Dand Kerr 1471-1545

Andrew Kerr 1471 - 1545

Known as 'Dand'

Born in 1471, the oldest son of Thomas Kerr of Ferniehirst, Andrew, known as Dand was a brave and uncompromising warrior chieftain, he was left handed and it is believed that it was Dand Kerr who recognised the advantage of a left handed fighter on the battlefield and began the tradition of teaching his sons and swordsmen to fight with their left hands. It is to be noted that the Kerrs frequently fought as mercenaries on the continent and at home and the price for a left handed medieval swordsman was twice that of a right handed man, the advantage too lay in defence and the spiral or corkscrew staircases built into all the Kerr strongholds were designed with the emphasis on the left handed swordsman’s ability to jab round the corner at his assailant who would be hard pressed to see the enemy.

The influence of Dand Kerr grew steadily, acquiring lands and titles in the Jedforest district, establishing himself as an important power while gaining a reputation for his fighting skills and prowess on the battlefield as well as his unpredictable nature and quick temper. The Kerrs were considered important Crown vassals, and with loyalty came rich rewards. In 1502 the barony of Oxnam became Sir Andrew Kerr of Ferniehirst’s by royal charter and he was appointed Warden of the Middle Marches, a lucrative and desirable position, offering a reiving chieftain advantages over enemies and rivals, and the favours of friends.

After the defeat at Flodden in 1513, where Dand fought with the Humes and Huntlys where he mounted a devastating attack on the English right flank. He returned with Hume, seized Kelso Abbey and installed his younger brother Thomas as Commendator, Thomas remained in office until 1534.

As chieftain of one of the great riding surnames of the Scottish Borderland, Dand Kerr frequently joined up with other names for the purposes of raids to steal livestock, goods and sometimes people for the purpose of ransom. English territory would be raided and often the lands of a rival name, in the Kerr’s case an ongoing feud with the Scotts of Branxholm ignited many a fray with the Kerr’s frequently making forays into Scott territory.

As internal conflicts and wars with England continued throughout the 16th century Dand Kerr found himself involved in the skullduggery associated with the chiefs of all the border names. In 1526 Kerr support for the Earl of Angus involved Dand in an incident near Melrose as the Scotts of Buccleuch attempted to wrest the 14 year old King James V from the influences of his stepfather, the Earl of Angus, who virtually ruled the country. The young king had written secretly to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch asking him for his support to rid him of the Earl, and in 1526 the Scotts attacked Angus and his supporters as they rode with the young king near Melrose. The Earl was accompanied by the Kerrs of both Ferniehirst and Cessford and the infamous and powerful Humes of Berwickshire. The Scotts lost the day, but during the pursuit Kerr of Cessford, was slain by Eliot, a retainer of Scott of Buccleuch resulting in a long and deadly feud between the Kerrs and the Scotts.

The King of England, Henry VIII wanted to steer a diplomatic course while James V was still a minor and he offered Scotland a sixteen-year truce in 1523. The Scots nobles refused his conditions, which resulted in an English army attacking the Borders in 1523. Henry sent Thomas Howard Earl of Surrey with Lord Dacre to ravage Teviotdale, burning villages and towns, attacking towers and fortresses. The Scottish attempts at reprisals prompted the English commanders to march with an army to capture and destroy Jedburgh and its abbey. Dacre then took Ferniehirst Castle from Dand Kerr. In 1544 Henry VIII began his campaign referred to as the ‘rough wooing’ 1544 - 1548. When the English first crossed the border they met with little resistence, but in 1545 at the Battle of Ancrum Moor the English were routed. The Kerrs of Ferniehirst had taken up arms for an English purse but when the battle turned in favour of the Scots they turned their cavalry against the English and drove them from the field. The Kerrs adopted their motto ‘Sero Sed Serio’ after this battle, it means ‘late but in earnest’. 1546 saw the return of the English armies with orders to slaughter any who resist, during this incursion Ferniehirst was taken and the castle held until July 1548 when it was recaptured by a combined force of Scots and French troops.Dand Kerr continued his life as landholder in other parts of the district, living for the most part within the relative safety of Edinburgh. He held a seat in the Scottish Parliament and would have played a supporting role in the taking of Edinburgh in 1525 by the Earl of Angus who subsequently summoned parliament, and pronounced himself the bearer of the king’s crown.

Dand Kerr died of illness at Oxnam Tower in October 1545,

Sir Andrew married Janet Hume, the daughter of Patrick Hume of Polwarth. They had 3 sons John b.1500, Thomas b.1502 and Robert (birth date not recorded).