The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Hughie the Graeme.

The Graemes, as we have had frequent occasion to notice, were a powerful and numerous clan, who chiefly inhabited the Debateable Land. They were said to be of Scottish extraction, and their chief claimed his descent from Malice, earl of Stratherne. In military service, they were more attached to England than to Scotland; but, in their depredations on both countries, they appear to have been very impartial; for, in the year 1600, the gentlemen of Cumberland alleged to Lord Scroope, “that the Graemes, and their clans, with their children, tenants, and servants, were the chiefest actors in the spoil and decay of the country.” Accordingly, they were, at that time, obliged to give a bond of surety for each other’s peaceable demeanour; from which bond, their numbers appear to have exceeded four hundred men. — See Introduction to NICOLSON’S History of Cumberland, p. cviii.

Richard Graeme, of the family of Netherbye, was one of the attendants upon Charles I., when prince of Wales, and accompanied him upon his romantic journey through France and Spain. The following little anecdote, which then occurred, will shew, that the memory of the Graemes’ border exploits was at that time still preserved.

“They were now entered into the deep time of Lent, and could get no flesh in their inns. Whereupon fell out a pleasant passage, if I may insert it, by the way, among more serious. There was, near Bayonne, a herd of goats, with their young ones; upon the sight whereof, Sir Richard Graham tells the marquis (of Buckingham), that he would snap one of the kids, and make some shift to carry him snug to their lodging. Which the prince overhearing, ‘Why, Richard,’ says he, ‘do you think you may practise here your old tricks upon the borders?’ Upon which words, they, in the first place, gave the goat-herd good contentment; and then, while the marquis and Richard, being both on foot, were chasing the kid about the stack, the prince, from horseback, killed him in the head, with a Scottish pistol. — Which circumstance, though trifling, may yet serve to shew how his Royal Highness, even in such slight and sportful damage, had a noble sense of just dealing.”—Sir HENRY WOTTON’S Life of the Duke of Buckingham.

I find no traces of this particular Hughie Graeme, of the ballad; but, from the mention of the Bishop, I suspect he may have been one, of about four hundred borderers, against whom bills of complaint were exhibited to Robert Aldridge, lord bishop of Carlisle, about 1553, for divers incursions, burnings, murders, mutilations, and spoils, by them committed. — NICHOLSON’S History, Introduction, lxxxi. There appear a number of Graemes, in the specimen which we have of that list of delinquents. There occur, in particular,

Ritchie Grame of Bailie,

Will’s Jock Grame,

Fargue’s Willie Grame,

Muckle Willie Grame,

Will Grame of Rosetrees,

Ritchie Grame, younger of Netherby,

Wat Grame, called Flaughtail,

Will Grame, Nimble Willie,

Will Grahame, Mickle Willie,

with many others.

In Mr Ritson’s curious and valuable collection of legendary poetry, entitled Ancient Songs, he has published this Border ditty, from a collation of two old black-letter copies, one in the collection of the late John duke of Roxburghe, and another in the hands of John Bayne, Esq. — The learned editor mentions another copy, beginning, “Good Lord John is a hunting gone.” The present edition was procured for me by my friend Mr W. Laidlaw, in Blackhouse, and has been long current in Selkirkshire. Mr Ritson’s copy has occasionally been resorted to for better readings.

Hughie the Graeme.

Gude Lord Scroope’s to the hunting gane,

He has ridden o’er moss and muir;

And he has grippit Hughie the Graeme,

For stealing o’ the Bishop’s mare.

“Now, good Lord Scroope, this may not be!

“Here hangs a broad sword by my side;

“And if that thou canst conquer me,

“The matter it may soon be tryed.”

“I ne’er was afraid of a traitor thief;

“Although thy name be Hughie the Graeme,

“I’ll make thee repent thee of thy deeds,

“If God but grant me life and time.”

“Then do your worst now, good Lord Scroope,

“And deal your blows as hard as you can!

“It shall be tried, within an hour,

“Which of us two is the better man.”

But as they were dealing their blows so free,

And both so bloody at the time,

Over the moss came ten yeomen so tall,

All for to take brave Hughie the Graeme.

Then they hae grippit Hughie the Graeme,

And brought him up through Carlisle town;

The lasses and lads stood on the walls,

Crying, “Hughie the Graeme, thou’se ne’er gae down!”

Then hae they chosen a jury of men,

The best that were in Carlisle302 town;

And twelve of them cried out at once,

“Hughie the Graeme, thou must gae down!”

Then up bespake him gude Lord Hume,303

As he sat by the judge’s knee —

“Twentie white owsen, my gude lord,

“If you’ll grant Hughie the Graeme to me.”

“O no, O no, my gude Lord Hume!

“For sooth and sae it manna be;

“For, were there but three Graemes of the name,

“They suld be hanged a’ for me.”

’Twas up and spake the gude Lady Hume,

As she sate by the judge’s knee —

A peck of white pennies, my gude lord judge,

“If you’ll grant Hughie the Graeme to me.”

“O no, O no, my gude Lady Hume!

“Forsooth and so it mustna be;

“Were he but the one Graeme of the name,

“He suld be hanged high for me.”

“If I be guilty,” said Hughie the Graeme,

“Of me my friends shall hae small talk;”

And he has loup’d fifteen feet and three,

Though his hands they were tied behind his back.

He looked over his left shoulder,

And for to see what he might see;

There was he aware of his auld father,

Came tearing his hair most piteouslie.

“O hald your tongue, my father,” he says,

“And see that ye dinna weep for me!

“For they may ravish me o’ my life,

“But they canna banish me fro’ heaven hie.’

“Fare ye weel, fair Maggie, my wife!

“The last time we came ower the muir,

“’Twas thou bereft me of my life,

“And wi’ the Bishop thou play’d the whore.

“Here, Johnie Armstrang, take thou my sword,

“That is made o’ the metal sae fine;

“And when thou comest to the English304 side,

“Remember the death of Hughie the Graeme.”

302 Garlard— Anc. Songs.]

303 Boles— Anc. Songs.]

304 Border— Anc, Songs.]

Note on Hughie the Graeme.

And wi’ the Bishop thou play’d the whore.— P. 326, v. 9.

Of the morality of Robert Aldridge, bishop of Carlisle, we know but little; but his political and religious faith were of a stretching and accommodating texture. Anthony a Wood observes, that there were many changes in his time, both in church and state; but that the worthy prelate retained his offices and preferments during them all.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29