Sounds from the Borders

Ken Hulme is a musician in the Borders who performs many Border Ballads.  He records his music with Fellside Recordings.  Here is the link to his music.  Fellside Recordings homepage

Killmont Willie

O hae ye no heard o’ the fause Sakelde?
O hae ye no heard o’ the keen Lord Scroope?
How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont Willie,
On Haribee to hang him up?

Had Willie had but twenty men,
But twenty men as stout as he,
Fause Sakelde would never the Kinmont ta’en,
Wi’ eight score in his company.

They band his legs beneath the steed,
They tied his hands behind his back.
They guarded him, fivesome on either side,
And they led him through the Liddel-rack.

They led him through the Liddel-rack,
And also through the Carlisle sands;
They took him tae Carlisle Castle,
To be at my Lord Scroope’s commands.

“My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,
And whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the Border law?
Or answer tae the bauld Buccleuch?”

“Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver.
There’s never a Scot shall set thee free:
Before ye cross my castle gate,
I trow ye shall take farewell of me.”

Now word has gane tae the bauld keeper,
In Branksome Ha’, where that he lay,
That Lord Scroope has ta’en the Kinmont Willie,
Between the hours of night and day.

And here detained him, Kinmont Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide.
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Is keeper on the Scottish side?

“Had there been war between the lands,
As well I wot that there is nane,
I would slight Carlisle Castle high,
Though it were built of marble stane.”

“I would set that castle in a lowe,
And sloken it wi’ English blood.
There’s never a man in Cumberland,
What kent where Carlisle castle stood.”

“But since nae war’s between the lands,
And here is peace, and peace should be;
I will neither harm English lad or lass,
And yet the Kinmont shall be free.”

And as we crossed the Debatable land,
And tae the English side we held,
The first of men that we met wi’,
Whae should it be but fause Sakelde?

“Where ye be gaun, ye broken men?”
Quo’ fause Sakelde; “Come tell to me?”
Now Dickie o’ Dryhope led that band,
And there never a word of lear has he.

And as we left the Staneshaw-bank,
The wind began full loud tae blaw;
But ’twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
When we came beneath the castle wa’.

They thought King James and a’ his men
Had won the house wi’ bow and spear;
It was but twenty Scots and ten,
That put a thousand in sic a steir!

And as we reached the lower prison,
Where Kinmont Willie he did lie,
“O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,
Upon the morn that thou’s to die?”

Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,
We bore him doon the ladder lang;
At every stride Red Rowan made,
I wot the Kinmont’s airns play’d clang!

He turn’d him on the other side,
And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he.
“If ye na like my visit in merry England,
In fair Scotland come and visit me!”

All sair astonished stood Lord Scroope,
He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared tae trew his eyes,
When through the water they had gane.

“He is either himsel’ a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be;
I wadna hae ridden that wan water,
For a’ the gowd in Christendie.”

Border Widow Lament

My love he built me a bonny bower,
And clad it a’ wi’ lilye flour (all) (flower)
A brawer bower ye ne’er did see,
Than my true love he built for me.
There came a man, by middle day,
He spied his sport and went away;
And brought the king that very night,
Who brake my bower, and slew my knight. (broke)
He slew my knight, to me sae dear; (so)
He slew my knight and poin’d his gear; ( escheated to the king)
My servants all did life for flee,
And left me in extremitie.
I sew’d his sheet, making my mane, (grieving and crying)
I watch’d the corpse myself alane (alone)
I watch’d his body night and day;
No living creature came that way.
I took his body on my back,
And whiles I gaed and whiles I sat; (moved, went)
I digged a grave, and laid him in,
And happ’d him with the sod sae green. (covered) (so)
But think not ye my heart was sair, (sore)
When I laid the moule on his yellow hair? (soil)
O think na ye my heart was wae (weary)
When I turn’d about, away to gae? (go)
Nae living man I’ll love again, (no)
Since that my lovely knight was slain,
Wi’ a lock of his yellow hair,
I’ll chain my heart for evermair.

Johnnie Armstrong

Some speak as oor lords, some speak as oor lairds,
And sic-like men o’ high degree.
Of a gentleman I sing a song,
Sometimes called Laird o’ Gilnockie.

The king he writes a loving letter,
Wi’ his ain hand sae tenderly;
And he has sent it tae Johnny Armstrong,
Tae come and speak wi’ him speedily.

The Eliots and Armstrongs did convene,
They were a gallant company;
“We’ll gang and meet our royal king,
And bring him safe tae Gilnockie.”

“Make kinnon and capon ready then,
And venison in great plenty;
We’ll welcome hame our royal king,
I hope he’ll dine on Gilnockie.”

When Johnny came before the king,
Wi’ a’ his men sae brave tae see;
The king he movit his bonnet tae him,
He weened he was a king as well as he.

“May I find grace, my sovereign liege,
Grace for my loyal men and me?
For my name is Johnny Armstrong,
And subject of yours, my liege”, said he.

“Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor’s life,
And now I’ll not begin wi’ thee.”

“Grant me my life, my liege, my king,
And a bonny gift I’ll gie tae thee;
Full four and twenty milk-white steeds,
Were a’ foaled in a year tae me.”

“Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor’s life,
And now I’ll not begin wi’ thee.”

“Grant me my life, my liege, my king,
And a brave gift I’ll gie tae thee;
All between here and Newcastle town,
Shall pay their yearly rent tae thee.”

“Away, away, thou traitor strang,
Out of my sight thou may soon be;
I granted never a traitor’s life.
And now I’ll not begin with thee.”

“Tae seek het water frae cold ice,
Surely it is a great folly;
For I have asked grace of a graceless face,
But there is nane for my men and me.”

“Had I my horse and harness guid,
And riding as I want tae be;
It sall hae been told this hundred years,
The meeting of my king and me.”

“Fareweel, thou bonny Gilnock Hall,
Where on Esk-side thou standest stout.
Gin I had lived but seven mair years,
I would hae gilt thee round about.”

John murdered was at Carlin Rigg,
Wi’ a’ his gallant company;
But Scotland’s hairt was ne’er sae wae,
Tae see sae mony brave men dee.

Because they loved their country dear,
Frae Englishmen, nane were sae bold;
When Johnny lived on the border-side,
Nane o’ them daur come near his hauld.

Jock O’ The Syde

Ballads: Scottish and English. With illustr. by J. Lawson By Ballads/ Credit to Mark Elliott

“Jock O’ The Svde ” was a famous Border mosstrooper in the reign of Queen Mary. He resided at the Syde, in Liddesda’e, and was a nephew of the Laird of Mangertoun, and consequently cousin of the Laird’s Jock and Wat, two of his deliverers. Tradition states that he aided in the escape of the Earl of Westmoreland, after his insurrection against the Earl of Northumberland. He changed his mail and costume with the earl: and by means of the disguise the latter succeeded in eluding his guard. Jock o* the Syde was secured as a prisoner, but was afterwards rescued by his kinsmen and their followers in the manner related in the ballad. “The land-steward mentioned in this ballad, and also in * Hobble Noble,*” says Sir Walter Scott, “was an officer under the warden, to whom was committed the apprehending of delinquents, and the care of the public peace.”

Now Liddesdale has ridden a raid,
But I wat they had better hae staid at hame;

For Michael o’ Winfield he is dead,
And Jock o’ the Syde is prisoner ta’en.

For Mangertoun House Lady Downie has gane,
Her coats she has kilted up to her knee;

And down the water wi’ speed she rins,
While tears in spaits1 fa’ fast frae her e’e.

Then up and spoke our gude auldlord—

“What news, what news, sister Downie, to me?”

“Bad news, bad news, my Lord Mangertoun;

Michael is kill’d, and they hae ta’en my son Johnie,”

“Ne’er fear, sister Downie,” quo’ Mangertoun;

“I have yokes of ousen, eighty and three;
My barns, my byres, and my faulds a’ weil fill’d,

I ’11 part wi’ them a’ ere Johnie shall die.

“Three men I ’11 send to set him free,

A’ harneist wi’ the best o’ steel;
The English louns may hear and drie

The weight o’ their braid swords to feeL

“The Laird’s Jock ane, the Laird’s Wat twa,

O Hobbie Noble, thou ane maun be
Thy coat is blue, thou hast been true,

Since England banish’d thee to me.”

Now Hobbie was an English man,
In Bewcastle dale was bred and born;

But his misdeeds they were sae great,
They banish’d him ne’er to return.

Lord Mangertoun them orders gave,
“Your horses the wrang way maun be shod;

Like gentlemen ye mauna seim,
But look like corn-caugers ga’en the road.

“Your armour gude ye mauna shaw,

Nor yet appear like men o* weir; As country lads be a’ array’d,

Wi’ branks and brecham2 on each mare.”

Sae now their horses are the wrang way shod,
And Hobbie has mounted his grey sae fine;

Jock his lively bay, Wat’s on his white horse behind,
And on they rode for the water of Tyne.

At the Cholerford they all light’ down,

And there, wi’ the help of the light o’ the moon,

A tree they cut, wi’ fifteen nogs on each side,
To climb up the wa’ of Newcastle toun.

But when they came to Newcastle toun,

And were alighted at the wa’,
They fand their tree three ells ower laigh,

They fand their stick baith short and sma’.

Then up and spak the Laird’s ain Jock (laird of Mangerton (an Armstrong) John Ellot),

“There’s naething for’t; the gates we maun force.

” But when they cam the gate until,

A proud porter withstood baith men and horse.

His neck in twa the Armstrangs wrang;

Wi’ fute or hand he ne’er play’d pa!
His life and his keys at anes they hae ta’en,

And cast the body ahind the wa’.

Now sune they reach Newcastle jail,
And to the prisoner thus they call:

“Sleeps thou, wakes thou, Jock o’*the Syde,
Or art thou weary of thy thrall?”

Jock answers thus, wi’ dulefu’ tone:

“Aft, aft I wake—I seldom sleep;

But wha’s this kens my name sae weil,

And thus to mese1 my waes does seek?”

Then out and spak the gude Laird’s Jock,

“Now fear ye na, my billie,” quo’ he;

“For here are the Laird’s Jock, the Laird’s Wat,

And Hobbie Noble, come to set thee free.”

“Now haud thy tongue, my gude Laird’s Jock,

For ever, alas! this canna be;
For if a’ Liddesdale were here the night,

The morn’s the day that I maun die.

“Full fifteen stane o’ Spanish iron,

They hae laid a’ right sair on me;

Wi’ locks and keys I am fast bound

Into this dungeon dark and dreirie.”

“Fear ye na that,” quo’ the Laird’s Jock;

“A faint heart ne’er wan a fair ladie;

Work thou within, we ’11 work without,

And I ’11 be sworn we ’11 set thee free.”

The first strong door that they cam at,

They loosed it without a key;
The next chain’d door that they cam at,

They garfd it a’ to flinders flee.

The prisoner now upon his back,
The Laird’s Jock has got up fu’ hie.

And down the stairs, him, airns and a’,
Wi’ nae sma’ speid and joy, brings he.

“Now Jock, my man,” quo’ Hobbie Noble,

“Some o’ his weight ye may lay on me”

“I wat weil no I” quo’ the Laird’s ain Jock;

I count him lighter than a flee.”

Sae out at the gates they a’ are gane,

The prisoner’s set on horseback hie;

And now wi’ speid they’ve ta’en the gate,

While ilk ane jokes fu’ wantonlie:

“O Jock! sae winsomely’s ye ride,

Wi’ baith your feet upon ae side;

Sae weil ye’re harniest, and sae trig,

In troth ye sit like ony bride.”

The night, tho’ wat, they did na mind,

But hied them on fu’ merrilie,

Until they cam to Cholerford brae,

Where the water ran like mountains hie.

But when they cam to Cholerford,

There they met with an auld man;
Says—” Honest man, will the water ride?

Tell us in haste, if that ye can.”

“I wat weil no,” quo’ the gude auld man;

“I hae lived here thretty years and thrie,

And I ne’er yet saw the Tyne sae big,

Nor running anes sae like a sea.”

Then out and spoke the Laird’s saft Wat,
The greatest coward in the companie:

“Now halt, now halt! we need na try’t;
The day is come we a’ maun die I

“Puir faint-hearted thief!” cried the Laird’s ain Jock,

“There ‘ll nae man die but him that’s fey ;

I1l guide ye a’ right safely thro’;
Lift ye the pris’ner on ahint me.”

Wi’ that the water they hae ta’en,

By anes and twas they a’ swam thro’;

“Here are we a’ safe,” quo’ the Laird’s Jock,
“And, puir faint Wat, what think ye now?”

They scarce the other brae had won,

When twenty men they saw pursue; Frae

Newcastle toun they had been sent,

A’ English lads baith stout and true.

But when the land-serjeant the water saw,

“It winna ride, my lads,” says he;

Then cried aloud—” The prisoner take,

But leave the aims, I pray, to me.”

“I wat weil no,” quo’ the Laird’s Jock;

“I ‘ll keep them a’; shoon to my mare they’ll be

My gude bay mare—for I am sure

She has bought them a’ fu’ dear frae thee.”

Sae now they are on to Liddesdale,

E’en as fast as they could them hie;

The prisoner is brought to’s ain fire-side,

And there o’s aims they mak him free.

“Now Jock, my billie,” quo’ a’ the three,

“The day is com’d thou wast to die;

But thou’s as well at thy ain ingle-side,

Now sitting, I think, ‘twixt thee and me.”