The Devil and David Dun at Dob’s Linn

James Hogg’s notes to Mess John are a joy. Confusion to his enemies…

But at the source of Moffat’s stream,
Two champions of the cov’nant dwell;
Who long had braved the power of men,
And fairly beat the prince of hell.’ (Mess John, p82. v. 2.)

Dobs LinnDob’s Linn © Ross and licensed for reuse.

‘These mens names were Halbert Dobson, and David Dun; better known by those of Hab Dob, and Davie Din.’

A Covenanter called David Dun, who was shot at Cumnock between May and late June, 1685, is sometimes linked to this story.

Hogg does not identify Davie Din as the David Dun shot at Cumnock and his Davie Dun survived to tell his tall tale of meeting the Devil. Nonetheless, one eminent source in the nineteenth century quotes from Hogg’s story of Dobson and Dun in a note as a ‘traditional account, a part of which is certainly founded on truth’. That account omits the following line from Hogg’s note: ‘credulity has been the ruling passion of the Scots at this time, else such a story never could have obtained the least credit’. (Law, Memorialls, 242n.)

In Hogg’s ‘Mess John’, Halbert Dobson kills the curate of St Mary’s Chapel. No such event took place.

‘The remains of their cottage is still visible, and sure never was human habitation contrived on such a spot. It is on the very brink of a precipice, which is 400 feet perpendicular height, whilst another of half that height overhangs it above. To this they resorted, in times of danger, for a number of years; and the precipice is still called Dob’s linn.

Map of Dob’s Linn

There is likewise a natural cavern in the bottom of the linn farther up, where they, with other ten, hid themselves for several days, while another kept watch upon the Pathknow; and they all assembled at the cottage during the night.

Tradition relates farther of these two champions, that, while they resided at the cottage by themselves, the devil appeared to them every night, and plagued them exceedingly; striving often to terrify them, so as to make them throw themselves over the linn. But one day they contrived a hank of red yarn in the form of crosses, which it was impossible the devil could pass; and, on his appearance at night, they got in behind him, and attacked him resolutely with each a bible in one hand, and a rowan-tree staff in the other, and, after a desperate encounter, they succeeded in tumbling him headlong over the linn; but, to prevent hurting himself, at the moment he was overcome, he turned himself into a batch of skins! It was not those of stolen sheep we hope. Credulity has been the ruling passion of the Scots at this time, else such a story never could have obtained the least credit; yet, it is said, these men were wont to tell it as long as they lived, concluding it always with the observation, that the devil had never more troubled them, as he found it was not for his health.

A short rhyme is still extant relating to this singular tradition; but which seems to have been composed afterwards, as the linn is there called Dob’s linn. It seems not improbable, that the bard who composed the song above quoted was likewise the author of this, for, like it, it is hard to say whether it is serious or burlesque.

Little kend the wirrikow,
What the covenant could dow!
What o’ faith, an’ what o’ fen,
What o’ might, an’ what o’ men;
Or he had never shewn his face,
His reekit rags, and riven taes,
To men o’ mak, an’ men o’ mense,
Men o’ grace, an’ men o’ sense:
For Hab Dob, and Davie Din,
Dang the deil owre Dob’s linn.

Weir quo’ he, an’ weir quo’ he;
llaud the bible till his e’e;
Ding him owre, or thrush him down,
He’s a fause deceitfu’ lown!—
Then he owre him, an’ he owre him,
He owre him, an’ he owre him:
Habby held him griff and grim,
Davie threush him liff an’ limb;
Till, like a bunch o’ barkit skins,
Down flew Satan ower the linns.

After seeing this, the reader will not deny, that our champions “fairly beat the prince of hell.”’ (Hogg, A Mountain Bard, 92-4.)

Hogg also claimed that Renwick preached at Riskinhope and that Claverhouse camped nearby at the Grey Mare’s Tail.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

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~ by drmarkjardine on February 18, 2014.

3 Responses to “The Devil and David Dun at Dob’s Linn”

  1. […] of Moffat’s stream,                             [i.e., Dob’s Linn] Two champions of the cov’nant dwell,                            [the Covenants] Who long had braved the power of men, And […]

  2. […] is sometimes linked to James Hogg’s story of Davie Din tackling the Devil at Dob’s Linn in Selkirkshire, even though Hogg did not claim it was the same […]

  3. […] is Happertutie, which lies next other settings used by Hogg for the Covenanters at Dob’s Linn and the Watch Knowe. The location of the burn indicates that Hogg’s ‘Erne Cleuch’ is where […]

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