From the 13th to the early 17th century the border between England and Scotland was a lawless and turbulent area. Ravaged by frequent wars and invasions, the inhabitants had to adapt their way of life to survive. Without the protection of either the Scots or English crown, their allegiance was first and foremost to their family or “surname”. Their livelihood was the raiding or “reiving” of livestock from their neighbours, both across the border and within their own country.
Prominent Reivers’ Surnames
In an attempt to establish peace, codes of Border Laws were established and Wardens appointed to settle disputes in the six marches, or territories, three each side of the border. But often, the Wardens were themselves amongst the most notorious of reivers.
Even today, we have echoes of this way of life in our language, for example: bereaved – to have suffered a visit from the reivers, blackmail – originally protection money, paid to the reivers to avoid a visit.
400 years later, the area is peaceful, but such a history should not be forgotten. The annual Hawick Reivers Festival commemorates this rich story, culture and tradition. While not seeking to glamorise what was undoubtedly a bloody and violent period in our history we aim to give visitors a taste of what life was like for ordinary folks in 16th century Hawick. The reivers were a hardy, independent, resourceful and resilient people – characteristics still evident in the modern day Borderer!
The festival has been held annually since 2003. It comprises a full weekend of activities, both in and outdoors, including re-enactments, concerts, lectures, drama, 16th century market an encampment and a torchlight procession and fireworks display.
We take pride in our key aims to “Explore, Explain, Experience”. With attractions to suit all ages, the events give the audience a unique opportunity to gain an understanding of life in this difficult and challenging period of our history.
The 2023 Festival will take place on 24th to 26th March and we look forward to welcoming family and local historians to this fascinating part of the world.
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Written by Wendy Tait Mayfield
Images thanks to Phoenix Photography Scotland