THE story of how “the ugliest woman in Scotland” married the best-looking man in the Borders has been turned into a children’s book by a former Peebles nursery teacher.

Poppy Browne, of Biggar, has presented the true story of “Muckle Mouth Meg” as a puppet show for nearly 30 years, and decided to use her time in lockdown to write the book.

Poppy, who studied history at university, said she is passionate about Scottish folklore in particular.

She said: “Muckle Mouth Meg is a fantastic regional wee story, and it really did happen.

“It’s like a fairytale and it’s very typically Scottish because of the more sombre notes in it.

“It’s about a girl who’s nane sae bonny, to put it bluntly – she was born with the deformity of a big mouth.

“Her name was Agnes Murray but she was nicknamed Muckle Mouth Meg because of the size of her mouth.”

The story tells that Muckle Mouth Meg’s father Sir Gideon Murray caught Wattie Scott, the son of a rival family, stealing cattle from his land in the Ettrick Valley.

Since Scots law 400 years ago stated that if a landowner caught “reivers” stealing their cattle they could do anything to punish them, Sir Gideon gave Scott two choices: be hanged or marry Muckle Mouth Meg.

Peeblesshire News:

“The story is that Scott needed three days to think about it because of the way she was,” said Poppy.

But, as in all good fairytales, Scott decided on the day he was to be hanged that he would marry Muckle Mouth Meg.

Poppy said: “The true story is – as far as we know – he did actually say, ‘I really think I could grow to love you. You wouldn’t have been my choice but I think I could'.

“And they did get married, they did live happily ever after and they had a great big family.”

Poppy formerly worked as a nursery teacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles and is now a drama specialist at Sacred Heart Primary School in Penicuik and a craft leader at Garvald Home Farm, a social enterprise community.

Performing the story as a puppet show at venues including Glasgow’s Scottish Mask & Puppet Centre, Traquair House and the Eastgate Theatre, Poppy said audience members would ask her if the story was true.

“I have to announce before I do it, ‘Yes, this is a true story and it really did happen’,” she said.

“I’ve always had people on at me to do the book and I’ve had drawings all over the house.

“With COVID, that made me think, go for it, get it finished completely, and publish it yourself.”

And Poppy believed there were some morals to be learned from this true-life tale.

“It’s a cracking book on bullying, it touches on a few issues,” she said.

“I read it to my own school and I asked for feedback and the teachers and children said it made them really think about bullying.

“Actress Mae West said, ‘It is better to be looked over than overlooked.’ And I often think Meg is just somebody more overlooked than looked over.”

Muckle Mouth Meg is on sale now at Whitie’s Books & Crafts in Peebles.