SELKIRK, a royal and police burgh and the county town of Selkirkshire, Scotland. Pop. (1901) 6292. It lies on Ettrick Water, about 3 m. above its confluence with the Tweed, 6J m. S. of Galashiels by the North British Railway Company's branch line, of which it is the terminus. It is picturesquely situated on a hill on the right bank of the river, close to which are the mills and factories. The public buildings include the county buildings, public hall, library and the town hall (with a spire no ft. high). There are statues of Sir Walter Scott in his sheriff's robes, and Mungo Park, the African explorer, who was educated at the grammar school. Woollen manufactures (tweeds, tartans, plaids and shawls) are the principal industry, but the town is also an important agricultural centre. With Galashiels and Hawick it belongs to the Hawick or Border group of parliamentary burghs. Immediately south of the town are the beautiful grounds of the Haining.
As its early name (Scheleschyrche) indicates, Selkirk originally consisted of a number of shids (huts), in the forest beside which a church had been planted by the Culdees of Old Melrose. David I., while prince of Cumbria, founded in 1113 the abbey, which was removed fifteen years afterwards to Kelso, and also erected a castle. Captured by Edward I., by whom it was enlarged and strengthened, the fortress was retaken by Wallace in 1297, and remained in the hands of the Scots till the battle of Halidon Hill (1333), when it was delivered to the English. It was probably destroyed in 1417 when Sir Robert Umfraville, governor of Berwick, set fire to the town, and nothing remains of it save some green mounds and the name Peel Hill. It is significant of the havoc wrought during the Border warfare that there is not in Selkirk, in spite of its antiquity, any building two hundred years old. Of the eighty burghers who marched to Flodden (1513) under William Brydone, the town clerk, only the leader survived, with a banner captured from the English; he was knighted by James V. This banner is locally supposed to be the one borne by the Weavers' Corporation in the annual ceremony of Riding the Common, but the claim cannot be verified. The charter granted by David I. and other muniments having perished, James V. renewed the charter in 1533, with the right to enclose 1000 acres of the common and leave to elect a provost. After the battle of Philiphaugh (1645), David Leslie, the Covenanters' general, had some prisoners confined in the tolbooth of Selkirk and afterwards massacred in the marketplace. From an early period the souters (shoemakers) were a flourishing craft, and in the rebellions of 1715 and 1746 were required to furnish the Jacobites with several thousand pairs of shoes. Though shoemaking is extinct, " the souters of Selkirk" is still a nickname for the inhabitants. Tradition of the ancient craft yet survives also in connexion with the enrolment of burgesses, when the burgess elect has to go through the ceremony of " licking the birse " (i.e. bristles). When the loving-cup reaches the candidate he dips in the wine a brush of bristles like that used by shoemakers and passes it through his lips.