Spring 2005

Reiver records

Reiver records. Collected by Gordon Young

For nearly 350 years before the unification of Scotland and England in 1603, Britain’s Border Lands (now comprising Northumberland, Cumbria, The Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway) were terrorised by Reivers, vicious gangsters of their time. The Reivers were arsonists, kidnappers, racketeers and murderers; their legacy includes words such as ‘blackmail’ and ‘bereave’ in the English language.

Sculptor Gordon Young collects ‘Reiver records’, old vinyl bearing the names of what he calls the ‘Reiver diaspora’. Artists with formerly terrifying surnames such as Anderson, Bell, Burns, Carr, Charlton, Dixon, Douglas, Graham, Hall, Johnstone, Kerr, Nixon, Scott and Young appear with hats, beards, fiddles and smiles. Compared to their ancestors, most of them look eager to please.

Young’s interest in this bloody slice of British history informed the outdoor art project he made in 2001, in association with designers Why Not Associates. His Bishop’s Stone, in Carlisle, is set into a granite pavement inscribed with Reiver family names. The inscription on the stone is a 700-year-old curse issued by the Archbishop of Glasgow against the Reivers. A handful of covers from Young’s collection show a grim parade of what Young calls: ‘funny faces, crap graphics and mixed sounds’. These characters seem unlikely to murder anything tougher than a steak.