Sir Watt Tinlinn



Sir Watt Tinlinn was a knight whose fictional adventures are related in The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott (1805), particularly in Cantos IV and VI. 


The following is a note from the 1886 Rolfe edition of the work, which suggests that he was actually an historical person:


Watt Tinlinn.  [Sir Walter] Scott remarks: “This person was, in my younger days, the theme of many a fireside tale.  He was a retainer of the Buccleuch family, and held for his Border service a small tower on the frontiers of Liddesdale.  Watt was, by profession, a sutor, but, by inclination and practice, an archer and warrior.  Upon one occasion, the captain of Bewcastle, military governor of that wild district of Cumberland, is said to have made an incursion into Scotland, in which he was defeated and forced to fly.  Watt Tinlinn pursued him closely through a dangerous morass; the captain, however, gained the firm ground; and seeing Tinlinn dismounted, and floundering in the bog, used these words of insult: ‘Sutor Watt, ye cannot sew your boots; the heels risp [creak], and the seams rive.’  ‘If I cannot sew,’ retorted Tinlinn, discharging a shaft, which nailed the captain’s thigh to his saddle, ‘if I cannot sew, I can yerk.’”  [In a footnote: Yerk, to twitch, as shoemakers do in securing the stiches of their work.].


A contemporary critic of the work, Francis Jeffrey of The Edinburgh Review, did not feel favorably about the Tinlinns.  After praising the “elevating power of great names”, he continues, “but we really cannot so far sympathize with the local partialities of the author, as to feel any glow of patriotism or ancient virtue in hearing of the Todrig or Johnston clans, or of Elliots, Armstrongs, and Tinlinns…into a poem which has any pretensions to seriousness or dignity.”