Mystery reiver sword inspires new exhibition

The Sword in the Story exhibition opens at Annan Museum on Saturday June 24.
The Sword in the Story exhibition opens at Annan Museum on Saturday June 24.

A new exhibition, The Sword in the Story, opens at Annan Museum on Saturday, June 24.

It has been inspired by a mystery sword that may have belonged to the infamous 16th century border reiver Kinmont Willie Armstrong.

Museum staff are working with independent scholar Dr Valentina Bold, and a host of experts, to research the sword and find out more about how it came to be in the museum collection.

Based on initial studies, Dr Bold has been awarded funding from The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to continue this research.

The museum is also exhibiting a selection of swords associated with famous local characters and with different eras and cultures.

These include a bronze-age sword found near Lockerbie, a medieval sword found in the Lochar Moss and others that belonged to the arctic explorer Sir John Ross and covenanter called Welsh of Scaur Farm, near Irongray in Dumfries and Galloway.

Councillor Any Ferguson, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee said, “Everyone loves a good mystery! This exhibition shows the research that goes on behind the scenes at our local museums to bring our collections and local heritage to life.”

Supported by the Holywood Trust, Dr Valentina Bold will be giving a Royal Society of Edinburgh outreach lecture entitled ‘A rank reiver’: Kinmont Willie’s sword comes home. at Annan Museum on Thursday, September 7 starting at 6.30pm.

Entry is free and open to all but please call Annan Museum on 01461 201384 to book a place.

Dr Valentina Bold said:

“We know Kinmont Willie best through the reiving ballad that describes his capture and jailbreak from Carlisle Castle. The ballad was first written down by Sir Walter Scott in 1802 but this was probably a very romanticised version of events. I have been delving into the papers written at the time of Willie’s capture and he really was a nasty piece of work! I will be continuing my research to see if we can find evidence for a sword, belonging to Willie, passing down from the 16th century to end up in the museum collection.”