"Where Bortha hoarse, that loads the meads with sand,

Rolls her red tide to Teviot's western strand,

Through slatey hills, whose sides are shagg'd with thorn,

Where springs of scatter'd tufts the dark-green corn,

Towers wood-girt Harden far above the vale,

And clouds of ravens o'er the turrets sail."


It was at the old tower that Aud Wat of Harden reigned a king among  Border Reivers. With his band of brothers he led many a foray into the lands of his English neighbours, leaving a trail of terror and bare byres in his wake. Many of his acquisitions were huge by any standards and he gained in prestige and power and his exploits became legend.

It was he who married the beautiful 'Flower of Yarrow' despite competition from the most eligible of Border hopefuls. To add to his success, as part of the marriage contract, he gained the right to be provided by his father-in-law a free supply of meat for a year and a day.

By the 'Flower of Yarrow’ the laird of Harden had six sons, five of whom survived him. The sixth son was slain by the Scotts of Gilmanscleugh. His brothers rushed to avenge him but Auld Wat had them secured in a dungeon while he hurried to Edinburgh and obtained a gift of the offenders’ land by way of compensation.

Returning to Harden he released his sons and showed them the charter. “To horse, lads,” cried the old laird, “let us hurry and take possession. The lands of  Gilmanscleugh are well worth a dead son.”

The lands eventually passed to the Scotts of Buccleuch.

When on a raid he would gather up all that he could remove. Everything that he was able to lift and carry away became his property.  One night he and his gang passed a huge stack of hay on his way home, "By my conscience, "he said, "had ye but fower legs, ye sudna lang stan' here."

Not all of Wat's raids were a complete success. He encountered his match when he invaded that nest of English reivers in Tynedale when his sword was captured from him by members of the Charlton family. The sword is still held by the Charltons in their house at Helsleyside, near Bellingham, Northumberland.

Once, during a raid into England, the Hardens had captured a young boy, the heir of the Nevilles of Ravensworth in Northumberland. While crossing the river the child was drowned and Wat vowed to build a bridge so that the one lost life might be the means of saving hundreds.  Part of this bridge fell in 1746, and was demolished in 1777 by a flood. Remnants of the old bridge still remain. A new bridge was built half a mile further up stream and a stone carved with the Harden coat-of-arms: a crescent moon with the motto "Cornua Reparabit Phoebe" - There will be moonlight again - was transferred to it.

Auld Wat's deeds of daring spread afar and were in time handed down the generations in verse and ballad.



The bleak old peel of Harden is no more, and now it is the the wood-girt Harden House that towers far above the beautiful wooded deep-set narrow valley wherein the occupants of the ancient Tower secreted the cattle they had plundered from the steads of Cumberland and Northumberland.
Harden House occupies the site where the tower once stood and is itself of considerable antiquity.
Built in the year 1570, though greatly altered, it is of much interest. The house is now in private hands and is not accessible to the public.


 Harden House



Ho! For the blades of Harden!

    Ho! For the driven kye!

The broken gate and the lances hate

    And the banner red on the sky!

The rough road runs by the Carter;

    The white foam creams on the rein;

Ho! For the blades of Harden!

    “There will be moonlight again!”


The dark has heard them gather,

    The dawn has bowed them by,

To the guard on the roof comes the drum of a hoof

    And the drone of a hoof’s reply.

There are more than birds on the hill to-night

    And more than winds on the plain!

The threat of the Scotts has filled the moss,

    *There will be moonlight again!”


Ho! for the blades of Harden!

    Ho! For the ring of steel!

The stolen steers of a hundred years

    Come home for a Kirkhope meal!

The ride must risk its fortune,

    The raid must count its slain,

The March must feed her ravens.

    “There will be moonlight again!”


Ho! for the blades of Harden!

    Ho! for the pikes that cross!

Ho! for the king of lance and ling

    --A Scott on the Ettrick moss!

The rough road runs by the Carter,

   The white foam creams on the rein;

And aye for the blades of Harden

    “There will be moonlight again!”

  Will  H  Ogilvie

 By kind permission of Mrs Catherine Reid


Thanks to Barry Harden, Baron of Cowdenknowes and Mark Harden of Cowdenknowes, yr  for their valuable assistance in compiling this feature.

See also Harden in the Surnames section for more information including entry to the Harden website.


For more information on the Scott family from Chambers "Domestic Annals of Scotland." click HERE