The Black Dwarf Website

The Black Dwarf of Peeblesshire

David Ritchie (1740-1811), a dwarf who was born at the nearby slate quarries of Stobo, he was known also as David of Manor Water, Bow'd Davie, Crooked David &  most famously The Black Dwarf. He lived in a cottage on the banks of Manor Water near Peebles, Scotland.

The novel 'The Black Dwarf' by Sir Walter Scott was set in the Borders and written in 1816. Sir Walter Scott met David briefly in the fall of 1797. This meeting was the inspiration for the main character of the story, Elshender of Mucklestane Moor aka Sir Edward Manley.

David Ritchie built the original cottage by himself. In 1802 the proprietor of the ground, the late Sir James Naesmith, Baronet, chanced to pass the singular dwelling. Having been constructed there without any permission, unfortunate David might have lost his home by mistaking the property where he had erected it. The good proprietor, however, entertained no notion of exacting such a forfeiture, and with good grace endorsed the harmless intrusion on his land.

Sir James Nasmyth built the current dwelling in two parts for David and his sister. The low doorway on the right hand side of the cottage was built for David. He was not quite three feet and a half high, since he could stand upright in the door of his mansion, which was just that height.

David loved objects of natural beauty and he was a great gardener. His only living favourites were a dog and a cat to which he was particularly attached, and his bees, which he treated with great care.

A monument to the memory of David Ritchie was erected in Manor churchyard, in 1845, by Messrs. W. & R. Chambers. 

The cottage of 'the Black dwarf,' situated on Woodhouse farm in the vale of the Manor.
Plants are growing at the foot of the cottage wall on each side of porch. The cottage is semi-detached with doors and small sash windows, a rendered lean-to is built on at the far end. low door beside first door. A washing line with wooden props stretches over the long grass lawn. A gravel path crosses in front of the cottage doors.

David Ritchie's grave maker is in Manor Kirkyard, not, as he himself originally meant it to be, in a secluded spot of his own choice, surrounded by the rowan-trees that it comforted him to think could be relied on to keep witches, and evil spirits generally at a respectable distance.

Design & layout by: Mark A. Maxwell

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