Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Nicola
Even in this site – a gloomy underpass between town and castle the polished granite rock commands attention. As you draw closer the 14 tonne rock seems to grow in height and girth. Every sentence – and there are many carved carefully on to this vast stone – radiates furious power. As it is intended to do. For this is the final solution from the Bishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar, in a bid to control the troublesome Border Reivers forever.
“…I curse them gangand (going) , and I curse them rydand (riding); I curse thaim standand, and I curse thaim sittand; I curse them etand, I curse thaim drankand; I curse them walkand, I curse thaim sleepand; I curse thaim rysand, I curse thaim lyand; I curse thaim at hame, I curse thaim fra hame; I curse thaim within the house, I curse thaim without the house; I curse tahir wiffis, thair barnis, and thair servandis paticipand with thaim in thair deides...”
This spectacularly violent cursing – and this midway within another 900 more explicit sentences – ensures that the Reivers have nowhere to escape God’s fury. Not even the dunny.
When the Bishop wrote out his curse to stop the Reivers more than 500 years ago everyone felt the fear, the word “reiver” is created from “bereaved” because that’s how the Reivers left anyone not in their anarchic group or those who dared to leave it. At the time everyone knew which trouble makers living on the English/Scottish borders deserved to quiver.
And we do now too because the stone mason/artist, Gordon Young (born in Carlisle and the bearer of a Reiver name) has carved the names of the families into the underpass, in larger and smaller letters and fonts. Here you can find Armstrong, Graham, Noble, Robson, Watson, Young and many others (100 or so) a mix of opportunistic, violent Border families – English and Scots – who ruled the area by fear. As a result Carlisle Castle has a record of being the most attacked of all Britain’s castles – there are still soldiers there. The Bishop issued his curse in 1525 but the area had been famously ungovernable for centuries, which is why the Romans built a huge stone defence across the north of England, Hadrian’s Wall 2000 years ago.
Those names on the paving stones are still owned by many local families. You may well recognise them as your best friends, the school bully, your boss, builders, brewers, media magnets (Dacre, Maxwell), politicians … everyone. The names, the history, the power of memory this evokes is quite astonishing – more gift than curse for the underpass visitor.