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

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2 comments

  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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