The Border Reivers
Blood feuds, ruthless vendettas, protection rackets, cattle rustling...and no, we are not talking about the Wild West or the Mafia.
Welcome to the badlands of the Borders, where the legendary Border Reivers brand of lawlessness held sway for almost 300 years.
These were the men who bequeathed bereavement and blackmail to the English language, whose power was built around family allegiances and whose brand of doing business asked for no quarter - and rarely received it.
Reiving - or stealing - was a seasonal pursuit, a means of stocking up the larder for the winter months and raids south to England or north into Scotland followed old drover trails and ancient tracks that criss-crossed the wild border uplands.
Mounted on sure-footed horses bred for stamina they employed guerrilla style tactics developed during Scotland's Wars of Independence in the 1200 and 1300's.
Famous Scottish Reiver family names include Maxwell, Johnstone,
Scott, Kerr, Hume, Pringle, Douglas, Armstrong, Turnbull, Elliot....and on the English side Musgrave, Charlton and Dodd.
The power of the Reivers reached its peak in 1580 and over the next 20 years, until the death of Elizabeth 1, recorded its most savage period.
James VI of Scotland who succeeded Elizabeth and united England and Scotland under one crown was the man who broke the Reivers. Soon after taking the throne he mounted a concerted campaign to destroy the Reivers and stamp his authority across the borderlands.
What he couldn't do was to eradicate the tales that became folklore and gave the Border Reivers legendary status. The reivers' legacy and their strongholds are still very much in evidence across the borderlands and their descendents, now happily engaged in more peaceful pursuits, are still very much a part of Borders life.