About Johnnie Armstrong Memorial
Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie was one of the most notorious of the Border reivers. It was reckoned that the Armstrongs who dominated the so-called Debateable Land between Scotland and England could put an army of 3000 men into the field but Johnnie fell foul of 17 year old King James V, and was tricked into meeting him at Carlenrig in 1530 and he and 36 of his men who had come unarmed were hung,
“John murdered was at Carlenrig
And all his gallant companie
But Scotland’s hert was ne’er sae wae
Ti see sae mony brave men dee.”
He was hung for a traitor which he certainly wasn’t – a lawless bandit, yes; a thorn in the side of the English, without a doubt; a traitor, no – a loyal patriotic Scot and tradition avers that the trees on which Johnny and his men were hung withered and never bloomed again. Hanging Johnnie was part of the young King’s attempt to pacify the Borders – instead it set them aflame for generations to come for the unwarranted and treacherous massacre created indignation and deep resentment throughout the Borderland and the foul deed left a stain on the King’s name that could never be erased. The “Ballad of Johnnie Armstrong” handed down by bards told later generations of a brave man’s unjustifiable murder at the hands of a ruthless King.
John Armstrong was a reiving man,
On countless raids did ride.
The scourge of Tyne and Cumberland,
Thorn in King Henry’s side.
But he was tricked to Carlenrig,
By his own King was slain.
The trees on which his men were hung
Ne’er bore a leaf again.
- Ian W Landles