We continue with the interview with Tom Moss, Reiver historian and author. Our last blog covered his beginnings, the start of his interest in Reiver history and an introduction to his level of expertise. His website Reivers History is the go to place for everything to do with the Border Reivers and as such is seen as a source evidence based and good, solid research.
1). Reivers History, tell us about the site?
Firstly, my site does contain my blogs which, as I have said contains 138 blogposts, the linl can be seen a bove in the Heading. The blog posts are a ‘mixed bag’ of historical fact starting with Edward 1 , renowned as the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ but he never was such. ‘Longshanks’ is a better nom de guerre considering that he never subjugated Scotland yet was an enormous height for the age.
There are blogs about places, bastle houses, pele towers, border traditions and border places, even one or two based on legends. I think my favourites are the ones about Muckle Mouthed Meg (Lady Agnes Murray) and Fair Helen of Kirkconnel. I loved the place when I visited Kirkconnel – such a feeling of sadness yet complete peace. What an ambience the place has.
The story of the greatest of the Scottish Border Reivers, Kinmont Willie Armstrong can also be seen on my website. The book is called ‘Deadlock and Deliverance’. Kinmont was illegally captured by the English at a Day of Truce in March 1596 and imprisoned behind the walls of Carlisle Castle. After a few weeks of correspondence between Elizabeth 1 of England and James V1 of Scotland which failed to resolve the illegal capture, the ‘Bauld Buccleuch’, Walter Scott of Branxholme, rescued Kinmont after a night raid on Carlisle in April of the same year. He was indebted to the English Grahams in helping to plan the rescue, such was their hatred of their English West March Warden, Thomas Lord Scrope.
I had read many versions of the Kinmont affair and always felt that it needed a more in depth look at the detail. The result being my attempt at giving new life to an old tale. I also enjoyed learning about and writing the blog posts on the Maxwell/Johnstone feud.
Elizabeth was incandescent whilst James was ‘between the rock and the hard place’, reluctant to take issue with his own subjects yet well aware that Elizabeth held the key to his future.
2) What can you tell us about the Hot Trod?
Hot Trod was pursuit of thieves who had stolen beasts north or south of the Border Line. If the farmer (often a Reiver himself) suffered loss of cattle or sheep or even , on occasion, a family member to be held by the thieves for ransom at a later date, he could legally endeavour to retrieve his losses. This was known as the Trod.
There were two kinds of Trod: the ‘Hot Trod’ and the ‘Cold Trod’.
For the Trod to be Hot immediate pursuit of the thieves was required. It was a legal process that enshrined the right to recover one’s property by force. Usually the decision to take on the Hot Trod was the result of some deliberation even in the midst of the foray.
The loser would have many considerations in mind before deciding to follow the thieves back to their own country with the beasts which he considered rightfully his. Firstly who were they and how strong was their force; it was very probable that faces would be recognised and the reputations of the invaders well known. As such many a wise head would decide that the pursuit might lead to great losses for his clan or family at some future time when retribution, an ‘eye for an eye’, might be the result of long memories itching for revenge.
Once a Hot Trod crossed the Border Line there were particular legalities that must be adhered to.
The agreement between the two countries tells us that the Hot Trod was ‘lawful Trod with Horn and Hound, with Hue and Cry’. One of the pursuers of the thieves had to carry a lighted turf on his lance point to signify that he came in peace and he had to announce his Trod to the first person he met over the Border Line or at the first village he encountered.
He had also to ask for assistance and , should assistance be shunned, it would be classed as impeding the Hot Trod and those who refused assistance could be made liable for the stolen goods. In reality not a likely outcome!
If the Hot Trod was successful then the thieves who survived the bloody encounter were taken prisoner and handed over to the Warden of the opposite realm and thus subject to his justice. Others captured could be kept by the pursuers and eventually ransomed or cut down in cold blood or hanged on the spot. They were considered to have been taken ‘red hand ‘ and in ‘the deede doinge’. Often the authorities ie the March Wardens would turn a blind eye to how the thieves were dealt with.
Should the family who were stolen from be weak in numbers or spirit they could take their grievances to the March Warden who would lead an armed party against the thieves, should it be clear who they were. This was the Cold Trod and had to take place within six days.
Often the thieves would, within that time, have hidden the captured beasts well away from their homelands, in the rifts and gullies which are predominant in the border hills. Men would be paid to shepherd them, keep them from scrutinising eyes until the heat of the theft had died down.
Such places as the Devil’s Beef Tub and Harden Glen are still recognised as areas where beasts could be hidden.
The Cold Trod might be an official and legal attempt to mete out justice but the Reivers were always one step ahead. They knew the ground blindfolded, every inch of swamp and bog, every yard of worthwhile area of concealment far from prying eyes.
There are notable places still in the border areas with names like the Counter’s Seat where months after a raid, beasts were still stored until it was decided on count which of the thieves should be given which and how many of the ill begotten spoils.
Perhaps the most unsuccessful Hot Trod took place in the late 1520s when a party of thirty Nixons and Crosiers crossed the Border into England and ‘lifted’ or carried off a herd of cattle from Thirlwall in the English Middle March. Dacre, the English Warden sent out a strong party to capture the thieves.
They followed the trail of the thieves into Bewcastle and sought added help from the English garrison of the castle but to no avail as they were ignored. This, in itself, should have made the ensuing party suspicious. It should have become even more alarming when the English realised that the Scottish thieves were returning by the same trail that they had adopted in their coming into England.The English pursuers ignored these ominous signs confident that they were a large well armed party and ready for any encounter.
They came upon the thieves within a mile of the border back into Scotland. Suddenly out of nowhere hundreds of armed riders, Armstrongs, Elliots and others appeared and attacked the English contingent. The Reivers of Liddesdale had outmanoeuvred the English on yet one more occasion. At least forty English prisoners were taken, eleven of whom were despatched immediately, the rest herded with the stolen cattle into Liddesdale. Lucrative ransom money for a rainy day.
The Trods, an integral part of the international laws of the Marches, excellent in concept, were often meaningless and of little concern to the Border Reivers.
3) The last of the Holmains line was killed on a raid into the debatable lands in 1548, leading to the Carruthers of Holmains becomng Chiefs, what can you tell us about the area itself?
I have written a blog on the debatable land, inspired by a good friend of mine whom I walked the area with. Howard has a keen interest in old maps of the Scottish English Border country. They are a passion with him and he has studied them for many years. He knows the land, high and low as he has tramped it in all weathers, rain and shine, pinpointing places of special interest from earthworks of the ancient Britons, Celts, Angles and Romans to the more modern stuff, i.e. the Border Reivers, who are of particular interest to me. He lives in the lovely Border village of Canonbie on the banks of the beautiful river of Esk.
Together we have been trying to follow the borders of the Debateable Land from the times of the Border Reivers, and as such, locating the remnants of the ‘Catrail’. The Catrail is an earthwork of indeterminable age, which was possibly a Border between the Cumbrians of Strathclyde and the Angles of Northumbria reaching from a time when neither England nor Scotland existed nor in fact were unified.
The history of the ‘Catrail’ is shrouded in mystery and now its presence or what is left of it, is open to many an interpretation. Our wanderings have located a few places which we believe might be remnants of this ancient earthwork, but do not appear on any map. The quest continues.
We have also spent many hours on one particular hill in Liddesdale in search for a ‘cist’. A cist being a grave from the year 603. It is said by some to be the final resting place of Theobald, brother of the Angle king of Northumbria, Aethelfrith.
A great battle between the Strathclyde Cumbrians led by Aiden mac Gabrian and Aethelfrith took place in the Borders and Hudshouse Rig, (previously Dawston Rig). This area was one of the main contenders for the site of the battle. We know the ‘cist’ exists because it was photographed in the 1940’s unfortunately there were no map co-ordinates with the photograph. With some tenacity and good research, we now have a good idea where to seek this ‘needle in a haystack’ and will continue our exploration on Hudshouse Rig again.
In November 2011 we took a trip to the ‘Bounderstone’ which was the northern extremity of the Debateable Land. It was part of an ancient British stone circle and easily defined by our forebears of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries as a barrier to a no-man’s land, the most violent place in Britain.
4) So what actually was the debatable land.
There is a small tract of land in the western borders of England and Scotland which was ‘threpe’, ‘batable’ or debateable for over a century: between the years 1449 and 1552. In this post I would like to tell you something about its history.
Today it is traversed by one of the main roads from Carlisle to Edinburgh, from the river Esk at Longtown, England, to just south of the Scottish Borders town of Langholm. Within its confines a man-made earthwork crosses from East to West. Little of this can now be seen as much of it has been worked out by time and the forestry that has been planted in the area from before the beginning of the 20th century. It divided the Deabateable Land between Scots and English. This earthen mound which was about three and a half miles long is still part of the Border between England and Scotland. It is now called the Scots Dyke.
Travelling north from Longtown the Scots Dyke is reached just as the sign which welcomes you to Scotland is encountered. Here under the road just south of the sign is an insignificant little syke or stream, the Dimisdail Syke. This mere trickle which can be seen next to the road on the western side is the Border between two nations.
The Debateable Land, is some twelve miles long and three to four miles wide. It was of questionable origin and it is highly probable that it was an area contested by both countries long before 1449. It is interesting that although both countries laid claim to it in its entirety, as its ownership was disputed, both denied responsibility for the activities of the people who, in order to escape from the mainstream of society, made their way there with some alacrity.
It was the haunt of the very worst of Border Reiver society: men on the run for crimes unanswered and ‘broken’ men: those denounced by their own surname (family) or clan.
Today what was the Debateable Land is part in Cumbria, England and part in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.
As previously alluded to often both countries wanted little to do with it; to enter its confines was a risky business even for the ‘professional’ soldier, armed and disciplined as Sir Simon Carruthers sadly found out in 1548.
The indwellers of the Debateable were notorious for their aggression and fierceness- they were not easily dispossessed of their seemingly secure haven. A haven from which they could sally forth, steal and murder and return to their refuge of corruption, confident that there was little that authority would dare in the way of reprisal; not many on the side of the so-called righteous, upright and solid of Border society would dare to enter its formidable and threatening boundaries.
Having accepted that it existed, there were however, efforts to control, even clear the land of its unruly hordes. Authority in the shape of the March Wardens wrestled with the problem for generations, though with little avail.
It was agreed that cattle could be pastured in the Debateable Land but only from dawn to dusk. They then had to be removed. The ruling was held in contempt by the dregs of a volatile society. Permanent buildings were banned, in the words of the time there was to be no ‘stob or stake’ yet the Debateable was littered with stones houses and pele towers, testimony to the disdain its inhabitants held for the ineffectiveness of the laws which prevailed.
5) So when was the debatable lands finally tamed, accepting that Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald, was killed trying to clean them up?
In 1530, the clean up of the debatable lands began, but continued for some years after. They were split between Scotland and England in 1552 after the construction of the Scots Dyke/Dike, along what is roughly now the border between Scotland and England, which basically abolished the debatable lands as an entity. After the ascension of James VI to the English throne which unified both countries in 1603, it became part of the Middle Shires.
6) The Lowland Clearances and the move to Ulster Plantations has a real effect on the social structure of the Border region, what is your take on why and the general outcome of the Scottish Borders historically.
What does the word Reiver mean? It is not a common word; even today if the word is mentioned outside the Scottish/ English Border country and clan sites aware of their history then few people understand the meaning. It originates from the Scots/Inglis verb ‘reifen’ meaning to rob or plunder.
The Scottish/English Border Reivers were robbers and plunderers throughout a period of nigh on three hundred years brought about through force of circumstance starting with the Wars of Scottish Independence in the year 1296 and culminating in the Union of the Crowns in 1603 when James V1 of Scotland became also King James 1 of England on the death of Elizabeth 1.
So what was it that turned the clans and families of the English Scottish Border country from relatively peaceful cattle and sheep farmers eking out a living in land predominantly fit only for grazing, into gangs of predators who robbed and killed, who took hostages, blackmailed and set fire to property throughout the lands on each side of the Borderline, in their own lands and those of the opposite nation?
The answer lies in the insecurity they experienced through lack of royal and local authority.Throughout these centuries of Scottish English warfare, armies marched north and south, Scots into English territory and English into Scots. Medieval armies lived off the land and usually campaigned in Spring and Summer when the crops were burgeoning in the flat river flood plains and the beasts on the hills were being fattened up for Winter. In days of marching north or south it would be imperative that armies moved quickly and decisively towards their goal. Thus they lived off ill-gotten gains at the expense of the local populations of isolated farmsteads who were helpless against superior numbers of fighting men.In the lull between this intermittent warfare initiated by the dreams of the imperialist Edward 1 of England and echoed by another who sought to bring Scotland to heel and bow to his aim of a united Britain under his rule, Henry V111, various factions on both sides attacked at will across the Border and, eventually as the quest to survive became more desperate, they resorted to plunder even from their own people. Hence, inevitably, feud or deadly feud became a common eventuality of inter family violent discord. Feud, raid and counter raid became ‘the canker’ of the Borders. It became a way of life that the Border clans and families embraced with a relish that depended on strength in numbers and a ruthlessness and defiance that brooked no opposition.
Where were the laws of each country at any level, royal or local, the laws that were relevant to every other inhabitant of the two countries? They were there but didn’t apply on the Borders because the whole area was out of control. Only when government wanted the Border folk to act as a barrier to oncoming armies did they encourage them to intervene as the first line of defence. At other times they sought out the Reivers and punished them ruthlessly.
Thus the clans, families and surnames of the Border with no-one else to turn to for justice for their losses, quite naturally swore allegiance to their own leaders, to kinship. Patriotism was despised, confined to history in their eyes. They would become their own judge and jury. Through this they created a social system which was unique in British history. Any kind of national law was further hampered because there was a commonality between the English and Scottish border clans. They embraced each other in trade and commerce and intermarriage, even reived together on occasion. They were in the words of Thomas Musgrave ‘our lawless people who will be Scottishe when they will and English at their pleasure’.
Thus the Border Laws were formulated. They applied only to the Border counties on both sides of the Scottish/English Borderline which was divided into three Marches on each side of the Border, West, Middle and East. Each March had its own Warden, Deputy March Warden, Land Sergeants and soldiers. The Warden of each March was to meet with his opposite number on a monthly basis at the Border Line at a ‘Day of Truce’ where felons were tried if they had been apprehended. The juries made up of six Scots and six English were often biased and reivers themselves so justice was hard to come by but proved to provide a modicum of justice.
The Border people, the Armstrongs, Elliots, Nixons, Crosers, Scotts, Grahams, Fenwicks, Charltons, Robsons, Dodds and your own family of Carruthers and many more of the Border names, had become Border Reivers.
Thus was the state of the unrest that prevailed when James ascended the English throne. He very soon was to say that the East, Middle and West Marches that had proved to be ineffective against the crime that was endemic in the hands of the Reivers, along with the Border Laws (leges marchiarum) revised many times and proved to be frustrating and futile, were ‘vanished and delete.’ the Border regions would now be known as the Middle Shires of his new kingdom of Britain.
To achieve such a settlement after three centuries of turmoil, robbery, murder and feud James instituted a Border Commission in 1605 of Scots and English hierarchy including George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland and Alexander, Lord Hume for the Scots The aim? To pacify the Border regions, to rid the Borders of the Reiver clans. It took seven years in total, but the Reivers were broken for the most-part in four. The Riding families would be subject to the same laws as that applied rest of the new united kingdom. Now they would lose one of their greatest assets – to play one side against the other and disappear north or south when the heat was on; to disappear among their own folk.
In the first year after James ascended the English crown the retribution against the Border Clans was cruel and in many case unjustified.
Thirty-two Armstrongs, Elliots, Johnstones and others were hanged, others banished. Many were outlawed, nigh on one hundred and forty, presumably because they were not apprehended. The administration of the 1605 Commission was barbarous and ruthless. Where doubt existed when any of the Border Clans still living in the Border country were apprehended, without any proof of Reiver involvement, they were hanged, or often drowned as ropes were expensive. 2000 Border Scots were sent to the ‘cautionary’ towns of Holland to help the Dutch in their wars with Spain. Hundreds of men, women and children were sent to Roscommon in Ireland and later to Fermanagh in Ulster. The day of the Border Reiver was over. It is well worth reading the accounts of the injustice that befell these people and the greed of the Border Commissioners who, always with one eye on self-aggrandisement, namely the lands formerly inhabited by the Reivers, profited from their demise.The people of the English Scottish Borderlands, deserted when they needed help in the Wars of Scottish Independence and the Rough Wooing, were to suffer again at the Union of the Crowns. The social structure of the Border Regions, unique, reliant on kinship and the rule of the clan leaders was broken but not before three centuries of cruelty and animosity had existed between the Reivers and Royalty.
Tom Moss answering questions on the bane of any researcher ie Plagiarism
This, as in the case with other researchers and Reiver authors, is what actually brought us together, as he throught we had plagiarised his works. As normal, the evidence was there to quickly put things right and so began the opportunitiy for this wonderful man to share both his story his knowledge and his regarding the misuse of his works, experiences on our site.
7) . As we have discussed, it is a bane of any researcher, when all the hours of hard work and effort is claimed by others. So how do you/we deal with plagiarism?
Firstly, let us consider what plagiarism is in the context of a blog or article writing.
Let us take any of the 138 articles that I have written for my blog about the Border Reivers. In each case I spent many hours in researching the subject I have chosen. Moreover, I have spent just as many hours walking the ground associated with the subject in hand and also taking photographs of places that are relevant to that subject. In August last year I found out that 61 of my blog posts had been copied and uploaded on a particular site without my permission.
My initial thoughts centred around how could anyone take such an unethical, dishonourable approach to some-one else’s work. In all cases the attributes for the articles were other people associated with the site. After many weeks of email correspondence and some promises that the posts would be taken down from the site, a conclusion was reached by that dishonourable group that:
1. Once a post was uploaded to the internet it was ‘fair game’ for anyone to use it and
2. that the copyright for photographs was only 7 years.
Ultimately, I was told to get a lawyer. I still have these details in writing and as you know we have looked into this further.
8) So as we know this is a grossly inaccurate statement?
Yes, the reality is somewhat different.
I have the dates on which I wrote the articles, which precede the ones on the dishonourable site and proof that I wrote them. As soon as anyone writes an article the they have automatic copyright. They do not need to apply for it.
If anyone wishes to use that article then they must ASK the permission of the writer. In the cases of my 61 articles this was NEVER done. The name of the site from which the article was copied must given proper and due attribution. The exact article or blogpost must be included in the attribution.
For my own part, it beggars belief that any site would do this. All they would have needed to do was ask my permission and then give me proper accreditation and I would have gladly given it. It would help us all to promote interest in a great subject – the Border Reivers.
My site would have benefitted from attribution to my articles and the same would have applied to theirs. Instead of that I lose out at the expense of some-one who has, without doubt, acted dishonourably but gains 100% of the kudos for writing them, without doing any of the work. It can only be that they need to show to the world that they are the main-player on the subject, which is obviously not the case. Such effrontery really is so sad.
9) So what steps can actually be taken?
Here are steps that can be taken to eliminate such a dishonourable practice;
1. DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act and
2. Protect my Work.
It is also possible to watermark photographs, though care must taken in choosing where to place the mark. Obviously the mark shouldn’t be prominent so that it doesn’t take anything away from the photograph or so close to the edges that it can be cropped. These measures are well worth investigating and will safeguard original work.
Don’t fall into the trap of the thinking that we all work together in trying to inform and entertain. Some will sit back and wait for the easy way of providing information if they can by reaping at the press of a button.
(Its interesting that, even with a Society watermark on a copy of the Carruthers Manuscript of 1361, is still ignored and prublished as their own – for the moment. ed)
So who are the perpetrators stealing other peoples artwork and content.
CCSI reponds: The individuals concerned who are stealing and using without permission artwork and content, not only from our society but also from others, is in this instance the rogue Carruthers group CC I S based in Minnesota in the USA. It is an LLC run by a women by the name of Patricia Fello. As a group, they are definately not linked with Clan Carruthers Society (International), and if ‘International’ is not at the end of the society name, they are not officially recognised by either our Chief, our Society nor the clan. As such our only representation in the United states and Canada are Clan Carruthers Society USA and Clan Carruthers Society Canada, both of which have Regional Commissioners commissioned by Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers. ed.
Chief of Carruthers Arms
More from Tom Moss
This is taken directly from Tom’s site.
This piece entices readers directly into the pages themselves:
Prior to the formation of the Border Line, the people who lived to the north or south of the rivers of Esk and Tweed and the great hills of the Cheviots lived in relative harmony. However by 1237 the Border Line was in place, agreed by kings whose lines of demarcation took advantage of these great natural barriers.
Its formation eventually led to aggression and strife as land which had previously been common to all, irrespective of which side of the river or hill they lived, be it north or south, was fiercely contested. The two peoples were now acutely aware of national boundaries even though they clung to the old ways where allegiance to the family or clan took precedence over loyalty to nation or monarch.
“The conflict often led to death, maiming and theft as both peoples vied with each other to dominate the resources available: the richest pasture, the most fertile soil and the best areas of woodland”.
Relations then were bad enough between the peoples on both sides of the Border Line but by 1296 the animosity would scale a greater height. In that year the great warrior king of England, Edward l, claimed overlordship of his northern neighbour. The stance was to lead to two hundred and fifty years of war and attrition and the people who inhabited the lands close to the Border line, both north and south, would suffer untold hardship as a result.
The conflict often led to death, maiming and theft as both peoples vied with each other to dominate the resources available.
English and Scots armies bent on proving that ‘might was right’ did not wait until confronted by their armed aggressor. Both unsheathed the sword as soon as they crossed the Border and subjected the innocent inhabitants to fire, sword and theft.
An army on the move required food and shelter. They lived off the land and cared not one whit for the poor folk they encountered and plundered. They left the Border folk destitute, deprived of the basic means of keeping body and soul together. The Border people on both sides of the Border Line, though, were hard and obdurate and did not lie down in such adversity.
They did what they had to do to survive.
And so the Border peasant, through adversity and necessity, stole where he could and became one of the Border Reivers; became master of the art of theft. What started as a dire consequence of being left without even the basic means of livelihood, would culminate in mass thievery as the Border Reivers, turn by turn, stole from each other both along the Line in their own country, and south and north of it, in the lands of the opposite country. The necessity became a calling, a vocation. It spawned many feuds as a result even among clans of the same race as it gathered momentum. It reached a point where it seemed that nothing could be done to stop it. It seemed there was no power in either Scotland or England which would free the people from its scourge. The Borderer became the Border Reiver.
Toms book book Deadlock & Deliverance is a great read which will awaken the Border Reiver in you.
Tom can be contacted through his website, or alternatively; TOM MOSS, ROSE COTTAGE PUBLICATIONS, UPPER HOUSE, UPPER DENTON, GILSLAND. CA8 7AG
Thankyou Tom, your knowledge is nothing but exceptional, and again I apologise that folks pretending to represent the Carruthers name, some with no real connection, have misused and misappropriated your material. However, Karma is a wonderful thing it seems as is the DMCA. The positive thing that has come out of this is our newly found friendship
As an update from Facebook please note:-
–SEVERE CAUTION UPDATE–
Having been found out again, the rogue group ie the LLC (CC I S) headed by Patricia Fello from Minnesota, have moved to their umpteeth name change in 4 years. Sadly this time to try to completely mirror our own.
One can only assume this is in the hope of escaping ridicule and potential action or simply because people are rightly questioning their legitimacy, false claims and plagiarism as the article above clearly indicates.
If you see these badges sitting on the Bruce tartan, our strong advice is keep well away.