WHILST the world’s media celebrates Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, his “giant leap forward for mankind”, it seems a tartan eclipse is still awaited before deepest state-imposed prejudice against the Armstrong – and Elliot – name is finally lifted.

In the heart of Liddesdale, adjoining the English border with Scotland, formerly the stronghold of Clans Armstrong and Elliot, a cruel and sinister prejudice against his family names from centuries past still stands prominent on official government quango, EU-promoted noticeboards.

Highlighted centrally in red on a large “ReiverTrail” tourist notice in Liddesdale, with clear association to the “infamous Armstrong clan’”, is stated: “If Jesus Christ were amongst them, they would deceave him”.

On another notice of the trail, Armstrongs are again referred to repeatedly in most negative terms, with an emphasised text on “the thieves of Liddesdale”, and mention of them being hanged and banished abroad.

Yet another “Reiver Trail” notice centres on the Elliots, with the highlighted  central text: “The Elliots are grown so to seek blood they will make quarrel for the death of their grandfather and kill any of the name”.

It has to be noted that there were the most extreme reactions and strongest possible objections from local councillors and activists when the wording of the notices was proposed, but the local voice was overruled and despite local outrage dismay and embarrassment, the signs were imposed on them – and decades later still remain.

The Armstrongs and Elliots were very far from alone in infamous exploits at the time of border reiving times, and it has been argued over centuries by local scholars, including a local minister of more than 50 years, that they were subjected to very unjust persecution of the most extreme kind.

In fact the word Holocaust was used by the Liddesdale Bard John Byers to describe events in this land – a term which does not seem inappropriate when one reads and sees evidence of the Clearances which happened here.

Armstrongs lost virtually everything, their lands and goods taken from them and those left alive mostly banished.

The Elliots did little better, whilst other major reiving families made substantial gains and great wealth by carrying out merciless acts at King James VI’s command.

It is surely time the Scottish Government takes a small step to remove these signs, which broadcast rank discrimination, and which surely have no place in a country that declares it has made giant leaps forward in equality.

The wording and emphasis would surely not be allowed for any other ethnic group.

The quotes stem from Sir Walter Scott, whose extreme prejudice towards the people of the area only arose after he and his companion had spent seven summers touring Liddesdale, given free board and lodgings, feted as a dignitary by people living in comparative poverty to himself, and being recited and taught of the border ballads, which he later used in his writings.

Scott’s son-in-law Lockhart wrote that Scott boasted of never having to spend any money whatsoever over these seven summers, for himself or his companion.

A move to help return the local Langholm Moor, adjoining Liddesdale, to the community for ecotourism would seem an apt first step as a degree of compensation.

Caroline McManus