Blog Talk Articles

Excerpt from “Chronicles of the Armstrong’s” by James Lewis Armstrong (1902); pages 84-85

“The feud of the Borderer was a terrible affair; with him blood could only expiate blood, and until vengeance had been taken he believed that the spirit of his murdered kinsman would never rest in peace.  Thus the minstrel tells that, before his execution, John of Gilnockie parted from his brothers Thomas and Christopher and his little son Kirstie with these words:

“God be with the Christie my brother,

Lang live thou laird of Mangertoun!

Lang mayst thou live on the Border syde,

Ere thou see thy brother ride up and down!”

These feuds, although not confined to the Border country, were more common in that district than any other portion of the kingdom, and were the cause of endless trouble and bloodshed.

Later on, about 1560, we find Thomas Musgrave noticing such feuds in the following terms: “Whatsoever they did, hardly deare any gentleman of the country be of any jury of life and death if any of them be indited, they are growen so to seeke blood; for they will make a quarrel for the death of their grandfather, and they will kill any of the name.”

But this was not always the case.  The Armstrongs and Elliots of Ewesdale were at feud in 1579, and it is clear the quarrel was confined to the branches inhabiting that district.  In the same year the Armstrongs of the Debatable Land were at feud with Turnbull of Bedroul, but there is no reason for supposing that their clansman of Liddesdale has adopted the quarrel.  (from the History of Liddesdale.)

To their praise it may be said that having once pledged their faith, even to an enemy, they were very strict in observing it, insomuch that they thought nothing could be more heinous than violated fidelity.

If, however, as rarely happened, any one was found guilty of this crime among them, it was usual for him who had received the injury, or one of his name, to suspend the culprit’s crest glove upon the point of an elevated spear, and ride about with it, exhibiting it in reproach of his violation of faith.  This was done at their solemn conventions, as, for example, at those while the wardens of marches of both kingdoms were sitting to make amends for injuries, according to custom.  They thought there could not be a more degrading mark of disgrace than this, and esteemed it a greater punishment than even death.

(Bishop Lesley.)

This reproach was keenly felt by the kinsmen of the accused, who when convinced of his guilt were accustomed to deprive the offender of their friendship and to outcast him. “