Saturday, 20 April 2013

A-Z 2013 'R' is for Reivers

Genealogy throws up a variety of stories about our ancestors - some funny, some sad .....and some just downright bad. Here's an insight to some of my forebears!

The Border Reivers were groups of marauding families living in the Scottish/English Borders, active mainly from the late 13th century to the early 17th century. They raided homesteads throughout the borders with such regularity and ferocity that the whole area was termed the Debateable land - meaning that there was no clear right of ownership.

A great number of my Family Tree 'branches' are members of this dubious heritage - sheep thieves and cattle rustlers! It was not a good time or place to live - don't be led astray by the romance of Hollywood with their 'versions' of Scottish history! The Reivers were fierce and feared - taking lives as well as livestock. In fact, the term 'bereaved' (to be reived) stems from their actions! They were sort of guerilla soldiers, expert at tracking and ambushing, murdering remorselessly, as well as using their skills to run what would now be called 'protection rackets' - they were the Scottish equivalent of Chicago gangsters - indeed, as well as 'bereaved', their exploits gave the words 'gang' and 'blackmail' to the English language, too!

So awful were the reputations of such families that in 1525 the then Archbishop of Glasgow, in despair, uttered a curse upon them!

In fact, the curse covered not only those who fought, but also their horses, their clothing, their crops, anyone who helped them - it really is the mother-of-all-curses - read it here (if you dare)

...and as I can count a good dozen or so families in my 'tree' living in that area at that time, I sincerely hope this curse is no longer binding! (although, I have heard it said the good Archbishop refused it to be renounced! :-o)


  1. I could not get through the whole curse, but it was indeed a curse of all curses. I haven't found any bandits in my tree yet, but so many are lost in the mists of time they may be there and I will never no. So far just a petty thief or murderer now and then.

  2. This reminds me of the Reavers in Firefly... except FAR less gross ;)

  3. That's cool to be able to trace your lineage so far back.

    My grandparents came to the US from Ireland and Italy, respectively, and not much is known of their parents or their forebears in the old countries.

  4. useful info re bereaved - I have a feeling the borders were a bit rough in those days - thx for recent visit on challenge

  5. This curse seems to be very thorough, covered all possible possession.

  6. That's gold! A curse from an Archbishop!
    I thought the curse 'may the fleas from a thousand camels infest your armpits' was bad.
    That curse is the mother of curses.