Noteworthy people from Denholm

Dr. John Leyden

1775-1811, Poet and Linguist

Leyden was born in 1775 in a cottage on the north side of the Green. His father, a shepherd, was descended from a servant from the university town of Leiden in Holland brought back to Scotland in the 16th century by one of the Douglas family who had studied there.

Dr John Leyden and cottage

Even as a boy he had a great appetite for learning. At fifteen he set off for Edinburgh University, making most of the journey on foot. He qualified as both a Doctor and a Minister. Whilst there he collaborated with Sir Walter Scott in collecting ballads for the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders". His interest in travelling led him to take up a medical appointment in India, where he mastered many oriental languages. Leyden died in Java at the early age of 36.


Sir James A H Murray 1837-1915


Dr James Murray was born in Denholm on the Main Street and at the age of seven his parents sent him to school at Cavers. For two years he had to walk the three miles to Cavers and back but his parents must have thought it a better one than the school in Denholm. When he was nine he moved to the auld school on the Green where his ability was quickly recognised.

When he was twelve he and his two younger brothers transferred to the parish school at Minto, one and a half miles away. Clever as he was he had to leave school at fourteen because his family could not afford to send him to grammar school at Melrose. He continued to educate himself as best he could although books were difficult to come by.

At the age of seventeen he got a job as an assistant school master in Hawick. He proved such an excellent teacher that, after three years, he was offered the headmastership of a new private school in Hawick, a post he held for ten years.

In 1864 he moved to London in a vain attempt to find a healthier climate for his sick wife!

He took the first job he was offered, as a bank clerk in the city where he remained for six years.

In 1870 he returned to schoolmastering at Mill Hill in north London and towards the end of the decade he agreed to become the editor of the New English Dictionary (later the Oxford English Dictionary). He worked on this for thirty five years until his death in 1915 when it was still unfinished. He was knighted in 1908.

in the Scriptorium

PHOTO: Sir James A H Murray, Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary from 1879 until his death in 1915, photographed with his daughters and staff in the Scriptorium he made in the garden of his house in Banbury Road, Oxford.


John Scott, 1836-1860,


John Scott was a well-known 19th century horticulturist who was brought up in Denholm.

As a boy he gained all the prizes for growing hardy annuals and cultivated flowers in the annual flower show.

He went on to work at the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh where he corresponded with Darwin and experimented with the hybridization of plants.

John Scott Horticulturalist


Rev James Duncan

1804-1861, Entomologist

James Duncan was a well-known naturalist who specialised in entomology and contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He was a great influence on the young James Murray. His father, the Reverend James Duncan, was the minister of the Cameronion Chapel and tutored John Leyden in classics.