Whilst staying with the Scotts at Rosebank in 1783, Sir Walter Scott attended Kelso High School for a few months, where he met James Ballantyne. They met again at Edinburgh University, after which Ballantyne returned to Kelso to practice law. This was apparently unsuccessful as he responded enthusiastically to the proposals made by John Jerdan and others in 1797 to establish a Tory newspaper, the Kelso Mail, in opposition to the radical Kelso Chronicle. The Mail was to be the newspaper of a more reactionary view. There were initially three holders of copyright in the Mail: John Jerdan, Walter Scott and James Ballantyne. The Jerdan family retained the copyright for eighty-four years.

James Ballantyne continued to edit the Kelso Mail until 1809, then handed it on to his brother Alexander. In 1824 William Jerdan’s brother George borrowed £1500 with which he bought the Kelso Mail and the property accommodating its printing office at 12 Bridge Street. George Jerdan was a practising lawyer and a fervent Tory who, like his father, saw the Mail as a vital weapon to combat the rampant radicalism of its competitor, the Kelso Chronicle. Ten years after taking over the Mail George Jerdan proposed the addition of a weekly journal to encourage conservative support and to “counteract the revolutionary tendency of the present weekly paper”, the same ideal which had prompted his father to found the Mail back in 1797. His attempt was unsuccessful, and in 1840 George Jerdan wanted to dispose of his interest in the Mail, but there was no sale, and when George died in 1849, the paper was leased to Alexander Elliot until 1861 when George’s son, another William, took over as proprietor. He was still running the newspaper in 1866, at which time it was the second oldest extant provincial newspaper in Scotland. (Ironically, at a later date it merged with the hated Kelso Chronicle, an arrangement that would have appalled both John and George Jerdan.)

Last modified 16 June 2020