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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Auditions find voices to tell tale of Border Reiver Kinmont Willie

A special recording has taken place to bring a tale about one of the most notorious Border Reivers to a new generation.

Kinmont Willie photo
Kinmont Willie

Kinmont Willie’s daring jail break from Carlisle Castle is dramatic, even among the colourful and bloody stories from the days of the debatable lands.

It was immortalised in The Ballad of Kinmont Willie – a spoken song that will feature as part of a new exhibition at the historical landmark later this year.

Work on a recording of it started this week with 15 people turning up to an open session to lend their voice to the production. Among those taking part were Rosie Cunningham and Joe Waterfield, from Hart Street, Carlisle

Steven Brindle, of English Heritage, said: “Carlisle Castle has played such a prominent role over the centuries and we were keen to be able to offer people the chance to become part of the next stage in the castle’s history.

“We opened the recordings to people of all ages and each person who turned up to audition was invited to recite a verse of The Ballad of Kinmont Willie.

“The interest in the auditions has been astounding with 15 people turning up to take part from as far as Glasgow and Manchester, ranging in age from 19 to 78.

“We were delighted with the standard of the participants and are now considering which voices will be included in the final ballad which will be played to visitors when they tour the new exhibition in the castle.”

The new exhibition will be an introduction to the castle’s story and the role it played during the many conflicts between England and Scotland.

Kinmont Willie, a Scottish raider, regularly led bands of men into Cumbria – burning and stealing during the 16th century’s days of lawlessness in the borderlands. Legend has it that he once stole 2,000 head of cattle in one go.

Those he tormented were desperate to land his scalp and thought they had it in the spring of 1596, following a truce day held near Kershopefoot, a remote spot north of Longtown.

It was attended by 200 riders from the English marches, as well as Scots – including Kinmont Willie, also known as William Armstrong of Kinmont – to settle some matters and pay compensation for those robbed.

As Willie headed for home, he was attacked by a group of Englishmen and imprisoned in Carlisle Castle.

Enraged, his friend and fellow reiver, Scott of Buccleuch – a daring Scottish chieftain – led a band of 80 men to Carlisle.

In a stunning raid on March 17, 1596, they appear to have climbed the castle wall with ladders, cut a hole in the roof and freed their comrade from his cell.

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