What was a Reiver? Expert Keith Durham (author of "Reivers" and "The Border Reivers") describes him thus:
“a professional rustler and guerilla soldier, skilled in the art of raiding, tracking and ambush. He was a fine light horseman but was also prepared to murder remorselessly and to run large scale protection rackets, giving the words 'blackmail', 'bereaved' and 'gang' to the English language.
The origin of the Border Reiver and the animosity between the Scots and the English were mirrored in the warfare and political tension that existed between the crowns of the two countries. The Borderland became their battleground and soon became a place of danger and blood feud that only ended with the uniting of Scotland and England under one King, James I and VI in 1603.”
Carlisle or Carlyle
Dixon or Dickson
Dodd or Dodds
Elliot (many spellings)
Graham or Graeme
Irving or Irvine
Johnstone or Johnston
Kerr or Carr
Ask a sample of 10 people in the (native) English-speaking world if they can tell you anything about the names Campbell, MacDonald, MacGregor and perhaps 8 will be able to tell you that they are Scottish surnames. Possibly 4 or 5 might be able to tell you that they are names which come from the Highlands of Scotland. Maybe 2 or 3 could tell you that these are the names of Clans and, when questioned further, that the clans were 'tribes',or family groupings, which lived in close association with one another and that from time to time disputes and enmities might arise between Clans.
Ask the same 10 (fairly knowledgeable) people to perform the same exercise on the names Armstrong, Elliot, Hall and Charlton and all 10 will probably look at you blankly. These names, however, belong to a longer list of families, graynes, clans, tribes, call them what you will, which were the equivalent of the Highland Clans, but occupying the land on either side of the Scottish-English Border.
Is your Family Name on this list?
Page 1 of 2
If so then your forbears perhaps at some time in the past formed part of the people of the Border who have passed into history as the Border Reivers (the Scottish verb "to reive" means to thieve or plunder). From the late 13th Century, growing in intensity, until its zenith in the 16th Century, these families habitually lived by feud, robbery, blackmail (a term given by them to the English language) rustling, kidnapping, extortion and murder. Why bother with the effort of raising stock or growing crops when you could let others do it for you then take it from them? Get your retaliation in first!
Another name for the Reiving Families is “Graynes”.
Click on the image at right to see the distribution of the graynes through the border country