Saturday, 15 August 2009

Border Reiver Genealogy and Family Names

Does your family name tell you that you have an exciting family history? If your family name belongs to one of the British Border Reiver clans then its almost a certainty! Rugged families of the English-Scottish borderland from the middle ages, cattle rustlers, mercenaries and tough. If your family has roots as one of the infamous Border Reivers clans these are the people who are celebrated in Mark Knopfler's atmospheric single Border Reiver off his album 'Get Lucky'

As we know, the first man on the moon was Neil Armstrong. He was given the freedom of Langholm the home of the Armstrong clan who were one of the most infamous Border Reiver clans. The Reivers were probably the least gullible of clans people because they didn't 'buy into' the nation state politics of emerging Britain. They were renowned pragmatists siding neither with the English nor Scots in particular.

Respected horsemen they raided the English/ Scottish borders and they are the ancestral clan names of many modern day famous people such as Richard Nixon, Captain Scott, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Robson etc.

A sample of Border Reiver family names includes, Elliot, Bell, Dixon, Johnston, Graham, Charlton, Kerr, to name just a few. These clans were subject to a curse placed on them by Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar in 1525 who was exasperated at their outlaw behaviour. The Curse is remembered in Carlisle UK with a monument called the Cursing Stone and the curse begins:

"I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without."

Not much love lost there then!

Find out all about the Border Reivers here:
The Border Reivers

Thinking about getting someone a Border Reiver gift?

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  1. For what its worth - The Border Reiver named in the song possibly refers to a Lorry - as far as I remember a haulage company from Carlisle Robsons Of Carlisle named all their waggons "Border " then followed by another name Ie Border Lass , Border Mary hence Border Reiver . The colours of the Company were Cream with red highlited lettering
    Dave H

  2. Hi Dave, I know those lorries well. I was born in Carlisle and when we moved down South we looked out for them to remind us of home!

  3. I'm not normally a message board 'poster', but on our family trips from Blackpool to Edinburgh in the 60s and (mainly) 70s, we always kept a look-out for Robsons of Carlisle wagons. I distinctly remember 'Border Reiver', mainly because I didn't have a clue what it meant, so the lyrics to this song generate feelings of nostalgia...

  4. As well as the Robsons reference, "Reiver" was a model name used by Albion Lorries. "Border Reiver" in the Robsons fleet, although an Abion, was not a Reiver!

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    Izay Cabrera