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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border

Sir Walter Scott, patriot and writer, enjoyed traveling through the Scottish Border lands talking to the older people in an effort to collect the stories, poems, and songs that had been passed by word of mouth from one generation to the next. These he published as "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border." Two volumes of the Minstrelsy were published in 1802 and a third followed in 1803. In the course of subsequent editions, the arrangements of the ballads underwent various changes, and numerous additions were made to the Notes. Scott kept beside him, as long as his health permitted him to continue his literary pursuits, an interleaved copy of the Collection by which his name was first established, inserting various readings as chance threw them in his way, and enriching his annotations with whatever new lights conversation or books supplied.

Mr. Motherwell, the Editor of "Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern, 1827," said, "Fortunate it was for the heroic and legendary song of Scotland that the work was undertaken, and still more fortunate that its execution devolved upon one so well qualified in every respect to do its subject the most ample justice. Long will it live, a noble and interesting monument of his unwearied research, curious and minute learning, genius, and taste. It is truly a patriot’s legacy to posterity; and much as it may be now esteemed, it is only in times yet gathering in the bosom of futurity, when the interesting traditions, the chivalrous and romantic legends, the wild superstitions, the tragic songs or Scotland, have wholly failed from the living memory, that this gift can be duly appreciated. It is then that these volumes will be conned with feelings akin to religious enthusiasm, that their strange and mystic lore will be treasured up in the heart as the precious record of days for ever passed away – that their grand stern legends will be listened to with reverential awe, as if the voice of a remote ancestor from the depths of the tomb, had woke the thrilling strains of martial antiquity."

The title page of the 1881 printing from which the following ballads are copied, says:


Consisting of

Historical and Romantic Ballads.


In the Southern Counties of Scotland; With a Few of Modern Date,
Founded Upon Local Tradition

There are Scott’s notes about the selections then an Introduction then an Appendix to Introduction. The latter contains a letter from The Earl of Surrey to Henry VII giving an account of the Storm of Jedburgh. There is also a passage extracted from the Memoirs of Sir Robert Carey telling of his governance of the East March in his father’s absence. There is a Bond of Alliance or Feud-stanching Betwixt the Clans of Scot and Ker: A.D. 1529, written after the battle of Melrose, but the alliance didn’t last long. The feud again broke out in 1533 when Sir Walter Scott (of that day) was slain in the streets of Edinburgh by the Kers. There is an Excommunication of Border Robbers by Richard Fox, Bishop of Durham, in the Time of Henry VII. There also is a contract betwixt the King and Several of his Subjects (A.D. 1612) in which the Borderers renounced their vocation of theft and robbery. Then the ballads begin. Some have music with them. Some are written as poems with reference to the tune to which it was sung.

There is a song about the Battle of Otterbourne which begins:

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men with their hay

The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
Into England, to drive a prey.

He chose the Gordons and the Graemes
With them the Lindesays, light and gay.

The notes say the Gordons were originally settled up on the lands of Gordon and Huntly in the shire of Berwick, and are therefore, of Border extraction.

Much history is included in the notes of this edition and many stories are told about the Border clans. Some of the included ballads are:

Auld Maitland
The Song of the Outlaw Murray
Lord Ewrie
The Lochmaben Harper
Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead
Kinmont Willie
The Death of Featherstonehaugh
Bartrame’s Dirge
Archie o’Ca’field
Johnny Armstrong’s Good Night
The Lads of Wamphray
The Battle of Philiphaugh
The Gallant Grahames
The Battle of Pentland Hill
The Battle of Loudon Hill
The Battle of Bothwell Bridge
The Douglas Tragedy
Young Benjiie
Proud Lady Margaret
Sir Hugh Le Blond
Graeme and Bewick
The Lament of the Border Widow
Johnnie of Braidslee
The Dowie Dens of Yarrow
The Gay Goss-hawk
Brown Adam
Jellon Grahame
Willie’s Lady
Clerk Saunders
The Demon Lover
Rose the Red and White Lilly
Fause Foundrage
The Wife of Usher’s Well
King Henry
Prince Robert
Annan Water
The Cruel Sister
The Queen’s Marie
The Bonny Hind
Thomas the Rhymer

The notes for the following ballad about Lord Ewie say the reciter has confused some of his lineage, but Sir Ralph Evre or Ewie or Evers was one of the bravest men of a military race. The notes say a broad letter was patent letters of nobility. He was enobled by Henry VIII for prosecuting the Border warfare. The reference to the Queen’s brother - The Earl of Hereford, afterwards Duke of Somerset, and brother of Queen Jane Seymour, made a furious incursion into Scotland in 1545. Ewie himself was slain in the battle of Ancram Moor, fought between him and the Earl of Angus in 1546.

Lord Ewie

Lord Ewie was as brave a man
As ever stood in his degree;
The King has sent him a broad letter,
All for his courage and loyalty.

Lord Ewie is of gentill blode,
A knighte’s son sooth to say;
He is kin to the Nevill and to the Percy,
And is married upon a Willowbe.

A noble Knight him trained upp,
Sir RafeBulmer is the man I mean;
At Flodden field, as men do say,
No better capten there was seen.

He led the men of Bishopricke,
When Thomas Ruthal bore the sway:
Though the Scottish Habs were stout and true,
The English bowmen wan that day.

And since he has kepte Berwick upon Tweed,
The town was never better kept I wot;
He maintained leal and order along the Border,
And still was ready to prick the Scot.

The country then lay in great peace,
And grain and grass was sown and won;
Then plenty fill’d the market crosse,
When Lord Ewie kept Berwick town.

With our Queene’s brother he hath been,
And rode rough shod through Scotland of late;
They have burn’d the Mers and Tiviotdale,
And knocked full loud at Edinburgh gate.

Now the King hath sent him a broad letter,
A Lord of Parliament to be:
It were well if every nobleman
Stood like Lord Ewie in his degree.

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