Border Ways and Border Warfare

Anthony Goodman looks into the Scottish border culture.

In one corner of England this has been the year to commemorate a bloody defeat. Last month the Redesdale Society organised at Otterbum in Northumberland a re-enactment of the battle fought there in August 1388, and this month a conference is being held to study the battle and its background.

In 1388 a Scottish force commanded by the young Earl of Douglas encamped at Otterburn on the way home after an attack on Newcastle. The town commander, Sir Henry Percy ('Hotspur' to contemporaries as to Shakespeare) saIlied out northwards, and at sunset launched an attack on the Scottish camp. But the main impact of the English attack seems to have fallen on the service quarters: Douglas had time to rally good spearmen and the Scottish lords, using their superior knowledge of the terrain, surprised the already engaged English, whose lines they penetrated and whom they defeated with heavy slaughter. Hotspur was wounded, and captured. The victors soon withdrew across the boarder – in mourning, for Douglas had been slain on the battlefield.

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