The Lord Scroop, and the Bold
Buccleuch.—The false Sakelde —Willie o'Kinmont capturcd and rescued.
The Bold Buccleuch was bold
Which if you do not crcdit,
Just read this chapter, and, in truth,
You will, when you have read it.
Spottiswood, one of the most
especial historiographers of Scottish affairs in the sixteenth century,
relates how a matter befel which well nigh put both kingdoms in a flame; but
besides him, we have an old ballad on the subject, which has been sung by
glee-man and minstrel ever since, not only on the hills of Gretna, but in
distant regions also; —and again, besides these authorities, we have still
another far more authentic, in a most unerring tradition, which so far
supersedes all other that we cannot now do better than found this chapter
mainly upon it.
The Lord Scroop, Warden of
the Western Marches, and the great Laird of Buccleuch, keeper of Liddesdale,
established a truce, for the purpose of arranging some trifling things
between them in an amicable manner ; and to this end they met, or rather
their agents met, at a place ycleped Dayholme of Kershop, where a small
brook divided England from her northern sister, and more particularly the
dale of Liddel from Bawcastle. The deputy for Queen Elizabeth's warden was
Mr. Sakelde, or Salkeld, of a powerful family of Cumberland, possessing,
amongst other manors, that of Corby, before it came into the possession of
the Howards in the seventeenth century. When truce had been proclaimed by
sound of trumpet, as the custom then was, the commissioners met in friendly
sort, and arranged their grievance to satisfaction, after which they parted
Meanwhile, howbeit, it
fortuned that William Armstrong, commonly called Willie of Kinmont, who had
been in the company of the Scots1 negotiator, but against whom the English
had a quarrel, as his good name had been sullied by sundry ancient
depredations, was pursuing his way homeward alone, by the grassy margin of
the river Liddel. The English party also wending homeward, as the conference
was ended, espying Willie, gave hue-and-cry with loud voices, and, after
chasing him for several miles, took him prisoner and bore him away to
Carlisle. This deed was in direct violation of the existing truce, which
would not be elapsed until sun-rising the next day. Wherefore Buccleuch, as
guardian over Liddesdale, where this matter befel, wrote certain missives to
Sakelde, complaining of injustice; he returned for answer, that forsooth he
could do nothing, as the Lord Scroop had gone away for a short space: then
Buccleuch sent to Scroop where he was, and craved that the prisoner might be
enfranchised as he had been unlawfully taken ; and then the English warden
replied that, verily he could not possibly enlarge the said prisoner without
knowing the Queen's pleasure to that effect: then the Laird pf Buccleuch
wrote advices to good Master Bowes, the resident ambassador from England,
who wrote remonstrances to the Lord Scroop, who—took no notice of the
letter. After that, King James was told of the transaction, who sent to
Elizabeth, who promised fair, but who—performed nothing.
The Scottishmen, feeling
their sacred honour wounded at these repeated slights and evasions,
determined to brook them no longer; but boldly planned a measure to surprise
Carlisle Castle and liberate their countryman.
We are told, that when "the
false Sakelde" secured Kinmont, he tied his hands behind his back, and
guarded him fivcsome on each side with hagbut-men, so that ho should not
eschew their vigilance and escape away of their clutches. He also bound his
ankles together with cords underneath the body of his horse, absolutely
making saddle-girths of his legs, so that he not only could not elude his
captors, but furthermore, he was totally unable to rise in his saddle when
his beast trotted—a fact that gives one an idea of concussion of the brain
when one thinks of it, or of a sore chafing of the seat, or peradventure,
owing to the jerking and jolting, of biting the end of one's tongue off,
unless it were carefully kept from getting between the teeth.
They then conducted him
through the Liddel-rack, a ford on that river, over Solway Moss, the.
Debateable Land, across the sands of Carlisle that then spread their
marishlike and quaking expanse about the mouth of the Eden ; then over the
Sacery, or plain beneath the castle walls, whereon Peredur, the Prince of
Sunshine, so gallantly tilted with the discourteous knight, and lastly into
the fortress, where he was delivered up to durance vile.
His friends, north of
Hadrian's rampire, conceived infinite indignation at what they considered a
piece of the greatest treachery ever practised; so they enterprised to
achieve one • of the most daring and well-conducted exploits of that age.
All the ancient chroniclers unite in lauding it in goodly terms. "Audax
facinus cum modica manu, in urbe mcenibus et multitudine oppida-norum munita,
et calidse audacise, vix ullo obsisti modo potuit."—[Johnstoni Historia.~\
And Birrel, in his Diary for April 6, 1596, says, the deed was done " with
shouting and crying, and sounde of trumpet, puttand the said toun and
countrie in sic ane fray, that the like of sic ane wassalage was nevir done
since the memorie of man, no not in Wallace dayis."
Queen Elizabeth was not only
much angered against her northern neighbours for their bearing in this
affair, but she had been before exasperated with Buccleuch because he had
retaliated against a party of English who had ravaged Liddesdale, by a
counter raid into Cumberland, on which occasion he took six and thirty
thieves, all of whom he did to death. Her resentment is well set forth in
the preface of her epistle to her ambassador Bowes, where she says, speaking
of king James,—" I wonder how base-minded that king thinks me, that, with
patience, I can digest this dishonourable * * * *. Let him know, therefore,
that I will have satisfaction, or else * * * *."" These broken words of ire,
observes Sir Walter of Abbotsford, are inserted betwixt the subscription and
the address of the letter.
So strong was the inveteracy
of feeling toward Buccleuch, — an inveteracy perhaps engendered partly
through jealousy of his bold exploits,—that his sordid foes, who were
impotent to cope with him in direct fight, at one time appear to have formed
the design of privily assassinating him ; a cowardly plan, which one would
scarcely look for even in a barbarous age, when hardy courage was one of the
chiefest virtues, and when instances of rude yet praiseworthy chivalry, or
of savage yet honourable generosity, not infrequently occurred between
When Willie o' Kinmont found
himself in the power and iron fetters of the Lord Warden, his doughty
spirit, which had been a part of his nature from his cradle upwards, was
nothing stricken in fear or dismay; and neither was he one whit cowed,
though now in the presence of his very foe, who made no bones of death,
dooming his flesh to the carrion crows.
"Albeit my arm is tied, yet
is my tongue free," cried he, in answer to the taunts which they heaped upon
him; "and who is there among ye that will avow this deed, or will endure the
penalty of the Border Law now in the time of plighted truce ; or who among
ye will dare answer to it in the face of my bold kinsman Buccleuch of
"Hold thy tongue, thou rank
rover!" was the instant reply; "prate not of thy bold kinsman, for there is
never a Scot in the land that shall set thee free.- Know, Sir Marchman, that
ere ye cross the castle gate, ye shall take a lasting farewell of me." •
"Deal me death an ye will, my
lord,''1 returned the prisoner, "and fear ye nothing for me; but by the
faith o"' my body I say, that I never yet lodged in a hostelrie, but I paid
my reckoning well to the contentment of mine host ere I departed away."
"Stint your misruled taunts
here, slave ! What ho, guards! bear him away to the lower dungeon. We will
see who is the true Lord of the castle!"
And Kinmont was hurried away
in despite, and dismally encarcered in the dank and murky prison of the
donjon, until such time as he should be brought out to the hairibee, and
hung up by the bare neck.
But the issue of this misfare
had been reported to Buccleuch of Branksome ; and there, as he sat at meat
in his panneled hall, with his vassals about him and his villains below the
salt, he seized hold of the table in his agony; he raised the cup, brimming
with red wine, on high, and he swore by a terrible oath, that of a truth he
would be avenged of the Lord Scroop for this deed.
"And is my basnet but a
widow's curch," cried he; "or my lance but the wand of a willow-tree, or my
arm but like the lilly hand of a lady, that the English Warden should thus
set me at nought? And have they really taken Kinmont Willie, forgetting of
the truce now betwixt us?
Buccleuch's rage and have
they forgotten that the bold Buccleuch is keeper here on the Scottish side ?
And. have they indeed taken him withouten dread of my puissance, and without
remembering that Buccleuch truly can back a steed and shake a spear ? Were
there but war between the two lands, as I wot well there is not, I would
bring down the towering battlements of Carlisle, albeit they were builded of
marble stone ! Yea, even so would I set those walls in a flame, and then
cool them again in English blood ! There's never a man in Cumberland should
ken where Carlisle Castle -stood!"
Such was the first burst of
Buccleuch's rage; and he only regretted that there was no war between the
kingdoms, because this amicable fact denied him the power of suffering his
vengeance to run wild over the Border. We might suppose, however, that the
unjust captivation of his friend, and the general practice of the Law of
Talion, would have permitted him to give full liberty to his wrath and his
drawn sword ; but, to his high praise be it spoken, he appears to have been
a man of a better nature, and one who would not return wrong for wrong,
absolutely for the sake of so doing, but only so far as to chastise his
enemies as should seem due to them.
"Wherefore," continued he in
a milder tone, "since there is no strife waging between my liege kinmont's
The exploit that he now
undertook to achieve, is characterised as one of the last, and one of the
most gallant that befel in these parts ; one of the last, because the most
high, mighty, and magnificent empress, renowned for piety, virtue, and all
gracious government, Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, Queen of England,
France, and Ireland, and of Virginia, Defender of the Faith, &e., was well
stricken in years, and had not much longer to wear an earthly crown; and one
of the most gallant, becausc the basement of the motive from which it sprung
was not laid in the mire of an evil desire for outrage, but upon a
philanthropic sympathy toward a kinsman, who, as he and they believed, had
been foully dealt with.
He called about him forty
stalwart marchmen, all of his own name, saving only the knight Sir Gilbert
Elliot, Laird ofStobs; and these assembled in right order for the
enterprise, bravely vestured with spur on heel and splcnt on spauld, with
glaives of green, and with feathers o1 blue. He marshaled them by fives,
that they might proceed with the greater discipline and surety; two com-kinmont's
rescue.panies of five each led the van, bearing bright bugles and
hunting-horns: then came Buccleuch himself, flanked by five and five on
either hand, armed at all points like Warders1 men arrayed for fight; after
that there were ten of them carrying ladders for the purpose of scaling the
walls, all of them wearing the semblance of half a score working masons; and
lastly, there came twice five, who, like broken men, or men of no
consideration, dispersed themselves about to act as discoverers against
Thus they departed away from
Branksome, and thus they attained to the Woodhouselee, a house on the border
of Buccleuch's territory.
Nine-and-twenty knights of
fame hung their shields in Branksome Hall; — nine-and-twenty squires of name
brought them their steeds from bower to stall; — nine-and-twenty yeomen
tall, waited duteous, on them all: they were all knights of mettle
true—kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch. Thus the reader will easily conceive how
puissant a chieftain lived in this castelet, and how strong a consanguineous
force he could back an argument with against his foe.
Such was the disordered state
of the times, that these warriors, for the most part, stood ready harnessed
in steel, or else when they lay down to sleep they, pillowed their helmets
(with their heads inside) upon their cold and hard blucklers. They sat down
to the oaken table at banquet time with their gauntlets about their wrists;
their horses stood ready caparisoned at need ; and a vigilant watch toward
England was kept up at night,—such was the custom of Branksome Hall. But if
ye be curious to learn more touching the customs of this great Bastle-house,
we refer ye to the Lay that whilom was sung by the Last Minstrel of the
clan. They then crossed the Debateable Land, and entered into England, when
who should be the very first man they met, but the false Sakelde himself!—
he forsooth, that had foully taken Willie of Kinmont ! Credat Lector !—but
it is recorded true in history—and, what is better, in tradition too.
"Where are ye going ye keen
hunters?" said he to the first ten, who he perceived were furnished with
horns and bugles.
"We are going to hunt an
English stag," was the ready answer/-"that has trespassed on the Scots1
After that he perceived the
next decade bearing Jedworth axes and smutty craekis of war. "And where are
you going ?" cried he, "come, tell me true, ye marshalmen?"
"We are going to catch a rank
rover," was their reply, "who has broken faith with the bold Buccleuch."
Then followed the
pseudo-masons bearing the tall scaling ladders upon their shoulders ; and
these might have readily excited his surprise. He accosted them
incontinently with a similar demand, and they, too, were prepared for him:—
"Where are ye going, ye mason
lads, with your long and high ladders?"
"Oh," returned they, "we are
going to herry a corbie's nest, that rides in the wind high upon a tree-top
not far from Woodhouselee."
This seemed all very good and
very passable; and lastly, amongst the company, he eucountered the
"And now, ye broken men, come
tell me whither ye are going?"
But here the answer was not
so mysterious or evasive; neither was it a blunt answer that was returned to
him, but rather the contrary ; and if it were not a blunt answer, it was
peradventure a short one.
The legend saith, that one
Dickie of Deghope was the leader of this band; a man not given to words, and
one who, nevertheless, could scarcely be called a peaceable man ; he was a
plain blunt man, like Antony, having neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
action nor utterance, nor the power of speech to stir men's blood with
flossy declamation: he was no orator, as Brutus was, but only spoke right
on;—and in this instance he used cutting words indeed. A sudden paroxysm of
choler appears to have seized upon the false Sakelde against these
borderers; for if his demeanour had hitherto been at all courteous,
assuredly now, the spirit of his bearing had changed to rough.
"Why trespass ye," cried he,
"on the English side, ye raw-footed outlaws?"
He had better have schooled
his speech to a more gentle tenour ! but in a voice of thunder he added the
single imperative word, "Stand! "
Now these "raw-footed
outlaws," had no idea of listening unmoved to such terms; wherefore Dickie,
without taxing his tongue to answer a syllable, forthwith ran his long lance
into his body —aye, right through and through, in on one side and out at the
This chevisance having been
accomplished, and the false Sakelde having been amply regnerdoned for his
former misdeeds, the whole company held on their way for Carlisle, leaving
him quiet on the moss, and "as dead as a nayle-doore."
They crossed the river Eden
at Staneshaw bank ; but the waters were high and the fords were deep, and
wonder it was that man and horse were not carried away to destruction ; but
praised be Ourisk the Bogle of the muir, the flood Kelpie Gilpin Horner, and
the rest of that fraternity, they landed safe on the opposite rivage,
without any loss whatsoever. Here they took the precaution of leaving their
steeds, and of proceeding on foot, lest they should stamp or neigh, and
thereby betray them to the sentinels. The wind was blowing, and the
surcharged clouds were weeping plenteously upon their heads; it was a wild
and blustrous night; but the hardy Scots cared little for the elements, so
they compassed their purpose.
When they came under the
castle wall, they held their breath and crept stealthily upon their knees:
they placed their ladders from the slope even up to the top of the
battlements; and, so eager was Buccleuch himself, that he was the first to
mount. On jumping upon the leads, the bold leader encountered the watchman:
him he seized by the throat, and overcame with an iron-bound grasp, at the
same time telling him that had there not been peace between the two
kingdoms, it should have gone harder with him; but now, for the nonce, his
life was still his own. Here have we another mention of his clemency in
sparing this man's life; the Sotchman's aim not being murder and revengement,
but the rescue of his countryman only.
"Now, sound our trumpet,"
cried he to his followers, who by this time were on the leads around him:
"now let us waken up Lord Scroop right merrily," and the brazen blast tore
along through the still passages of the fortress, and drummed upon the ears
of the startled sleepers. This was speedily answered by the grating
resonance of the warder's horn, a sound of alarum that roused every one from
drowsy forgetfulnes to life, activity, and amazement. In a moment every
couch was deserted—every wight used his legs to fetch his arms, hastily
running he scarce knew whither, to meet he knew not what foe.
"Who is it that dares meddle
with me?" roared the Lord Scroop at the top of his voice: but the forty
marchmen raised the slogan one and all, and the terror-stricken English,
hardly having yet shaken off the remembrance of their dreams, believed that
King James and his whole Scottish army were amongst them.
Buccleuch and his men
immediately cut a hole in the lead on the roof, and through this they let
themselves down withinside: they first went to the hall bearing every
obstacle before them ; and albeit there were a thousand warriors garrisoned
there in the castle, such was their surprise, such the darkness, and such
the panic, that their invaders were allowed to sweep forward like a torrent.
With coultcrs taken from the plough, and with massy fore-hammers, they beat
down doors, partitions, and stout bars, irresistibly breaking their way
onward to the inner prison. When they had wrenched out the bolts and the
beams that had so strongly sealed up this dismal dungeon, there of a truth
they discovered the wretched prisoner who had been adjudged to die at
"Are you asleep, or are you
awake, Willie o' Kinmont, now on the morning when you are doomed to die ?"
"Oh!" returned he resolutely,
for he thought it was the executioner come to lead him forth ; " Oh ! I
sleep softly, though I wake sometimes; it is a long while since my foes were
able to scare sleep away from me. Give my service back to my wife and bairns
in Scotland, and to all the good fellows that ask after me—and then you
shall see how a brave man can die on the Hairibee."
But Willie was soon better
instructed in the personage of his visitor, and cheerily enlightened as to
the veritable state of the matter in his favour: the vision of the hangman
dissolved away before his mind when the actual form of his ancient friend
Red Rowan stood beside him, and with his eloquent tongue poured welcome news
of his deliverance into his hungry ears.
This "starkest man in
Teviotdale," as the ballad calls him, was then hoisted up from his noisome
cell, and was being led away in triumph towards the scaling ladders still
leaning against the embrasures of the battlements, that he might see the
outside of the walls, whereon the sun would shine bright, as soon as the orb
of day should climb over the eastern hill: but he cried out to his comrades
to stint their haste for a space, saying, forsooth, that it would be an
uncourteous thing not to bid the Lord Scroop good-night, before he departed
from his lodgings.
This act of civility being
well commended, he forthwith sought the presence; and when he stood fronting
the blustrous warden, he exclaimed,— "Farewell, farewell! my gude Lord
Scroop; we will now part company for this present if it consort with your
liking; but believe me, I will bounteously pay you my rent here, the very
first time that we meet on the other side of the border." And with these
words he turned about and made for the leads.
But the irons that had been
riveted on his legs so hindered his walking, that Red Rowan mounted him upon
his shoulders, and with a shout of exultation, bore him down the ladder and
along the flats, whilst the irons clanked loudly as Rowan ran.
"Many a time," quoth Kinmont
Willie, "have I ridden a horse; but a rougher beast than this, I ween my
legs never bestrode."
No matter—on they went
joyously through brake and through dingle, through the sedges and reeds that
covered the low grounds, and through the gullies and pools that lay in their
rugged course:—"And many a time," said he again, "have I pricked a horse out
over the furrows, but since the first day I backed a steed, 1 never yet wore
such a cumbrous pair of spurs."
But the castellain, whom they
had left behind, was not idle, nor did he purpose suffering him to escape
scot-free in this fashion.
Scarcely had they attained to
the Staneshaw bank, with the intention of recrossing the Eden, than they
heard all the alarum bells of the cathedral and churches of Carlisle toll
loudly to rouse the citizens to arms and pursuit. But, like Susannah, " they
got the start and kept it," although their pursuers were close upon their
dieels when they had proceeded thus far. On arriving at the margin of this
stream, up came my Lord Scroop, backed with a thousand horse and foot,
netted in chain mail, and tiled over with plates of steel, upon the polished
faces of which the first rays of the nascent morning were begin-ing to fall.
On moved the host over the heath, like a giant porcupine, whose prickly back
was bristled with pikes, halberds, and spears, pointing to the sky. Yet the
bold Buccleuch, still keeping what he had before got—that is the start,—
plunged into the swollen river, now crowned to the brim by recent rains, and
swam safely over in the face of this army, together with the whoie of his
company. Being on the other side, he turned him round to his pursuer, and
addressed to him these words
"If ye like my visit in merry
England, in fair Scotland come visit me."
My Lord Scroop is represented
as being not a little astonished at what he had conceived to have been an
impossible feat in the then state of the torrent; for it was on the 13th of
April, immediately after a vast fall of rain, such as sometimes comes down
in the north during the early spring.
"He stood as still as a rock
of stane," marveling at the hazardry of his foes; and then turning to one
that stood beside him he observed—
"He is either himself a devil
fra hell, or else his mother a witch maun be; I would na have ridden that
wan water for all the gold in Chris-tentie."
Bishop Spottiswood, to whom
we have alluded in the beginning of this chapter, says that the Scotts found
their scaling ladders too short for mounting over the battlements; and that
they, in consequence, effected an entry near the postern door by means of
crowbars, wrenching-irons, and the like. He also says, that they amounted in
all to two hundred horse, and not to merely forty diversely-attired men as
above related. The bishop, howbeit, is only an authentic historian, and not
deserving of any credit, whereas the other account is pure tradition, and
poetry all written in verse. The courteous and most discerning reader may,
therefore, easily judge of what is likely to be the real truth.
The historian proceeds to say
that — "The Queen of England, having notice sent her of what was done,
stormed not a little. One of her chief castles surprised, a prisoner carried
away, so far within England, she esteemed a great affront. The lieger, Mr.
Bowes, in a frequent convention kept at Edinburgh, the 22nd of May, (the
same year, 1596,) did, as he was charged, in a long oration, aggravate the
heinousness of the fact, concluding that peace could not longer continue
betwixt the two realms, unless Buccleuch were delivered in England, to be
punished at the queen's pleasure.
"Buccleuch compearing, and
charged with the fact, made answere—' That he went not into Eng-lande with
intention to assault any of the queen's houses, or to do wrong to any of her
subjects, but only to relieve a subject of Scotland unlawfully taken, and
more unlawfully detained; that, in the time of a general assurance, in a day
of truce, he was taken prisoner against all order; neither did he attempt
his reliefe till redresse was refused ; and that he had carried the business
in such a moderate manner, as no hostilitye was committed, nor the least
wrong offered to any within the castle. Yet was he content, accordinge to
the ancient treaties observed between the two realms, when as mutual
injuries were alleged, to be tried by the commissioners that it should
please their majesties to appoint, and submit himself to that which they
This was considered quite
satisfactory to all hut the haughty Elizabeth. The matter was again
negociated—put off—the Laird amused himself with other raids pendente lite—commissioners
were once more appointed—James was fidgety and testy — Elizabeth passionate
— and finally Buccleuch rendered himself up at St. Andrews. He was
afterwards conducted into England, where we conclude that the
misunderstanding was adjusted without much difficulty; for we see him soon
liberated from restraint, and free to return home. Wherefore he directed his
course northward, re-crossed the border, and once again found himself the
undisputed Laird of Branksome ; — and so ended this business.
Although the untractable
spirit of the Dalesmen on the borders had given way in a slight degree to a
more peaceable demeanour since James VI. had become James 1., they still, at
times, as the politics, or state of affairs, or contentions, in either or
both kingdoms allowed, were ever ready to fall to their old practices. As
both sides of the frontier were inhabited by a population which acknowledged
themselves as subjects to the same king, that principle of animosity which
had whilome subsisted betwixt men of different interests, and
differently-placed allegiance, was now in a material degree expunged ; and
add to this, the articles which were agreed upon by the commissioners sent
for the purpose, by which all persons who were not gentlemen of rank and
repute, were obliged to surrender their offensive weapons and deadly
missiles of war ; it was recommended that all feuds should in future be made
up by mutual agreement and the arbitrement of friends, instead of resorting
to fierce combat as of old ; that those who obstinately refused this counsel
should be heavily mulcted; that all thieves and robbers should be punished
with death ; and it was enacted, " that all inhabiting within Tindale and
Riddesdale in Northumberland, Bewcastledale, Wilgavey, the north part of
Gilsland, Esk and Leven in Cumberland, East and West Tevidale, Liddesdale,
Eskdale, Ews-dale, and Annerdale, in Scotland, (saving noblemen and
gentlemen unsuspected of felony or theft, and not being of broken clans,)
and their household servants dwelling within those several places before
recited, shall put away all armour and weapons, daggers, steel-caps, hagbuts,
pistols, plate sleeves, and such like; and shall not keep any horse,
gelding, or mare above the price of fifty shillings sterling, or thirty
pounds Scots, upon like pain of imprisonment.
"Item,—That proclamation be
made, that none of what calling soever, within the countries lately called
the Borders of either of the kingdoms, shall wear, carry, or bear any
pistols, hagbuts, or guns of any sort, but in his majesty's service, upon
pain of imprisonment, according to the laws of either kingdom."
These were very precautionary
and judicious enactments, but " the final Pacification of the Borders," as
it was called, was not so "final," and immediate as was intended. Men, who
all their lives had been brought up to hold law at defiance, and who had
been nurtured on the proceeds of rapine, were not likely to respect it all
at once: and thus we find, that, during the troublous reign of Charles I.,
even so long as forty years after these regulations had been made, the
mosstroopers readily resumed their ancient pastime by making raids and
forays over the frontier.
In the reign of Charles II.,
as also during the usurpation of Cromwell, we learn their existence still
continued, by the statutes directed against them. In the Essay on Border
Antiquities, a letter from Cromwell's head-quarters at Edinburgh is quoted,
in which this is mentioned. "My last," says the writer, "told you of a
letter to be sent to Colonels Kerr and Straughan, from hence. Satturday the
26th, the commissary-general tlis-patcht away a trumpet with that letter, as
also gave another to the Sheriff of Cumberland, to be speeded away to M.
John Scot, bailiff, and B., brother to the Lord of Buccliew, for his
demanding restitution upon his tenants the moss-troopers, for the horses by
them stolne the night we quartered in their country, since which, promises
hath been made of restitution, and we doubt not to receive it very suddenly,
or else to take satisfaction another way ourselves."
If it has ever taken three
generations to make a gentleman, so also, it took quite as many to make an
honest man out of a Liddesdale thief.
Charles II. found it
necessary to proceed against them by divers legal enactments, the preambles
of which all stated in substance — "Whereas, a great number of lewd,,
disorderly, and lawless persons, being thieves and robbers, who are commonly
called moss-troopers, have successively for many years past been bred,
resided in, and frequented the borders of the two respective counties of
Northumberland and Cumberland, and the most adjacent parts of Scotland; and
they, taking the opportunity of the large waste ground, heaths, and mosses,
and the many intricate dangerous ways and by-paths in those parts, do
usually, after the most notorious crimes committed by them, escape over from
the one kingdom to the other respectively, and so avoid the hand of justice,
in regard the offences done and perpetrated in the one kingdom cannot be
punished in the other.
"And whereas, since the time
of the late unhappy distractions, such offences and offenders as aforesaid
have exceedingly more increased and abounded; and the several inhabitants of
the said respective counties have been, for divers years last past,
necessitated, at their own free and voluntary charge, to maintain several
parties of horse for the necessary defence of their persons, families, and
goods, and for bringing the offenders to justice." Upon this preamble follow
orders for assessing the inhabitants of these disturbed districts in the
sums requisite for paying a body of men, which should be efficiently armed
and appointed, to keep peace and safety throughout the frontier.
However fanatical and
righteous-over-mueh the non-conformist preachers might have been, however
ultra-vehement, and however unnecessarily enthusiastic they might have
displayed themselves, certain it is, they were the first who worked a
beneficial alteration in the morals of this misgoverned race of outlaws ;
for such appears evident from a passage in the life of Richard Cameron, that
same who gave name to the sect yeleped Cameronians.
"After he was licensed, they
sent him at first to preach in Annandale. He .said, how could he go there ?
He knew not what sort of people they were. But Mr. Welch said, ' Go your
way, Ritchie, and set the fire of hell to their tails.1 He went, and the
first day he preached upon the text, Ilow shall I put thee among the
children, See. In the application he said, ' Put you among the children !
the offspring of robbers and thieve* Many have heard of Annandale thieves.
Some of them got a merciful east that day, and told it afterwards, that it
was the first field-meeting that ever they attended ; and that they went out
of curiosity to see how a minister could preach in a tent, and people sit on
the ground.' "
If we may believe Cleland, a
Cameronian himself, we may, in the first place, conceive the depravity of
these "Tacking Men," or arrant rogues, and afterwards their wholesome
conversion. He says,—
"For instance, lately on the
Borders, There was nought but theft and murders, Rapine, cheating, and
resetting, Slight-of-hand—and fortunes getting: Their designation as ye ken,
Was all along, the Tacking Men."
Further on he proceeds to
notice the great change that had come over them, and how eagerly they sought
after the itinerant preachers:
"Yea, those that were the
Follow them over hills and bogues,
Crying for mercy and for preaching,
For they'll now hear no others' teaching."
Cleland's Poems, 1697, p. 30.