HE is one of Scotland’s greatest literary figures – but his final resting place now looks like a setting for one of his unsettling tales.

Once a beautiful, rural spot where visitors paid tribute to James Hogg, the B-listed kirkyard in the Scottish Borders is now a scene of “devastation” because of health and safety rules.

Hogg’s memorial is one of nearly 50 gravestones that have been ­flattened by the local council, a move that has not only horrified the nearby ­community but the literary world at large, particularly as it happened during the 250th anniversary of the author’s birth.

It is estimated that around £20,000 is needed to restore both the ­memorial and the stones at Ettrick Kirkyard but a fundraising campaign has been hampered by the ­coronavirus ­lockdowns.

Now, however, a year after the headstones were toppled, a stonemason has pledged to restore Hogg’s memorial free of charge, but more than £18,000 is still needed to restore the graveyard to its former ­serene state.

Vicky Davidson, a co-ordinator at the Ettrick and Yarrow Community ­Development Company, said: “It would look odd if Hoggs’s stone was back up and it was still a site of devastation.

“Also, some of the people who are buried there were his contemporaries, and family names such as Sword, Anderson and Laidlaw crop up in his work.

“There is now a solution for Hogg’s memorial but it still leaves 48 stones lying flat in what was a lovely, peaceful kirkyard that people liked to come and visit.”

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Davidson said it was “unfortunate” the stones came down during the 250th anniversary year of Hogg, who was known as the Ettrick Shepherd and whose most famous work, The Confessions Of A Justified Sinner, is thought to have influenced Robert Louis ­Stevenson’s Jekyll And Hide. Modern writers such as Ian Rankin and James Robertson are also fans of his output.

In total almost one third of the 161 stones in the remote kirkyard were toppled along with others across the Borders after they were deemed to be unsafe.

The decision to flatten them came after a 2017 Fatal ­Accident ­Inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Ciaran Williamson, who was killed by a falling gravestone, ruled that Glasgow City Council should have carried out regular checks on the stability of memorials.

However, when Scottish Borders Council carried out safety checks on gravestones and toppled those considered unsafe, there was an outcry from communities, with many relatives claiming they had not been given any notice or time to make them secure.

The graveyard at the historic ­Coldingham Priory in the east of the Borders was among those where stones were flattened, with locals saying there had not been such ­destruction since Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the historic building.

Davidson said: “I’m not sure why they didn’t spend more time contacting people before they laid them flat, as it’s ­easier to fix a stone while it’s still in place rather than lying on the ground. I know there’s a danger from stones falling but they could’ve taped them off first.”

SHE added: “The council has been reacting to some of the concern and suggested I put in a grant application for UK funding but it needs to be for a project costing over £50,000 and it’s mainly for revenue that has to be spent by next March so it doesn’t really fit for the stones.

“It would make more sense for the council to apply for the grant and then give it to community groups across the Borders to get historic graveyards fixed. You would think there would be some solution.”

The self-educated Ettrick Shepherd was a key writer for Scotland and the world, according to Hogg expert Dr Valentina Bold.

She said: “He was an extraordinary writer and it’s tremendously sad that his gravestone is in the state it’s in at the moment.”

Although it looks as though it may be restored this year, she said the people whose families rested nearby also deserved respect.

Bold continued: “Hogg was very much a man of Ettrick and I don’t think he would want to be standing out while the stones of his neighbours in life were lying prostrate there.

“One aspect that was extraordinary about Hogg is that he managed to maintain his connection to the ­country that really mattered to him as well as to be a writer of national and international stature.”

She pointed out he was “hugely ­influential” on other Scottish writers like Stevenson and Muriel Spark and continued to inspire modern authors such as James Robertson, Rankin and Emma Tennant.

Bold said: “He has had an immense and lasting impact as he was a writer of ­tremendous range and depth – he was a prolific writer in many different genres, a wonderful poet and someone widely respected by the reading public and writers of his time.”

Scottish Borders Council was approached for comment.

To contribute to the fundraising for Ettrick Kirkyard contact vicky@ettrickandyarrow.org.uk