Littell's Living Age/Volume 152/Issue 1970/Travelling Moss

Littell's Living Age
Volume 152, Issue 1970 : Travelling Moss

Originally published in Leeds Mercury.

Travelling Moss

Our readers have Probably never read or heard of the "travelling moss." It was one of the most curious things that ever occurred in the Border country. It happened in the November of 1771, just one hundred and ten years ago, between the rivers Sark and Esk, in the parish of Kirkandrews, some four miles from Longtown, on the estate of Sir James Graham, of Netherby. During a dark and tempestuous night, without giving any warning, there was a sudden and overwhelming eruption of the Solway Moss, the crash of which descending from a higher to a lower level, greatly alarmed the fears, and made the very bones of the inhabitants to tremble. Why it should have been so fast moored, age after age, and now have moved away from its native place like a floating island, nobody could tell, and, indeed, they had not time to cogitate that question. Those who resided where the vast mass of eruptive matter broke forth, filled with consternation and dread, had to flee almost naked from their houses to find shelter and safety on higher ground from the desolating, foul, muddy flood, leaving furniture and cattle behind them — a prey to the black and nauseous stream. People flocked from all parts of the country to gaze on the mysterious phenomenon and the ruin it had produced. The rental of the region was estimated to have exceeded £400 a year, and the area it covered was about five hundred acres, and in some places the stagnant lake was thirty feet in depth. About twenty-eight families and many little farms were greatly injured by the pitchy pool vomited up, as it were, from the bowels of the earth. The distress would have been much greater but for the humane and generous laird, who contributed to the support of the people involved, and replaced as far as possible their various losses. By means of long channels in various directions, under the skilful management of a Yorkshire-man of the name of Wilson, the water was let off, and the earthy matter was at length carted away. Many years elapsed before the traces of this singular calamity disappeared, and it is matter for thankfulness that there has never since been a recurrence of it.