Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lawful trods

Virginia Creeper in autumn
If the trod crossed the border, there were rules to ensure that it was a legal pursuit. An agreement drawn up in 1563 describes "a lawfull Trodd with Horn and Hound, with Hue and Cry and all other accustomed manner of fresh pursuit".

According to Walter Scott, who immersed himself in Border Lore, and possibly invented certain touches, the pursuer was obliged to carry a lighted turf on his lance-point to signify his good intentions and lawful pursuit.  It strikes me that a burning turf would not have lasted long, and might quite easily have shattered into a million bits as the rider's pony scrambled up and down hills and hopped across ditches and streams and boggy bits.

He was also supposed to report to the first person he met over the border, or to ask at the first village and seek assistance there. Early rules directed the pursuer to sseek out some local worthy and invite him to join the trod as witness that all was as it should be. I can imagine that this rule was flouted on more occasions than not, but actually impeding a trod was a serious offence. In England in the 1550s, refusal to follow a trod was punishable by death. Later this reduced to seven days imprisonment and a fine of  three shillings and four pence.
If the reivers were caught, they were returned to face the Warden's justice. Sometimes they were killed on the spot, especially if caught 'red-hand', ie " in the deede doinge". Lynchings happened, without a doubt, but how common they were is unknown. It brings to mind the old Wild West films we used to watch when films had a story instead of computer graphics and impossible action.

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