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Crest of Sir Thomas Storey

Copyright © 2007

This page was last updated on
Sunday, 3 February 2008
by Brad Storey



Robert Story was born at Wark-on-Tweed, a village in the N.W. corner of Northumberland, near the banks of the Tweed, on Saturday the 17th of October, 1795. His father (Robin Story) was a Northumbrian peasant; his mother (Mary, nee Hooliston) came from the neighbourhood of Lauder.

There were nine children, of whom our poet was the youngest by seven years. His mother was nearly 50 years old when he was born, a circumstance which largely influenced his future life, as he became his mother's hope. Throughout life he cherished a strong affection for his mother, and remembered with emotion, how she toiled that he might eat of the best, and how with anxious and often tearful eyes, she watched until her latest breath, his various fortunes. Owing to his father's care, he hardly remembered the time when he could not read easy books, and when very young, to pore over Solomon's Proverbs was a special delight.

At about five years of age he was sent to Wark School, where he made rapid progress in reading and writing. About this time a great famine spread over England, which is still known in the north as "Barley Time," and which pressed with peculiar severity on the home of "Story's" father, whose master becoming bankrupt, fled the country. The creditors seized the stock and farm produce, and refused to pay the father's considerable arrear of wages due. But, such was his honesty, that, though entrusted with the care of a large quantity of grain, he resolutely refused to let his family touch any portion of it, though they were literally starving at the time. The poet speaks of the gladness with which he feasted on a handful of raw peas. Soon after, his father went to live at Old Heaton, near Twizel Castle. Robert, though so young, was strongly impressed with the beautiful scenery of this part of his native county, and on Sunday's, or whenever else he could steal from home, he might have been seen wandering in boyish glee along the banks of the Till. In after life, he said "I have often admired the rich varied charms of the scenery of Twizel Castle, but the impressions made by these later views are all dimmed and darkened by the more vivid colouring of my boyish recollections."

Whilst at Heaton he trudged three miles to Crookham School, but, owing to the severity of the roaster, he often played truant, and spent the day in the woods and fields. When he did visit the school he usually left his dinner at the cottage of a lame fiddler named "Doddy," alias George Johnston. "Doddy's" manner of getting a living for himself and his aged mother was peculiar. According to a custom coming down from the Ancient Minstrels the gentry of the Scottish Borders were accustomed to entertain at their seedtime all the fiddlers who visited them.

His father next removed to Howtel, where Robert, the pet of the family, was again, notwithstanding the poverty of his father, placed at school, and learned the first rules of arithmetic. When eleven years of age he went to live with a married sister near Kelso, and