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Border Reivers & The Battle of Sollomoss - Historical Background:
The Anglo-Scottish frontier had been in constant dispute since Edward Ist had launched a series of brutal and devastating invasions over the Border in pursuance of his ambition to annexe Scotland. His armies burnt and destroyed whole communities of people, animals and crops throughout the Borderland in his attempt to subjugate Scotland. lnevitably the Scots retaliated and invading armies from both sides were met with "scorched-earth" policies. Over the ensuing years, these terrible wars of attrition continued, with both Governments encouraging their Borderers to constantly harass and raid across the frontier. Robert the Bruce, after Bannockburn in 1314, allowed his victorious armies to systematically ravage the Northern Marches of England, thus the Borderland was turned into a political and economic wasteland, that prevailed for over 300 years. As the buffer zone between two of the most belligerent neighbours in history, the Borderland was a battleground, populated by a unique breed of people: the Border Reivers.
By the beginning of the 16th Century, Borderers were caught up in a continuing cycle of feuding, violence and destruction; realising that both Governments had neither the will nor the power to protect them they naturally turned to their families for protection. Perversely, both Governments contributed to this through their policies of installing a bulwark against the other side, encouraging settlement of their Border regions by offering land and low rents in exchange for military service. This eventually lead to overpopulation, which was aggravated by Border inheritance laws called "Gavel kind', whereby a man's lands were evenly divided amongst his sons on his demise. This resulted in many families having too little land to support themselves and their only option was to form allegiances [a] with each other to gain strength and protection. Over the ensuing three and a half centuries the "Great Reiding" families evolved a clannish type of existence, meeting each outrage against their members with violent reprisals. Those not fortunate enough to belong to one of these powerful Border families were subject to extortion and blackmail [b]. Such folk invariably turned to theft and reiving as a means of support and became the mercenaries or "broken men" of the Borderland, selling their reiving skills to the highest bidder. This of course, suited both national Governments, as the families raided over and around the Borders, causing the constant turmoil which provided the buffer zone both Governments needed and had so actively encouraged.
Because the frontier was such a unique place, both Kingdoms agreed that it should be governed under itís own laws; in November 1248 six English and six Scottish Knights met to "correct, according to ancient and approved custom of the March, such matters as required to be redressed". This conference resulted in a written code of thirteen articles agreed the following year, which allowed for fugitives to be captured and returned to their own countries and also for accused persons to be summonsed to appear before a special Border court to answer for their crimes; this last became the origin of the "Day of Truce". These Thirteen Articles were added to and developed over ensuing years and became the "Legis Marchiarum" [c] or Border laws under which the Marches operated until 1603, when James VI/Ist repealed them and abolished the Marches.