The Wigtownshire Pages

The Scots/English Border

by Crawford MacKeand
What we today regard as "The Border" really only began to take shape in the 1200s or so. In around 700 there was no Scotland and no England to have a border between. There were at one early time or another, across & on both sides of "the border", the following "kingdoms" in existence:
  1. Rheged, which extended from the Rhinns, probably at Dunragit (near Stranraer) down into Cumbria, and whose capital was probably Carlisle. Their language was Cumbric, a sort of Welsh.
  2. Strathclyde, with its center at Dumbarton, and encompassing the Clyde valley and probably some of Dumfries and some of Rheged, as they fought and as the boundaries moved. Language probably Brythonic, likely a sort of proto-Welsh.
  3. Northumbria, which stretched usually in that period as far north as the Lothians and Edinburgh, and is the real reason why Scots today speak English, as their language was Anglian. At one time they controlled southern Pictland, until the Picts defeated them at Nechtansmere in Angus. They also at times controlled parts of Galloway, including Wigtownshire, so that their lands crossed "the border" and also, east to west, the territory which had been held by Rheged and/or Strathclyde.
Later, toward 1200, the Scots of Dalriada (today's Argyll) who were not in our area at all, had teamed up with the Picts under Kenneth McAlpin and taken over Strathclyde, and the Lothians too, and fought to and fro with the Northumbrians, who had taken over Rheged and/or Strathclyde south of today's border, so that "the border" was fluid well into the 1400s. These two groups, Scots, Picts and Gallowegians on the one hand, Northumbrians and some of the Cumbrians together with all the Southern Anglo-Saxons on the other, now became recognizable as today's Scots and English. However, Galloway was keeping its distance and still had a precarious independence from Scotland. We were well recognised as a very nasty lot to trifle with ... mixed Norse-Gaelic with some Britons (or Welsh), some Irish (both Scot and Cruithne), no Picts [despite what you may read], a little Anglian and a strong tendency to make a buck as mercenaries wherever possible!
Crawford MacKeand
Greenville, Delaware USA, Feb 2002
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