People in small villages along the Anglo-Scot border still talk of their ancestors who did it well.

It all started when warrior King Robert I the Bruce (1306-1329) defeated the English and made Scotland for the first time independent.

During the four hundred years between Robert the Bruce and Stuart King Charles Edward I (1766-1788), a hundred border clans ruled over their own lands.

Fiercely territorial and loyal to no British or Scottish king, the clans held allegiance only to their Chief. They devised and brutally enforced their own laws with the lance, sword and bow.

They bequeathed to the English language such words as bereaved, kidnap and blackmail and earned those reputations as recorded in a thousand books.

Those night riders swiftly rode by dark of moon, took revenge upon their foes and left their villages aglow. Night Riders were they called, enforcers of their clans. History dubbed them "Reivers" and the bloody lands that absorbed their blood, "The Debatable Lands."

Woe to the erstwhile stranger who found themselves on the road at night without escort or protection, were considered to be spies, robbed at the least, and killed at the worst. Strangers were not welcome in that land.

When Charles Edward Stuart took the crowns of both Scotland and England in what has become known as The Union of The Crowns, strong armies attacked the reiver clans from both sides of the border, drove them into swamps, surrounded their hiding places, torched their homes, hanged hundreds of warriors and broke the clans.

Clan families scattered throughout the world, some to the highlands and some blended into English culture. Others were deported to Ulster and some were driven to Connaught, but most went to Colonial America.

And now, some three hundred years later, history has tossed them into one basket and called them, "Scots (or Scotch) Irish." It is curious that most of the reiver surnames were neither Scot nor English.

Some contemporary descendents claim descent from early Vikings, Normans or other bloodlines, probably even original Picts. Now meet the border Reivers and introduce yourselves.

Donald O'Collaugh E-Mail March 1996

The story about the Anglo-Scot border is not covered extensively by English history. We know the Roman General Hadrian built a wall across England to keep the vicious border people from raiding into England.

Many historians and authors wrote about the borders, usually in terms of romance stapled with old legends of heroes Exurpts of some of those stories are provided herein by Researcher, Linda Merle

EXURPTS: by Linda Merle

The classic book on the border Reivers is the "Steel Bonnets". I got "The Illustrated Border Ballads" book by John Marsden. FANTASTIC photos. It has one of an old stone in the wall of Mangerton Tower. Some info: Seme Armstrone, Lord of Mangerton, marryed John Foster's daughter of Kyrsope Foot and hath by her issue -- from Thomas Musgraves "Report on the Border Riders", July 1583."

"Lock the Door, Lariston, lion of Liddesdale, Lock the door Lariston, Lowther comes on, The Armstrongs are flying, their widows are crying, Castletown's burning and Oliver's gone.....";

"Lock the door, Lariston, high on the wather gleam See how the Saxon plumes bob on the sky, Yeoman and carbinier, Billman and halberdier; Fierce is the foray and far is the cry."

Etc...the poet is James Hogg the shepherd-poet of the border country, 1830's.

Scott wrote of them in "Redgauntlet": "Ye ken the place they call the beef-stand, where the Annandalle loons used to put their stolen cattle in there? Ye must have seen it as ye came this way; it looks as though four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out the daylight from the dark, a hollow space between them. A deep, black, blackguard looking abyss of a hole it is...."

In the "Border Papers" for 1893: "The inhabitants of Tyndale against William Elliot of Lawreston, Martin Elliot of Bradley, Laird of Mangerton, and William Armstrong called Kynmott and 1000 horsemen for taking 1005 head of nolt, 1000 sheep and goats, 24 horses and meares, burning an onset and mill, and taking insight worth 300 pounds stering, done 6th October, 1593" (P 17).

Some detail -- and photos of the location of the Battle of Otterburn 1388. It produced the earliest balladry. Froissart tells us in his Chronicles: "In threescore year before there was not assembled together in Scotland such a number of good men, numbered were twelve hundred spears and forty thousand men beside with their archers....They said they would never again into their own houses till they had been into England and done such deeds there that it be spoken of for twenty year after. And they assigned a day to meet at church called Zedon. You can view that same churchyard in the book where they stacked the English dead.

I don't know why they say it is "bleak" -------- it looks beautiful to me, but then my ancestors are from that area so I may be partial.

I was reading Scott's Rob Roy last week -- it was hysterical. I hadn't caught before that the name of the highland widow who operates that awful "inn" was surnamed McAlpin!

Different sources of history disagree on just how many reiver clans there were, but it seems certain that they numbered in excess of one hundred. Where they all originated from is far from clear. Some names seem derived from Vikings, others look to be Norman and still others seem related to Anglo-Saxon English.

This list of reiver names was provided by Richard Bradley. According to Richard, original spelling and punctuation remains as found. Those of you listers who count the Scots-Irish plantationers among your ancestors may find something to laugh about here.

Non corrected original 1600s style spelling

"A Note of the gentlemen and surnames of the Marches of England and Scotland, dated July, 1583:"

EAST MARCHE: ENGLAND, gentlemen:- Forsters, Selbies, Graies, Strowders,
Swiners, Mustains; surnames - Johnsons, Vardes, Ourdes, Wallises, Stories, Flukes,
Armstrongs, Dunnes.

SCOTLAND SIDE:, gentlemen - Humes, Trotters, Bromfields, Dixons, Craws, Crinstons.
MIDDLE MARCHE: ENGLAND, gentelmen - Ogeles, Fenickes, Hernes, Withringtons, Medfords, Shafters, Ridlies, Carnabies. Surnames - Ridesdale-Halls, Hedleys, Milburns, Andersons, Potts, Reades, Dunnes, Tindale-Charletons, Dodds, Millborns, Stapletons, Robsons, Yaroes.

SCOTLAND SIDE: gentlemen; East Tividale - Carrs, Yongs, Pringles, Burnes, Tattes, Davisons, Gillcries; Liddesdale-Rudderfords, Carrs, Dowglasses, Trombles, S(c)ottes,  Piles, Robsons, Halls, Olivers, Ladlers, Armestongs, Elwoods (Elliots), Nixons, Crosers, Turners, Fosters.

WEST MARCHE: ENGLAND, gentlemen - Musgraves, Loders, Curwenes, Sawfelde; Surnames - Greames, Rutlitches, Armestrongs, Fosters, Nixons, Tailors, Stories.

SCOTLAND SIDE: Maxwells, Johnsons, Urwins, Grames, Bells, Carlills, Battison, Litles, Carruders."

More Border Clanns

Added by Linda Merle:

To the west march Add:



English side of the west marches:


Some riding clans eventually took an oath to the British Crown. As their reward, their lands were protected. Some heads of households were named, "Wardens" of the Marches. Hated Warden Dacre was one of those traitors who's families did not survive.

The riding clans caused so much trouble for so many people that their Bishop put a curse upon them . This curse, sometimes called the, Mother of all Curses was pronounced upon the riding clans by the Archbishop of Glasgow.

You have to read it to believe it. Boy was he pissed.


(translated) words are as spelled.

"Good folks, (herewith) my Archbishop of Glasgow's letters, under his round seal, directed to me, or any other chaplain, making mention with great regret, how heavy he bears the pitious, lamentable, and dolorous complaint that passes over all realms and comes to his ears by open voice and fame, how our Sovereign Lord's true lieges, men, wives, and children, bought and redeemed by the precious blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and living in his laws, are innocently, some murdered, some slain, burned, hurt, despoiled and cut openly by daylight and under silence of night, and their farms and lands laid waste, and themselves banished therefrom, also church lands as well as others, to be common traitors, rapists and thieves, dwelling in the south part of this realm, namely, Tevidale, Esdale, Liddesdale, Ewisdale, Nedisdale, and Annandereaill; they have been, in diverse ways, pursued for punishment by the temporal sword of our Sovereign Lord's authority, and they fear not the same. (The church has condemned them in fear for their souls, and it has no prohibitory effect on their actions)"

"And therefore, my said Archbishop of Glasgow has thought it necessary to strike them with the terrible sword of Holy Church, that they may not long endure and resist; and has charged me, or any other chaplain, to denounce, declare and proclaim them openly and generally cursed, at this market crossroads, and all other plublic places."

"Herefore, through the authority of Almighty God, the Father of Heaven, His Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; through the authority of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Mary, Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and all the angels; Saint John the Baptist, and all the Holy patriarchs and prophets; Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Andrew, and all holy apostles; Saint Stephen, Saint Lawrence, and all holy martyrs; Saint Giles, Saint Martin, and all holy confessors; Saint Anne, Saint Katherine, and all holy virgins and matrons; and of all the saints and holy company of Heaven; by the authority of our Holy Father the Pope and his cardinals, and of my said Lord, Archbishop of Glasgow, by the advice and assistance of my lords, archbishop, bishops, abbots, priors, and other prelates and ministers of Holy Church:"

"I denounce, proclaim and declare all the committers of the said senseless murders, slaughters, burning, torturing, plundering, raping and pillaging, openly by daylight and under silence of night, even on such peaceful ground as church lands; together with their families, henchmen, suppliers, and willing conspirators who give them refuge, their receivers of goods stolen by them, and any benefit or part thereof, and their counsellors and defenders of their evil deeds, generally CURSED, denounced, execrated, in sum total, with the GREAT CURSING."

"I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without."

"I curse them going and I curse them riding; I curse them standing and I curse them sitting; I curse them eating and I curse them drinking; I curse them rising, and I curse them lying; I curse them at home, I curse them away from home; I curse them within the house, I curse them outside of the house; I curse their wives, their children, and their servants who participate in their deeds. I (bring ill wishes upon) their crops, their cattle, their wool, their sheep, their horses, their swine, their geese, their hens, and all their livestock. I (bring ill wishes upon) their halls, their chambers, their kitchens, their stanchions, their barns, their cowsheds, their barnyards, their cabbage patches, their plows, their harrows, and the goods and houses that are necessary for their sustenance and welfare."

"May all the malevolent wishes and curses ever known, since the beginning of the world, to this hour, light on them. May the malediction of God, that fell upon Lucifer and all his fellows, that cast them from the high Heaven to the deep hell, light upon them."

"May the fire and the sword that stopped Adam from the gates of Paradise, stop them from the glory of Heaven, until they forebear, and make amends."

"May the evil that fell upon cursed Cain, when he slew his brother Abel, needlessly, fall on them for the needless slaughter that they commit daily."

"May the malediction that fell upon all the world, man and beast, and all that ever took life, when all were drowned by the flood of Noah, except Noah and his ark, fall upon them and drown them, man and beast, and make this realm free of them, for their wicked sins."

"May the thunder and lightning which rained down upon Sodom and Gomorra and all the lands surrounding them, and burned them for their vile sins, rain down upon them and burn them for their open sins. May the evil and confusion that fell on the Gigantis for their opression and pride in building the Tower of Babylon, confound them and all their works, for their open callous disregard and opression."

"May all the plagues that fell upon Pharoah and his people of Egypt, their lands, crops and cattle, fall upon them, their equipment, their places, their lands, their crops and livestock."

"May the waters of the Tweed and other waters which they use, drown them, as the Red Sea drowned King Pharoah and the people of Egypt, preserving God's people of Israel."

"May the earth open, split and cleave, and swallow them straight to hell, as it swallowed cursed Dathan and Abiron, who disobeyed Moses and the command of God."

"May the wild fire that reduced Thore and his followers to two-hundred-fifty in number, and others from 14,000 to 7,000 at anys, usurping against Moses and Aaron, servants of God, suddenly burn and consume them daily, for opposing the commands of God and Holy Church."

"May the malediction that suddenly fell upon fair Absolom, riding through the wood against his father, King David, when the branches of a tree knocked him from his horse and hanged him by the hair, fall upon these untrue Scotsmen and hang them the same way, that all the world may see."

"May the malediction that fell upon Nebuchadnezzar's lieutenant, Olifernus, making war and savagery upon true christian men; the malediction that fell upon Judas, Pilate, Herod, and the Jews that crucified Our Lord; and all the plagues and troubles that fell on the city of Jerusalem therefore, and upon Simon Magus for his treachery, bloody Nero, Ditius Magcensius, Olibrius, Julianus Apostita and the rest of the cruel tyrants who slew and murdered Christ's holy servants, fall upon them for their cruel tyranny and murder of Christian people."

"And may all the vengeance that ever was taken since the world began, for open sins, and all the plagues and pestilence that ever fell on man or beast, fall on them for their openly evil ways, senseless slaughter and shedding of innocent blood."

"I sever and part them from the church of God, and deliver them immediately to the devil of hell, as the Apostle Paul delivered Corinth. I bar the entrance of all places they come to, for divine service and ministration of the sacraments of holy church, except the sacrament of infant baptism, only; and I forbid all churchmen to hear their confession or to absolve them of their sins, until they are first humbled / subjugated by this curse."

"I forbid all christian men or women to have any company with them, eating, drinking, speaking, praying, lying, going, standing, or in any other deed-doing, under the pain of deadly sin."

"I discharge all bonds, acts, contracts, oaths, made to them by any persons, out of loyalty, kindness, or personal duty, so long as they sustain this cursing, by which no man will be bound to them, and this will be binding on all men."

"I take from them, and cast down all the good deeds that ever they did, or shall do, until they rise from this cursing."

"I declare them excluded from all matins, masses, evening prayers, funerals or other prayers, on book or bead (rosary); of all pigrimages and alms deeds done, or to be done in holy church or be christian people, while this curse is in effect."

"And, finally, I condemn them perpetually to the deep pit of hell, there to remain with Lucifer and all his fellows, and their bodies to the gallows of Burrow moor, first to be hanged, then ripped and torn by dogs, swine, and other wild beasts, abominable to all the world. And their candle (light of their life) goes from your sight, as may their souls go from the face of God, and their good reputation from the world, until they forebear their open sins, aforesaid, and rise from this terrible cursing and make satisfaction and penance."

WHEW: Does this mean we are excommunicated for ever? I wonder what it would cost to make it right.

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