When nearing the completion of an Osprey title there invariably comes a moment when the author scans his text and due to the limitations of space, has to make a decision regarding what should ‘stay in’ and what must be discarded. When writing about a subject close to one’s heart – in this case a Warrior title, BORDER REIVER 1513-1603 - these are always difficult decisions to make and inevitably, one or two incidents worthy of inclusion hit the cutting room floor. However, due to the advent of the Osprey blog, it is now possible to share some of these otherwise jettisoned passages. What follows is a case in point.


Although the Borderers were in their element when employing hit and run tactics in the open country where they knew the terrain and when necessary, could usually manoeuvre their way out of trouble, it would seem that if the occasion arose, they did not shirk from the dangerous task of breaching a well manned stronghold. As demonstrated in the following account even a formidable Border fortress such as Hume Castle, Berwickshire, could be infiltrated by stealth and then taken by a small number of ruthless and determined men.

During the period that became known as the ‘Rough Wooing’, whilst Lord Hume and his followers were campaigning elsewhere in the Borders, the English laid siege to Hume Castle, where Lady Hume had ‘with some of her Domesticks’ taken refuge. Although ‘there were but a few within it’ the castle held out for several days. The English then erected a gibbet before the castle and informed Lady Hume that ‘if she did not surrender within two Hours they would hang up her son (who had been made Prisoner, probably at the Battle of Pinkie) before her eyes’. ‘The Mother could no longer behold the Barbarous Spectacle and unwilling to see her Son so basely Murder’d, she caus’d hang out a Handkerchief, or little Flag as a Sign of her Capitulation’ Following

Lady Hume’s surrender, the English installed a garrison at Hume Castle and commanded the surrounding district from it.
However, at the behest of their Lady, eight Scottish Borderers had ingratiated themselves with the English garrison and once they had gained the garrison’s confidence, Lord Hume was contacted and he began to lay plans to retake his castle. On a dark and tempestuous night, after the English Governor had made his rounds and retired to his bed, an assault party of Hume’s Borderers, led by one of the aforementioned infiltrators, began to climb the sloping, earthen ramp that led up to the castle walls. In command of the party was ‘a Gentleman by the name of Hume, about Sixty years of Age’. When ‘he had got within his own Length of the top, a Centinel plac’d upon that very Spot, getting a Glimpse of him, gave a hasty Alarm to the Guard and they to the whole Castle. The Governour was a-bed, but started up in a Surprise at the Noise, and in his Night Dress, with his Hanger at his Side and Sword in Hand, run in haste to the Place from whence the Alarm proceeded; where seeing nothing likely, in his Judgement, to what was Reported, and not believing, that People would venture Abroard in a Night so very Boisterous and Rainy’ he berated the unfortunate ‘Centinel’ and ‘retir’d to his Lodgings’. Whereupon the Scots ‘helped up the old Gentleman their Leader, as quietly as was possible, to the Parapet, or Breast-Work of the Wall, where he observ’d that the Centinel was walking up and down Whistling; and taking his time, when the Fellow had turn’d his Back, he made to him with a Dagger in his Hand, and stabbing him in the Throat and Stomach, soon open’d a way for the Soul to go out at. He was so quickly backed by his own Men and so well seconded (by the other seven infiltrators) that all the English he found in his way were cut off on a sudden’.

Lord Hume was apparently much admired by his followers ‘for having vanquish’d his Enemy, and recover’d his own Dwelling place by this Deceit, than if he had carried it in an open Assault after Battering it furiously and Besieging it with the Expense of much Trouble and Time’.

Hume Castle

Today, Hume Castle is a mere shadow of its former self, a castellated folly marking the location of what was once one of the most formidable castles in the Scottish Borders and the hereditary seat of the powerful Hume family. From the battlements there are panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and from its earliest days, the castle served as a beacon station to give warning of English invasion. In 1569, due to the Hume’s renewed support for Mary, Queen of Scots, the castle was again taken by the English and held by them for three years. Finally, in 1651 during the Civil War, Hume Castle was bombarded and destroyed by Cromwell’s army.