The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

The Gallant Grahams.

The preceding ballad was a song of triumph over the defeat of Montrose at Philiphaugh; the verses, which follow are a lamentation for his final discomfiture and cruel death. The present edition of “The Gallant Grahams“ is given from tradition, enlarged and corrected by an ancient printed edition, entitled, “The Gallant Grahams of Scotland“ to the tune of “I will away, and I will not tarry,“ of which Mr Ritson favoured the editor with an accurate copy.

The conclusion of Montrose’s melancholy history is too well known. The Scottish army, which sold king Charles I. to his parliament, had, we may charitably hope, no idea that they were bartering his blood; although they must have been aware, that they were consigning him to perpetual bondage.212 At least the sentiments of the kingdom at large differed widely from those of the military merchants, and the danger of king Charles drew into England a well appointed Scottish army, under the command of the duke of Hamilton. But he met with Cromwell, and to meet with Cromwell was inevitable defeat. The death of Charles, and the triumph of the independents, excited still more highly the hatred and the fears of the Scottish nation. The outwitted presbyterians, who saw, too late, that their own hands had been employed in the hateful task of erecting the power of a sect, yet more fierce and fanatical than themselves, deputed a commission to the Hague, to treat with Charles II., whom, upon certain conditions they now wished to restore to the throne of his fathers. At the court of the exiled monarch, Montrose also offered to his acceptance a splendid plan of victory and conquest, and pressed for his permission to enter Scotland; and there, collecting the remains of the royalists to claim the crown for his master, with the sword in his hand. An able statesman might perhaps have reconciled these jarring projects; a good man would certainly have made a decided choice betwixt them. Charles was neither the one not the other; and, while he treated with the presbyterians, with a view of accepting the crown from their hands, he scrupled not to authorise Montrose, the mortal enemy of the sect, to pursue his separate and inconsistent plan of conquest.

212 As Salmasius quaintly, but truly, expresses it, Presbyterian iligaverunt independantes trucidaverunt.]

Montrose arrived in the Orkneys with six hundred Germans, was furnished with some recruits from those islands, and was joined by several royalists, as he traversed the wilds of Caithness and Sutherland: but, advancing into Ross-shire, he was surprised, and totally defeated, by colonel Strachan, an officer of the Scottish parliament, who had distinguished himself in the civil wars, and who afterwards became a decided Cromwellian. Montrose, after a fruitless resistance, at length fled from the field of defeat, and concealed himself in the grounds of Macleod of Assint to whose fidelity he entrusted his life, and by whom he was delivered up to Lesly, his most bitter enemy.

He was tried for what was termed treason against the estates of the kingdom; and, despite the commission of Charles for his proceedings, he was condemned to die by a parliament, who acknowledged Charles to be their king, and whom, on that account only, Montrose acknowledged to be a parliament.

“The clergy,” says a late animated historian, “whose vocation it was to persecute the repose of his last moments, sought, by the terrors of his sentence, to extort repentance; but his behaviour, firm and dignified to the end, repelled their insulting advances with scorn and disdain. He was prouder, he replied, to have his head affixed to the prison-walls, than to have his picture placed in the king’s bed-chamber: ‘and, far from being troubled that my limbs are to be sent to your principal cities, I wish I had flesh enough to be dispersed through Christendom, to attest my dying attachment to my king.’ It was the calm employment of his mind, that night, to reduce this extravagant sentiment to verse. He appeared next day, on the scaffold, in a rich habit, with the same serene and undaunted countenance, and addressed the people, to vindicate his dying unabsolved by the church, rather than to justify an invasion of the kingdom, during a treaty with the estates. The insults of his enemies were not yet exhausted. The history of his exploits was attached to his neck by the public executioner: but he smiled at their inventive malice; declared, that he wore it with more pride than he had done the garter; and, when his devotions were finished, demanding if any more indignities remained to be practised, submitted calmly to an unmerited fate.”—Laing’s History of Scotland, Vol. I. p. 404.

Such was the death of James Graham, the great marquis of Montrose, over whom some lowly bard has poured forth the following elegiac verses. To say, that they are far unworthy of the subject, is no great reproach; for a nobler poet might have failed in the attempt. Indifferent as the ballad is, we may regret its being still more degraded by many apparent corruptions. There seems an attempt to trace Montrose’s career, from his first raising the royal standard, to his second expedition and death; but it is interrupted and imperfect. From the concluding stanza, I presume the song was composed upon the arrival of Charles in Scotland, which so speedily followed the execution of Montrose, that the king entered the city while the head of his most faithful and most successful adherent was still blackening in the sun.

The Gallant Grahams.

Now, fare thee weel, sweet Ennerdale!

Baith kith and countrie I bid adieu;

For I maun away, and I may not stay,

To some uncouth land which I never knew.

To wear the blue I think it best,

Of all the colours that I see;

And I’ll wear it for the gallant Grahams,

That are banished from their countrie.

I have no gold, I have no land,

I have no pearl, nor precious stane;

But I wald sell my silken snood,

To see the gallant Grahams come hame.

In Wallace days when they began,

Sir John the Graham did bear the gree,

Through all the lands of Scotland wide;

He was a lord of the south countrie.

And so was seen full many a time;

For the summer flowers did never spring,

But every Graham, in armour bright,

Would then appear before the king.

They all were dressed in armour sheen,

Upon the pleasant banks of Tay;

Before a king they might be seen,

These gallant Grahams in their array.

At the Goukhead our camp we set,

Our leaguer down there for to lay;

And, in the bonnie summer light,

We rode our white horse and our gray.

Our false commander sold our king

Unto his deadly enemie,

Who was the traitor Cromwell, then;

So I care not what they do with me.

They have betrayed our noble prince,

And banish’d him from his royal crown;

But the gallant Grahams have ta’en in hand,

For to command those traitors down.

In Glen–Prosen213 we rendezvoused,

March’d to Glenshie by night and day,

And took the town of Aberdeen,

And met the Campbells in their array.

Five thousand men, in armour strong.

Did meet the gallant Grahams that day

At Inverlochie, where war began,

And scarce two thousand men were they.

Gallant Montrose, that chieftain bold,

Courageous in the best degree,

Did for the king fight well that day;

The lord preserve his majestie!

Nathaniel Gordon, stout and bold,

Did for king Charles wear the blue;

But the cavaliers they all were sold,

And brave Harthill, a cavalier too.

And Newton Gordon, burd-alone

And Dalgatie, both stout and keen,

And gallant Veitch upon the field,

A braver face was never seen.

Now, fare ye weel, sweet Ennerdale!

Countrie and kin I quit ye free;

Chear up your hearts, brave cavaliers,

For the Grahams are gone to high Germany.

Now brave Montrose he went to France,

And to Germany, to gather fame;

And bold Aboyne is to the sea,

Young Huntly is his noble name.

Montrose again, that chieftain bold,

Back unto Scotland fair he came,

For to redeem fair Scotland’s land,

The pleasant, gallant, worthy Graham!

At the water of Carron he did begin,

And fought the battle to the end;

Where there were killed, for our noble king,

Two thousand of our Danish men.

Gilbert Menzies, of high degree,

By whom the king’s banner was borne;

For a brave cavalier was he,

But now to glory he is gone.

Then woe to Strachan, and Hacket baith!

And, Lesly, ill death may thou die!

For ye have betrayed the gallant Grahams,

Who aye were true to majestic.

And the laird of Assint has seized Montrose,

And had him into Edinburgh town;

And frae his body taken the head,

And quartered him upon a trone.

And Huntly’s gone the selfsame way,

And our noble king is also gone;

He suffered death for our nation,

Our mourning tears can ne’er be done.

But our brave young king is now come home,

King Charles the second in degree;

The Lord send peace into his time,

And God preserve his majestie!

213 Glen–Prosen, in Angus-shire.]

Notes on the Gallant Grahams.

Now, fare thee weel, sweet Ennerdale.— P. 38. v. 1. A corruption of Endrickdale. The principal, and most ancient possessions of the Montrose family lie along the water of Endrick, in Dumbartonshire.

Sir John the Graham did bear the gree.— P. 39. v. 1. The faithful friend and adherent of the immortal Wallace, slain at the battle of Falkirk.

Who was the traitor Cromwell, then.— P. 39. v. 5. This extraordinary character, to whom, in crimes and in success our days only have produced a parallel, was no favourite in Scotland. There occurs the following invective against him, in a MS. in the Advocates’ Library. The humour consists in the dialect of a Highlander, speaking English, and confusing Cromwell with Gramach, ugly:

Te commonwelt, tat Gramagh ting.

Gar brek hem’s word, gar do hem’s king;

Gar pay hem’s sesse, or take hem’s (geers)

We’l no de at, del come de leers;

We’l bide a file amang te crowes, (i.e. in the woods)

We’l scor te sword, and wiske to bowes;

And fen her nen-sel se te re, (the king)

Te del my care for Gromaghee.

The following tradition, concerning Cromwell, is preserved by an uncommonly direct line of traditional evidence; being narrated (as I am informed) by the grandson of an eye-witness. When Cromwell, in 1650, entered Glasgow, he attended divine service in the High Church; but the presbyterian divine, who officiated, poured forth, with more zeal than prudence, the vial of his indignation upon the person, principles, and cause, of the independent general. One of Cromwell’s officers rose, and whispered his commander; who seemed to give him a short and stern answer, and the sermon was concluded without interruption Among the crowd, who were assembled to gaze at the general, as he came out of the church, was a shoemaker, the son of one of James the sixth’s Scottish footmen. This man had been born and bred in England, but, after his father’s death, had settled in Glasgow. Cromwell eyed him among the crowd, and immediately called him by his name — the man fled; but, at Cromwell’s command, one of his retinue followed him, and brought him to the general’s lodgings. A number of the inhabitants remained at the door, waiting the end of this extraordinary scene. The shoemaker soon came out, in high spirits, and, shewing some gold, declared, he was going to drink Cromwell’s health. Many attended him to hear the particulars of his interview; among others, the grandfather of the narrator. The shoemaker said, that he had been a playfellow of Cromwell when they were both boys, their parents residing in the same street; that he had fled, when the general first called to him, thinking he might owe him some ill-will, on account of his father being in the service of the royal family. He added, that Cromwell had been so very kind and familiar with him, that he ventured to ask him, what the officer had said to him in the church. “He proposed,” said Cromwell, “to pull forth the “minister by the ears; and I answered, that the preacher was “one fool, and he another.” In the course of the day, Cromwell held an interview with the minister, and contrived to satisfy his scruples so effectually, that the evening discourse, by the same man, was tuned to the praise and glory of the victor of Naseby.

Nathaniel Gordon, stout and bold,

Did for King Charles wear the, blue.— P. 40. v. 5.

This gentleman was of the ancient family of Gordon of Gight. He had served, as a soldier, upon the continent, and acquired great military skill. When his chief, the marquis of Huntly, took up arms in 1640, Nathaniel Gordon, then called Major Gordon, joined him, and was of essential service during that short insurrection. But, being checked for making prize of a Danish fishing buss, he left the service of the marquis, in some disgust. In 1644, he assisted at a sharp and dexterous camisade (as it was then called), when the barons of Haddo, of Gight, of Drum, and other gentlemen, with only sixty men under their standard, galloped through the old town of Aberdeen, and, entering the burgh itself, about seven in the morning, made prisoners, and carried off, four of the covenanting magistrates and effected a safe retreat, though the town was then under the domination of the opposite party. After the death of the baron of Haddo, and the severe treatment of Sir George Gordon of Gight, his cousin-german, Major Nathaniel Gordon seems to have taken arms, in despair of finding mercy at the covenanters’ hands. On the 24th of July, 1645, he came down, with a band of horsemen, upon the town of Elgin, while St James’ fair was held, and pillaged the merchants of 14,000 merks of money and merchandize.214 He seems to have joined Montrose, as soon as he raised the royal standard; and, as a bold and active partizan, rendered him great service. But, in November 1644, Gordon, now a colonel, suddenly deserted Montrose, aided the escape of Forbes of Craigievar, one of his prisoners, and reconciled himself to the kirk, by doing penance for adultery, and for the almost equally heinous crime of having scared Mr Andrew Cant,215 the famous apostle of the covenant. This, however, seems to have been an artifice, to arrange a correspondence betwixt Montrose and Lord Gordon, a gallant young nobleman, representative of the Huntley family, and inheriting their loyal spirit, though hitherto engaged in the service of the covenant. Colonel Gordon was successful, and returned to the royal camp with his converted chief. Both followed zealously the fortunes of Montrose, until Lord Gordon fell in the battle of Alford, and Nathaniel Gordon was taken at Philiphaugh. He was one of ten loyalists, devoted upon that occasion, by the parliament, to expiate, with their blood, the crime of fidelity to their king. Nevertheless, the covenanted nobles would have probably been satisfied with the death of the gallant Rollock, sharer of Montrose’s dangers and glory, of Ogilvy, a youth of eighteen, whose crime was the hereditary feud betwixt his family and Argyle, and of Sir Philip Nisbet, a cavalier of the ancient stamp, had not the pulpits resounded with the cry, that God required the blood of the malignants, to expiate the sins of the people. “What meaneth,” exclaimed the ministers, in the perverted language of scripture —“What meaneth, then, this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen?” The appeal to the judgment of Samuel was decisive, and the shambles were instantly opened. Nathaniel Gordon was brought first to execution. He lamented the sins of his youth, once more (and probably with greater sincerity) requested absolution from the sentence of excommunication pronounced on account of adultery, and was beheaded 6th January 1646.

214 Spalding, Vol. II. pp. 151, 154, 169, 181, 221. History of the Family of Gordon, Edin. 1727, Vol. II. p. 299.]

215 He had sent him a letter, which nigh frightened him out of his wits. — SPALDING, Vol. II. p. 231.]

And brave Harthill, a cavalier too.— P. 40, v. 5.

Leith, of Harthill, was a determined loyalist, and hated the covenanters, not without reason. His father, a haughty high-spirited baron, and chief of a clan, happened, in 1639, to sit down in the desk of provost Lesly, in the high kirk of Aberdeen He was disgracefully thrust out by the officers, and, using some threatening language to the provost, was imprisoned, like a felon, for many months, till he became furious, and nearly mad. Having got free of the shackles, with which he was loaded, he used his liberty by coming to the tolbooth window where he uttered the most violent and horrible threats against Provost Lesly, and the other covenanting magistrates, by whom he had been so severely treated. Under pretence of this new offence, he was sent to Edinburgh, and lay long in prison there; for, so fierce was his temper, that no one would give surety for his keeping the peace with his enemies, if set at liberty. At length he was delivered by Montrose, when he made himself master of Edinburgh. — SPALDING, Vol. I. pp. 201; 266. His house of Harthill was dismantled, and miserably pillaged by Forbes of Craigievar, who expelled his wife and children with the most relentless inhumanity. —Ibid. Vol. II. p. 225. Meanwhile, young Harthill was the companion and associate of Nathaniel Gordon, whom he accompanied at plundering the fair of Elgin, and at most of Montrose’s engagements. He retaliated severely on the covenanters, by ravaging and burning their lands. Ibid. Vol. II. p. 301. His fate has escaped my notice.

And Dalgatie, both stout and keen.— P. 41. v. 1.

Sir Francis Hay, of Dalgatie, a steady cavalier, and a gentleman of great gallantry and accomplishment. He was a faithful follower of Montrose, and was taken prisoner with him at his last fatal battle. He was condemned to death, with his illustrious general. Being a Roman catholic, he refused the assistance of the presbyterian clergy, and was not permitted, even on the scaffold, to receive ghostly comfort, in the only form in which his religion taught him to consider it as effectual. He kissed the axe, avowed his fidelity to his sovereign, and died like a soldier. —Montrose’s Memoirs, p. 322.

And Newton Gordon, burd-alone.— P. 41. v. 1.

Newton, for obvious reasons, was a common appellation of an estate, or barony, where a new edifice had been erected. Hence, for distinction’s sake, it was anciently compounded with the name of the proprietor; as, Newtown–Edmonstone, Newtown–Don, Newtown–Gordon, &c. Of Gordon of Newtown, I only observe, that he was, like all his clan, a steady loyalist, and a follower of Montrose.

And gallant Veitch, upon the field.— P. 41. v. 1.

I presume this gentleman to have been David Veitch, brother to Veitch of Dawick, who, with many other of the Peebles-shire gentry, was taken at Philiphaugh. The following curious accident took place, some years afterwards, in consequence of his loyal zeal.

“In the year 1653, when the loyal party did arise in arms against the English, in the North and West Highlands, some noblemen and loyal gentlemen, with others, were forward to repair to them, with such forces as they could make; which the English, with marvelouse diligence, night and day, did bestir themselves to impede; making their troops of horse and dragoons to pursue the loyal party in all places, that they might not come to such a considerable number as was designed. It happened, one night, that one Captain Masoun, commander of a troop of dragoons, that came from Carlisle, in England, marching through the town of Sanquhar, in the night, was encountered by one captain Palmer, commanding a troop of horse, that came from Ayr, marching eastward; and, meeting at the tollhouse, or tolbooth, one David Veitch, brother to the laird of Dawick, in Tweeddale, and one of the loyal party, being prisoner in irons by the English, did arise, and came to the window at their meeting, and cryed out, that they should fight valiantly for King Charles, Where-through, they, taking each other for the loyal party, did begin a brisk fight, which continued for a while, til the dragoons, having spent their shot, and finding the horsemen to be too strong for them, did give ground; but yet retired, in some order, towards the castle of Sanquhar, being hotly pursued by the troop, through the whole town, above a quarter of a mile, till they came to the castle; where both parties did, to their mutual grief, become sensible of their mistake. In this skirmish there were several killed on both sides, and Captain Palmer himself dangerously wounded, with many mo wounded in each troop, who did peaceably dwell together afterward for a time, untill their wounds were cured, in Sanquhar castle.”—Account of Presbytery of Penpont, in Macfarlane’s MSS.

And bold Aboyne is to the sea,

Young Huntly is his noble name.— P. 41. v. 3.

James, earl of Aboyne, who fled to France, and there died heart-broken. It is said, his death was accelerated by the news of King Charles’ execution. He became representative of the Gordon family, or Young Huntly, as the ballad expresses it, in consequence of the death of his elder brother, George, who fell in the battle of Alford. —History of Gordon Family.

Two thousand of our Danish men.— P. 41. v. 5.

Montrose’s foreign auxiliaries, who, by the way, did not exceed 600 in all.

Gilbert Menzies, of high degree,

By whom the king’s banner was borne.— P. 42. v. 1.

Gilbert Menzies, younger of Pitfoddells, carried the royal banner in Montrose’s last battle. It bore the headless corpse of Charles I., with this motto, “Judge and revenge my cause, O Lord!“ Menzies proved himself worthy of this noble trust, and, obstinately refusing quarter, died in defence of his charge. Montrose’s Memoirs.

Then woe to Strachan, and Hacket baith.— P. 42. v. 2.

Sir Charles Hacket, an officer in the service of the estates.

And Huntly’s gone, the self-same way.— P. 42. v. 4.

George Gordon, second marquis of Huntley, one of the very few nobles in Scotland, who had uniformly adhered to the king from the very beginning of the troubles, was beheaded by the sentence of the parliament of Scotland (so calling themselves), upon the 22d March, 1649, one month and twenty-two days after the martyrdom of his master. He has been much blamed for not cordially co-operating with Montrose; and Bishop Wishart, in the zeal of partiality for his hero, accuses Huntley of direct treachery. But he is a true believer, who seals, with his blood, his creed, religious or political; and there are many reasons, short of this foul charge, which may have dictated the backward conduct of Huntley towards Montrose. He could not forget, that, when he first stood out for the king, Montrose, then the soldier of the covenant, had actually made him prisoner: and we cannot suppose Huntley to have been so sensible of Montrose’s superior military talents, as not to think himself, as equal in rank, superior in power, and more uniform in loyalty entitled to equally high marks of royal trust and favour. This much is certain, that the gallant clan of Gordon contributed greatly to Montrose’s success; for the gentlemen of that name, with the brave and loyal Ogilvies, composed the principal part of his cavalry.

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