Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Killer Grahams

In his 1986 book Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, George MacDonald Fraser explored the dark histories of certain notorious border families. The Reverend Billy notwithstanding, the Grahams were the worst of the lot.

Their specialities were blackmail, protection rackets and kidnappings. At one point in the late 16th century, 60 of them were outlawed for having, among other offences, despoiled more than a dozen Cumbrian villages, protected felons from the fates they deserved, fought the troops of officialdom and murdered witnesses who might have testified to crimes. Every now and then authority retaliated by burning their lands, but nothing, it seemed, could curb them, until James VI of Scotland became James I of England as well; and then retribution, exercised with a Grahamite ruthlessness, followed. [Link]

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