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The East March of Scotland

The East March of Scotland
Map of the Scottish East March, Boundaries and Generalities.

The Scottish East March was the county of Berwickshire; the frontier was with the English East March. The northern boundary of the March is formed by the Lammermuir Hills. The southern part of the March was a broad fertile plain, plentiful of barley and oats, known as the Merse.

There were few strong castles in the East March. The people of the Merse were generally quiet and gave little trouble to England, being rather fellow sufferers with the English at the hands of the Teviotdale thieves.

The East March was dominated by the Hume family from their stronghold of Hume Castle that, perched on its rocky height above the Merse, kept the greater part of the population of that area in subjection.

In 1516 an incident took place which illustrates the insolent independence of these Border lairds. A Frenchman, Anthony Darcy had been appointed Warden of the Marches with particular responsibility for the east. This was Hume territory and they regarded Darcy with “horrid resentment”. He seems to have been honest and conscientious which no doubt made him all the more odious to the Humes. They took the unfortunate Warden near Duns, cut off his head and with this grisly trophy tied by its long locks to a saddle-bow, returned in triumph to Hume Castle. Hume Castle was well placed for annoying England and was reputedly one of the strongest holds in Scotland. The Earl of Sussex took it easily enough however in 1570. The “castle” we see today is no more than an 18th century sham built of the debris of its predecessor on the old foundations.

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