This is the oldest relic of the infamous Armstrong clan. Eight feet high and carved from stone, the engraving shows the bent arm symbolic of the family. This monument was erected to commemorate an Armstrong Laird who was killed at nearby Hermitage Castle. It was around 1300 and the tale goes that Lord de Soules, its tyrannical owner, had taken a fancy to a local girl. Her father challenged de Soules, who then killed him. De Soules was about to be lynched by a local crowd when Alexander Armstrong, the 2nd Laird, led him to safety. Armstrong's reward was to be invited to dine at Hermitage where he was foully slain. This is a story and we do not know if it is true, but history would be a dull thing if there wasn't room for legend...
‘If Jesus Christ were emongest them, they would deceave him’
Across the valley from here are the ruins of Mangerton, a tower built by the 1st Armstrong Laird and seat of the chiefs of Clan Armstrong. The last Armstrong chief was hanged by the English in the city of Newcastle in 1611. His son then fled for his life. We do not know what happened to him or whether he had any heirs, so today, the Armstrongs are a 'heidless' clan. Can you trace your roots back to that day? Could you be the Armstrong chief? Can you prove it?
Did you know?
Above us is one of the most poignant kirkyards in Scotland. Keeping watch over the Liddesdale hills, Ettleton stands peaceful, but in reiving times this valley would have echoed to the thunder of hooves and the clash of cold steel. Liddesdale housed some of the most predatory border clans.
Outlaws regularly mounted vicious raids into England from here. Life was short – 30 was a good age to reach - and for many centuries Ettleton was a burial place of Armstrongs and other reivers.
The reivers were called ‘freebooters’ and ‘mosstroopers’. Tradition has it that when food was getting short, wives would serve up a dish containing a pair of spurs. The message to their men was to get out and replenish the larder by mounting a raid.
When a man was killed, his whole family was brought into a feud with his killers and anyone with the same name. A clan could feud with one family, or a dozen other families - and a feud could last for centuries. Some were settled by single combat, others by a small war, like the Battle of Dryfe Sands, in 1593; a clash between the Maxwells and the Johnstones, it was one of the bloodiest fights on British soil. 11 year old boys joined the fray and 700 Maxwells were killed. Feuding was one reason why the borderlands slipped into complete chaos.
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