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Reiver Equipped for Raiding

Reiver With Lance On Horse Model

A model of a 1595 Border Reiver, by Pete Armstrong

Four hundred years ago when Elizabeth I reigned in comparatively peaceful England, the people of the Anglo-Scottish Border were yet to emerge from medieval insecurity. Systematic raiding and plundering of neighbours with scant regard for nationality, deadly feud and extortion were a way of life on the Border.

Pete Armstrong’s authentic model of a 16th century Border Reiver depicts one of these plunderers who marauded night after night in the hills and farmlands from Berwick to the Solway, “shaking loose the Border”, in spite of the efforts of both governments to control them.

The Reiver is mounted on a sturdy nag, or “hobby”, and armed with a lance or “prick” and a stout sword. His body armour consists of a padded “Jack” and he wears a typical “steel bonnet”. “Reiver” is derived from “Reif”, meaning plunder or plundering.

Painting Border Reivers KD

The Night Raiders
A painting of the Border Reivers, by Angus McBride

The reiving season was between autumn and spring when the cattle and their owners were in their winter quarters in the valleys. The Warden Robert Carey wrote of the Reivers depredations; “the longer the nights growe, the worse they will be”. Carey thought the last months of the year worst “for then are the nights longest, theyre horses at hard meat, and will ride best, cattel strong and will drive farthest”.

The famous contemporary quote from Bishop Leslie illustrates the activities of the Reivers:

“ They sally out of their own borders, in the night, in troops, through unfrequented by-ways, and many intricate windings. All the day time they refresh themselves and their horses, in lurking holes they had pitched on before, till they arrive in the dark at those places they have a design upon.”

“As soon as they have seized upon the booty, they, in like manner, return home in the night, through blind ways and fetching many a compass. The more skilful any captain is to pass through those wild deserts, crooked turnings and deep precipices, in the thickest mists and darkness, his reputation is the greater, and he is looked upon as a man of excellent head.”

Image filename: Painting Border Reivers KD;
Copyright of images: Keith Durham / Angus McBride
Record ID: T5005

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