December 2023
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Scottish Traditional Tales: Wilson’s Tales of The Borders and of Scotland

John Mackay Wilson by James Sinclair

John Mackay Wilson by James Sinclair

In the 19th century, it was not uncommon to see itinerant lecturers hopscotching across their countries. It was also a great opportunity for them to meet with people, mingle with them, and listen to local stories and folk tales.

Is it during his itinerant lectures that John Mackay Wilson got the idea of writing and compiling the Tales of the Borders ? I would not be surprised.Wilson's Historical Tradiitonary and Imaginative Tales of the Borders and of Scotland

The No.1 in the series of the weekly magazine was published on November 8th, 1834 and contained two tales, The Vacant Chair and Tibby Fowler.

No.2 of the series followed with four tales: My Black Coat; or, The Breaking of the Bride’s China, Well Have Another, The Soldier’s Return, The Red Hall; or, Berwick in 1926.

The increasing popularity of the publication of The Tales of The Border had J.M.Wilson working at a pace that became before long overwhelming. He started drinking and the abuse of alcohol sadly brought him to his last day in 1835.  He was aged 31 years old.

In total, Wilson published in the first series, 48 numbers, totalling 73 tales. After his death, his brother James continued the series, followed by Alexander Leighton, a Scottish medical doctor, puritan preacher and pamphleteer.  Source: Wikipedia

Tales of The Borders and of Scotland - 12 volumes

Tales of The Borders and of Scotland-12 volumes-Edition Edinburgh : William P. Nimmo & Co.-1857

Many contributors participated in the writing of The Tales Of The Border:

Wilson's Tales of The Border - Ed 1857

Wilson’s Tales of The Border – Ed 1857

Alexander Bethune

John Bethune

Alexander Campbell

Matthew Forster Conolly

Professor Thomas Gillespie

William Hethrington, D.D.

John Howell

Alexander Leighton

Walter Logan

James Maidment

Theodore Martin

Patrick Maxwell

Hugh Miller

David M. Moir , “Delta”

Alexander Peterkin

Oliver Richardson

John Francis Smith

R. G. Thomson

John Mackay Wilson

Re. W. G.


Wilson’s grave can be found in Tweedsmouth’s Churchyard. It is such in a bad state of conservation that a visitor  wrote to the Berwick Advertiser to denounce this fact and hopefully have the population and/or the concerned authorities take action.


John Mackay Wilson's Grave - Tweedsmouth Churchyard

Concern voiced over state of famous writer’s grave
Berwick Advertiser 14 January 2009

This photograph shows the sorry state of the gravestone of one of Berwick’s most famous writers.It was sent to us by Roy Grout of West End Court, Tweedmouth, who wonders if someone would be able to restore it.

He said: “My friend, Agnes Patterson, and I recently visited Tweedmouth Churchyard and were sad to see how bad the gravestone of the late John Mackay Wilson had deteriorated. “It would be nice if there is someone out there who would be willing to restore the inscription. “After all, this is a man who became very well known, was born in Tweedmouth and is laid to rest there. “Perhaps a fund could be created which people could contribute to. It would be a shame if nothing is done.” (…)

Wilson's Tales of the Borders

Wilson’s Tales of the Borders

Wilson's Tales of The Border - Frontispice

Wilson’s Tales of The Border – Frontispice

Wilson's Tales of The Border - Illustration "The Vacant Chair"

Wilson’s Tales of The Border – Illustration “The Vacant Chair”

Wilson's Tale of The Borders-2 Volumes-Adam & Co-Felling-Gate Printing Works-Gateshead-on-Tyne-London

Wilson’s Tale of The Borders-2 Volumes-Adam & Co-Felling-Gate Printing Works-Gateshead-on-Tyne-London

Remember the above photo Mairiuna? As mentioned in a previous post, I bought the above edition at The Book Shop in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town.

Can’t wait to go back ! And you ? 😉

15 comments to Scottish Traditional Tales: Wilson’s Tales of The Borders and of Scotland

  • Hamish Kerr

    We have “Tales of the Borders” by John MacKay Wilson as follows.
    1.. Volume 1 Published 1848 by Robert T Shannon in New York
    2.. Volume 2 Published ? by Martin and Johson Beekman St. New York
    3.. Volume 3 Published 1853 by Robert Martin 91 Walker St New York
    4.. Volume 4 Published ? by Martin and Johnson 27 Beekman St New York
    5.. Volume 5 Published ? by Martin, Johnson and Company 27 Beekman St.

    Written inside on the first page is “William B Thomson Peterborough 1855
    The books are in fair condition cosidering their age …I do not know if anyone is interested ?

    • Hi Hamish,

      Thansk for letting us and our readership know that you have a set of Wilson’s “Tales of the Border” available.
      Kindly advise from which country the books would be shipped.

      Best regards,
      on behalf of Scotiana’s team.

  • Jim Keith

    I have Volume 1 Wilson’s Tales of the Borders and of Scotland and would like to know how to find out the value of the book and if anyone would be interested in purchasing same.
    Hervey Bay Queensland

  • Hello.I have been given a book which contain’s what appears to be weekly tale’s of the border’s story’s starting with no3 and ending at no94 Saturday august 20,1836 some weekly edition’s are not in this book.The book has writing in the front, which say,s that it was put together and bound by John Bennett 1864.This person J Bennett also state,s that it was his father,s printing.I would appreciate any information regarding this book.The person that i got the book from told me that it belonged to her great grandfather.Regard,s.

  • Luke

    I have all 3 volumes Wisons tales of the borders as in photo above contact me if interested going to put them on ebay

  • andrew ayre

    I am based in Wilsons home town, Berwick-upon-Tweed. I have just launched a project to revive interest in these tales. many editions are now available on line but if anyone would like to make copies available for research etc on this project , i would be pleased to here from you and can provide further background info.John Cheek , i am particularly interested in your copies of historic interest. project contact e-mail

  • andrew ayre

    please see my post on site. I have just launched a project to revive interest in these tales in Wilsons home town Berwick-upon -Tweed.i would be interested in these tales, as whilst i have a full set and they are now availble online FOC , these have some historical interest.

  • david

    I have 2 books of wilsons tales handed down from family.
    Being born in Scotland but now living in Australia .
    Were they common?

  • Eleanor mossie

    I have four volumes of The tales of
    the Borders and Scotland.
    I was wondering if they are worth anything

  • i have the volumes 1-6 in 3 books all original with illustrations good condition apart from 2 front covers my email is

  • Diane Taylor

    It is unlikely that Wilson’s early death was caused by drink. He regularly gave talks at Temperance Society’s up and down the country….see Leeds Mecury and other local newspapers. He complained of ill health..see letters in Edinburgh. It is most likely he died from a cerebral haemorage or an aneurism

  • Malcolm Edmiston

    I have a 2 volume set as per those bottom photos. Can anybody tell me when that set was published and their approximate value?

  • Malcolm Edmiston

    P.S. The publisher was McGready, Thompson & Nevin, Glasgow, Melbourne & Dunedin.

  • A good place to check is the website.

  • Joshua Davey

    I have copies of volume 1-6 of Wilson’s tales of the borders. They are A4 sized blue And gold hardbacks. Their conditions are all pretty good. Would these be of any value?

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