Nixons, Crozers, and Kinmonts all of whom supported and came under the protection of the Armstrongs.
The name is said to have derived when the servant of a Scottish king who saved his master's life by hoisting him on to his own horse by his one uninjured arm, during a battle. The clan was then known as Armstrong and received gifts of land in Liddesdale where they became established.
The Armstrongs were the principal reiving clan of the Borders and dominated the west Marches during the 16th century. They spread from Liddesdale into Eskdale and Annandale and occupied much of what was known as the Debateable Land, the disputed territory between Scotland and England. They ran a protection racket deep into England and conducted an unremitting guerrilla warfare against the English establishment in Carlisle.
In 1530, Johnny
Armstrong, brother of the Laird of
Mangerton, together with an escort of some fifty men, were hanged at
Caerlinrig by James V, without a trial and, probably, after giving
assurances of safe conduct.
As you travel through Liddesdale and beyond and look around to far horizons you may rightly say that all this was at one time Armstrong territory. Here it was that our forbears lived and prospered, an extended family of proud and brave people, high in the power hierarchy, renowned, respected and feared.
At the height of their strength, during the early 16th century, the Armstrongs were the leading Border clan and, in station, exceeded that of their neighbours.
Alexander Leighton wrote the following extract in 1834.
In a MS we have seen, as old as the end of the 15th century, the “laird on Mangerton” is placed at the head of the Liddesdale chiefs – Harden, Buccleuch, and others coming after him in respectful order.
Then came the hanging of Johnny Armstrong and his faithful followers at the hands of the boy-king, James V. Finding themselves between the “auld enemy” to the south and their own hostile government to the north, they “broke out” and proceeded to earn the reputation of ruthless raiders which had previously been assigned to them. As a “broken clan” their land was forfeited to the Crown
who disposed of it to those who had contrived a position of favour with the king. And so Armstrongs, divided and dispersed, lost their lands, their homes, and, many, their lives.
Lesser clans, with a greedy eye to extend their own power base, turned on their former friends and allies, joining in with enthusiasm the despoiling of the Armstrong family for their own advantage.
Theirs was no police action. Their record of law breaking equalled that of the Armstrong’s. They had all done their share of feuding and reiving. Lawbreaker turned into law enforcer, ignoring the history of a dubious past, and assuaging their consciences by declaring their contribution to the pacification of the Borders.
These were times when the penalty for sheep stealing was the gallows. But for stealing another families’ inheritance, they were rewarded with a dukedom.
Locations of special interest to Armstrongs:
The Milnholm Cross
Read the Story of Kinmont Willie.