Rough justice for Border reivers


pool2Rough justice for Border reverse – On a fine day it’s a pleasure to sit and watch the river Teviot and Slitrig Water come together at Hawick to start the next stage of a journey seawards.

Having drawn a zest for life from the high hills of the Borders they join forces a few yards upstream of the town’s Millenium Bridge.

But this is a meeting place with a distinctly murky past.

Here, where nature has cut a little deeper into the natural landscape, you will find the town’s infamous drowning pool or murder pool, depending which side of the law you were on.

The pool was used to dispense a particularly rough kind of justice to the Border Reivers.

For over 300 years, from around 1300 to 1600, the Reivers’ bloody legacy held sway in the badlands north and south of the border between Scotland and England. To ‘reive’ means to rob or plunder but it wasn’t the only contribution these men gave to the English language.

They also bequeathed us blackmail and bereavement, which provides a fair indication of the type of pastimes they got up to.

Hawick’s history, criss-crossed by the nefarious activities of the Reivers, records one of the most savage cases of retribution. In July of 1562 some 22 Border Reivers met a watery end in the ‘pool.’

The Reivers were in the habit of bringing their ill-gotten gains to Hawick market but on this occasion Walter Kerr, warden of Scotland’s Middle March was one step ahead. Acting on the authority of the recently crowned Mary Queen of Scots he sealed off the town and captured dozens of Reivers.

Those on the lower rungs of the social pecking order had their hands bound and were executed at the pool, their bodies held underwater by lances. Their leaders were afforded the courtesy of a trip to Edinburgh and a ‘gentleman’s’ death by hanging.

We are pleased to report that times have moved on and every March Hawick now plays host to a colourful Reivers festival…but the dark swirling menace of the drowning pool still remains.

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