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Scottish Borders History

For centuries, the Borders was in constant turmoil as the unsettled boundary between Scotland and England was fought over. It was a conflict not only of national interests, but also of perpetual personal and family jealousies.

The period brought its own language:

Reiver: Raider, robber, marauder, plunderer.

Blackmail: Literally "black rent"illegal rent paid (in addition to normal rent to a landlord) to a reiver to buy his protection from raids.

Feud: When a man was killed, his family took up the quarrel, not only with the slayer, but with his whole surname, leading to generations of feuding.

Jeddart Justice: Hang first and try later, i.e. summary execution.

Peel Tower: A fortified dwelling or tower house, often protected by a palisade. (Latin pilum from which the word is derived).

The pattern of raid and counter-raid was punctuated by occasional full scale expeditions and pitch battles.

1215

The Border line finally established from the Solway to the Tweed.

1286

Dispute over the succession to the Scottish throne and open warfare.

1314

Battle of Bannockburn, near Stirling – the high point of the fight for Scottish independence.

1388

Battle of Otterburn – Douglas against Percy.

1482

Berwick, after changing hands 14 times, was finally held by the English.

1513

Battle of Flodden, near Coldstream, and the death of James IV and the "Flower of Scotland

1542

Battle of Solway Moss, another overwhelming English victory, swiftly followed by the death of James V and the accession of the baby Mary Queen of Scots.

1544

The "Rough Wooing" to enforce the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the future Edward VI. The devastation of the Borders by the Earl of Hertford.

1545

Battle of Ancrum Moor, near Jedburgh, where the ballad tells: "Fair maiden Lilliard lies under this stane; Little was her stature, but muckle was her fame. Upon the English loons she laid many thumps, And when her legs were cuttit off, She fought upon her stumps".

1575

Raid of Redeswire, 10 miles south of Jedburgh at Carter Bar, when the timely arrival of the Jedburgh contingent with their cry "Jethart’s here" turned an apparent defeat into a rout of the English raiders – the last "battle" between Scotland and England.

1603

Union of the Crowns with the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of James I.

Common Ridings and Festivals

The annual Common Ridings and Festivals held in each town are survivals of the old practice of riding the town’s boundaries to preserve burgh rights and to prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords. Long after they ceased to be essential, they continued in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition. Community spirit is symbolised by the Burgh Flag or Standard, which in a colourful ceremony is "bussed" - that is ribbons are tied to the staff by the principal lass, recalling the days when a knight’s lady attached her ribbon to his lance before battle. The principals are elected annually and honoured with such titles as Standard Bearer, Cornet, Callant, Braw Lad, Reiver. On horseback they lead their followers in the festivities. Old songs and tunes are played, banners waved and local pride expressed. COLDSTREAM CIVIC WEEK was inaugurated in1952 and begins on a Sunday with the investiture of the Coldstreamer, the principal figure in the celebrations, and the bussing of the Burgh Flag.