Reivers replay seige

A group of historical battle re-enactors are preparing to relive the moments that saw the Border reivers roar onto the European stage.

SBBN-01-10-09 Grolle seige Border Clanmen
SBBN-01-10-09 Grolle seige Border Clanmen

Members of the Border Clansmen re-enactment group soon follow in the footsteps of so many Scots in the 16th and 17th centuries to offer their services as mercenary men-at-arms on the continent.

They set sail at the end of October on the same journey that Walter Scott, the 1st Earl of Buccleuch (son of the ‘Bold Buccleuch’) made in 1627 when he led a company of one hundred Borderers to the Netherlands to take part in the ‘Eighty Years War’.

The club will be taking part in the re-enactment of 
the 1627 ‘Slag om Grolle’ (Battle of Grolle) in Groenlo, 
Holland, between October 23-25.

They are attending as a cannon crew, and will be manning a 2lb falconet as part of the Dutch army in its siege of the Spanish held town of Grolle.

The Scots played a small but significant part in the original siege, where they held a part of the entrenchments circling the town, and took the brunt of the Spanish counter attack.

The club will be joined on their first trip abroad by other re-enactors from Poland to Spain. In all, 13 different nations will be represented.

Secretary Derek Stewart said that part of the appeal of the era was that the wars in Europe in the mid-17th century continued the tale of the Reivers, who had been effectively put down in Britain by then.

AS for re-enacting as a whole, he said: “ The great thing is that you can be just about anyone you want to be.

“There are about 40 groups going to Grolle, and one of them is a German group, but they are acting as Scottish soldiers.”

The Border Clansmen usually concentrate on the period “from Flodden to Culloden”, but they are looking forward to reliving the experience of some of the original Scottish mercenaries.

“These wars that everyone forgets about,” said Derek,

The battle will see 1500 combatants taking to the field, with the town also joining in with torch lit processions, beggars, street rascals, lepers, musicians and artisans – all adding to the atmosphere.

“The seige starts with a torchlit procession, and from then on everyone in the town gets dressed in period clothes.

“With the walls of the town and the cobbled street, it’s very atmospheric, and there will be about 30,000 spectators going along to watch.”

The Clansmen group will be positioned in the specially built siege works around the town as they try to help Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, to defeat Hendrik Van den Bergh, capture Grolle – and return home safely.

While they are there, they will be tasked with their falconet, a 2lb cannon.

“We’ve been using that for about four years now,” said Derek. “There are about seven different actions you have to do before firing it.

“But we’ve got the timing down to about a minute per shot fired.”

The event will see re-enactors relive the conditions of 1627 as faithfully as possible, without electricity or heating, sleeping in large canvas tents.

There are some comforts, though. “There are also going to be two Austrian chefs,” added Derek, “and they’ll be helping us to enjoy some contemporary food as well.”