Side by side with John’s letter appeared this one:
I read with disbelief your report on the proposed statue in Dumfries commemorating the Border Reivers. Do members of the Trust Fund not realise that the reivers were a bunch of lawless, murdering thugs who brought terror to innocent people and shame on the name of Scotland? Certainly, there wre faults on both sides of the border and the reivers took full advantage of the situation, but the history of their long period of aggression is among the most shameful episodes in the annals of any two countries. To commemorate this by raising a statue id beyond comprehension, especially as tourism is so important in this area and alienation of our southern neighbours would surely result.
Donald Mackay, Dalbeattie Road, Dumfries
It looks like Donald Mackay of Dalbeattie Road, Dumfries doesn’t know much about the reivers or the state of Anglo-Scottish relations in the 16th century!! In answer to his critics, John set abut further research and came up with the following document:
If anyone does not believe that the story of the Border Reivers is an important theme in the rich heritage of Dumfries, the following facts should convince them otherwise:
1. Dumfries was in effect the capital of the Scottish West March.
2. Dumfries served as the main judicial centre of the Scottish West March.
3. Dumfries was the headquarters of the Warden. On the Scottish Border the Wardenship generally fell to the headman of the most powerful Border Reiver family.
4. The Warden’s most important duties in peace-time were to guard against reivers, to apprehend reivers from his own March who had raided into the other country, and to co-operate with the opposite Warden in punishing the offender and compensating the victim.
5. Dumfries was where the Warden supervised regular courts and sessions.
6. Justice courts were held in Dumfries. Border Reivers were hanged and imprisoned. Sometimes mass-hangings took place.
7. A party of reivers rescued Archie of Cawfield from the Tolbooth in Dumfries.
8. The adjective “Border” in the context of the story of the Border Reivers covers the area occupied by the old Marches, which stretched on the Scottish side from the River Cree to the North Sea coast, and on the English side from the coast of Cumberland to that of Northumberland.
9. A common error is to suppose that reiving was confined to the Border proper. Perhaps that is because most of the examples cited in books are of Scottish raids against England; this is simply because the English records are far fuller and more easily available, and provide more interesting details. The truth is that reiving went both up and down and sideways, and in the Scottish West March much of the long catalogue of spoilings, hangings, outlawry, and the rest, were in fact wrought by the Maxwell-Johnstone feud. In general, the Maxwells and their follower's devastated Annandale, while the Johnstones with others behind them plundered Nithsdale and elsewhere. The devastation was incalculable.
10. During a Johnstone raid into Nithsdale, Willie Johnstone of Kirkhill stole a horse belonging to the Crichtons. As a direct result of this, the Crichtons and Johnstones skirmished, and fifteen Crichtons were killed. It was a bloody skirmish, which resulted in the Battle of Dryfe Sands.
11. The Maxwells of Nithsdale were the strongest Border Reiver family in the Scottish West March, until the Johnstones of Annandale reduced their power late in the sixteenth century. The Armstrongs and other powerful Border Reiver clans supported the Maxwells, while the Irvines and other turbulent tribes were behind the Johnstones.
12. The Maxwells and Johnstones rarely seem to have troubled themselves in raiding England, although they were occasionally to be found plundering the opposite side of the Border. It was mainly the rivalry between the chiefs of the two surnames that occupied all their attention.
13. Dumfries was attacked twice by the Johnstones in the spring of 1581 (the Maxwell-Johnstone feud turned into virtual warfare in the second half of the sixteenth century).
14. The Provostship of Dumfries was traditionally a Maxwell office.
15. The Chancellor of Scotland, Arran, tried to engineer the appointment of a Johnstone as Provost of Dumfries. However, John, 8th Lord Maxwell, with his reivers behind him barred Johnstone's entry to the town in July 1584, and after the Johnstone Laird departed, a Maxwell was once more appointed Provost.
16. In August 1585 John Johnstone, the Johnstone leader and Warden of the Scottish West March, was captured by the Maxwells, and Lord Maxwell erected a great gallows in Dumfries and threatened to hang the Warden and his followers unless the castle surrendered, which it did.
17. The Maxwells of Nithsdale had a house or castle at Dumfries, which occupied the site covered by the present Greyfriars' Church at the head of High Street. It was a family manor place.
18. There is a ballad called Lord Maxwell’s Goodnight, in which Lord Maxwell describes Dumfries as his 'proper place'; that is, his residence or chief residence. The ballad is about John Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell, going into exile after murdering Sir James Johnstone.
19. A company of two hundred townsmen from Dumfries with their Provost, Homer Maxwell, is listed as being part of Lord Maxwell's army at the Battle of Dryfe Sands, fought on December 6 1593, which was a Maxwell-Johnstone head-on collision and the bloodiest family fight in British history.
20. The Maxwell chief, John, 8th Lord Maxwell, Earl of Morton, who was slain at Dryfe Sands, was buried in a vault prepared for him in Lincluden College.
Page 3 of 4