Border Life  

The Hot Trod


The law of the " Hot Trodd " allowed the harried parties within six days of the lifting of any cattle to cross the Border without let or hindrance from any man, and recover their gear if so be they could lay their hands on it, and provided that certain formalities were observed, e.g., they must " follow their lawful trod with hue and cry, with horn and hound," they were also obliged to carry a peat on the point of a lance to denote the errand they were on.

This law originated, no doubt, in the pleasing fiction that the cattle might have strayed across the Border of their own accord, but it was nearly always strictly observed.

A notable instance occurred, A.D. 1588, when King James V., Buccleugh, Angus, Bothwell, Kerr of Cessford, with the leading borderers on the Scottish side, assembled 6,000 men at Hermitage in order to make an end of the Armstrongs who fled as usual to Tarras Moss with all their livestock and other gear.

The royal forces were soon short of food, for the district had been cleared. Buccleugh had a great mob of sheep and cattle brought in from Teviotdale, and for a time small lots of beasts brought in locally fetched their full market value, i.e., forty shillings for 4-year old oxen, twenty shillings for others, six shillings for sheep, and three for hogrels.

One day three lads with dogs drove in two hundred cattle, fine beasts though very footsore, and departed with four hundred pounds in their pockets. Hardly were they out of sight than with a great baying of sleuth-hounds and blowing of bugles, Thomas Musgrave, Deputy of Bewcastle, and 50 horsemen, arrived full clatter on the " Hot Trodd." The English were naturally amazed to find so great an assemblage, and the Scots at first equally astonished, but when they learnt that the animals had been lifted the previous night from the Drysicke on the English side, Angus had no choice but to pay up 400 again. Musgrave 500, but the beasts would travel no further, and 6,000 men had to be fed.

Anyhow, the law was observed despite grumbling on both sides.

A malefactor fleeing across the Border might obtain sanctuary at the first church by ringing the bells, and was then not liable to be brought back.

A combat respecting a horse, ox, cow, or hog, might be avoided by the possessor informing the claimant that upon enquiry he found the claim just, and then driving the animal in question through the mid stream of the Tweed or the Esk.

From 'The Border' by William Sitwell