TH2023 Ep10 The Border Reivers

Season 2023 – Talk 10 – The Border Reivers

In ‘The Border Reivers’ David Simpson tells us about these bandits who plundered the English / Scottish border counties from the 13th Century to the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

Click a thumbnail below to view the image gallery that accompanies the talk.


Border raiders from every class in society operating in the north of England and south of Scotland. People for whom loyalty to family is much more important than to country.

The rustling of livestock their principle business. According to Bishop Leslie of Ross ‘they have a persuasion that all property is common by the law of nature; and is therefore liable to be appropriated by them in their necessity’.


In the 300 years between the end of the 13th Century and the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, Dumfriesshire, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland are pretty poor and desolate.

This is not land for arable crops and so people keep cattle to provide an income and food. Neither the Scottish nor English Crowns have estates here and therefore do not have a financial interest. These lands are also far from the lawmakers of Edinburgh and London.

A dinner of spurs:

It is said that the wife of one famous Border Reiver demonstrated that her larder was empty by serving her husband his spurs on a plate instead of his dinner. The message is clear either mount up and go reiving, or go hungry.

Their legacy:

Some view the Border Reivers as loveable rogues, others compare them to the Mafia. Whatever your opinion, their legacy remains in the fortified dwellings called pele towers, their ballads and words now common in the English language such as ‘bereave’ and ‘blackmail’.

Listen to the podcast and hear the whole story from David.

Unfortunately I have not been able to remove all the coughs and some external noises.

About this podcast:

This is an edited recording of a talk given to the Farnham u3a World History  Group .

It is frequently not possible to use all of the images presented in the original talk because of copyright reasons.

This podcast is also available through Amazon Music, Apple PodcastsCastbox, DeezerPodchaserSpotifyStitcher and Vurbl and others.

AKM Music licenses Media Magazine for use the music in this talk.

© The MrT Podcast Studio and Farnham u3a World History Group 2018 – 2024

Author: Tim D

In the early 1970s Mr Timothy & his Phonograph was a popular mobile disco around Leeds University and Tim was known as MrT. Tim also spent 9 years broadcasting a weekly programme on Hospital Radio in Wakefield. He worked for more than 40 years for large industrial organisations and spent his last 15 years in global commercial management roles. Following retirement he started making podcasts in 2017.