Tomorrow and for the next three successive Sundays in November will see the start of an archaeological excavation to locate the site of Corehead Tower. Many Halliday readers will know that the Dumfriesshire family have long been associated with Corehead. This stems from the legend that Tom Halliday who lived at Corehead was nephew to William Wallace the Scottish guerrilla leader during the Scottish Wars of Independence. The earliest record for this association appears in The Wallace a poem written in Scots by Blind Harry about 1477. Historians and scholars have dismissed much of the poems contents as fiction and yet there are elements within which on closer examination bear some element of truth. This is something I will return to later.
Black and white photos from Clarence Halliday early 1960's book
The poem does not mention a tower or castle only that they stayed at 'the Corhead'.A later Border Ballad called The Sang of the Outlaw Murray also refers to the Halliday family of Corehead. Yet despite searching for many years I have not yet found any charter or reference to a land transaction that connects the family specifically to Corehead.
It is known that the Bruce family were Lords of Annandale from 1124 and later the Douglases were granted the lands of Moffat and Corehead in the 14th century. They held them until the 1550s when Johnstone of Craigieburn purchased them.This branch of the Johnstone clan then took the title Johnstone of Corehead.They had other towers at Cornal,Corehead and Lochhouse. .
The earliest surviving record of a tower at Corehead appears in a map of 1597 which depicts the tower at the head of Annandale.
The Johnstone family continued to live at Corehead farmhouse until the late 19th century.
In 2009 the farm and surrounding hill land around the Devil's Beef Tub was purchased by the Borders Forest Trust.
Tomorrow a small team of volunteers and archaeologists will begin the hunt for the tower. The area will need to be cleared of fallen trees and test pits will be dug at promising sites. All very exciting