The 2014 Scottish independence debate and the re-ignition of the SNP’s call for a second vote in the wake of Brexit – and indeed Brexit itself – begs a reappraisal of what nationality and borderer identity actually mean in the twenty-first century and how the past affects this. As a borderer and historian John Sadler is uniquely qualified to examine the border from Roman times to today. He’s been in these Marches all his life, read about their wild inhabitants, traversed every inch and studied every castle, bastle, tower and battlefield.
In July 2010 in Rothbury, a latter-day outlaw, Raoul Thomas Moat, a vicious petty criminal and murderer, holed up in Coquetdale as hundreds of police tried to flush him out. Nasty as he was, he became a kind of instant folk hero to some. Four centuries ago, Moat would barely have been noticed on the border – just another Reiver.
From the Hammer of the Scots, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Mary, Queen of Scots, right through to today’s new nationalism, the story of the borderlands is tempestuous, bloody and fascinating. And a ‘Hot Trod’? If your cattle were stolen there was a legal requirement to pursue the rustlers within six days, otherwise you’re on a less enforceable Cold Trod.