JOCK O' THE SYDE
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
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;
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
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.
Sae now they are on