The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Appendix, No. ii.

History of Geordie Bourne.

In the following passages, extracted from the memoirs of Sir Robert Carey, then deputy of his father, Lord Hunsdon, warden of the east marches, afterwards Earl of Monmouth, the reader will find a lively illustration of the sketch given of border manners in the preceding Introduction.

“Having thus ended with my brother, I then beganne to thinke of the charge I had taken upon mee, which was the government of the east march, in my father’s absence. I wrote to Sir Robert Kerr68, who was my opposite warden, a brave active young man, and desired him that hee would appoint a day, when hee and myselfe might privately meet in some part of the border, to take some good order for the quieting the borders, till my retourne from London, which journey I was shortly of necessity to take. Hee stayed my man all night, and wrote to mee back, that hee was glad to have the happinesse to be acquainted with mee, and did not doubt but the country would be better governed by our good agreements. I wrote to him on the Monday, and the Thursday after hee appointed the place and hour of meeting.

68 Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford, warden of the middle marches, and ancestor of the house of Roxburghe.]

“After hee had filled my man with drinke, and putt him to bed, hee, and some halfe a score with him, gott to horse, and came into England to a little village. There hee broke up a house, and tooke out a poore fellow, who (hee pretended) had done him some wrong, and before the doore cruelly murthered him, and so came quietly home, and went to bed. The next morning hee delivered my man a letter in answer to mine, and retourned him to mee. It pleased mee well at the reading of his kinde letter; but when I heard what a brave hee had put upon mee, I quickly resolved what to do, which was, never to have to do with him, till I was righted for the greate wrong hee had done mee. Upon this resolution, the day I should have mett with him I tooke post, and with all the haste I could, rode to London, leaving him to attend my coming to him as was appointed. There hee stayed from one till five, but heard no news of mee. Finding by this that I had neglected him, hee retourned home to his house, and so things rested (with greate dislike the one of the other) till I came back, which was with all the speede I could, my businesse being ended. The first thing I did after my retourne, was to ask justice for the wrong hee had done mee; but I could gett none. The borderers, seeing our disagreement, they thought the time wished for of them was come. The winter being beganne, their was roades made out of Scotland into the east march, and goods were taken three or foure times a weeke. I had no other meanes left to quiet them, but still sent out of the garrison horsemen of Berwick, to watch in the fittest places for them, and it was their good hap many times to light upon them, with the stolen goods driving before them. They were no sooner brought before mee, but a jury went upon them, and, being found guilty, they were frequently hanged: a course which hath been seldom used, but I had no way to keep the country quiet but to do so; for, when the Scotch theeves found what a sharp course I tooke with them, that were found with the bloody hand, I had in a short time the country more quiet. All this while wee were but in jest as it were, but now beganne the greate quarrell betweene us.

“There was a favorite of his, a greate theife, called Geordie Bourne. This gallant, with some of his associates would, in a bravery, come and take goods in the east march. I had that night some of the garrison abroad. They met with this Geordie and his fellowes, driving of cattle before them. The garrison set upon them, and with a shott killed Geordie Bourne’s unckle, and hee himselfe bravely resisting till he was sore hurt in the head, was taken. After hee was taken, his pride was such, as hee asked, who it was that durst avow that nightes worke? but when hee heard it was the garrison, he was then more quiet. But so powerfull and awfull was this Sir Robert Kerr, and his favourites, as there was not a gentleman in all the east march that durst offend them. Presently after hee was taken, I had most of the gentlemen of the march come to mee, and told mee, that now I had the ball at my foote, and might bring Sir Robert Kerr to what conditions I pleased; for that this man’s life was so neere and deare unto him, as I should have all that my heart could desire, for the good and quiet of the country and myselfe, if upon any condition I would give him his life. I heard them and their reasons; notwithstanding, I called a jury the next morning, and hee was found guilty of MARCH TREASON. Then they feared that I would cause him to be executed that afternoone, which made them come flocking to mee, humbly entreating mee, that I would spare his life till the next day, and if Sir Robert Kerr came not himselfe to mee, and made mee not such proffers, as I could not but accept, that then I should do with him what I pleased. And further, they told mee plainly, that if I should execute him, before I had heard from Sir Robert Kerr, they must be forced to quitt their houses and fly the country; for his fury would be such, against mee and the march I commanded, as hee would use all his power and strength to the utter destruction of the east march. They were so earnest with mee, that I gave them my word hee should not dye that day. There was post upon post sent to Sir Robert Kerr, and some of them rode to him themselves, to advertise him in what danger Geordie Bourne was; how he was condemned, and should have been executed that afternoone, but, by their humble suite, I gave them my word, that he should not dye that day; and therefore besought him, that hee would send to mee, with all the speede hee could, to let mee know, that hee would be the next day with mee to offer mee good conditions for the safety of his life. When all things were quiet, and the watch set at night, after supper, about ten of the clock, I tooke one of my men’s liveryes, and putt it about mee, and tooke two other of my servants with mee in their liveryes, and we three, as the warden’s men, came to the provost marshall’s, where Bourne was, and were lett into his chamber. Wee sate down by him, and told him, that wee were desirous to see him, because wee heard hee was stoute and valiant, and true to his friend; and that wee were sorry our master could not be moved to save his life. He voluntarily of himselfe said, that hee had lived long enough to do so many villainies as hee had done; and withal told us, that hee had layne with about forty men’s wives, what in England, what in Scotland; and that hee had killed seven Englishmen with his own hands, cruelly murthering them: that hee had spent his whole time in whoreing, drinking, stealing, and taking deep revenge for slight offences. Hee seemed to be very penitent, and much desired a minister for the comfort of his soule. Wee promised him to lett our master know his desire, who, wee knew, would presently grant it. Wee tooke our leaves of him, and presently I tooke order, that Mr. Selby, a very worthy honest preacher, should go to him, and not stirre from him till his execution the next morning; for, after I had heard his own confession, I was resolved no conditions should save his life: and so tooke order, that at the gates opening the next morning, hee should be carried to execution, which accordingly was performed. The next morning I had one from Sir Robert Kerr for a parley, who was within two miles staying for mee. I sent him word, “I would meet him where hee pleased, but I would first know upon what termes and conditions.” Before his man was retourned, hee had heard, that in the morning, very early, Geordie Bourne had been executed. Many vowes hee made of cruell revenge, and retourned home full of griefe and disdaine, and, from that time forward still plotted revenge. Hee knew the gentlemen of the country were altogether sacklesse, and to make open road upon the march would but shew his malice, and lay him open to the punishment due to such offences. But his practice was how to be revenged on mee, or some of mine.

“It was not long after that my brother and I had intelligence, that there was a great match made at footeball and the chiefe ryders were to be there. The place they were to meet at was Kelsy, and that day, wee heard it, was the day for the meeting. Wee presently called a counsaile, and after much dispute it was concluded, that the likeliest place hee was to come to, was to kill the scoutes. And it was the more suspected, for that my brother, before my coming to the office, for the cattaile stolne out of the bounds, and as it were from under the walles of Barwicke, being refused justice (upon his complaint,) or at least delaid, sent off the garrison into Liddisdale, and killed there the chiefe offender, which had done the wrong.

“Upon this conclusion, there was order taken, that both horse and foote should lye in ambush, in diverse parts of the boundes, to defend the scoutes, and to give a sound blow to Sir Robert and his company. Before the horse and foote were sett out with directions what to do, it was almost darke night, and the gates ready to be lockt. Wee parted, and as I was by myselfe comeing to my house, God put it into my mind, that it might well be, hee meant destruction to my men, that I had sent out to gather tithes for mee at Norham, and their rendezvous was every night to lye and sup at an ale-house in Norham. I presently caused my page to take horse, and to ride as fast as his horse could carry him, and to command my servants (which were in all eight) that, presently upon his coming to them, they should all change their lodging, and go streight to the castle, there to lye that night in strawe and hay. Some of them were unwilling thereto, but durst not disobey; so altogether left their ale-house, and retired to the castle. They had not well settled themeselves to sleep, but they heard in the town a great alarm; for Sir Robert and his company came streight to the ale-house, broke open the doors, and made enquiry for my servants. They were answered, that by my command they were all in the castle. After they had searched all the house, and found none, they feared they were betrayed, and, with all the speede they could, made haste homewards again. Thus God blessed me from this bloody tragedy.

“All the whole march expected nightly some hurt to be done; but God so blessed mee and the government I held, as, for all his fury, hee never drew drop of blood in all my march, neither durst his theeves trouble it much with stealing, for fear of hanging, if they were taken. Thus wee continued a yeare, and then God sent a meanes to bring thinges to better quiet by this occasion.

“There had been commissioners in Barwicke, chosen by the queene and king of Scottes, for the better quieting of our borders. By their industry they found a great number of malefactors guilty, both in England and Scotland; and they tooke order, that the officers of Scotland should deliver such offenders, as were found guilty in their jurisdictions, to the opposite officers in England, to be detained prisoners, till they had made satisfaction for the goods they had taken out of England. The like order was taken with the wardens of England, and days prefixed for the delivery of them all. And in case any of the officers, on either side, should omit their duties, in not delivering the prisoners at the dayes and places appointed, that then there should a course be taken by the soveraignes, that what chiefe officer soever should offend herein, he himself should be delivered and detained, till he had made good what the commissioners had agreed upon.

“The English officers did punctually, at the day and place, deliver their prisoners, and so did most of the officers of Scotland; only the Lord of Bocleuch and Sir Robert Kerr were faultie. They were complained of, and new dayes appointed for the delivery of their prisoners. Bocleuch was the first, that should deliver; and hee failing entered himselfe prisoner into Barwicke, there to remaine till those officers under his charge were delivered to free him. He chose for his guardian Sir William Selby, master of the ordinance at Barwicke. When Sir Robert Kerr’s day of delivery came, he failed too, and my Lord Hume, by the king’s command, was to deliver him prisoner into Barwicke upon the like termes, which was performed. Sir Robert Kerr (contrary to all men’s expectation) chose mee for his guardian, and home I brought him to my own house, after hee was delivered to mee. I lodged him as well as I could, and tooke order for his diet, and men to attend on him, and sent him word, that (although by his harsh carriage towards mee, ever since I had that charge, he could not expect any favour, yet) hearing so much goodness of him, that hee never broke his word, if hee should give mee his hand and credit to be a true prisoner, hee would have no guard sett upon him, but have free liberty for his friends in Scotland to have ingresse and regresse to him as oft as hee pleased. He tooke this very kindly at my handes, accepted of my offer, and sent me thankes.

“Some four dayes passed; all which time his friends came into him, and hee kept his chamber. Then hee sent to mee, and desired mee, I would come and speake with him, which I did; and after long discourse, charging and re-charging one another with wrong and injuries, at last, before our parting, wee became good friends, with greate protestations, on his side, never to give mee occasion of unkindnesse again. After our reconciliation hee kept his chamber no longer, but dined and supt with mee. I tooke him abroad with mee at the least thrice a weeke, a hunting, and every day wee grew better friends. Bocleuch, in a few dayes after, had his pledges delivered, and was set at liberty. But Sir Robert Kerr could not get his, so that I was commanded to carry him to Yorke, and there to deliver him prisoner to the archbishop, which accordingly I did. At our parting, he professed greate love unto mee for the kinde usage I had shewn him, and that I would find the effects of it upon his delivery, which hee hoped would be shortly.

“Thus wee parted; and, not long after, his pledges were gott, and brought to Yorke, and hee sett at liberty. After his retourne home, I found him as good as his word. Wee met oft at dayes of truce, and I had as good justice as I could desire; and so wee continued very kinde and good friends, all the time that I stayed in that march, which was not long.”

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