The Reeds were one of the most important ancient Northumbrian families in Redesdale. When they held power many a moonlit night would find them driving lifted sheep down from over the Carter Bar. Sometimes they worked alone, more often they were in the company of the Halls.
Percy lived at Troughend, near Otterburn. He was impetuous and spirited very troublesome for the authorities who found it impossible to curb his unruly behaviour.
He was particularly out of favour with Mr Marrowe the parson of the church at Elsdon. Apparently Marrowe, for some misdemeanor, had imposed upon Percy, a penalty which upset Percy to the extend that, in a confrontation with the parson, Percy lost his temper and hurled at Marlowe a torrent of verbal abuse.
On another occasion, in similar circumstances, he called Marlow “Base priest and stinking castrel” and pulled Marlow’s beard.
For this particular offence he was ordered to apoligise to Mr Marlowe before the full congregation on the church on Sunday, and was fined.
Percy did not attend and persuaded his wife to attend in his stead, not out of fear but rather in defiance.
Percy and the Halls of nearby Girsonside, were close friends and often joined together in forays, some legal. They plagued the Scots just over the Border and upset the locals by bring the inevitable retaliation from the Scots and their consequences.
The Warden of the Middle Marches, in despair, but appreciating the good qualities of Percy given the right direction, offered him the post of Keeper of Redesdale, with a brief to keep order, and apprehend and bring to justice offenders. That must certainly have been a challenge to Percy. but, no doubt recognising the perks of the job, accepted.
He worked at his new task with diligence, prudently involving the Halls in his activities and sharing with them the adventire and the benefits of their activities.
It seemed to the Halls that the Warden had made a serious error of judgement in appointing Percy as Keeper of Redesdale. To have to accept his authority and direction, were bitter things for the Halls to swallow and all along, the Halls were acutely jealous of Percy’s rise to fame and power, and were determined that that was a state of affairs that could not be tolerated.
On every foray they made together they looked forward to Percy suffering a fatal blow that would resolve the situation. But they were disappointed. Being the skilful fighter that he was, well practised and fit, Percy emerged from each encounter unscathed, usually.
Now across the Border, in Liddesdale, their lived the Croziers, being particularly active reivers, being associates of that notorious reiving family, the Armstrongs, The Croziers had good cause to dislike Percy for, since becoming Keeper, he had restricted their routine and had brought a few of them before the administrators of the law for being caught.
The Hall’s hatched a plot and the Croziers would be involved. They hoped they could count on their support. They could.
At last the plotting and scheming ended and it was time for action.
They invited Percy to join them in an expedition north, to hunt in the forest of Carter. The unsuspecting Percy readily accepted and off they went, the Halls concealing bitterness all as relaxed and affable, as in the past.
‘They hunted high, they hunted low,
And made the echoes ring amain.
Wi’ music sweet o’ horn and hound,
The merry made fair Redsdale glen.’
Their day’s sport over the party rested a while by the burn at Batinghope. Percy fell asleep and while he slept, the False Halls affected their plan of treachery. The cut the harness of his horse, onto the powder in his gun, primed ready, they poured oil, and they fixed his sword so that it could not be withdrawn from its sheath.
And when he awoke, there confronting Percy, were five Croziers, who greeted him with the following words:-
’Weel met, weel met, now Parcy Reed,
Thou art the very man we saught;
Owre lang hae we been in your debt,
Now will we pay thee as we ought’
And they fell upon Percy, now unarmed, and thrust their swords into him and hacked at his prostrate body. All along, although Percy called on their aid, the Halls stood by, and watched.
When news of the fate of Percy and the treachery of the ‘fouse-hearted Halls of Giesonfield’ revulsion and anger swelled over Redesdale and beyond. Whilst well aware of Percy’s failings all were one in agreeing that Percy did not deserve such a dreadful death. It is said that so cut up was his body that it was gathered in a sheet to be borne back to his home at Troughend Hall.
The three Halls, in fear of their lives, left the district, never to return.
The ghost of Percy Reed, clad in hunting gear, and astride his steed, is said to have haunted the glen of Batinghope, and along the banks of the Rede. Many a traveller reported to have seen the figure in various guises in the dim light of a declining day.
One day, at Pringlehaugh, a shepherd come upon the ghostly figure
‘Oft by the Pringle’s haunted side
The shepherd saw the spectre glide.’
He watched as the figure approached. The shepherd spoke and was struck by a sudden wave of cold that sent him shivering to his home. It is said that the shepherd never recovered from the shock.