The Ballad of Kinmont Willie

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The Ballad of Kinmont Willie

O have ye na heard o’ the fause Sakelde?
O have ye na heard o’ the keen Lord Scrope
How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont William
On Hairbee to hang him up?                      Hairbee - Harraby

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

They band his legs beneath the steed,
They tied his hands behind his back;
They guarded him fivesome on each side
And brought him ower the Liddle-rack.

They led him through the Liddle-rack
And also thro’ the Carlisle sands;
They brought him to Carlisle castell
To be at my Lord Scrope’s commands.

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

“Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver!
There’s never a Scot shall set ye free;
Before ye cross my castle-yett, castle gate
I trow ye shall take farewell o’ me.

“’Fear na ye that,” quo Willie
“By thy faith o’ my bodie, Lord Scrope,” he said,
‘I never yet lodged in a hostelrie
But I paid my lawing before I daed.’            Lawing - reckoning

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

“He has ta’en the table wi’ his hand,
He garr’d the red wind spring on hie;
Now Christ’s curse on my head,’ he said,
‘But avenge of Lord Scrope I’ll be!

“Is my basnet a widow’s curch?                   basnet - helmut
Or my lance a wand of the willow-tree?
Or my arm a lady’s lilye hand?
That an English lord should lightly me.

“And have they ta’en him Kinmont Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Is keeper here on the Scottish Side?

“And have they e’en ta’en Kinmont Willie,
Withouten either dread or fear,
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Can back a steed, or shake a spear?

“Oh were there war between the lands,
As well I wot there is none,
I would slight Carlisle castell high,
Though it were builded of marble-stone.

I would set that castell in a lowe,                 lowe - flame
And sloken it with English blood;
There’s nevir a man in Cumberland
Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.

“But since nae war between the lands,
And there is peace, and peace should be,
I’ll neither harm English lad of lass
And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!

“He has call’d him forty marchmen,
I trow they were of his ain name,
Except Sir Gilbert Elliot, call’d
The laird of Stobs, I mean the same.

“He has call’d him forty marchmen bauld,
Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch
With spur on heel, and splent on spauld,        spauld – shoulderarmour

And Gleuves of green, and feathers blue.
“There were five and five before them a’
Wi’ hunting-horns and bugles bright
And five and five came wi’ Buccleuch

Like warden’s men, arrayed for fight.
And five and five like a mason gang,
That carried the ladders lang and hie;
And five and five, like broken men;

And so they reached the Woodhouselee.
And as we cross’d the Bateable Land,        Debatable Land
When to the English side we held,
The first o’ men that we met wi’

Whae sould it be bu fause Salk elde!
“Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?”
Quo fause Salkelde, ”come tell to me!”
“We go to hunt an English stag,

Has trespass’d on the Scots countrie.”
“Where be ye gaun, ye marshall-men?”
Quo fause Salkede, “come tell me true!”
‘We go to catch a rank reiver,

Has broken faith wi’ the bauld Buccleuch.”
“Where are ye gaun, ye mason-lads,
Wi a’ your ladders lang and hie?”
“We gang to herry a corbie’s nest,

That wons not far frae Woodhouselee.’
“Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?”
Quo fause Sakelde, “come tell me!”
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band,

And nevir a word of lear had he.                Lear - lore
“Why trespass ye on the English side?
Row-footed outlaws, stand!” quo he;
The nevir a word Dickie to say,
Sae he thrust the lance thro’ his fause bodie.

The on we held for Carlisle toun,
And at Staneshawbank the Eden we crossed;
The water was great, and mickle of spait, in flood
But the nevir a horse no man we lost.

And when we reached the Staeshawbank,
The wind was rising loud and hie;
And there the laird garr’d leave our steeds,
For fear that they should stamp and nie.

And when we left the Staneshawbank
The wind began full loud to blaw,
But ‘twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
When we came beneath the castell-wa’.

We crept on knees, and held our breath,
Till we placed the ladders against the wa’
And sae ready was Buccleuch himself
To mount the first before us a’.

He has ta’en the watchman by the throat
He flung him down upon the lead;
Had there not peace between our lands,
Upon the other side thou hast gaed!

“Now sound out, trumpets!’ quo Buccleuch;
‘Let’s waken Lord Scrope right merrily!”
Then loud the Warden’s trumpet blew
“O whae dare meddle wi’ me?”

Then speedilie to wark we gaed
And raised the slogan ane and a’
And cut a hole thro’ a sheet of lead
And so we wan to the castle-ha’.

They thought King James and a’ his men
Had won the house wi’ bow and speir
It was but twenty Scots and ten
That put a thousand in sic a stead.         stear - stir

“Wi’ coulters and wi’ forehammers,
We garr’d the bars bang merrilie,
Until we came to the inner prison,
Where Willie Kinmont he did lie.

And when they came to the lower prison
Where Willie o’ Kinmont he did lie.
‘O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,
Upon the morn that thou’s to die?’

“O I sleep saft, and I wake aft
It’s lang since sleeping was fley’d frae me;      frightened
Gie my service back to my wife and bairns,
And a’ guide fellows that speir for me.’            speir - enquire

“Then Red Rowan has hent him up,
The starkest man in Teviotdale:
Abide, abide now, Red Rowan,
Till of my Lord Scrope I take farewell.

“Farewell, farewell, my good Lord Scrope!
My gude Lord Scrope, farewell!’ he cried
‘I’ll pay for my lodging maill maill - rent
When first we meet on the border-side.”

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

“O mony a time, “quo Kinmont Willie,
“I have ridden horse baith wild and wud;
But a rougher beast the Red Rown
I ween my legs have ne’er bestrode.

“And mony a time, ”quo Kinmont Willie,
‘I’ve prick’d a horse out oure the furs;             furs - furrows
But since the day I backed a steed,
I nevir wore sic cumbrous spurs!”

We scarce had won the Staneshawbank,
When a’ the Carlisle bells were rung,
And a thousand men, in horse and foot,
Cam wi’ the keen Lord Scrope along.

“Buccleuch has turn’d to Eden water,
Even where it flowed frae bank to brim,
And he has plunged in wi’ a’ his band,
And safely swam then thro’ the stream.

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

All sore astonish’d stood Lord Scrope
He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared to trew his eyes            trew - believe
When through the water they had gane.

“He is either himself a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be         maun - must
I wadna have ridden that wan water
For a’ the gowd in Chistentie.”                 gowd - gold


See also:
•  The Tale of Kinmont Willie



Sources for this article include:
  • Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders

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    Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020