Manual Deadlock and Deliverance: The Capture and Rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong

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We sit on a bluff of the river overlooking the old ford on the road running up to Hermitage Castle five miles away — a mile away is the dramatic site of Liddel Castle by Castleton Cemetery. The valley is now home to some souls but in Reivers time the population was threefold. All over the hills are signs of long abandoned bothys and fields.

Border Reiver

While I am sympathetic, I would like to give you a view from the other side! The towns of Kelso, Hawick and Jedburgh were easy targets for an English foray and one of the ways through was up the Liddel valley. Because of this — there were years of ruined harvests and the stock was taken by the invaders. The Borderers were never quite Scottish or English.

Kinmont Willie and Thomas Lord Scrope

Although memory of that outrage came back to haunt his Stuart descendant, Bonnie Prince Charlie, when he tried to recruit Borderers on his march south through Liddesdale. But I cannot come to Carlisle and not mention Kinmont Willie. This thoroughly notorious reiver was taken on a Day of Truce and brought bound and gagged to Carlisle Castle.

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This was against all the rules of cross border law and Buccleuch and his supporters in a fit of righteous indignation — the words righteous indignation and Border reivers are not natural bedfellows. Although the river was in full flood they crossed the river and with the help of the Grahams, sprung Kinmont Willie with a great deal of noise and kerfuffle and swam back again with their prize.

Border Reivers

He led an army of men into Liddesdale burnt the houses and stripped sixty or eighty children of their clothes — it was reported that nine or ten infants perished within eight days thereafter. After a great deal of pressure from Elizabeth 1, James VI finally bound over Buccleuch to Sir Robert Carey who held him under lock and key for a time in Northumberland.

Apparently they got on rather well and his influence on Buccleuch changed his ways and he was canny enough to realise that there was little future in the reiver way of life when James VI inherited. The time and effort spent researching the historical facts also makes this book a great resource for teachers and tour guides.

The Reivers

It should have pride of place in all border region bookshops and gift stores. For those of us who have ancestral links to the Reivers, and there are many still around the border region.


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Deadlock and Deliverance gives us an insight into the lives of our forebears and the events that shaped them. Deadlock and Deliverance — Reiver History website;Learn more about the author and his books. Heritage and History Buildings, plants, food and family history, culture and heritage Border Reiver Mention the term Border Reiver, and most people will conjure up images of bands of brigands and ruffians who stole and murdered with almost daily regularity.


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Hermitage Castle, Guardian of Liddesdale. Like this: Like Loading Who Built Stonehenge? He was loathed by the English, adored by the Scots and renowned by both for his fierceness and martial prowess. He was a young man of twenty six and embraced his new position with relish, determined to succeed where his father had failed.

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Even the two monarchs of England and Scotland became involved. This he achieved with ease, aided and abetted by English Lords who had little time for Thomas Lord Scrope. Both they and Buccleuch committed treason in the rescue but were never brought to trial.


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Thomas Lord Scrope, ridiculed and embarrassed by the ease of the rescue, went on to become a Knight of the Garter in Kinmont Willie carried on his reiving and all was as normal in the tumultuous times of the Border Reivers. Kinmont disappears from history about and is thought to have died in his bed, a wonderful end for a man who was the scourge of the English for decades. He is buried, it is said, in the ancient churchyard of Sark near where once stood his fortified tower of Morton Rig in the Debateable Land.

His memorial lies under the sod but was exposed in the latter half of the twentieth century, if only for a short while.