I told a story the other day and someone said "Is it true?" Truth is I don't know. When I checked it out again recently I found what I reproduce below here.
DID YOU KNOW… the story, much repeated, of the birth of Dunfermline’s Secessionist Minister, the Rev Ralph Erskine, taking place after the death of his mother?
What follows is a brief outline, as described by Buckham Hugh Hossack (1835-1902)
Margaret Halcro was Orkney born and, on 1st September 1674, at the age of 27, she married the Rev Henry Erskine at Dryburgh, Berwickshire – she being his second wife. A short time afterwards Margaret “died” and after being kisted, was taken to the churchyard at Chirnside to be buried. Later that same night, the person organising the burial, knowing she had been placed in the coffin wearing a ring on her finger, returned to the gravesite. He opened the coffin, which he had earlier partially covered with earth and attempted to remove the ring. Unable to do so, he took his knife and began the process of amputating her finger. Margaret, suddenly regaining consciousness, sat up in the coffin and screamed with pain. She, it is suggested, had been in a trance and very obviously not dead. The man then exited the churchyard in a hurry leaving Margaret sitting in the coffin. She eventually succeeded in scrambling out and made her way home, where she surprised her family with her dramatic return from the grave. This incident occurred prior to the birth of her five children, including Ebenezer and Ralph, who could claim their mother “died” before they were born.
A final twist to the story is found in Erica Hunt’s booklet “Chirnside Past and Present” She claims to “know” the ring in question, describing it as having a cluster of five large diamonds. She further states it was handed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter and, at the time of writing, was in the possession of her cousin living in New Zealand.
However, one man who is convinced the story, as told by Hossack, is not true is James Tait, former editor of the Kelso Chronicle newspaper. His opinion can be found in his “Two Centuries of Border Church Life”. He bases his view on the fact that no evidence has been found which would give credence to the story, his argument being if such a dramatic event took place then surely a record of it would have appeared in the Erskine family papers and therefore “the story may be dismissed as without foundation”. Just to complicate matters, Tait tells us that in the story told to him, it was Henry Erskine’s first wife who was the subject of burial before death, not Margaret Halcro!
So, did this event take place or is it simply a legend? The honest answer is I do not know, so I leave it to the reader to decide.