The Border Reivers was the tribal or clan system of the Scottish, English border that dominated the region from the 14th to 18th centuries. A community living outside or at the edge of external laws, it prospered through alliances that bridged and generally ignored what is now the border between Scotland and England. They lived and protected themselves in Peel Towers or Bastles, being thick walled stone miniature castles. The Tarset Valley has a high concentration of such buildings highlighting the fierce clansman of the area.
The wilderness of the region meant they lived at the periphery of the law with their own code and rules. Loyalty to clan and tribal alliances were the dominant ethics borne from their culture and the demands of securing survival. These were livestock people who reared and reived (stole in armed raids) livestock from their enemies while protecting their own and that of their allies.
Tough people they were skilled in survival in these beautiful but hardy landscapes. Dangerous lives in treacherous times. As well as tribal loyalties and alliances, prosperity was built on skilled horsemanship, detailed knowledge of the hidden hills, burns, dales and glens plus expertise in fighting and guerrilla tactics. As they set forth on horseback on their reiving raids, the men of Tarset had their own rallying cry ‘Tarset & heather bred – yet, yet, yet’.
The crowns of England and Scotland continually attempted to impose their respective rule of law. As part of these they sought to harness and enlist these fierce warriors to their respective causes as part of their efforts to consolidate or expand their power interests and national boundaries both during and outside the wars of independence.
Armstrong (1st man on the moon), Charlton (football world cup winners), Elliott (poet), Hume (Prime Minister), Johnston (US President), Robson (football) are just some of the household surnames that trace their roots back to these border lands and clan system of the Border Reivers.