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Name: Thomas Learmonth of Ercildoune (True Thomas/Thomas The Rhymer)

From: 1210

To: 1290

Biography: Born and lived at Rhymer’s Tower, just south of Earlston (4 miles north of Newton St Boswells and formerly called Ercildoune). According to Scott’s Border Minstrelsy (q.v.), whilst travelling in a glen below the Eildon Hills, Thomas was mysteriously abducted on the east side of the Eildon Hills (at the site of the Eildon Tree Stone) by the Queen of Elfland and taken as a lover. When he returned after 7 years, he was unable to tell a lie and had a gift of prophesy. Among his predictions were the death of King Alexander III (1286), the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), the defeat of Scotland at Flodden (1513), and the union of the crowns (1603).

The myth recurs throughout Scottish literature: e.g. the 15th century Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoune; and a ballad ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, included in Scott’s Border Minstrelsy. Sir Walter Scott (q.v.) named a ‘strange secluded ravine’ at the boundary of Abbotsford the ‘Rhymer’s Glen’ because of its associations in local folklore with Thomas. Thomas’s dates are the subject of some debate: some give them as 1225–1310. One of Thomas’s Border prophesies concerned Bemersyde House, the hereditary seat of the Haig family for more than 800 years: ‘Betide, betide, whate’er betide, There shall aye be a Haig in Bemersyde’. See also ‘James Hogg’ and ‘Nigel Tranter’.

Background Reading: Changeling (2006), USA, film directed by Kevin Thomas. Features character of Thomas the Rhymer, played by Yogi.



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