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Both Buccleuch and Bellenden lay to the north west of Hawick, the latter almost on the county boundary between Roxburgh and Selkirk. As the Scotts had first entered this area from the west, via Clydesdale and Upper Tweeddale, they would have begun to settle around this high plateau of land near the head of the Ale Water. As the Scotts were set to become one of the most prominent riding families in border history, this was an ideal area from which to commence raids into England. On all sides, the gradually sloping hills would have been grass covered rather than heather, with the surrounding Ettrick Forest providing ample sources of concealment. It was fine riding country with ready access into England via Liddesdale and Redesdale. Although puzzling to a stranger, it was easily ranged by those with local knowledge of hill and river crossings.
Very few roads exist of officially recognised Roman construction in the Borders, but such a section existed near the Scottish/English border here at Craik Forest ,at the head of the Borthwick Water, now an important salmon spawning stream and tributary of the River Tweed. This hugely strategic position then was further acquired by the Scotts of Murthockstane, Rankilburn and Buccleuch on 18th June 1415, in exchange with the Monastery of Melrose, for their lands and fisheries of glen Kery by none other than one Robert Scott. As this now lay more or less at the centre of all now-owned Scott territory, it was soon designated the clans rallying, mustering and gathering place, similar to a modern army's HQ. Essentially riding country, the massed horsemen, or 'reivers', would triumphantly shout their battle cry “a Bellenden” before careering off down Liddesdale to Cumbria, or down Tynesdale or Redesdale into Northumberland. As Sir Walter Scott, himself, later wrote of in his 'Lay of the Last Minstrel'-
“Trooped man, and horse, and bow and spear
their gathering word was Bellenden”.
The Scott battle cry, or slogan, however is spelt in many different ways. One is a 'bel dene' and is believed to have come from Norman -French, meaning a beautiful place (a dene is a forest) and takes it from the secret place in Ettrick Forest where families and cattle would have been sent in times of war. Other variations include 'bellenden', 'dean', 'deane', and 'daine', the latter which has now come to be accepted as the current spelling of the cry.
It is worth noting that in addition to "A Bellendaine" other phrases associated with the Scotts include "There'll be moonlight again!" And the cry "The Scotts are Out!" were said to strike terror into the hearts of Englishmen!
Bellendean farm photographs exist from the 1950's (of which we have some, kindly donated by local farmer James Anderson), though it is believed that an older Bellendean farm and ruins existed ¼ mile nearer, the more western, Tushielawside. At any rate , the Bellenden banner is today still preserved amongst the trophies of the Buccleuch family and it bears both the stars and crescents , as well as the stag trippant, (both discussed on the page on the origins of the Buccleuch name), surmounted by an earl's coronet and the words 'A Bellendaine', on a field azure. This flag, or banner, made of silk, is proudly owned by His Grace, the Duke of Buccleuch, at his family residency at Bowhill, near Selkirk.
An older version of the "Bellendaine Banner".