositories

The Wilson’s Tales project have now issued 8 revival editions of the world famous “Tales of the Borders” , first published form Berwick in 1834 and seldom out of print for the next 150 years.

Under publishing copyright law, anyone publishing a new book has to send one to The British library as part of the depository system. They can then request more copies for other depository libraries if they see fit to do so. This year , the Library has requested copies for all the depository libraries, which are include The National Library of Scotland, The Bodleian Library Oxford, Cambridge University Library, National Library of Wales and The Library of Trinity College Dublin.

The revival editions are put together by a team of over a dozen volunteers with professional input on design and printing work. The project typically chose six tales which deserve to be reheard. These are rewritten in more readable and usually shorter versions. The Tales in their original were subtitled “Historical, Traditionary & Imaginative” and the revival publications include a companion piece to explore the historic context of the tale and how much truth or fiction is involved. The revival editions are also accompanied by a biography of Wilson himself, who inaugurated the tales. The presentation of the Books is also greatly improved by the inclusion of illustrations, some of these originals from 19th C editions , complemented by new illustrations provided by local artists and photography of places associated with the tales.

Project Director Andrew Ayre commented “ It’s a great team effort to pull these tales together in our fresh revival editions and it’s a great compliment to the team that the library feels a copy should be added to all the depository libraries. Even though we need to meet the cost out of own pocket!”

Copies of the revival edition tales can be obtained at local stockists:

Slightly Foxed, Bridge Street, Berwick.  
Berwick Heritage Centre, Walkergate, Berwick  
Greives, Church St , Berwick  
Main Street Trading, Main Street, St Boswells  
The Reading Room, The Square, Melrose  
The Village Shop, Cornhill-on-Tweed 
Heron & Willow, Jedburgh

Or direct from our website where more information on the project and the tales can also be found.

5  The Wilson’s Project Catalogue
The Wilson’s Tales Project began in 2013 with the aim of bringing the Berwick bard, J.M. Wilson, back to public notice.

Since that time, the project has compiled a catalogue of his work, which has steadily been extended to include work outside the ‘Tales of the Borders’ publication which brought him, and Berwick, to national acclaim.

Although the catalogue of his work, adaptations of his work, and even the artefacts collected by the Project is ongoing, it’s felt that it has attained a maturity that makes it the standard reference work for ‘Tales of the Borders’ and their contents.

So what? 
Part of the success of ‘Tales of the Borders’ was in the number of reprints and adaptations that kept the publication in print for over 100 years. Many retellings and adaptations by other authors exist under altered names that can be traced back to Tales first popularised by Wilson. The Project aims to document these, and does so by reference to a unique catalogue number ascribed to each of the items within the 312 original editions, and to other work unpublished within the Tales.

As a result, you may see catalogue numbers given alongside Titles. All the best composers have their catalogers Bach had Wolfgang Schmieder who gave us BWV numbers, Mozart had Ludwig Ritter von Köchel, who gave us the K numbers. It is now time to give Wilson some numbers. –

Catalogue Numbers will be given in the form WT:999.

The project is publishing the section of catalogue which relates to the published Tales on the website, with the further catalogued items related to derived versions and adaptations omitted from the public listing.

Contributor: Richard Wilson

6  100 Words

The rate of entry to the competition has slowed since the last newsletter. At the time of publication of this letter, we have had 29, 100 word tales submitted.

Of course, the upside of that is, you, a follower, may be the future winner, as currently, statistically you stand a higher chance of winning….So please click on the site, have a look at the Ts and Cs and get writing / typing. 

Contributor: Richard Wilson

7  Note from the Editor 

Well, my hopes that I be reporting back to you during “lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer”, may not have been realised, but, my prediction that there would be much to report in this newsletter, has been.  Ongoing sustained effort by the Board has ensured, many ”irons” are in various fires.

A number of discrete, but not small, projects are in and beyond the planning stage. Funding applications to support them having been completed and submitted and in some instances, already responded to and granted.

Last month, Project Director, Andrew Ayre, gave two talks on Wilson and the Tales. One at the Lowick Heritage Weekend and one at a residential home (Tweedmouth House), to some of out older community members. Both were well received.

So as we head towards the autumn and the promise of a rich array of local events to occupy us over late summer, including food, music and literary festivals, followers are asked to keep an eye out for press releases. Which will hopefully advertise details of the Wilson’s week and the particulars of the “Beans and Bacon” dinner so that you can ensure that you don’t miss them and can fit them into your busy schedules.

Till then, wishing you all more glorious and fun filled summer days.

Denise Bradshaw

We’re delighted to help the cause of local and independent bookshops.  Even more so when they stock Wilson’s Tales.
Now available from these high street locations;

Slightly Foxed, Bridge Street, Berwick.  :
Berwick Heritage Centre, Walkergate, Berwick  :
Greives, Church St , Berwick
Main Street Trading, Main Street, St Boswells  :
The Reading Room, The Square, Melrose  :
The Village Shop, Cornhill-on Tweed   :
Heron & Willow, Jedburgh :
and if you missed last year and Volume 7, you may purchase them both together at a reduced price, but only on our website.  Go to  to purchase, or any of the booksellers above

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Our mailing address is:

Wilsons Tales of the Borders

Mill Farm

Berwick Upon Tweed., Northumberland TD15 2HP

United Kingdom

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