HH logo

History Hunters home

Border reivers home

Johnie Armstrang team

Hobbie Noble team

[Walter Scott team]

Borders history


evidence and finds



Borders resources

the Walter Scott team


the Walter Scott team, left to right: John Nichol, Rob Fraser and Douglas Elliot

Douglas Elliot
Rob Fraser
John Nichol

They first want to discover the historical facts behind 'Foray of Elibank' and the legend of 'Mucklemouth Meg', from whom Rob's wife is descended. Then they want to find out whether there is any truth in the ballad 'Kinmont Willie'.

how they got on ...

The team meet up with Tony during the 'Riding of the Marches', an annual event during which horsemen (women are still forbidden to ride) travel round the parish boundaries.

Riding of the Marches at Langholm

The team go round Sir Walter Scott's home with descendant Jean Maxwell-Scott and find a cartoon of Mucklemouth Meg, from whom Rob's wife claims descent. The story of Meg is contained in 'Foray of Elibank', a ballad collected and published by Scott; 'mucklemouth' meant that her mouth stretched from ear to ear.

This is the home of the Hepburne Scotts -- descendants of Sir Walter Scott and of Old Wat of Harden, the father-in-law of Mucklemouth Meg (real name: Agnes Morray). The house is located at the top of Harden Glen, a reivers' hideout.

Andrew Scott, owner of Harden, gives a guided tour, including the Scott family tree created by Sir Walter Scott himself, and a portrait of Meg and her husband William Harden. Rob compares it to a photograph of his wife -- both she and Meg have small mouths!

They also see Mucklemouth Meg and William's marriage contract of 1611 -- historical proof of their existence. However, as it is very long and more like a business contract, it appears unlikely that William and Meg had a 'shotgun wedding' as the ballad says.

The team, with the help of ballad historian Kay McAlpine, now turn to another Scott-collected ballad, 'Kinmont Willie'. This tells of the most famous reiving raid of all -- to rescue Willie Armstrong from Carlisle Castle, an undertaking in which Old Wat of Harden took part.

They look through the Calendar of Border Papers and F J Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads to find out who the protagonists were, who let the raiders into Carlisle Castle and, ultimately, whose account is 'truest'.

They concentrate on the letters in the Calendar of Border Papers that refer to the subsequent murder of Thomas Carleton, deputy to Scrope, the warden of the English West March; Carlton was also seen with Kinmont Willie at the Liddesdale races. It appears that the affair was a conspiracy between 'bauld Buccleuch' -- the Scottish keeper of Liddesdale -- and his English friends, against Scrope and his other deputy Sakeld, whom they wanted to drive a wedge between. They conclude that Kinmont Willie's escape was an inside job.

Carlisle Castle

Rob and John examine the exterior of the castle, especially the 'sally port' and the warden's lodges, to find the best way of getting in. They decide that the relevant door must have been unlocked to let them in.

Kinmont Willie's grave, near the site of Sark Tower, hidden under a layer of turf

The team find the site of Kinmont Willie's house, then go to his grave.

All the teams meet up to watch a re-enactment of a football match between an English side and a Scottish one, which first took place in 1599.
behind the scenes at the Langholm Ridings -- Douglas Elliot is taking part