"The notorious Border Reivers wreaked havoc on both sides of the Scotland/England border from the 13th to the 16th centuries AD. It is thought that reiving crime started then due to the wars of independence and the Borders were being ravaged by English soldiers invading..."
So starts the introduction to an ambitious publication which seeks to answer the question: The reivers - how much do we really know about them?'
Addressing this question were a group of second-year pupils at Hawick High School taking part in a project to produce a book about the reivers. With the help of Allan Burnett, historian and author of the And All That series of history books, they split the business of book creation into manageable chunks and set off to find out more.
Starting from existing texts, the students made recordings of visits from local experts (Ian Landles, reiver historian and Derek Stewart, reivers weapons demonstrator) and visits to The Heritage Hub local history archive and Hawick Public Library. Utilising all these sources the work of writing and illustrating the book began. Working in groups focussing on specific elements of the reiving life (battles & raids, weapons, armour & equipment, clans & famous reivers, castles, towers & abbeys, law & order and music, ballads & pastimes) the students were encouraged to evaluate the pieces of writing and artwork produced and develop their editing skills towards a final version.
Whilst enhancing many practical skills - good note-taking and putting information into your own words; finding sources and using the internet effectively; working to a deadline and working in groups - another undoubted benefit of the project was the self-esteem and confidence engendered within pupils from producing a book, a very tangible result at the end of a period of hard work.
One student described the project as "tough, challenging and worthwhile" whilst another remarked that they had learned to "express my opinions constructively" over the course of the 6 months, and another felt the need to manage existing schoolwork alongside the project had "taught me a lot."
Dwelling in the romance and intrigue of the time (not to mention the blood and guts) inspired many of the students to produce artwork subsequently used in the illustration of the book, and one student composed a tune for the pipes 'Ten Thousand Raids' which was played at the launch of the book at the Tower Mill auditorium in November. The launch allowed everyone involved, and their families, to celebrate their work and see the unveiling of the high-quality book they had produced.
Copies of the book have been distributed to local primary schools and libraries throughout the Borders, and further copies are available at local outlets in Hawick.
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