The Capon ‘Hanging’ Tree The Capon Tree is one of the few remaining original trees of the Jed Forest. Possibly as much as 1,000 years old, the hollow oak has a huge ten-foot diameter trunk, now split in two. The tree, designated as one of the 50 most significant trees in the United Kingdom, gets its name from the Capuchin monks of Jedburgh Abbey who were known to rest under it.
The Capon Tree, a popular meeting place for border clans during the Middle Ages, became known as ‘The Hanging Tree.’ Today, the Capon Tree is the scene of one of the ceremonies held during The Callant’s Festival. The Charter of 1502 named the festival after Jethart Callant, founder of the Borders Games Festival.
The festival is held in early July of each year, where the Callant and his cavalcade proceed to the Capon Tree where a sprig from it is pinned to the Callant’s lapel by the president of the festival. The Turnbulls were notorious reivers who ignored the laws of the king. They were indeed a rowdy group that had little or no respect for the laws meant to keep the lower class down. Reiving was not only a way of life but also another way to thumb their noses at the authorities that tried to control the clan.
In 1510, the Turnbulls had built a reputation for unruliness. Their disrespect for authority along with their habitual raids across the border into England, became such a problem to King James IV of Scotland, that he had 200 Turnbull men arrested. They were commanded to stand before the king wearing only sheets. They had their swords in their hands and halters round their necks. King James then proceeded to randomly hang a number of them and imprison many others in Jedburgh, in an attempt to halt the practice of Border reiving.
Many Turnbull wives were left as widows, and many children were left fatherless on that sad wintery day. Members of the clan around the world solemnly remembered the 15th November 2010, that marked the 500th anniversary of that unhappy day.
The actions of King James caused many Turnbulls to flee the Borders and even leave Scotland permanently. Some went to Ireland. Others went to Europe, where they were employed as mercenary soldiers.
This was followed by a time of peace that lasted for several years, but by 1530, the Turnbulls had rejoined the other Borders clans in their old habit of Reiving. At that time, King James V put a bounty on the head of Borders men with the name of Turnbull and Graham. That resulted in most of the remaining Turnbulls leaving the Borders permanently.