A heavy snowstorm was blowing around the town of Moffat, on 1 February 1831. The Mail Coach from Dumfries pulled up at the Star Inn, in the small town, laden with 100 pounds of mail and a few passengers. In charge of the coach was Guard James McGeorge and Driver John Goodfellow. They were all headed for Edinburgh.
Locals, knowing that the weather was deteriorating fast and that a blizzard would be gripping the high ground before Tweedhopefoot, advised all on the Mail Coach to not continue their journey. Most passengers heeded the advice and stayed the night. However, two ladies, the Misses Cruickshank, anxious to attend to family business in Edinburgh, rejoined the Coach when the Guard announced he would ignore the warnings and go on.
Setting Off for Tweedshaws
The Coach set off again – this time with fresh horses – towards the next Inn at Tweedshaws. They were joined by some roadmen for the first part of the journey. Only a few miles out of town, they got stuck in a snowdrift. They managed to get the Coach back on the road, after much effort from all the men. It was decided at this point, to unhook two horses and that the ladies, along with one roadman, will retrace their steps and return to Moffat.
John Goodfellow and James McGeorge – along with the roadmen’s Foreman, James Marchbanks – set off again, into the darkening hills, with two horses and the mailbags. Another few miles along the dark road – blizzard now in full swing – the horses refused to continue. John and James both wanted to turn around and go back to Moffat, but Guard McGeorge refused. He was determined to get the mail through to Edinburgh. Goodfellow turned to his friend saying “If ye gang, I gang”. Marchbank set off for Moffat alone and the two friends continued their journey towards Tweedshaws, only three miles away. They had comforted the horses enough that the horses continued with them.
Missing in a Snowstorm
Late that night, Marchbank made it back to Moffat where he told the story of their difficulty. Soon after, news came that two horses had managed to find their way to a nearby farm, at the base of The Tub, with no riders.
Early the following morning, James Marchbank set off for Tweedshaws, hoping to find the Guard and Driver. A mile beyond The Tub, he found a mail bag badge. Nearby, all the mailbags were secured against a fence post. He continued his search but had to return to Moffat, as it was getting dark, and the road seemed impassable.
The next morning, 150 men from Moffat went out to search for the Guard and Driver. They searched all day (Thursday), as well as the next day (Friday). All they found was the Driver’s cape and hat. On the Saturday, the Innkeeper at Tweedshaws and a few other locals set out from the Inn and searched an old seldom-used track. Soon, they saw a black booted foot sticking out of the deep, white snow. Digging down, the found Driver Goodfellow lying on his back. A hundred yards away, Guard McGeorge sat against a fence post. Both men were dead.
Both men were buried at Moffat, the next Wednesday, with a large crowd from the area attending the service.
- Site visit and observation
- Local information board
- Tweedsmuir website