Thursday, March 29, 2007
Murder, blackmail, arson, theft -- ordinary life
If you ever want to know what Borderers looked and acted like about 500 years ago, the Hawick Reivers Festival held every March is the place to go.
Staged over the two days of last weekend, in the town of Hawick, it features everything from displays on reiver combat skills to falconry, food to traditional music.
As usual, there were big crowds over the two days and everyone seems to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Readers of The South Reporter might not be aware — the reivers lived on both sides of the Scottish-English border from the 14th to the close of the 16th centuries.
Reiving, raiding for cattle and sheep, and whatever else which could be transported, was the only way to survive and it became an established way of life, a profession, which was regarded with no discredit amongst the Borderers.
This region which straddled the border became the setting for 300 years of continual violence as the family clans of the border hills took advantage of the animosity between Scotland and England to make their own rules.
You could say it was the Scottish version of the old American West!
Murder, blackmail, arson, theft, rustling and violence were facets of everyday life. Today, the descendents of the reivers can be found all over the world, including the United States - in fact, several American presidents had Border ancestry somewhere given their names of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
In those lawless times - part of the Scottish Borders were even nicknamed the ‘Debatable Land’ because it was debatable who ruled it - crops were destroyed, homesteads burnt and the people murdered or dispersed.
Robbery and blackmail were everyday professions. If one member of a family harmed another, it was not a simple matter to resolve as the whole of both families would be drawn in, often with bloodthirsty consequences.
But that is part of our history and makes us, the present day Borderers, who we are. Interestingly it probably also makes some of The South Reporter’s reader who they are as well!
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