The Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers by Alistair Moffat

Apr 8th, 2008 | By | Category: Book Reviews

Only one period in history is immediately, indelibly and uniquely linked to the whole area of the Scottish and English Border country, and that is the time of the Reivers. Whenever anyone mentions ‘Reiver’, no-one hesitates to add ‘Border’. It is an inextricable association, and rightly so. Nowhere else in Britain in the modern era, or indeed in Europe, did civil order break down over such a wide area, or for such a long time. For more than a century, the hoof-beats of countless raiding parties drummed over the border. From Dumfriesshire to the high wastes of East Cumbria, from Roxburghshire to Redesdale, from the lonely valley of Liddesdale to the fortress city of Carlisle, swords and spears spoke while the law remained silent. Fierce family loyalty counted for everything while the rules of nationality counted for nothing. The whole range of the Cheviot Hills, its watershed ridges and the river valleys which flowed out of them became the landscape of larceny while Maxwells, Grahams, Fenwicks, Carletons, Armstrongs and Elliots rode hard and often for plunder. These were the Riding Times and in modern European history, they have no parallel.This book tells the remarkable story of the Reivers and how they made the Borders.

I’ve long been a fan of MacDonald Fraser’s ‘Steel Bonnets’ so I was interested to see what Alistair Moffat’s book would add.

The hardback is just over 320 pages, grouped into two main parts, four chapters in the first, and three in the second. Add to this five appendices, the bibliography and a concise and easy to use index, there’s a lot here to immerse yourself in. And in the centre of the book you have the illustrations, thirty-two superb colour photographs of the landscapes of the Borders that do so much to evoke the mood of the era. They compliment the text admirably.

As you cruise through the book you often have additional box inserts that take the reader off into interesting sidelines of yet more fascinating information. There are just to many to mention, and all add to the flavour that the author provides the reader, with his view of the troubled times of the sixteenth century.

I have to say that from start to finish, I couldn’t put this book down. It adds to MacDonald Fraser’s work and is a ‘must-have’ for anyone interested in the hardy doughty folk of the Border, their lawless ways and customs, the feuds and the politics that shaped their life. An inspiring read.

The Reivers: The Story of the BordThe Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers (Hardcover) er Reivers (Hardcover)

Also available: The Reivers and the Making of the Borders DVD

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