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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
IV. Bond of Alliance or Feud-Staunching, Betwixt the Clans of Scot and Ker: A.D. 1529


In his introduction to Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Sir Walter Scott says Home of Wedderburn cruelly butchered and cut off the head of De la Bastie, who had been appointed Warden of the East Marches by Albany, Regent in the minority of James V, and, in savage triumph, Wedderburn knitted the head to his saddle-bow by the long flowing hair. The Earl of Arran head of the house of Hamilton, was appointed to succeed De la Bastie as Warden . "But the Douglases, the Homes, and the Kerrs, proved too strong for him upon the Border. He was routed by those clans at Kelso, and afterwards in a sharp skirmish, fought betwixt his faction and that of Angus, Earl of Douglas, in the High Street of the metropolis.

The return of the regent was followed by the banishment of Angus, and by a desultory warfare with England, carried on with mutual incursions. Two gallant armies, levied by Albany, were dismissed without any exploit worthy notice, while Surrey, at the head of ten thousand cavalry, burnt Jedburgh, and laid waste all Tiviotdale. This general pays a splendid tribute to the gallantry of the Border chiefs. He terms them, "The boldest men and the hottest, that ever I saw in any nation."

Disgraced and detested, Albany bade adieu to Scotland for ever. The queen-mother and the Earl of Arran for some time swayed the kingdom. But their power was despised on the Borders, where Angus, though banished, had many friends. Scott of Buccleuch even appropriated to himself domains belonging to the queen, worth 400 merks yearly; being probably the castle of Newark, and her jointure lands in Ettrick forest. This chief, with Kerr of Cessford, was committed to ward, from which they escaped, to join the exiled Angus. Leagued with these, and other Border chiefs, Angus effected his return to Scotland, where he shortly after acquired possession of the supreme power, and of the person of the youthful king. ‘The ancient power of the Douglasses’ says the accurate historian whom I have so often referred to, ‘seemed to have revived; and, after a slumber of near a century, again to threaten destruction to the Scottish monarchy.’ – Pinkerton, vol. Ii p.277

In fact, the time now returned, when no one durst strive with a Douglas, or with his follower. For, although Angus used the outward pageant of conducting the King around the country, for punishing thieves and traitors, ‘yet,’ says Piscottie, ‘none were found greater than were in his own company.’ The high spirit of the young King was galled by the ignominious restraint under which he found himself; and, in a progress to the Border, for repressing the Armstrongs, he probably gave such signs of dissatisfaction, as excited the Laird of Buccleuch to attempt his rescue.

This powerful baron was the chief of a hardy clan, inhabiting Ettrick Forest, Eskdale, Ewsdale, the higher part of Tiviotdale, and a portion of Liddesdale. In this warlike district he easily levied a thousand horse, comprehending a large body of Elliots, Armstrongs, and other broken clans, over whom the Laird of Buccleuch exercised an extensive authority being termed, by Lord Dacre, ‘chief maintainer of all misguided men on the Borders of Scotland.’ – Letter to Wolsey, July 18, 1528. The Earl of Angus, with his reluctant ward, had slept at Melrose, and the clans of Home and Kerr, under the Lord Home, and the Barons of Cessford and Fairnihirst, had taken their leave of the King, when in the gray of the morning, Buccleuch and his band of cavalry were discovered hanging, like a thunder-cloud, upon the neighbouring hill of Haliden. A herald was sent to demand his purpose, and to charge him to retire. To the first point he answered, that he came to show his clan to the King, according to the custom of the Borders; to the second, that he knew the King’s mind better than Angus. When this haughty answer was reported to the Earl, ‘Sir,’ said he to the King, ‘yonder is Buccleuch, with the thieves of Annandale and Liddesdale, to bar your grace’s passage. I vow to God they shall either fight or flee. Your grace shall tarry on this hillock with my brother George; and I will either clear your road of yonder banditti, or die in the attempt.’ The Earl, with these words, alighted, and hastened to the charge; while the Earl of Lennox ( at whose instigation Buccleuch made the attempt) remained with the King, an inactive spectator. Buccleuch and his followers likewise dismounted and received the assailants with a dreadful shout, and a shower of lances. The encounter was fierce and obstinate but the Homes and Kerrs, returning at the noise of the battle, bore down and dispersed the left wing of Buccleuch’s little army. The hired banditti fled on all sides; but the chief himself, surrounded by his clan, fought desperately in the retreat. The Laird of Cessford, chief of the Roxburgh Kerrs, pursued the chase fiercely; till, at the bottom of a steep path, Elliot of Stobs, a follower of Buccleuch, turned, and slew him with a stroke of his lance. When Cessford fell, the pursuit ceased. But his death, with those of Buccleuch’s friends, who fell in the action, to the number of eighty, occasioned a deadly feud betwixt the names of Scott and Kerr, which cost much blood upon the Marches."


The following indenture was designed to reconcile their quarrel. But the alliance, if it ever took effect, was not of long duration; for the feud again broke out about 1553, when Sir Walter Scott
(of that era) was slain by the Kers in the streets of Edinburgh.

"Thir indentures, made at Ancrum the 16th of March, 1529 years, contains, purports, and bears leil and suithfast witnessing. That it is appointed and agreed, and finally accorded, betwixt honourable men, that is to say, Walter Ker of Cessford, Andrew Ker of Fairnieherst, Mark Ker of Dophinston, George Ker tutor of Cessford, Andrew Ker of Primesideloch, for themselves, kin, friends, mentenants, assisters, allies, adherents, and partakers, on the one part; and Walter Scot of Branxholm, knight, Robert Scot of Allanhaugh, Robert Scot tutor of Howpaisly, John Scot of Roberton, and Walter Scot of Stirkshawe, for themselves, their kin, friends, mentenants, servants, assisters, and adherents, on the other part; in manner, form, and effect, as after follows: For staunching all discord and variance betwixt them, and for furtherbearing of the king’s authority, and punishing trespassers, and for amending all slaughters, heritages, and steedings, and all other pleas concerning thereto, either of these parties to others, and for unitie, friendship, and concord, to be had in time coming, ‘twixt them, of our sovereign lord’s special command: that is to say, either of the said parties, be the tenor hereof, remits and forgives to others the rancour, hatred and malice of their hearts: and the said Walter Scot of Branxholm shall gang, or cause gang, at the will of the party, to the four head pilgrimages of Scotland* and shall say a mass for the souls of umquhile Andrew Ker of Cessford, and them that were slain in his company, in the field of Melrose; and, upon his expense shall cause a chaplain say a mass daily, when he is disposed, in what place the said Walter Ker and his friends next to come. – Mark Ker of Dolphinstone, Andrew Ker of Graden, shall gang at the will of the party to the four head pilgrimages of Scotland, and shall gar say a mass for the souls of umquihile James Scot of Eskirk, and other Scots, their friends, slain in the field of Melrose; and, upon their expense, shall gar a chaplain say a mass daily, when he is disposed for the heal of their souls, where the said Walter Scot and his friends pleases, for the space of three years next to come; and the said Walter Scot of Branxholm shall marry his son and heir upon one of the said Walter Ker his sisters; he paying therefore a competent portion to the said Walter Ker and his heir, at the sight of the friends of baith parties. And also, baith the saids parties bind and oblige them, be the faith and truth of their bodies, that they abide at the decreet and deliverance of the six men chosen arbiters, anent all other matters, quarrels, actiones and debates, whilk either of them likes to propone against others betwixt the saids parties; and also the six arbiters are bound and obliged to decreet and deliver, and give forth their deliverance thereuntil, within the year and day of the date hereof. – And, attour, either of the saids parties bind and oblige them, by the faith and truth of their bodies, ilk ane to others, that they shall be leil and true to others, and neither of them will another’s skaith, but they shall lett it at their power, and give to others their best counsel, and it be asked; and shall take leil and aeffald part ilk ane with others, with their kin, friends, servants, allies, and partakers, in all and sundry their actions, quarrels, and debates, against all that live and die (may the allegiance of our sovereign lord and king allenarly be excepted.) And for the obliging and keeping all thir premises above written, baith the saids parties are bound and obliged, ilk ane to others, be the faith and truth of their bodies, but fraud or guile, under the pain of perjury, men-swearing, defalication, and breaking of the bond of deadly. And, in witness of the whilk, ilk ane to the procuratory of this indenture remain with the said Walter Scot and his friends, the said Walter Ker of Cessford has affixed his proper seal, with his subscription manual, and with the subscription of the said Andrew Ker of Fairnieherst, Mark Ker of Dolphinston, George Ker tutor of Cessford, and Andrew Ker of Primesidelock, before these witnesses, Mr. Andrew Drurie, Abbot of Melrose, and George Douglas of Boonjedward, John Riddel of that ilk, and William Stewart.

Sic Subscribitur,

WALTER KER of Cessford
ANDREW KER of Fairnieherst
MARK KER
GEORGE KER
ANDREW KER of Primesideloch

* These pilgrimages were Scone, Dundee, Paisley, and Melrose.


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