Operating from their strongholds in Liddesdale, the Armstrongs and their friends dominated the West Marches of both Scotland and England during much of the 16th century.

 The authorities in Carlisle were in despair at their unremitting incursions and the havoc and distress they caused. They were well aware that one of the principal perpetrators was Jock o’ the Syde, and his capture was foremost in their prayers.

 Jock Armstrong lived at the Syde, not far from Mangerton, the seat of the laird, and his only occupation was that of reiving at which he was highly skilled having perfected his art. Being wily and knowledgeable he had evaded capture and invariably returned safely to his home in Liddesdale with his booty.

        He is well kenned, Jock o’ the Syde      
        A greater thief did never ride.

 Perhaps it was his overconfidence that led to an encounter with the English. His party was overwhelmed after a short but violent fight, for Jock had no doubt of the consequences of capture.  Some of his companions were killed and Jock was taken prisoner.

 He was taken to Newcastle jailhouse to await his fate.

 When news of his capture reached the laird at Mangerton, he dispatched three of his men to rescue Jock. They were the Laird’s Jock, the Laird’s Wat (Walter), Hobbie (Halbert) Noble. Disguised as corn merchants and with their horses shod in reverse, they set off on their 70 miles journey to Newcastle.

 They probably took the reiver route via Bewcastle into the Tyne valley. It was a dark night and the weather was vile.  The rain beat down on them making the going difficult and hazardous. At Chollerford the party halted and felled some timber with which to make scaling ladders to mount the walls, but, on reaching the jail, they decided on a frontal assault on the gatehouse.

 As they approached there was no sign of life at the jail. No doubt the guards were doing their best to shelter from the foul weather. The only guard to challenge them was quickly dispatched.

        His neck in twa the Armstrongs wrang;                    
  Wi’ fute or hand he ne’er play’d pa!
His life and his keys at anes they hae ta’en
  And cast the body ahind the wa’.

 Quickly, Jock was found and freed. Still in his shackles he was mounted sidesaddle on a spare pony and the group sped off for home in the driving rain but not before some banter from his companions.

        ‘O Jock, sae winsomely’s ye ride             
    Wi’ baith ye feet upon ae side;

Sae weel ye’re harneist, and sae trig,
    In trooth ye sit like ony a bride!’


At Chollerford the river was so swollen that only with the greatest difficulty did they safely cross, and then they were away on the 50-mile ride home.     
Back in Liddesdale, Jock’s fetters were removed and the experience appeared to have curbed his activities for little is heard of him thereafter.

 Sae now they are on to Liddesdale,
       E’en as fast as they could them hie;
       The prisoner is brought to’s ain fire-side,
       And there o’s aims they mak him free