Home Television Drama Borderers, The

Borderers, The

1 9 6 8 – 1 9 7 0 (UK)
26 x 50 minute episodes

Debuting on BBC2 at 8.00 pm on 31 December 1968, this historical adventure series was set in the disorderly and dangerous Scottish border country in the 1560s – the “debatable lands” where feuds and raids were an unavoidable fact of life.

To the north Mary Queen of Scots, lately returned from her beloved France, reigns over a country made restless by misrule during her absence. Far to the south in London, Elizabeth is on the throne of an England still divided by the bitter consequences of the Reformation. The two kingdoms are nominally at peace and the last full-scale battle between them had been fought more than twenty years ago.

But along the Marches, barren moor and forest, good for little except cattle raising, there is no true peace – and neither royal lady has much authority. The lords and lairds regard themselves very much as their own masters  – with more allegiance to their surnames than to the Crown.

From their strongholds, they rule their cattle kingdoms, carry on private wars and plunder their neighbour’s herds.

Episodes of The Borderers revolved primarily around the Ker family of Slitrig, and their distant kinsman, Sir Walter Ker of Cessford (Iain Cuthbertson), Warden of the Scottish Middle March and empowered by the Government in Edinburgh to keep order in the area. By diplomacy if possible, but by force if necessary.

The Kers of Slitrig are an ancient line, but they are neither rich nor powerful; their domain consists of no more than Slitrig Tower, some hundreds of acres of scrubby hillside grazing, and a little arable land.

The young master of Slitrig is eldest son Gavin Ker (Michael Gambon) and the Slitrig women are mother Margaret Ker (Edith MacArthur) and daughters Grizel (Margaret Greig) and Agnes (Nell Brennan in the first series and thence Eileen Nicholas). Jamie (Ross Campbell) is the younger brother.

Since Ker of Cessford has designs on the land of the Kers of Slitrig, he is their enemy as well as their kinsman.

Other regular core characters were the Slitrig steward (or “grieve”), Rab o’ the Lea (originally ex-Z Cars star Joseph Brady and then James Garbutt) and Cessford’s puritanical clerk, Pringle (Russell Waters).

The series was created by Bill Craig.

Sir Walter Ker of Cessford
Iain Cuthbertson
Gavin Ker
Michael Gambon
Margaret Ker
Edith MacArthur
Jamie Ker
Ross Campbell
Grizel Ker
Margaret Greig
Agnes Ker
Nell Brennan (1)
Eileen Nicholas (2)
Pringle
Russell Waters
Rab o’ the Lea
Joseph Brady (1)
James Garbutt (2)

Episodes

Vengeance | Truce | Witch-hunt | Treason | Fugitive | Stranger | Hero | Bloodfeud | Giant | Wedlock | Outlaw | Justice | Dispossessed | The Siege of Cocklaws | Survival Day | Snatch | What a Vengeance Upon England | Among the Eagles | Plot Counterplot | The Quacksalver | To the Gallows Tree | Woman or an Epitaph | Hostage | Where the White Lillies Grow | The Terror of the March | The Sea-Cole Man

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