Monday, March 19, 2012

Come a' ye Reivers

My home town

This is my first post on History Ink, so I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Margery Scott. I was born in a small town in Scotland that dates back to the 12th century. My family dates even further back than that. I played hide and seek in abbey ruins and believed everyone had a nearby castle. How could I grow up in that environment and not have a keen interest in history?

Scotland has a long and turbulent past, but I'm particularly interested in the time of the Border reivers.

For centuries, Scotland and England were bitter enemies, and families living on the Scotland/England border were caught in the midst of constant warfare. In the path of raiding armies heading both north and south, their settlements were repeatedly burned down, their crops destroyed and their residents murdered.

Reivers at Kilnockie Tower
When those raiding armies left nothing but destruction in their wake, reiving began as a means of survival. I probably shouldn't admit it but yes, my ancestors were Border reivers, or more accurately, cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. Eventually, reiving became a respected profession among the border people. Not only those who were left destitute took part, but even noblemen and March wardens (who were supposed to uphold the law) participated when the opportunity arose.

Under cover of darkness, they crept across the border and stole whatever they could, usually cattle. As reiving became more common and widespread, the crimes became more severe. Kidnapping and murder became common occurrences.

Many of the reivers died in these raids too, while their families waited in vain for their return. This led to the first usage of the word "bereaved" in the English language.

Since family and clan loyalty took precedence over allegiance to their flag, rievers often raided each other, too, with a real or imaged slight sparking a war between two clans that could last for generations. For instance, my family had a running feud with the Kerr clan for many years.
Most raids took part between August and February, when nights were longer and there was less chance of detection and capture.

When James VI of Scotland became James I of England, he was determined to unify the two countries. The term "the Borders" was banned. Rievers who were caught were executed (some of my ancestors unfortunately met this fate), and the border people were no longer allowed to own horses valuing more than 50 schillings. Reiving families were stripped of their land and possessions. Many clans dispersed and moved away, eventually settling in other lands.

Stories of the Border reivers were handed down from generation to generation. Songs and ballads told of bravery and great acts of loyalty. They also told of blackmail, treachery and corruption.

The first verse of one of these ballads begins with a call to go reiving:

O who will up an' ride wi' me:
Come a’ ye reivers bold!
Then let us off to Cumberland
To herry byre an' fold.
We winna leave a horn or hoof
On a' the English side,
Then come, my bonny reivers,
Come, let us mount an' ride.

There is so much more for me to learn about the Border reivers, and one day I plan to write a series of books about my ancestors who lived through this violent time in Scottish history. Right now, my attention is firmly entrenched in the American Wild West - a completely different time and place. Wait ... outlaws, violence, people trying to survive in an untamed land. Hmm, not as much of a stretch as it seems at first glance.

My two western historical romances, Emma's Wish and Wild Wyoming Wind are available now on Amazon.

For more information on me and my books, please come visit me on my website and follow me on Facebook and Twitter


  1. I can't even imagine growing up playing I abbeys and around castles! What a neat childhood!!

  2. Kacey, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Jedburgh Abbey was one of our favourite places to play. It's a shame I didn't appreciate the history when I was young.

  3. You should definitely write about your relatives!

  4. I agree with Kay. It sounds a lot of fun. And what an interesting history. Do you still speak with a Scottish accent?

  5. What an interesting post. I knew about the border wars but didn't know that some of our English words come from them. And, wow, Margery! Your hometown is GORGEOUS!

  6. Wow! How interesting, Margery. I could see a series set during that time!!

  7. Cynthia, I do know a few of my ancestors met a grisly end. I'm sure there are a lot of good stories there.

  8. Edie, I've been told the accent shows up when I'm really furious, but I deny it. Otherwise, I may use some Scottish slang, but there's no accent.

  9. Sharon, I didn't know about the origin of bereaved, either, until I was doing the research for this blog post. Blackmail also came from that time. It's a very pretty town, but unfortunately losing it's quaintness with all the new construction.

  10. Kristina, I'm actually anxious to get into some real research on my family now. Ideas for a series are percolating in my brain.

  11. Margery, how cool to have grown up in Scotland. I often dream of vising that beautiful land! Oh, the stories you could write on your relatives...
    Nice getting to know you,

  12. I haven't seen (or don't remember) some of the sights. One day I'd love to go back and really tour the far north. Nice getting to know you, too.

  13. Very interesting post Margery...thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    Congrats on your that they are set in the Wild West :)

  14. Wow, I wish I'd have had your childhood, Margery.

  15. Awesome post, Margery! I had no idea! Thanks for sharing with us.

  16. Wow,, this is a fantastic post. I'm so glad you shared it with us.

  17. Really interesting Margery! My beloved and much missed dog, Ripley was a boarder collie mix- from this area I take it?
    And I definitely think you should write bout this time- especially with such a connection to it!

  18. Christine, I do have a love affair with the Old West - those men and women were tough!

  19. Thanks, Jennifer. It's not something that usually comes up in conversation lol.

  20. Thanks, Brenda. Apparently I do have quite a family history. It actually goes back to Robert the Bruce.

  21. Laura, our one and only pet was a Border collie, too. They are amazingly smart dogs! I didn't even think of that at the time we got him, but yes, I do believe they're from the Scottish borders.

  22. I really love Scotland. And recently found that I have traces back to the Burnetts there. BC...Before Clans. If you get chane to see (I'm sure it's on DVD now I have VHS) Ladies from Hell. It's the story of how the bagpipe came to Scotland via the Romans and why it was horses, it was a weapon.

  23. Very interesting information.