Selkirk, Alexander, 1676-1721, Scottish sailor whose adventures suggested to Daniel Defoe the story of Robinson Crusoe (1719). In 1704, as a sailing master, Selkirk quarreled with the captain of his ship in the Juan Fernández islands and asked to be put ashore. He remained on Más a Tierra Island for four years and four months before he was rescued (Feb., 1709) by an English privateer.

See J. Howell, The Life and Adventures of Alexander Selkirk (1829).

Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, 5th earl of, 1771-1820, Scottish philanthropist, founder of the Red River Settlement. Emigration to America seemed to him the best solution for the poverty of his countrymen, especially the Highlanders who had been evicted from their small holdings. He obtained land on Prince Edward Island and supervised (1803) the founding of a successful settlement there. In 1811 he acquired a large tract in Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company, in which he had bought a controlling interest, and established the Red River Settlement. The planting (1812-16) of this colony led to bloodshed between the settlers and the North West Company, a rival of the Hudson's Bay Company. After Selkirk's return to Upper Canada, lawsuits were brought against him by the North West Company, and he was forced to pay damages. Having sacrificed his health and most of his fortune to his philanthropic enterprises, he returned home in 1818 and died in France two years later. He wrote Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland (1805) and A Sketch of the British Fur Trade in North America (1816).

See his Diary, 1803-1804, ed. by P. C. White (1958); biography by J. M. Gray (1963); C. Martin, Lord Selkirk's Work in Canada (1916); G. Bryce, Mackenzie, Selkirk, Simpson (rev. ed. 1926); H. Bowsfield, Selkirk (1968).

Selkirk, town (1991 pop. 9,815), SE Man., Canada, on the Red River. Just S of Lake Winnipeg, it is a port for products from N Manitoba. There are steel mills, foundries, and shipyards in the town. It is named for the 5th earl of Selkirk, who established (1812) the Red River Settlement in the region.
Selkirk, former county, Scotland: see Selkirkshire.
Selkirk, a town and former royal burgh in the Scottish Borders, lies on the River Ettrick, a tributary of the River Tweed. At the time of the 2001 census, Selkirk's population was 5,839, although the vast majority of the population are pensioners.

Selkirk is not a large or significant town in the Scottish Borders, but it possesses some limited history and minor traditions; it was formerly the county town of Selkirkshire.

The people of the town - who call themselves 'Souters', named after the town's traditional shoe cobblers - have an introverted approach to the wider world and focus their attention almost exclusively on the Common Riding and the rugby union.

Selkirk's ancient past encompasses a few aspects of Scottish history. It was the site of the first Border abbey. In Selkirk, William Wallace was declared Guardian of Scotland. The names of Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Marquess of Montrose and the Outlaw Murray have all passed through Selkirk briefly on the way to do something more important.

Founded in the 6th century, the settlement of Selkirk was originally named Seleschirche, meaning 'Kirk in the Forest'. In 1113, King David I granted Selkirk large amounts of land, referring to Selkirk as 'mine old town'.

Selkirk's limited population grew up because of its woollen industry, although now the town is perhaps best known for its bannocks, or hard dried fruit cakes. It has a very small museum and art gallery, and associations with Mungo Park and Walter Scott. It is also home to Scotland's oldest horse racing track, the Gala Rig, on the outskirts of the town.

Exactly like all the other Border towns, Selkirk has an annual Common Riding. This is always held on the second Friday after the first Monday in June. The following Scots song can always be heard there:

Up Wi' The Souters O' Selkirk

'It's up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk,
An doun wi' the Earl o' Hume,
An here's tae a' the braw laddies
That weirs the single-soled shuin.
It's up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk,
For they are baith trusty an' leal,
An up wi' the lads o' the Forest,
An doun wi' the Merse tae the deil.'

Souters are entitled to wear the town colours of 'True Blue and Scarlett' on Common Riding Day, as well as the colours chosen by the Standard Bearer, which change annually and can be worn by anyone.

O' Floddenfield!

Selkirk men fought with William Wallace at Stirling Brig and Falkirk, and also with Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, but it is Selkirk's connection with The Battle of Flodden (1513), her ready response to the call of the King, the brave bearing of her representatives on the fatal field, and the tragic return of the sole survivor, provide the Royal Burgh with its proudest memories.

The annual Common Riding commemorates Selkirk's main link with a turbulent past every June, Up to 500 riders saddle their horses at daybreak to commemorate the age-old custom of riding the Burgh Marches, the land of the town. The Casting of the Colours remembers the story of when over eighty men from the town marched to Flodden Field with their king, James IV.

Only one returned, "Fletcher", bearing a blood-stained English flag, belonging to the Macclesfield regiment. On his return he cast the captured English standard around his head to describe that all others had perished in battle.

Sir Walter Scott and Selkirk

Selkirk's past also includes the legendary Sir Walter Scott, also more commonly recognised in the town as "Walty the Plamf". This is one connection that the town has put to great use.

'Scott's Selkirk' transforms the town into a bustling Georgian Christmas market town, when all of the shops, pubs, restaurants and locals take on the atmosphere and appearance of the days of Scott.

With holly adorning shops and buildings, locals dressed in period costumes and horse and carriages travelling up and down, it is a special event worth taking in.

The two-day winter festival also features street theatre and historical re-enactments from professional actors, stalls selling many local festive goods, musical performances and children's shows.

The Selkirk Grace

The Selkirk Grace, is a grace (prayer said before a meal) attributed to Robert Burns:

Today it is mainly used on special occasions, such as Burns' Night.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae the Lord be thankit.

William Wallace

"See approach proud Edwards power, Chains and slavery!"

The words of Robert Burns conjure up a vivid picture of the troubled times in which the forefathers of the Borderland lived at the end of the thirteenth century.

After the death of Alexander III the hopes of the people of Scotland rested with the Maid of Norway. Her untimely death in 1290 left the country at the mercy of the English King. From that date until the crown was awarded to John Balliol, King Edward prosecuted remorselessly his schemes against the independence of Scotland.

Balliol, as preceding kings before him paid homage, in respect of his lands in England, to Edward and, in return, suffered many humiliations at the hands of the supposed English Suzerain. Scottish nobles and gentry, many from the Borderland, were compelled to swear allegiance to the "proud usurper."

From the West of Scotland came William Wallace, a Scots knight who led his countrymen in resistance to English domination.

No part of Scottish Borderland, perhaps, is more definitely associated with Wallace than the Forest of Ettrick. It was in Selkirk, supported by nobles and clergy, he was declared Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland.

Today in the 'forest kyrk' (the Kirk of the Forest), referred to in ancient times as the church of St Mary of the Forest, visitors can now visit this ancient site, which is also the final resting place to several relatives of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States of America. Roosevelt, whose ancestors came from the area, named his famous dog Fala, after Fala and the nearby village of Falahill.

The Hungarian Connection

Perhaps most importantly, a known Hungarian war criminal is resident in Selkirk. The Simon Weisenthal Centre are aware of his existence, and are in the process of gathering evidence which should lead to his eventual prosecution. Pretending to be a great nationalist, this man organises a get-together for Hungarians in the area annually (described below) despite his proud history as a member of the Hungarian Gendarmerie, and being personally responsible for herding Jews onto trains in WWII.

As a result of this man's efforts, annually, in March, local-living Hungarians gather in the town's County Hotel for their National Day celebrations. It was from the balcony of The County in December 1856, that Hungary's great patriot Lajos Kossuth addressed a large massed meeting of Borders sympathisers. It was part of a grand tour of the UK in which Kossuth raised awareness and funds for his subjugated Magyar people. Eight years earlier, he had led a Magyar revolution against the tyranny of Habsburg rule. A plaque now stands outside The County Hotel, commemorating this occasion, and a wreath is laid every year to commemorate the struggle of the Magyar people. Due to the wider spread of ethnic Hungarians around Scotland, the community now meets up to celebrate their National Day in a different Scottish city each year.

Further information on Kossuth's trip to Scotland - and details of alternative annual gatherings which do not include Nazi sympathisers - can be found at the following link:

Notable people of the Town

See also

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