May-time revels, Border style (1584)

I was stravaiging through the Debateable Land and the wilds of Liddesdale – on paper I should add – and stumbled upon the depredations for May-time of 1584. I see that some of the most notorious riders were a-foot (or a-horse) in these weeks. Perhaps we might have a monthly update: I am sure that Sir Walter would approve of the venture (although not, perhaps, of the reif). It looks as if May was a profitable month. I would especially draw your attention to the individual, who has come down to us with a rather disturbing sobriquet – the infamous Nebless Cleme Croser.

May's reif



  1. Is not Perseval Reede who complains about Nebles Clemey Croser the same as the one killed by the Crosiers in the ballad “The Death of Parcey Reed” – Child Ballad 193 ?

    1. Indeed – the ‘Laird of Trochen’ mentioned here is almost definitely the unfortunate Parcey Reed of the ballad. Reed’s death was appalling – but it should be noted that the level of violence used upon him was a brutal exception – I can only think of a few other instances. The riders, in general, may have been rapacious, but they were not usually extremely violent. The exceptions which come to mind are: the Scott who was burned when his compatriots were hanged at Carlenrigg – an ‘eye for an eye’ punishemnt, he being guilty of burning a woman and her children to death within their house; there is an incident where a man was tortured to reveal the whereabouts of his money; and the hacking to pieces of Nicholas Bolton by the Kerrs.

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