Borders, Reavers, and beacon hills

Borders, Reavers, and beacon hills

So of course when one travels south from Scotland to England, one travels over the old border between Scotland and England. We did this at a place called “Carter Bar.” An informational sign at the site reads in part:

The Carter Bar, once knows as “Rede Swire”, has a long and eventful history. Roman legions invaded after A.D. 79, building “Dere Street” which passes 5 miles (8 km) east of here. They subdued native British tribes in various campaigns, before pulling back their frontier to Hadrian’s Wall.

Years later, ancient poetry recalls the southward march over these hills of King Mynyddog’s warband from the Gododdin tribe. These Celtic warriors fell in heriod destruction by a great army of invading Saxons at Catterick (Catraeth).

Trychant eurdorchog
Gwneddgar, gwaenog,
… Tru, nid angorsant,

Three hundred gold-torqued warriors
fearsome, splendid in action
… Alas, they did not return.

Tribal boundaries switched regularly for centuries until the Galeic (Scots) army of King Malcolm III decisively beat the Anglo-Saxons (English) at Carham-on-Tweed in 1018. The Border then assumed more or less its present position, confirmed by the Treaty of York 1237.

The death of Alexander III, King of Scots, in 1286 led to three centuries of savage Scottish-English conflict, with frequent wars and invasions, continuous raiding and general anarchy in the Borderlands. A Scots army passed this way in 1388 to the great Battle of Otterburn.

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
Into England, to drive a prey.
… And he has burned the dales of Tyne
And half of Bambrough shire;
And three good towers on Redeswire fells
He left them all on fire.

This was the era of the Border Reivers, or “moss-troopers”, lawless families raiding back and forth with scant regard to lives, property or even kings, who placed the frontier under the ineffective control of the “Wardens of the Middle March”. A meeting of the Scottish and English Wardens in 1575 occasioned the last fatal Border skirmish, The Redeswire Fray, on the slopes to the east of this spot. The Unions of 1603 and 1707 finally brought an end to military conflict between the two countries.

No, not those Reavers.

Right on the same site, there was a basket atop a tall pole, by which another plaque read:

The Beacon, Carter Bar

This beacon, constructed by Engineering Students at Borders College, was part of a chain of Beacons erected and lit across the United Kingdom to mark the advent of the Single European Market.

The Beacon was lit at midnight on Hogmanay (31 December) 1992, by Councillor Mrs Myra Turnbull, Provost of Roxburgh District Council.

There has been some controversy as to who lit the beacons — now, perhaps, we can put it all to rest.

(Or see this as a full-screen slideshow.)