This poem is published from a copy in the Bannatyne MS. in the hand-writing of the Hon. Mr. Carmichael, advocate. It first appeared in Allan Ramsay’s Evergreen, but some liberties have been taken by him in transcribing it; and, what is altogether unpardonable, the MS., which is itself rather inaccurate, has been interpolated to favour his readings; of which there remain obvious marks.
The skirmish of the Reidswire happened upon the 7th of June, 1575, at one of the meetings, held by the wardens of the marches, for arrangements necessary upon the border. Sir John Carmichael, ancestor of the present Earl of Hyndford, was the Scottish warden, and Sir John Forster held that office on the English middle march. — In the course of the day, which was employed, as usual, in redressing wrongs, a bill, or indictment, at the instance of a Scottish complainer, was fouled (i.e. found a true bill) against one Farnstein, a notorious English freebooter. Forster alleged that he had fled from justice: Carmichael considering this as a pretext to avoid making compensation for the felony, bade him “play fair!” to which the haughty English warden retorted, by some injurious expressions respecting Carmichael’s family, and gave other open signs of resentment. His retinue, chiefly men of Reesdale and Tynedale, the most ferocious of the English borderers, glad of any pretext for a quarrel, discharged a flight of arrows among the Scots. A warm conflict ensued, in which, Carmichael being beat down and made prisoner, success seemed at first to incline to the English side; till the Tynedale men, throwing themselves too greedily upon the plunder, fell into disorder; and a body of Jedburgh citizens arriving at that instant, the skirmish terminated in a complete victory on the part of the Scots, who took prisoners, the English warden, James Ogle, Cuthbert Collingwood, Francis Russel, son to the Earl of Bedford, and son-in-law to Forster, some of the Fenwicks, and several other border chiefs. They were sent to the Earl of Morton, then regent, who detained them at Dalkeith for some days, till the heat of their resentment was abated; which prudent precaution prevented a war betwixt the two kingdoms. He then dismissed them with great expressions of regard; and, to satisfy Queen Elizabeth,143 sent up Carmichael to York, whence he was soon after honourably dismissed. The field of battle, called the Reidswire, is a part of the Carter Mountain, about ten miles from Jedburgh. — See, for these particulars, Godscroft, Spottiswoode, and Johnstone’s History.
143 Her ambassador at Edinburgh refused to lie in a bed of state which had been provided for him, till this “oudious fact” had been enquired into. —Murden’s State Papers, Vol. II, p. 282.]
The editor has adopted the modern spelling of the word Reidswire, to prevent the mistake in pronunciation which might be occasioned by the use of the Scottish qu for w. The MS. reads Reidsquair. Swair, or Swire, signifies the descent of a hill; and the epithet Red is derived from the colour of the heath, or, perhaps, from the Reid-water, which rises at no great distance.
The seventh of July, the suith to say,
At the Reidswire the tryst was set;
Our wardens they affixed the day,
And, as they promised, so they met.
Alas! that day I’ll ne’er forgett!
Was sure sae feard, and then sae faine —
They came theare justice for to gett,
Will never green144 to come again.
Carmichael was our Warden then,
He caused the country to conveen;
And the Laird’s Wat, that worthie man,
Brought in that sirname weil beseen145:
The Armestranges, that aye hae been
A hardie house, but not a hail,
The Elliot’s honours to maintaine,
Brought down the lave146 o’ Liddesdale.
Then Tividale came to wi’ speid;
The sheriffe brought the Douglas down,
Wi’ Cranstane, Gladstain, good at need,
Baith Rewle water, and Hawick town.
Beanjeddart bauldly made him boun,
Wi’ a’ the Trumbills, stronge and stout;
The Rutherfoords, with grit renown,
Convoyed the town of Jedbrugh out.
Of other clans I cannot tell,
Because our warning was not wide. —
Be this our folks hae taen the fell,
And planted down palliones147 there to bide.
We looked down the other side,
And saw come breasting ower the brae,
Wi’ Sir John Forster for their guyde,
Full fifteen hundred men and mae.
It grieved him sair, that day, I trow,
Wi’ Sir George Hearoune of Schipsydehouse;
Because we were not men enow,
They counted us not worth a louse.
Sir George was gentle, meek, and douse,
But he was hail and het as fire;
And yet, for all his cracking crouse148,
He rewd the raid o’ the Reidswire.
To deal with proud men is but pain;
For either must ye fight or flee,
Or else no answer make again,
But play the beast, and let them be.
It was na wonder he was hie,
Had Tindaill, Reedsdaill, at his hand,
Wi’ Cukdaill, Gladsdaill on the lee,
And Hebsrime, and Northumberland.
Yett was our meeting meek enough,
Begun wi’ merriement and mowes,
And at the brae, aboon the heugh,
The clark sate down to call the rowes.149
And some for kyne, and some for ewes,
Called in of Dandrie, Hob, and Jock —
We saw, come marching ower the knows,
Five hundred Fennicks in a flock.
With jack and speir, and bows all bent,
And warlike weapons at their will:
Although we were na weel content,
Yet, be my trouth, we feard no ill.
Some gaed to drink, and some stude still,
And some to cairds and dice them sped;
Till on ane Farnstein they fyled a bill,
And he was fugitive and fled.
Carmichael bade them speik out plainlie,
And cloke no cause for ill nor good;
The other, answering him as vainlie,
Began to reckon kin and blood:
He raise, and raxed150 him where he stood,
And bade him match him with his marrows,
Then Tindaill heard them reasun rude,
And they loot off a flight of arrows.
Then was there nought but bow and speir,
And every man pulled out a brand;
“A Schaftan and a Fenwick” thare:
Gude Symington was slain frae hand.
The Scotsmen cried on other to stand,
Frae time they saw John Robson slain —
What should they cry? the king’s command
Could cause no cowards turn again.
Up rose the laird to red the cumber,151
Which would not be for all his boast —
What could we doe with sic a number?
Fyve thousand men into a host.
Then Henry Purdie proved his cost,152
And very narrowlie had mischiefed him,
And there we had our warden lost,
Wert not the grit God he relieved him.
Another throw the breiks him bair,
Whill flatlies to the ground he fell:
Than thought I weel we had lost him there,
Into my stomach it struck a knell!
Yet up he raise, the treuth to tell ye,
And laid about him dints full dour;
His horsemen they raid sturdilie,
And stude about him in the stoure.
Then raise153 the slogan with ane shout —
“Fy Tindaill, to it! Jedbrugh’s here!”
I trow he was not half sae stout,
But154 anis his stomach was asteir.
With gun and genzie,155 bow and speir,
Men might see monie a cracked crown!
But up amang the merchant geir,
They were as busie as we were down.
The swallow taill frae tackles flew,
Five hundreth flain156 into a flight,
But we had pestelets enow,
And shot amang them as we might.
With help of God the game gaed right,
Frae time the foremost of them fell;
Then ower the know without goodnight,
They ran, with mony a shout and yell.
But after they had turned backs,
Yet Tindaill men they turned again;
And had not been the merchant packs,
There had been mae of Scotland slain.
But, Jesu! if the folks were fain
To put the bussing on their thies;
And so they fled, wi’ a’ their main,
Down ower the brae, like clogged bees.
Sir Francis Russel ta’en was there,
And hurt, as we hear men rehearse;
Proud Wallinton was wounded sair,
Albeit he be a Fennick fierce.
But if ye wald a souldier search,
Among them a’ were ta’en that night,
Was nane sae wordie to put in verse,
As Collingwood, that courteous knight.
Young Henry Schafton, he is hurt;
A souldier shot him with a bow:
Scotland has cause to mak great sturt,
For laiming of the laird of Mow.
The Laird’s Wat did weel, indeed;
His friends stood stoutlie by himsel’,
With little Gladstain, gude in need,
For Gretein kend na gude be ill.
The Sheriffe wanted not gude will,
Howbeit he might not fight so fast;
Beanjeddart, Hundlie, and Hunthill,
Three, on they laid weel at the last.
Except the horsemen of the guard,
If I could put men to availe,
None stoutlier stood out for their laird.
For did the lads of Liddesdail.
But little harness had we there;
But auld Badreule had on a jack,
And did right weel, I you declare,
With all his Trumbills at his back.
Gude Ederstane was not to lack,
Nor Kirktoun, Newtoun, noble men!
Thirs157 all the specials I of speake,
By158 others that I could not ken.
Who did invent that day of play,
We need not fear to find him soon;
For Sir John Forster, I dare well say,
Made us this noisome afternoon.
Not that I speak preceislie out,
That he supposed it would be perril;
But pride, and breaking out of feuid,
Garr’d Tindaill lads begin the quarrel.
144 Green— Long.]
145 Weil beseen— Well appointed. The word occurs in Morte Arthur: “And when Sir Percival saw this, he hied him thither, “and found the ship covered with silke, more blacker than any beare; and therein was a gentlewoman, of great beautie, and she was richly beseene, that none might be better.”]
146 Lave— Remainder.]
147 Palliones— Tents.]
148 Cracking crouse— Talking big.]
149 Rowes— Rolls.]
150 Raxed him— Stretched himself up.]
151 Red the cumber— Quell the tumult.]
152 Cost— Signifies loss or risk.]
153 Raise— Rose.]
154 But, &c. — Till once his anger was up.]
155 Genzie— Engine of war.]
156 Flain— Arrows; hitherto absurdly printed slain.]
157 Thirs— These are.]
158 By— Besides.]
Carmichael was our warden then. — P. 157. v. 2.
Sir John Carmichael was a favourite of the resent Morton, by whom he was appointed warden of the middle marches, in preference to the border chieftains. With the like policy, the regent married Archibald Carmichael, the warden’s brother, to the heiress of Edrom, in the Merse, much contrary to the inclination of the lady and her friends. In like manner, he compelled another heiress, Jane Sleigh, of Cumlege, to marry Archibald, brother to Auchinleck of Auchiuleck, one of his dependants. By such arbitrary practices, Morton meant to strengthen his authority on the borders; instead of which, he hastened his fall, by giving disgust to his kinsman the Earl of Angus, and his other friends, who had been established in the country for ages. —Godscroft, Vol. II. Pages 238. 246. Sir John Carmichael, the warden, was murdered 16th June, 1600, by a party of borderers, at a place called Raesknows, near Lochmaben, whither he was going to hold a court of justice. Two of the ring-leaders in the slaughter, Thomas Armstrong, called Ringan’s Tarn, and Adam Scott, called the Pecket, were tried at Edinburgh, at the instance of Carmichael of Edrom. They were condemned to have their right hands struck off, thereafter to be hanged, and their bodies gibbeted on the Borough Moor; which sentence was executed, 14th November, 1601. “This Pecket, (saith Birrel in his Diary), was ane of the maist notalrie thieftes that ever raid:” he calls his name Steill, which appears, from the record, to be a mistake. Four years afterwards, an Armstrong, called Sandy of Rowanburn, and several others of that tribe, were executed for this and other excesses. —Books of Adjournal of these dates.
And the Laird’s Wat, that worthie man. — P. 157. v. 2.
The chief, who led out the sirname of Scott upon this occasion, was (saith Satchells) Walter Scott of Ancrum, a natural son of Walter of Buccleuch. The laird of Buccleuch was then a minor. The ballad seems to have been popular in Satchells’ days, for he quotes it literally. He must, however, have been mistaken in this particular; for the family of Scott of Ancrum, in all our books of genealogy, deduce their descent from the Scotts of Balwearie in Fife, whom they represent. The first of this family, settled in Roxburghshire, is stated in Douglas’ Baronage to have been Patrick Scott, who purchased the lands of Ancrum, in the reign of James VI. He therefore could not be the Laird’s Wat of the ballad; indeed, from the list of border families in 1597, Ker appears to have been proprietor of Ancrum at the date of the ballad. It is plainly written in the MS. the Laird’s Wat, i.e., the Laird’s son Wat; notwithstanding which, it has always hitherto been printed the Laird Wat. If Douglas be accurate in his genealogy, the person meant must be the young laird of Buccleuch, afterwards distinguished for his surprise of Carlisle Castle. — See Kinmont Willie. I am the more confirmed in this opinion, because Kerr of Ancrum was at this time a fugitive, for slaying one of the Rutherfords, and the tower of Ancrum given in keeping to the Turnbulls, his hereditary enemies. His mother, however, a daughter of Home of Wedderburn, contrived to turn out the Turnbulls, and possess herself of the place by surprise. —Godscroft, Vol. II. p. 250.
The Armestranges, that aye hae been. — P. 158. v. 1.
This clan are here mentioned as not being hail, or whole, because they were outlawed or broken men. Indeed, many of them had become Englishmen, as the phrase then went. Accordingly, we find, from Paton, that forty of them, under the laird of Mangertoun, joined Somerset upon his expedition into Scotland. —Paton, in Dalyell’s Fragments, p. 1. There was an old alliance betwixt the Elliots and Armstrongs, here alluded to. For the enterprises of the Armstrongs, against their native country, when under English assurance, see Murdin’s State Papers, Vol. I. p. 43. From which it appears, that, by command of Sir Ralph Evers, this clan ravaged almost the whole west border of Scotland.
The sheriffe brought the Douglas down. — P. 158. v. 2,
Douglas of Cavers, hereditary sheriff of Teviotdale, descended from Black Archibald, who carried the standard of his father, the Earl of Douglas, at the battle of Otterbourne. —See the Ballad of that name.
Wi’ Cranstane, Gladstain, good at need. — P. 158. v. 2.
Cranstoun of that ilk, ancestor to Lord Cranstoun; and Gladstain of Gladstains.
Wi a’ the Trumbills, stronge and stout;
The Rutherfoords, with grit renown. — P. 158. v. 2.
These were ancient and powerful border clans, residing chiefly upon the river Jed. Hence, they naturally convoyed the town of Jedburgh out. Although notorious freebooters, they were specially patronised by Morton, who, by their means, endeavoured to counterpoise the power of Buccleuch and Ferniherst, during the civil wars attached to the queen’s faction.
The following fragment of an old ballad is quoted in a letter from an aged gentleman of this name, residing at New–York, to a friend in Scotland:
“Bauld Rutherfurd, he was fow stout, Wi’ a’ his nine sons
him round about; He led the town o’ Jedburgh out, All bravely
fought that day.”
Wi’ Sir John Forster for their guyde. — P. 158. v. 3.
This gentleman is called, erroneously, in some copies of this ballad, Sir George. He was warden of the mid-marches of England.
Wi’ Sir George Henroune of Schipsydehouse. — P. 159. v. 1.
Sir George Heron of Chipchase-house, whose character is contrasted with that of the English warden.
Had Tindaill, Reedsdaill at his hand. — P. 159. v. 2.
These are districts, or dales, on the English border. Hebsrime seems to be an error in the MS. for Hebburn upon the Till.
Five hundred Fennicks in a flock. — P. 159. v. 3.
The Fenwicks; a powerful and numerous Northumberland clan.
Then raise the slogan with ane shout. — P. 161. v. 3.
The gathering word, peculiar to a certain name, or set of people, was termed slogan, or slughorn, and was always repeated at an onset, as well as on many other occasions, as appears from the following passage of an old author, whom this custom seems much to have offended — for he complains,
“That whereas alweys, both in al tounes of war, and in al campes of armies, quietnes and stilnes without nois is principally in the night, after the watch is set, observed (I need not reason why.) Yet, our northern prikkers, the borderers, notwithstanding, with great enormitie, (as thought me) and not unlyke (to be playn) unto a masterless hounde houyling in a hie wey, when he hath lost him he wayted upon, sum hoopyng, sum whistelyng, and most with crying, a Berwyke! a Berwyke! a Fenwyke! a Fenwyke! a Bulmer! a Bulmer! or so ootherwise as theyr captein’s names wear, never linnde those troublous and daungerous noyses all the night long. They sayd they did it to fynd out their captein and fellowes; but if the soldiours of our oother countries and sheres had used the same maner, in that case we shoold have oftymes had the state of our campe more lyke the outrage of a dissolute huntyng, than the quiet of a wel ordred army.”—
Patten’s Account of Somerset’s Expedition, p. 76. —Apud Dalyell’s Fragments.
Honest Patten proceeds, with great prolixity, to prove, that this was a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance; and, like Fluellen, declares, “that such idle pribble prabbles were contrary to all the good customs and disciplines of war.” Nevertheless, the custom of crying the slogan or ensenzie, is often alluded to in all our ancient histories and poems. It was usually the name of the clan, or place of rendezvous, or leader. In 1335, the English, led by Thomas of Rosslyne, and William Moubray, assaulted Aberdeen. The former was mortally wounded in the onset; and, as his followers were pressing forward, shouting Rosslyne! Rosslyne! “Cry Moubray,” said the expiring chieftain; “Rosslyne is gone!” The Highland clans had also their appropriate slogans. The Macdonalds cried Frich, (heather); the Macphersons Craig–Ubh; the Grants Craig–Elachie; and the Macfarlanes Lock–Sloy.
The swallow taill frae tackles flew. — P. 162. v. 2.
The Scots, on this occasion, seem to have had chiefly fire-arms; the English retaining still their partiality for their ancient weapon, the long-bow. It also appears, by a letter from the Duke of Norfolk to Cecil, that the English borderers were unskilful in fire-arms, or, as he says, “our countrymen be not so commyng with shots as I woolde wishe.”— See Murdin’s State Papers, Vol. I. p. 319.
And had not been the merchant packs. — P. 162. v. 3.
The ballad-maker here ascribes the victory to the real cause; for, the English borderers, dispersing to plunder the merchandise, gave the opposite party time to recover from their surprise It seems to have been usual for travelling merchants to attend border-meetings, although one would have thought the kind of company, usually assembled there, might have deterred them.
Sir Francis Russel ta’en was there. — P, 163. v. 1.
This gentleman was son to the Earl of Bedford. He was afterwards killed in a fray of a similar nature, at a border-meeting, between the same Sir John Forster (father-in-law to Russell), and Thomas Ker of Fairnihurst, A.D. 1585.
Proud Wallinton was wounded sair. — P. 163. v. 1.
Fenwick of Wallinton, a powerful Northumbrian chief.
As Collingwood, that courteous knight. — P. 163. v. 1.
Sir Cuthbert Collingwood. Besides these gentlemen, James Ogle, and many other Northumbrians of note, were made prisoners. Sir George Heron, of Chipchase and Ford, was slain, to the great regret of both parties, being a man highly esteemed by the Scots, as well as the English. When the prisoners were brought to Morton, at Dalkeith, and, among other presents, received from him some Scottish falcons, one of his train observed, that the English were nobly treated, since they got live hawks for dead herons. —Godscroft.
Young Henry Schufton — P. 163. v. 2.
The name of this gentleman does not appear in the MS. in the Advocates’ Library, but is restored from a copy in single sheet, printed early in the last century.
For laiming of the laird of Mow. — P. 163. v. 2.
An ancient family on the borders. The lands of Mowe are situated upon the river Bowmont, in Roxburghshire. The family is now represented by William Molle, Esq. of Mains, who has restored the ancient spelling of the name. The laird of Mowe, here mentioned, was the only gentleman of note killed in the skirmish on the Scottish side.
For Gretein kend net gude be ill. — P. 163. v. 2;
Graden, a family of Kerrs.
Beanjeddart, Hundlie, and Hunthill. — P. 163. v. 3.
Douglas of Beanjeddart, an ancient branch of the house of Cavers, possessing property near the junction of the Jed and Tiviot.
Hundlie — Rutherford of Hundlie, or Hundalee, situated on the Jed, above Jedhurgh.
Hunthill. — The old tower of Hunthill was situated about a mile above Jedburgh. It was the patrimony of an ancient family of Rutherfords. I suppose the person, here meant, to be the same who is renowned in tradition by the name of the Cock of Hunthill. His sons were executed for march-treason, or border-theft, along with the lairds of Corbet, Greenhead, and Overton, A.D. 1588. —Johnston’s History, p. 129.
But auld Badreule had on a jack. — P. 164. v. 1.
Sir Andrew Turnbull of Bedrule, upon Rule Water. This old laird was so notorious a thief, that the principal gentlemen of the clans of Hume and Kerr refused to sign a bond of alliance, to which he, with the Turnbulls and Rutherfords, was a party; alleging, that their proposed allies had stolen Hume of Wedderburn’s cattle. The authority of Morton, however, compelled them to digest the affront. The debate (and a curious one it is) may be seen at length in Godscroft, Vol. I. p. 221. The Rutherfords became more lawless after having been deprived of the countenance of the court, for slaying the nephew of Forman, archbishop of St. Andrews, who had attempted to carry off the heiress of Rutherford. This lady was afterwards married to James Stuart of Traquair, son to James, Earl of Buchan, according to a papal bull, dated 9th November, 1504. By this lady a great estate in Tiviotdale fell to the family of Traquair, which was sold by James, Earl of Traquair, lord-high-treasurer of Scotland, in consequence of the pecuniary difficulties to which he was reduced, by his loyal exertions in favour of Charles I.
Gude Ederstane was not to lack. — P. 164. v. 1.
An ancient family of Rutherfords; I believe, indeed, the most ancient now extant. The family is represented by Major Rutherford of Edgerstane. His seat is about three miles distant from the field of battle.
Nor Kirktoun, Newtoun, noble men! — P. 164. v. 1.
The parish of Kirktoun belonged, I believe, about this time, to a branch of the Cavers family; but Kirkton of Stewartfield is mentioned in the list of border clans in 1597.
Newtoun. — This is probably Grinyslaw of Little Newtoun, mentioned in the said roll of border clans.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13