Kinmont Willie


The Anglo-Scottish Border during the times of the Border Reivers had more than its share of colourful characters. None had a more eventful life than had William Armstrong of Kinmont.

He lives at the Tower of Sark, in Liddesdale, (map reference: 73 334 751) with his wife, a Graham girl.

William's favourite activity was reiving and he had been a thorn in the side of the English for many a year. They were very keen to get their hands on him, but he proved too elusive in spite of every effort by them.

At that time Scotland and England were at peace but the Borders were still restless with frequent reiver raids and then retaliatory raids from the other side.

For the purposes of administration, the Border was divided into marches, three on each side of the Border, each with its own Warden. Opposing Wardens were required to arrange a meeting, a Truce Day, to sort out differences and to administer justice. Wardens, their officials, plaintiffs, witnesses and the accused would attend.

In order to allow alleged miscreants to attend, they were guaranteed impunity from arrest or any harm, for a period which allowed them to journey to and (perhaps) back home in safety.

This day the meeting was at an end and Kinmont made his way home without a thought of danger. But he was being shadowed by a party of English for they could not bear the though of Kinmont of disappearing when they had him so easily within their grasp.

He was easily overpowered and taken off to the English castle at Carlisle where he was secured in a cell much to the satisfaction of all especially that of Lord Scrope, the English warden who must have dreamt of this day.

Now the Keeper of Liddesdale was the Bold Buccleuch (pronounced Bucklew, with the emphasis on the lew) Although he was lower in status than the warden, such was the importance of his post, that his salary was higher.

Being so important he could not allow such an act as the illegal arrest of Kinmont pass unheeded. Against the Border laws he had been taken, and Buccleuch remonstrated with the opposing officials, demanding the prompt return of Kinmont, unharmed.

But what they had they were determined top keep. This was an opportunity,  not to by missed, of ridding themselves of a lifetime of frustration and embarrassment.

Buccleuch made plans to rescue Kinmont. Carlisle Castle was no Border bastle and effecting an entry would not be easy.

The Ballad is the story of the rescue, one version of it.

If you are not familiar with the story of Kinmont's rescue you are advised to first read the account in the People section.


Border Stories Index