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John Malden, in his work at Paisley Museum, has undertaken a number of historical and archaeological research projects. Challenged that communications must have been almost non-existent in days gone by, he replied with this:-

It has long been a common misconception that inland travel was limited in medieval times due to the bad state of the roads and that village communities did not move.

In fact the opposite is true.

Not only was there an interchange of travellers for pilgrimage, diplomatic and mercantile business, there were wandering minstrels and the movement of goods by cart, waggon or on the hoof. The quickest method of travel, and often the safest, was by water. During the 13th century the monks of Paisley sent a message to Rome and received a reply within six weeks!

Certainly it was safer to travel in a group so as to avoid highway robbery and other misfortunes. All travellers required overnight accommodation which could be at the nearest monastery, or encampment. In all of these entertainment was needed, usually gaming and music, and usually provided by the travellers themselves. People skilled in musical instruments would take their entertainment with them and resident musicians would learn new tunes from these travellers.

The exchange and export of goods from Scotland to England varied with the economic strength of the country and the political climate. Frequently Scotland banned the export of goods into England, though there must have been a thriving smuggling trade. As early as 1249 legislation was in place regarding the recovery of cattle stolen and carried across the

Border, and in 1371 cattle were permitted to be sold to Englishmen. By 1468 an act of the

Scottish Parliament prohibited the export of cattle to England, and this act was reinforced in 1535. It was not until after the Union of the Crowns that an Act was passed in 1672 allowing cattle to be exported by anyone. Whatever the legislation there was a thriving cross border movement of people and goods, and with these went the latest news, fashions and melodies. One of the great exchange points for goods and information was at Carter Bar on the A68 where the Scottish waggoners unloaded their goods for re-loading onto English vehicles. Most of the heavy goods haulage was done in autumn and winter when the road conditions were best. The various monasteries played an important role in the upkeep of the roads and there was a noticeable deterioration of the condition of roads in England following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

Other great exchange points tended to be the great fairs or trysts held either side of the Border. These great gatherings of people, merchandise and animals became famous throughout the country. In Northumberland the Stagshaw Fair, held just north of Corbridge, was an annual event from the 12th century until 1928. The fair was opened at the Market Cross in Corbridge with the Duke of Northumberland’s piper present to lead the crowd up to the fair site. It must have been a lively sight with tradesmen and stall holders doing business, animals being bought and sold, and rival gangs causing chaos. At Stagshaw it was a common occurrence to hear the cry "Tarryburn and Tarset, Yet, Yet, Yet; Put it in your pocket and Get, Get, Get", as gangs of youths from the wilds of Northumberland went on a looting spree. It is not surprising that for many years youths from these areas, especially Redesdale, were banned by Act of Parliament from being taken as apprentices in Newcastle.

In Scotland the Falkirk Tryst was one of the major fairs on the cattle droving routes. The drovers probably played a large part in the dissemination of border melodies.

Cattle were driven from the West and North of Scotland over the Border and down through England to London. At various points on the way they were put out to graze and to fatten, and beasts were often sold off during the journey.

The quantity of cattle on the move, or grazing, has never been assessed, but recent work on the freemen and apprentices of York during the 17th and 18th centuries has revealed an indication. Not only did York have a very large leather and associated products industry, which used everything from the hides and meat to the horns, but was also a centre for dairy products. In the mid 18th century the butter market in York marked, weighed and sold 80,000 firkins of butter in one year. This represents 2000 tons of butter made from 13.5 million gallons of milk. This indicates some 5700 dairy cattle must have been grazing within a thirty to forty mile radius around York. In 1955 statistics show that the United Kingdom had 3.7 million dairy cattle and 10.7 million beef animals, a ratio of three to one, with a home butter production of 25,000 tons. This would imply that in the 18th century some 17,000 beef cattle would be grazing around York. A large proportion of these would be driven cattle from the north, and the roads must have been full of bustle and movement.

Under an English Act of Parliament of 1563 every Drover had to be licensed, paying 1/- for the licence and 8d to be registered and to receive a badge. From this came the term a ‘badger’ - one who wore a badge and, presumably, was keen to sell his beasts to the end that they would pester people to buy them, hence the term ‘to badger’ someone. They also had to produce a bond for £20 and a surety for good behaviour of a further £20. They were, in effect, the Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers of the 16th century, requiring a special licence. Those wishing to take up droving had to have been in residence for three years, be married, be aged over 30, a householder and of good character. All of these conditions were imposed to encourage them always to return home after the drive. It is interesting to note that in the Act the inhabitants of the northern counties of England were exempt and allowed ‘to do as they have heretofore lawfully done’, indicating a long history of borderers being         involved in droving.

The drovers moved slowly, and were an ideal method of passing messages or music along their route. Until recently it has always been supposed that melodies would be recalled by ear and memorised, and this must have been the main way of transmitting them from the earliest days of the wandering minstrels. Parchment and paper would be scarce, though sometimes music would be jotted down and then transcribed by others. This presumes a higher level of literacy than previously accepted, or that only the better educated in the monasteries could pass on the tunes. One further possible method, similar to the last, has only recently come to light in Scotland.

One of the major resting points for a traveller in medieval times was the local monastery. Each would have a guest house to provide adequate overnight accommodation and food for the traveller or pilgrim. These guest houses varied in size according to the importance of the monastery. A monastery was a village within itself, with accommodation, medical facilities and often smithies and stabling; in fact the equivalent of a motorway service station. Each was laid out to a set plan with a main drainage system running through the centre of the complex to take the rubbish, sewage and water. These drainage systems were very sophisticated and often considerable structures under the ground.

Recently, the main drain of the great Cluniac monastery at Paisley was rediscovered and has provided clues relating to entertainment and music during the medieval times. Paisley was one of the four major sites of pilgrimage in Scotland along with Melrose, Scone and Whithorn, and was also the church and burying place of the High Stewards - later the Royal Stewart family. During the 15th century internal wrangling between rival abbots resulted in the administration and maintenance of the monastery to be ignored for some forty years. This has benefitted present day archaeologists as it meant that the drain was not kept clean and some fifty years of rubbish and silt accumulated. From this sealed archaeological site we have now removed thirty cubic tonnes of silt all of which has been sieved by hand. From this have come some outstanding finds, unique to Scotland. Evidence of the entertainment in the guest quarters comes from bone dice, gaming pieces and gaming tokens. From the musical standpoint there have been two bone tuning pegs recovered from a stringed instrument, perhaps a psaltry. These are the only two such pegs to be discovered in Scotland. By far the most important find has been the earliest recorded piece of polyphonic music in Scotland, dating from c.1450. Because monastic drains were usually kept clear of silt there are very few examples of pieces of slate remaining and, where they do, they are presumed to be building debris. From the Paisley drain we have now recovered a number of slate fragments bearing traces of graffiti, writing and love poems and music. Two fragments have staves of music scratched on them and it is clear that slate was used as an easy and cheap method of recording or practising writing or music. Though heavy it would also have been a convenient method of transporting transcribed music from one place to another. From this we can see that the cross Border transmission of melodies was a common occurrence and that travel was, if not easy, certainly a normal factor of life. Our music is a vital part of our heritage and should be examined in context with all other available historical data to obtain the best understanding of its development.