Border history

Who’s Who in the Kinmont Rescue … and why

Despite Scrope’s initial insistence that there were 500 riders,  the actual number was much lower. Eure, writing to Elizabeth I, informed her of his estimate  – “not fouertie as I here”.

No doubt there were many others involved, besides the riders: those Grahams with whom Buccleuch had met with and had assured safe passage from, and even the Laird of Johnstone, and the Goodman of Bonshaw (Irwen/Irvine of Bonshaw) were part of the rescue:

the Lairde of Johnston laye with an ambushment in one place and the Goodman of Bonshawe with an other, on the paile of Scotland, to have given defence to there owne and resisted the pursuers, if any had followed so farre.


According to an informant, Richie’s Will (a Graham who was part of the rescue party), the following men were involved:


The Laird of Buccleuch, Walter Scott of Buccleuch (The Bauld Buccleuch)

(The informant says Buccleuch brought 24 Scott and Elliots)

Walter Scott of Goldelandes

Walter Scott of Hardinge (Wat of Harden)

Walter Scott of Branxholme

–– Scot named Todrigges


Will Ellott, goodman of Gorrombye

John Eliott called “of the Copshawe”


the Laird of Mangerton

the young Laird of Whithaugh and his son

(they brought 8 men)

three of the Calfhills, Jocke, Bighames, and one Ally, a bastard

Sandy Armestronge, son to Hebbye

(Hobb’s Sandy brought 2 men with him)

Kinmont’s Jocke, Francie, Geordy, and Sandye, all bretheren, the sons of Kinmont

(4 of Kinmont’s men also attended)

three bretheren of Tweda, Armstrongs

Young John of the Hollace and one of his brethren (Kirste)

 Christie of Barneglish and Roby of the Langholm

The Chingles


 Willie ‘Kange’ and his brethren with their “complices.”


Willie “Redcloake” Bell, and two of his brothers, John and Rob

(John Bell’s horse “tireit” and he stayed at Fergus the Plump’s overnight)

Walter Bell of Godesby


Andrew Graham, brother-in-law of Will of Kinmont was involved, as was one Hutcheon Graham, who may have been Kinmont’s father-in-law.

Ritchie of Brackenhill, Willie of the Rosetrees, Fergus the Plump – all Grahams – were also involved

Family loyalty and  bonds of loyalty were important to this rescue. An informant informed Scrope that Thomas Carleton, who had been discharged from his station in Carlisle Castle, had a hand in the scheme, as did Geordie’s Sandy Graham, who aided Buccleuch’s safe journey, due to the fact that Carleton was his brother-in-law;  Willie ‘Redcloak” Bell “did nothinge but that Richey of Brakonhill caused him to doe”, and  was the nephew of  Willie of the Rosetrees: and Willie ‘Kang’ was “Buckclughes owne man”.


Rescue and Release

On the night of 13th/14th April, in the “deade time”  William Armstrong of Kinmont was rescued from the apparently impregnable Carlisle Castle.

The weather that night was foul, many of the guard took shelter from “the violence of the wether”. Others, who had held office within the castle,  Thomas Carlton and his brother Lancelot, were in league with the rescuers.

Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the Bauld Buccleuch, seems to have been the mastermind, and the leader of the rescue.  Indeed, he was in the van – the fifth man in – , and was seen in the castle’s courtyard.

Thomas Scrope’s worst nightmares had been realised, and he had the unenviable task of reporting the audacious rescue to Elizabeth’s Court … it is not wonder, perhaps, that he seems to have exaggerated the numbers involved:

500 horsemen of Buclughes and Kinmontes frendes, did come armed and

appointed with gavlockes and crowes of iron, handpeckes, axes and skaillinge

lathers, unto an owtewarde corner of the base courtof this castell, and to

the posterne dore of the samewhich they undermyned speedily and

quietlye and made them selves possessores of the base courte, brake into the

chamber where Will of Kinmont was, carried him awaye, and in their discoverie

by the watch, lefte for deade two of the watchmen, hurt a servante of

myne one of Kynmontes keperes, and were issued againe onte of the posterne

before they were discried by the watche of the innerwarde, and ere resistance

could be made. The watch, as yt shoulde seeme, by reason of the stormiye

night, were either on sleepe or gotten under some covert to defende them

selves from the violence of the wether; by meanes wherof the Scottes

atcheived theire entreprise with lesse difficultie.

Scrope to the Privy Council

(Original image: Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Mr Salkeld’s ongoing good health (onwards from 1596)

“I love a ballad in print o’life, for then we are sure they are true”

I would exhort caution in the extreme with regards to the above statment, although I would never suggest that the contrary view is the only attitude ever taken. However, let us consider the fate of Sakelde in “Kinmont Willie”, first published by Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy. Sakelde, in print, and indeed in the hearts of many generations of ballad singers, is ever “fause Sakeld” – the man who captured Kinmont Willie during the Day of Truce, and who subsequently paid for that lack of Border honour with his life. For, as anyone who has heard (or indeed read) the ballad, Dickie of Dryhope runs Sakelde through with his lance, eradicating the black-hearted officer from the tale – and confusing history in the self-same action.

“Kinmont Willie” tantalises with its blend of fact and fiction. Sakelde’s death, however, is one point within the ballad where the facts, as they are known, can be said to be inaccurate.

While Lord Scrope, the March Warden, was humiliated by the rescue of William Armstrong of Kinmont from the apparently impregnable Carlisle Castle in April 1596, much of his subsequent ire was directed not upon the Armstrongs, but upon Walter Scott, “the Bold Buccleuch”, and Ritchie (Richard) Graham. The Graham was the more accessible target, shall we say, and Scrope pursued the misdemeanours (alleged or otherwise) of Ritchie Graham and his clan with stubborn diligence. Their collusion with the Armstrongs, Buccleuch et al may have sown the seeds of the downfall of the Grahams, as it seems to have fired the desire within the officials more than ever to eradicate the Grahams from the West March. Arrest, accusation and  counter-accusations and retributions flourished, as seen in this extract from the Calendar of Border Papers from  Spetember 1600:



The full Calendar extract may be read here.

Here, then, is an account of the kidnap of Thomas Salkeld’s son, who must have been specifically targeted. The boy’s father was a signatory to another document relating to the dreadful behaviour of the Grahams later on in the same month –



(the full Calendar extract may be read here)

– although we would contest the declaration that the signatories had inserted nothing “on private malice”. Mr Salkeld was sufficiently well and active four years on from the Kinmont Willie incident to be partaking fully in everyday matters of the English West March. Accounts of his demise – at Dickie of Dryhope’s hands at least – can confidently be taken as fictional retribution.