Merlin in Drumelzier



It is said, according Scottish myth, that Merlin, the wizard from Arthurian legend, is buried in the Borders town of Drumelzier.

However, there are many different versions of what actually happened to Merlin, ranging from his own prophecy of a “triple death” to slightly more supernatural accounts of him being imprisoned in a tree and left to die by Morgan le Fay, another Arthurian legend, or being entranced by spiders and fairies who bound him in their threads until he completely vanished from human sight.

The account which seems to be most prevalent, and perhaps most realistic, is the story of Merlin predicting his own death.

Sometime during the 570s, the Battle of Arderyth (or Ardderyd) saw Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio take on King Riderch Hael of Strathclyde in a bloody skirmish. The specific location of the battle is unknown, with some believing that it was fought in modern day Peebles, whilst others have claimed that it took place near Airdrie, or even down in Cumbria, in the north-west of England. However, it was said to have been a particularly bloody and violent fight that saw the annihilation of Gwenddoleu’s army. Merlin was the bard to Gwenddoleu and fought on the losing side. Legend has it that Merlin, witnessing such carnage, was driven into a state of insanity and fled to the depths of the Caledonian Forest. It was in the forest where he apparently met Saint Mungo (also known as St. Kentigern). St. Mungo, an apostle from the late sixth century, was born in the Fife coastal village of Culross and was the founder and patron saint of Glasgow. Merlin and Mungo spent a long time talking, and it was during this meeting where it is said that Merlin was converted from Paganism to Christianity. It was not long after his meeting with St. Mungo, Merlin had a sense of foreboding. He felt that something was not quite right and then suddenly he had a premonition of his own murder; what he described as a “triple death” where he would be cudgeled, drowned and stabbed.

Later that day Merlin was on his own in the forest when out of nowhere a group of men he recognised as being enemies appeared and set upon him. Merlin was beaten then pushed, causing him to fall into a nearby river, where he was finally run through with a stake whilst helpless in the water. This beating, drowning, and fatal impaling was the “triple death” that Merlin foresaw only hours earlier.

Reference to Merlin’s final resting place in Drumelzier has been made since as early as the 13th century. Thomas the Rhymer, famous laird, poet and supposed prophet, was said to have foreseen the 1603 Union of Crowns when he predicted that when the Tweed floods into Merlin’s grave Scotland and England will have one king. And such a flooding from the Tweed occured, no doubt coincidentally, on the very day Scotland’s James VI was crowned King of England.

The place in Drumelzier where Merlin is said to be buried is marked modestly by a thorn tree, near where a burn joins onto the River Tweed. The town has placed a plaque at the bottom of the tree acknowledging “the wizard Merlin’s grave”, and where it also states that the present tree is not the original one, which was swept away in a flood sometime in the late 1920s.


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