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Dick the Devil's Bairns


The Anglo-Scottish border was a virtual warzone for around 300 years and it created a lawless society that became known as the Border Reivers.

The English and Scottish authorities took a huge step towards brokering some sort of peace in the area in 1597 when, following a Treaty signed at Carlisle, 54 men, representing the wildest reiver clans, were demanded as ‘pledges,’ or hostages.

The plan was for them to be locked up as a means to prevent - or at least try and dissuade - their clans and families from committing further violent crime.

Dick the Devil’s Bairns is their story; the worst of the worst. The book follows the fate of those selected by the respective nations as doing the most damage by raiding, while examining the historic criminal activities carried out by those families, and others, in earning their outlaw reputations and status.

The story also explores the criminal gang’s roles within the context of the wider Reiver society and the part played by their ‘Godfathers’ in creating the first Mafia-style organisations - and their eventual downfall.

Dick the Devil’s Bairns is historic true crime at its rawest and is written by a sports journalist who hails from the Coquet Valley.


Jon Tait was an agency sportswriter for the tabloids for over a decade and was the press officer at Gretna Football Club. He has also written a best-selling walks book on Northumberland. If he was going to get stuck up a mountain, he’d like Julia Bradbury to be there too.

Born in Northumberland, he now lives in Carlisle with his family and enjoys belting out a bit of early 1990s techno when he gets the chance, but also listens to the likes of The Doors, The Who, Seasick Steve, Happy Mondays, Beck, Grinderman and Hole.

He likes Levi jeans, Barbour coats, Swiss Army knifes and Zippo lighters and his writing influences include the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Harry Pearson, Roberto Saviano, Poe Ballantine, Jimmy Breslin and Damon Runyon.

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