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A History of the Border Counties
Chapter XIII


With the Union of the Crowns in 1603 Border history, properly so called, comes to an end, for, strictly speaking, there is no longer a Border. Contemporary documents allude instead to “ his Majesty’s late Border,” whilst the Border counties are to be known henceforth as “ the Middle Shires.” The Border laws are repealed as an anachronism, and all that legislation can do to promote cordial relations between the two countries is done. Acts of Oblivion are passed, national disabilities and restrictions on international commerce are removed, and it is agreed that inhabitants of either country bom after the present date shall no longer be regarded as aliens in the other. All this is good, but unfortunately it was beyond the power of legislation to alter at one stroke the ingrained and transmitted character of a considerable section of the community. To the average Borderer the succession of the Scottish king to the English throne would appear in the light of a merely casual and extraneous occurrence, and a new generation had to grow up, and a terribly severe discipline to be undergone, before the character of the Borders was in reality modified.

Already, ere James had well left behind him his own dominions on his triumphal progress to his new capital, he found himself again confronted by the Border question. “Elliots and Armstrongs ride thieves all,” says the Border proverb. These families had therefore a strong interest in maintaining the status quo, and no sooner Rad the news of Elizabeth’s death reached them than, calculating upon a period of national demoralisation, they united in a raid upon the English Border, extending their devastations as far as to Penrith. In this expedition all the headmen of the Armstrongs were engaged, including Mangerton, Wbkhaugh and his son, and “ all the Armstrongs they could make.” But a swift retribution overtook them. James, who was at Berwick at the time, at once commissioned Sir William Selby, captain of that town, to raise the Borders, Scottish as well as English, against the raiders. Sir William then swept through Liddesdale, wasting the lands and blowing up the strongholds of the offenders, and carrying off several of themselves to execution at Carlisle. So severe, indeed, was the visitation that the clan Armstrong is supposed never to have rallied from it. Certainly from this time forward they disappear from prominence in the Border country, their lands for the most part passing into possession of the Buccleuch family. The king had good reason to congratulate himself upon his promptitude on this occasion, for so general had been the inclination on the Border to protest against the Union, that the interval between the death of Elizabeth and his own accession became known there in after times as the “Busy Week,” or the “In Week.”  Perhaps, on the whole, James’s work on the Borders has hardly received due recognition. Among English historians he has always been unpopular, and certainly his character seems to have degenerated under the influence of wealth and ease. But, besides the credit which he deserves for schemes and for measures intended to draw closer the union of the countries at large, it must be admitted that his conduct in the pacification of the marches was resolute and energetic even to a fault.

For the onslaught on the Armstrongs was but the first of a succession of more or less drastic proceedings directed towards similar ends. Thus, in the beginning of 1605, a commission was appointed to reduce the Borders to order. It consisted of five English and five Scottish members, and was furnished with ample powers, and with jurisdiction over both sides of the Border. The king’s instructions to the commissioners include the suppression of all deadly feuds, the delivery of fugitives from one country to the other, and the expulsion of 'die vagabonds from the bounds of the commission. All who are held to be beyond hope of amendment may be removed to some other place, “ where the change of aire will make in them a change of their manners ”; and finally, the commissioners are empowered to disarm the broken people of the arms which have served them “ in their lewd actions.”

These powers were not merely rigorously but ruthlessly employed, and a period of dragooning and of judicial tyranny was inaugurated which was productive probably of as much misery as the worst disorder the Borders had known. It was the inevitable Nemesis of three hundred years of lawlessness. The character of the clan Graeme has been described upon a previous page. Among the lawless they were perhaps the most lawless, and it was resolved to make them an example by enforcing against them the “ change of air ” statute. Some forty or fifty families of the name were accordingly deported to the county 'Roscommon in Connaught, where they suffered untold hardships.2 Others capable of being turned into soldiers were transferred to the seat of war in the Low Countries. Next, to take the place of the old warden courts, special courts of justice were now held at such Border towns as Hawick, Jedburgh, and Peebles, where many Borderers were tried and executed or banished. James’s chief instrument in these dealings was the dark and unscrupulous though able George Home, now Earl of Dunbar, who soon became head of the Scottish Border commissioners, and whose summary method of judicial procedure is said to have originated the phrase “ Jethart justice —hang first and try afterwards.” For such suspected persons as could not readily be got into the courts, a troop of horsemen under Sir William Cranstoun was employed to scour the neighbouring country; and if there were any difficulty or danger in bringing the persons thus captured to justice, they would be hanged, without scruple as without trial, on the spot. For all acts of this description Cranstoun received a special justification and indemnity from the king. Besides this, a proclamation was issued to the inhabitants of certain Border districts, including Liddesdale and Teviotdale, directing that all save noblemen and gentlemen and their household servants, not belonging to broken clans and being unsuspected of theft or felony, should put away all manner of armour and weapons, both offensive and defensive, and forbidding them to keep any horse above the value of 50s. sterling. In such manner was it sought to strike at the “riding” tendencies of the Borderers. Even the nobles and gentlemen excepted from the terms of the proclamation were forbidden to carry pistols, hagbuts, or guns of any sort. Further, it was ordained that the iron gates, used as a means of defence in the houses of members of the broken or disordered clans, should be transformed into ploughs or other useful implements. Under such discipline as this one can scarcely wonder if many Borderers are said to have fled their native country.

As the king did not find it possible or convenient to fulfil his original intention of visiting Scotland every third year, it fell to his Ministers in that country to keep him posted as to the results of remedial measures on the Border. Thus in 1606, when Dunbar, after holding two justiciary courts, had caused hang above 140 of the “nimblest and most powerful thieves in all the Borders,” the Chancellor, Seton of Dunfermline, wrote to his Majesty that that district was now “ satled far by onything that ever has been done before.” Alas! the Chancellor’s gratulation was premature. The services of the terrible commissioner for the Borders had again to be called in, and this time Dunfermline writes to his royal master, in suitably inflated and pedantic phrase, that “ My Lord Dunbar has had special care to repress on the Borders the insolence of all the proud bandsters, oppressors, and nembroths [Nimrods],” having purged the district of all such “chiefest malefactors, robbers, and brigands as were wont to reign and triumph there,” “ as clean as Hercules sometime is written to have purged Augeas, the King of Elide, his escuries”; and, by cutting off the “laird of Tynwald, Maxwell, sundry Douglases, Johnstons, Armstrongs, Beatsons, and sic others, magni nominis luces” has rendered the ways and passages between the two kingdoms “ as free and peaceable as Phoebus in old times made free and open the ways to his own oracle in Delphos, and to his Pythic plays and ceremonies, by the destruction of Phorbas and his Phlegians, all thieves, voleurs, bandsters, and throat-cutters.”  This was a pretty tale well told, and the writer sums it up by asserting that the Borders are now as lawful, as peaceable, and as quiet as any part in any civil kingdom of Christendom. But again, alas! the mischief of centuries is not to be so quickly undone even by help of the most stringent repressive measures, and ere long the king is approached by the better-disposed among his Border subjects with a petition setting forth that a long list of enormities — including “daily bloodsheds, oppression, and disobedience in civil matters”—neither are nor have been punished; that there is no more account made of going to the horn than to the alehouse, and that if diligent search be made there will still be found in the Borders a great number of people “without any calling, industry, or lawful means to live by except it be upon the blood of the poorest and most obedient sort”

In these deplorable circumstances, it is satisfactory to see influential Borderers range themselves actively upon the side of law and order. Thus in 1612 we find Scott of Harden, Scott of Tushielaw, Scott of Stirkfield, Gledstanes of Cocklaw, Elliot of Falnash, and others, binding themselves, at a meeting held at Jedburgh, to do all in their power to end the deeds of bloodshed and robbery to which the district had so long been a prey—agreeing to make no exception in favour of their own tenants and dependants when guilty, and, in case of flight, to deprive them of their tacks and steadings. Any landlord who failed to act up to this agreement was to be held to participate in the guilt of the original offence. This bond had the concurrence of the State officers, and the warm approval of the king, as a notable step towards that suppression of the “ infamous byke of lawless limmers ”  on which his heart was set. Nor were gentler measures untried, for in the same year an Act of Parliament freed and exonerated all inhabitants of the Scottish Borders, with certain specified exceptions, “ of all actions of spoliatioun and wrangus intromissioun, with whatsomevir goods and geare spuilzeit and intromettit,” whether by themselves or their predecessors, prior to the date of his Majesty’s accession to the English throne.

Now that plunder as a means of livelihood was no longer to be tolerated, the disposal of a population too numerous for the resources of the soil—neglected as in times past these had been—became a problem which pressed for solution. Besides affording an opportunity for turbulent spirits to work off superfluous pugnacity, the foreign wars were recognised as a means of relief in this congestion. Accordingly, in 1620, 120 broken men from the Borders were sent by order of the Privy Council to serve in the campaigns of James’s son-in-law, the King of Bohemia. Ere this, in 1604, the Laird of Buccleuch, becoming dissatisfied with the tameness of the prospects now held out by life at home, had betaken himself with 200 followers to the Netherlands, there to lend his support to the famous Maurice of Nassau,

Prince of Orange, in the struggle of the United Provinces against Spanish tyranny. He himself remained but a short time on the Continent, but his company seems to have entered permanently into the service of the States-General. Nor was he the only representative of his family to divert the military enterprise of the Borders into foreign channels, for in 1627 his son, the first earl of the name, carried over to Holland a detachment of his countrymen, among whom no fewer than a hundred were said to bear the name of Scott. Among these one at least is still remembered on the Borders — to wit, Captain Walter Scot of Satchells, author of the rhymed ‘ History of the Several Honourable Families of the Right Honourable Name of Scot.’ A great-grandson of the Laird of Sinton, and son of Robert Scot of Satchells, in the parish of Lilliesleaf, by a daughter of Riddell of that Ilk, the future captain spent his boyhood herding cattle, and in his sixteenth year ran away to join the company then being raised by the head of his clan, with which he went abroad. In the long period of fifty-seven years’ soldiering at home and in foreign countries he must certainly have had a varied experience, and one is tempted to wish that he had written about himself rather than his family. But this his modesty perhaps forbade. At any rate, in 1686—when, having returned to Scotland, he settled on the family property and set to work to write his book—he is content to describe himself on the title-page as—

“An old Souldier and no Scholler,
And ane that can write nane,
But just the letters of his Name.”

This need not necessarily be taken quite literally, for he appears to have suffered from blindness; but in any case the actual writing of the book is said to have been done to his dictation by schoolboys whom he hired for the purpose. To this fact no doubt is due something of its quaintly illiterate character—in despite of which it remains a curiosity justly cherished by Borderers for the mass of local memorabilia which it embodies. Published when the author was seventy-five years of age, it is still from t;me to time reprinted. Of Satchells himself there is little more to tell save that he is said to have married and had a daughter whom he named Gustava, in compliment to the great Protestant leader in the Thirty Years’ War.

Besides the Borderers who entered the foreign military service,' there were doubtless others who went to the Continent to embark as pedlars in the distributing trade—a very popular career at this time among Scotsmen. Others joined in James’s scheme for the colonisation of Nova Scotia, and in fact to this period may probably be attributed—in so far as it affects the Borders—the commencement of that state of matters which came to be expressed in the saying that a Scot is never at home save when abroad. Meantime the country at home witnessed the dawn of many innovations destined to remodel the character of its inhabitants on the lines known to us to-day. Among these, rent — “the very name of which had till this period scarcely been heard upon the Border” — was now beginning to be paid. Hence agriculture was beginning to receive attention. But in this particular, progress for many a year to come was to be of the slowest. The cumbrous wooden plough, drawn sometimes by as many as twelve oxen, still continued in use; whilst the system of cropping was much what it had been for three centuries past. On all sides vast tracts of reclam-able land were allowed to lie waste. “ They have little or nothing enclosed,” says the tourist Lowther, himself a North-countryman, speaking of the country between Ashkirk and Selkirk, “ neither of corn-ground, woods, or meadow.” He adds that hay was scarcely to be met with. A more caustic writer5 does not scruple to say that neither man nor beast knew what it meant.

So much for the culture of the soil. This was an age when schools were being set up all over the country; * but upon the Borders their choicer fruits were slow in ripening. The ‘ Register of Ministers and their Stipends after the Reformation’ has shown us the ministers of Teviotdale and Tweeddale comfortably settled each in his parish or parishes fifty years before the date now reached ; but nearly a century was still to elapse ere a Thomson should first see the light in a Roxburghshire manse. Of course both mentally and materially the gentlemen were on a far higher level than others; but such a correspondence as that of the Earls of Ancram and Lothian  must by no means be held to throw light on the average of education in the Borders. Perhaps most of the mental energy of Scotland was now passing into religious thought. But as little spiritually as intellectually had the middle Border counties begun to stir from their long sleep. At New Abbey on the West March, under the protection of the Maxwells, the persecuted religion of Catholicism still held its own; in other parts of the country James’s reactionary revival of Episcopacy and enforcement of the Five Articles of Perth had encountered some opposition. But, in so far as our evidence enables us to judge, the middle Borderers continued to display the same indifference of religious temper which had characterised them at the Reformation. Long years of anarchy had, in fact, dulled their spiritual sympathies, leaving them indifferent, careless of initiative, and content to go with the stream. Pathetic in its isolation, deeply pathetic in the vision of its authors’ lot, our sole literary garner of these centuries remains comprised within the Border ballads.

One bold act of this period deserves passing mention, especially as the doer was a man whose son was to gain distinction as a Covenanter. To the south-east of Haughead, near Eckford, on a knoll surrounded by a clump of trees, stands a stone which bears the date 1620, and the following inscription:—

“Here Hoby Hall boldly maintained his right
Gainst rief, plain force, armed with lawless might,
For twenty pleughs harnesd in all their gear
Could not his valient noble ht art mak fear !
But with his sword he cut the formoste soam
In two ! hence drove both pleughs and pleughmen home.”

Robert Kerr of Ancram, third son of Sir Andrew Kerr of Fernihirst. Among his correspondents he numbered the poets Donne and Drummond of Hawthornden, whilst he was himself a writer both of original verse and of metrical versions of the Psalms. The (third) Earl of Lothian was his eldest son.

The memory of Hobbie or Robert Hall, Laird of Haughead, survives as that of one distinguished alike for piety and bodily strength. Unfortunately particulars of the occasion commemorated, on which he so doughtily defended his own, are left to the imagination. The ruins of his mansion-house may, however, still be seen, whilst an ash-tree near them used to be pointed out as that beneath whose shade his children were baptised. In him we probably see at least the germ of the later Covenanting spirit, which in the person of Samuel Rutherford, author of the well-known ‘ Letters,’ reached full development. Though far more intimately associated with Galloway, Rutherford was a native of Roxburghshire, being born at the village of Nisbet in 1600. Having graduated in the University of Edinburgh, he was in 1623, on account of his “eminent abilities of mind and virtuous dispositions,” elected Regent or Professor of Humanity. Four years later he was settled as pastor of Anwoth in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, where we shall hear of him again.

But in spite of a few symptoms of better things Border lawlessness died hard, the old untamed spirit still continuing from time to time to reassert itself. In Tweeddale this seems to have been especially the case. “To the end of King James’s life,” says the historian of that county, “ he was destined to hear of nothing but scenes of violence and contempt of law in Peeblesshire,” in support of which assertion a wealth of instances is adduced. Horse-racing was at this period a popular amusement in Scotland. The Peebles meeting was held on Beltane Day, serving now to represent the older discarded merry-making in honour of that festival, to which allusion has already been made. But the concourse of unruly spirits who attended it presented such elements of danger that, in 1608, the Lords of Privy Council found it desirable to prohibit, under severe penalties, the holding of the races.

The following instance of private warfare carried on openly in the streets of the burgh shows that the Council had good grounds for its apprehensions. It happened that one Gavin Thomson had incurred the displeasure of his fellow-burgess, Charles Pringle. As Thomson was walking in sober and inoffensive manner in the High Street of Peebles, Pringle, with nine or ten companions, all armed with lances and whingers, set upon him, and having cruelly wounded him ;n the left hand, compelled him to seek refuge “ within the dwelling-place and lock-fast yetts of Isobel Anderson.” But even here Gavin’s position was anything but a safe one, for his enemies now set to work, “ with great jeists, trees, and fore-hammers,” to break in the gates of his sanctuary, and but for the providential intervention of the minister and other well-affected persons, there is every reason to believe that the fugitive would have been seized and murdered. It was months after this ere he durst show his face abroad, either to attend kirk or market or to go about the business of his farm, and having at last ventured to do so, he was again chased from the High Street by a company armed with drawn swords. He and others who had come to his rescue were wounded, and, having again sought refuge behind locked gates, he was again saved from a siege only by the timely arrival of relief. His assailants were now denounced as rebels by the Privy Council, after which we may perhaps hope rather than believe that he no longer went in fear for his life. Such street scenes as the.above might suggest the Verona of the Middle Ages rather than Peebles in the seventeenth century.

There is abundant evidence that the provision against carrying arms on the Borders was not easy to enforce. Thus in 1611 Robert Horsburgh, burgess of Peebles, complains to the Privy Council that William, son of Philip Scott of Dryhope, with twelve accomplices, came, under cloud and silence of night, to the complainer’s dwelling-house in the said burgh, “quhair he and his familie wer repairing to thair beddis,” and having “ perforce enterit within the said house, and invadit and pursewit him for his bodelie harm and slauchter, gaif him mony bauch, bla, and bluidy straikis on divers pairtis of his bodie,” of purpose to have slain him. Again, in 1616, James Eistoun, burgess of Edinburgh, coming from the Links of Leith, “quhair he had bene recreating himselff at the gowfF,” was set upon by James Tweedy, son of John Tweedy of Dreva, who “invadit him with a drawn sword, gaif furth mony straikis at him, cuttit his hat and cloik, raschit him to the ground, and reft from the complenair his cloub, quhairwith he defendit himselff.” Once more, in 1618, John Govan in Peebles, having invaded William Porteous for his bodily harm and slaughter, and being commanded by Charles Pringle, bailie, to go to ward, not only refused to do so, “ but most insolentlie strak the bailie, and persewit him for his lyff, for the quhilk he being be the nichbouris tane to waird, he causit suche friendis as he had in the said burgh to brek the tolbuith dure, and to tak him out.” In 1620 the provost and bailies of the burgh complain that Beatrix Ker, Lady Gledstanes, with William, Robert, and James, her sons, W’illiam Ker, ploughman, and others, “all bodin in feir of weir,” came “to the commontie of the burgh called Kaidmuir,” where some of the inhabitants were occupied in their lawful affairs upon their own heritage, “ and thair threatnit thame with death gif thay depairtit not the ground,” and did what in them lay to have broken his Majesty’s peace. Yet once more, in 1622, John Tweedy of Winkiston complains that James Patterson in Myreburn in Dreva, accompanied by his son and others, came to Tweedy’s lands, and having driven off a number of cattle from Broughton to the close of Dreva, did there “ with swords and knyves cut the tails and rumples of ten or twelf of the poore beasts, sa shamefullie mangling them that some of them are in danger of their lyves.”  Nor is this the only instance of the odious outrage of cattle-maiming. In 1615 the estate of Howpaslot, long a property of the Scotts, had passed to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig, one of those who had shown themselves most active in the pacification of the Borders. But the Lady of Howpaslot was determined that he should not have the enjoyment of his acquisition. She therefore gave orders to certain of her creatures of the name of Scott, who, finding Drumlanrig’s sheep folded in a cleuch-syde, did, under cover of night, most barbarously and cruelly — “ as savadge and crewall beistis, destitute of naturale reasone ” — with their drawn swords and other weapons run through the whole flock, slaying, laming, and maiming to the number of threescore sheep, whereof some forty were slain by decapitation or by being divided through the middle, and the remainder dismembered and left in a dying condition. There is some satisfaction in recording that of the four miscreants employed in this work, three were condemned to death on the Crown evidence of the fourth—one John Scott, called “the Suckler,” who was himself hanged next year for sheep-stealing.

It is a relief to turn from atrocities such as these—which, in common with the records of De Beaugue, mark the lowest tendencies of the times—to the contemplation of deeds which, however lawless, have about them the saving grace of personal daring. Such were the exploits of William Armstrong, known as “ Christie’s Will,” a Border freebooter born out of his due season. According to Sir Walter Scott, Will was a lineal descendant of the great Johnie Armstrong of the sixteenth century, whose tower of Gilnockie he had inherited. The Earl of Traquair, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland at the time, had earned Will’s gratitude in the following manner. Happening to visit Jedburgh, he had found him confined in the tolbooth on a charge—as the prisoner himself put it— of having stolen two tethers. Further inquiry, however, disclosed the fact that attached to the tethers when stolen were two “delicate colts.” The quaint humour of the freebooter tickled the fancy of Traquair, who forthwith exerted himself to procure his release. The sequel is a variation of the fable of the lion and the mouse. Some time afterwards the Treasurer had a lawsuit before the Court of Session, and there was every reason to believe that the judgment would turn upon the casting vote of Alexander Gibson, Lord Durie— familiar to the legal world as the author of ‘ Durie’s Practicks ’ —who was known to be adverse to him. Hence Durie’s absence from the bench when the cause should come up for decision became to the litigant a matter of devout desire. In this state of affairs he had recourse to Christie’s Will, whose stanchness did not fail him. As Lord Durie was taking the air according to his custom, alone, on horseback, on the sands of Leith, he was accosted by a stranger, who succeeded in inveigling him to an unobserved spot. There the judge was unceremoniously pulled from his saddle, muffled in a cloak, and strapped behind his assailant, who in this manner conveyed him by unfrequented paths to the deserted tower of Graham. Here he was incarcerated in a dungeon, and kept for three months in solitude ard darkness—never once hearing the sound of the human voice save when a shepherd called his dog by the name of Batty, or a woman her cat by that of Maudge. It was an age when the belief in witchcraft flourished with especial vigour, whence the unhappy judge surmised that he was in the power of a warlock, and that the names he heard pronounced were those of familiar spirits. Meantime, his horse having returned home riderless, it was concluded by his friends that he had perished in the sea. His family accordingly went into mourning, and his place upon the bench was filled. In course of time, also, the judgment in Traquair’s suit was given in that gentleman’s favour. After this there was no object for detaining Durie longer, and accordingly he was returned, in the same way in which he had been spirited away, to the very spot where he had first been seized. Great was the surprise of his friends at seeing him again ; but it is said that the judge himself continued to believe that he had been the victim of witchcraft until long afterwards, when chancing to revisit the scene of his imprisonment—of course without recognising it—he heard the well-remembered cries to Batty and Maudge, and the true explanation of the incident dawned upon him.

Will, nevertheless, escaped unpunished, and lived to be useful to Traquair again. In the troubles of the Civil War that nobleman adhered to the king’s party, and, having occasion to communicate with his Majesty, employed Armstrong on this delicate mission. The messenger had delivered his message, and was returning with the answer, when Cromwell, having information of his errand, gave orders to intercept him at Carlisle. Will had entered upon the passage of the bridge which spans the Eden when he noticed that either end was in possession of Parliamentary troops. Without a moment’s hesitation he set his horse to leap the parapet, and though the river was in high flood, succeeded in swimming him ashore. The landing, at a steep bank known as the Stanhouse, was a matter of difficulty—only accomplished after the rider had lightened himself of his drenched cloak. Then he set off across country, and escaping after a close chase, swam the Esk, and shouted defiance to his baffled pursuers from Scottish ground.

One more anecdote of the Armstrongs, and that doughty clan disappears from prominence in a state of society in which its existence has become impossible. It seems that one Willie of Westburnflat, on the banks of Hermitage Water, still found means to ply the old trade. But circumstances were too strong for him, and twelve cows happening to have been carried off out of Teviotdale, he was secured, with nine of his companions, and taken to Selkirk, where, though no precise evidence was forthcoming against the band, they were pronounced guilty “ on habit and repute.” As the sentence was delivered, Willie arose in the court, and seizing the oaken chair in which he had been seated, broke it by sheer force into pieces, which he handed to his companions, promising, if they would stand by him, that he would fight his way out of Selkirk with no better weapons than these. But he was fallen on degenerate days; they held his hands and besought him to let them die “like Christians.” They were accordingly hanged. This incident, says Scott, who tells the story, happened at the last circuit-court held at Selkirk. He adds that the people of Liddesdale, who still consider the sentence unjust, remarked that the prosecutor never afterwards throve, but came with his family to beggary and ruin.

The indomitable persistence of cattle-stealing on the Borders receives further illustration from certain statutes framed by a commission which sat at Jedburgh, under the presidency of Traquair, as late as 1637. These statutes actually made it culpable for any innkeeper to have beef, mutton, or lamb in his house, without “presenting the skin, heed, and lugs thereof to two or more of his honest neighbours, who may bear witness of the mark or him 1 of the skin and hide, and that the flesh thereof is lawfully becomit.” No one was to purchase cattle or sheep otherwise than in open market, whilst it became a misdemeanour for any one who had had goods stolen to negotiate for their recovery so as to leave the thief unprosecuted. The commission which framed these regulations hanged thirty Border thieves, and banished fifteen never to return. But perhaps nothing serves to bring the old state of matters on the Border nearer to our own time than the following. “ One vague tradition I will mention,” writes Carlyle in his ‘ Reminiscences,’ u that our humble forefathers dwelt long as farmers at Burrens, the old Roman station in Middlebie. Once in times of Border robbery, some Cumberland cattle had been stolen and were chased : the trace of them disappeared at Burrens, and the angry Cumbrians demanded of the poor farmer what had become of them. It was vain for him to answer and aver (truly) that he knew nothing of them, had no concern with them : he was seized by the people, and despite his own desperate protestations, despite his wife’s shriekings and his children’s cries, was hanged on the spot! The case even in those days was thought piteous; and a perpetual gift of the little farm was made to the poor widow as some compensation.”

Among minor abuses on the Border which were reformed by James were those of unlawful hunting and timber-felling  A mark burnt into the nose of a sheep.

in the Cheviots. Leland, writing in the first half of the sixteenth century, says that even at that period the great wood of Cheviot was “spoyled”—only “crokyd old trees and schrubs ” remaining. There was, however, “ much brushe wood and some Okke,” with “grownde overgrown with Linge and some with mosse.” And there was still “ great plenty of redd Dere and Roo Bukkes.” From time immemorial it had been the custom of the men of Teviotdale and the Forest, when at peace with the opposite country, to obtain leave from the English warden of the Mid March to enter England towards the end of summer and hunt the deer with their greyhounds. This is the practice which, confused with records of Otterburn, appears in “Chevy Chase.” During the later years of Sir John Forster’s government his age and weakness had led to a relaxation of discipline on the March, and the formality—it was little more—of asking leave had come to be dispensed with. Then—according to the report of Sir Robert Carey, who in 1597 succeeded to Forster’s office—it became the practice of the Scottish Borderers to “come into England and hunt at their pleasure, and stay their own time. And when they were a-hunting, their servants would come with carts and cut down as much wood as every one thought would serve his turn, and carry it away to their houses in Scotland. This abuse Carey resolved to rectify. He duly notified the opposite warden of his intention, but the warning passed unheeded. In 1598 a company of Teviotdale gentlemen, composed chiefly of Rutherfords, Kers, and Douglases—by their own account unarmed and not exceeding sixty in number, though the English warden says that they were armed and numbered 200—had hunted for two days along the march from the head of Kale. They were set upon by a superior force under two of Carey’s deputies, and chased four miles into Scotland, with some loss in killed and prisoners.

This affair occasioned much bad blood. When the two kingdoms were united, James’s well-known passion for the chase led him to regard offences of the kind as a poaching on his private preserves. He therefore appointed his trusty Dunbar to be keeper of ' his “ gayme and pastyme within those boundis,” and, besides special prohibitions to the headmen of the Armstrongs, Elliots, Scots, Rutherfords, and Kers, issued proclamations from the market - crosses of Selkirk, Jedburgh, Hawick, and Peebles, inhibiting all persons not furnished with special licences by himself or Dunbar from hunting or felling wood in the Cheviots. If, strictly speaking, within his rights, his conduct in this respect was at least a selfish infringement of long-established practice, and as such affords a slight illustration of that despotic tendency which, nascent in himself, was to reach its full development in his son and grandsons. But the Borderers were much too closely wedded to their sports to abandon them at once, and the next year a second proclamation names Scot of Harden, Syme Armstrong of Whit-haugh, John Armstrong of Kinmont, and Robert Elliot of Lariston (formerly of Redheugh) as offenders against the terms of the previous one. In 1613  and 1616 still further proclamations were issued, in the latter of which hares and wild-fowl are made to share in the protection extended to the red-deer and the roe. When the exceptional and trying circumstances of the Borderers at this time are considered, one cannot but conclude that a certain relaxation of royal prerogative would have been not merely a graceful but an expedient act on the part of the king, and that on the whole his appearance in these transactions exposes him to a charge of greediness.

Much capital was made by English satirists out of the expectations of profit and advancement raised in needy Scots by James’s accession to the English throne. In so far as the Borders were concerned, however, with one exception, his honours were bestowed with judgment, on account of public services performed. In 1606 Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch was raised to the peerage, as a Lord Baron of the Parliament of Scotland, by the name of Lord Scott of Buccleuch—the title being conferred “for his stout and doughty exertions, to the singular commendation, benefit, and praise of the king, and the kingdom and community; and his many and singular abilities, joined with ready and frank inclination and willingness to the king’s service, and love to his native country, its interests and honour.”

Lord Scott of Buccleuch had married Margaret, daughter of Sir William Ker of Cessford. In 1600 Sir William was succeeded by his son Robert, who in 1606 was raised to the peerage as Lord Roxburghe, and in 1616 became Earl of Roxburghe. On King James’s accession to the English throne Sir Robert accompanied him to his new kingdom, forming one of a commission for a union with England appointed by Parliament in 1604.4 In his wardenship, as a young man, he had distinguished himself by courage and activity, tempered, however, by cruelty. At a later period he seems to have shone as a courtier; but the policy which led him to betray Montrose will scarcely escape condemnation. His death, which occurred in 1650 at the age of eighty, drew from the partial elegist these praises:—

“ Mars and Minerva did agree in one To make young Sessfurde past comparisone For wit and manhood : in his younger years He daunted England with the Tevydale spears;

As he inaged he inabled, and arose To such esteem, they durst not him oppose.

The Solomon of tbir days said oft of him Roxbrough’s no scholar, yet he’s near akin To learning, for his very natural parts Exceed all other sciences and arts.”

Allusion has already been made to Sir Robert Kerr, afterwards Earl of Ancram, a gentleman of high character and accomplishment, called by the poet Drummond “ the exemplarie of vertue and the Muses’ sanctuarye.” His career was that of a devoted servant of the Royal Family during two reigns. He first held the position of Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to the highly promising Prince Henry of Wales, on whose too early death he was transferred to the household of Prince Charles. In 1623 he joined the prince at Madrid, after the romantic journey of the latter to that capital. After Charles’s accession to the throne, Kerr continued to stand high in his favour, his services being sought as those of a mediator in the threatening troubles of the reign. He attended the king on his visit to Scotland in 1633, and on that occasion was raised to the peerage. After the king’s execution he withdrew to Holland, spending the last years of his long life in retirement and unhappiness. His eldest son, Sir William Kerr, married Anne, daughter and heiress of Robert Ker, second Earl of Lothian, and received a new grant of that title in 1631.

A third member of the family who at this time filled a large space in the public eye was Robert Kerr, or Carr as it was spelt in England, fourth son of Sir Thomas Kerr of Femihirst, and cousin of the Earl of Ancram. Making his first appearance at Court about the year 1608, he was the successor of Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, and the predecessor of Buckingham, in the king’s favour; was raised to the peerage as Viscount Rochester and Earl of Somerset, and is now remembered only for his good looks, his meteoric career, and his connection with one of the great scandals of the time.

In 1619 Sir Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield, the distinguished lawyer and Secretary of. State for Scotland, who is known in Scottish tradition as “Tam o’ the Cowgate,” was raised to the peerage by the title of Earl of Melrose. But in 1627, on the death of Sir John Ramsay, Viscount Haddington, without an heir, Hamilton, “judging it more honourable to take his stile from a county than an abbey, obtained a patent suppressing the title of Melrose and creating him Earl of Haddington.

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