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Borders Families and Castles
Talk by Andrew Spratt 3rd. December 2008

Mr. Spratt who is very much into interactive history particularly with youngsters in an endeavour to enthuse them in the subject started off the evening by showing some of the ‘props’ which he uses in this project. Not only mediaeval helmets and swords were illustrated with their strengths and weaknesses but also implements of a somewhat more stomach churning or gruesome nature. How some of these implements gave rise to modern everyday expressions was pointed out as also a number of expressions originating from mediaeval life .The demonstration was concluded perfectly safely but perhaps somewhat to the alarm of a few of the members with the discharge of a 15th. century arquebus of hagbut.

For the main part of his talk Mr Spratt recounted the history of various Border Families in particular the Douglases, Hays, Swintons, Dunbars and Humes covering the period from Bannockburn to Flodden illustrating through heraldry their consanguinities but also recounting their varying allegiances, and indeed at times perfidities.

Backing up his talk Mr. Spratt showed some fine illustrations of a number of Castles and strongholds of these families not only as they are today but also showing them how they would have looked in their heyday. Over the years Mr. Spratt has gone to considerable trouble to try to recreate an image of how these castles would have looked, painstaking taking exact measurements of the ruins and using as much archaeological and architectural evidence as is available to produce his reconstructions. As he pointed it is probably not possible ever to be absolutely correct but his work in this field has been widely acclaimed and members viewing these reconstructions began to appreciate what fine structures many of these castles truly were.

It is easy to dismiss what we now see as a ‘rickle o’ stanes’ and not appreciate the true dimensions, strength and size the original construction.

Mr. Spratt. likes to depict battle scenes and showed slides of a number of illustrations he had compiled of Scottish Mediaeval battles each scene as accurately as is possible trying to identify each of the opposing factions of families and paying particular accuracy to the exactness of the armour and even the likes of the style of horses bridles Interestingly he mentioned that in drawing up these illustrations he quite often adapts images of modern sportsmen dressing them up in medieval battle dress.

The speaker also threw out some theories as to for instance what happened to the body of James 1V after Flodden or the reason Humes changing the spelling of their name - all food for thought.

With a very easy and infectious style the talk was greatly appreciated by the members

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