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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Murder of Caerlaveroc

The Murder of Caerlaveroc
Never Before Published
By Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq.

The tragical event which preceded or perhaps gave rise to the successful insurrection of Robert Bruce against the tyranny of Edward I, is well known. In the year 1304, Bruce abruptly left the Court of England, and held an interview, in the Dominical Church of Dumfries, with John, sirnamed, from the clour of his hair, the Red Cuming, a powerful chieftan, who had formerly held the regency of Scotland. It is said, by the Scottish historians, that he upbraided Cuming with having betrayed to the English monarch a scheme formed betwixt them for asserting the independence of Scotland. The English writers maintain, that Bruce proposed such a plan to Cuming, which he rejected with scorn, as inconsistent with the fealty he had sworn to Edward. The dispute, however it began, soon waced high betwixt two fierce and independent barons. At length, standing before the high altar of the church, Cuming gave Bruce the lie, and Bruce retaliated by a stroke of his poinard. Full of confusion and remorse, for a homicide committed in a sanctuary, the future monarch of Scotland rushed out of the church, with the bloody poinard in his hand. Kirkpatrick and Lindsay, two barons who faithfully adhered to him, were waiting at the gate. To their earnest and anxious inquiries into the cause of his emotion, Bruce answered, "I doubt I have slain Red Cuming." - "Doubtest thou?" exclaimed Kirkpatrick; "I make sure!" Accordingly, with Lindsay, and a few followers, he rushed into the church, and dispatched the wounded Cuming.

A homicide, in such a place, and in such an age, could hardly escape embellishment from the fertile genius of the churchmen, whose interest was so closely connected with the inviolability of a divine sanctuary. Accordingly, Bowmaker informs us, that the body of the slaughtered baron was watched during the night, by the Dominicans, with the usual rites of the church. But at midnight, the whole assistants fell in to a dead sleep, with the exception of one aged father, who heard, with terror and surprise, a voice, like that of a wailing infant, exclaim, "How long, O Lord, shall vengeance be deferred?" It was answered in an awful tone, "Endure with patience, until the anniversary of this day shall return for the fifty-second time." In the year 1357, fiftey-two years after Cuming's death, James of Lindsay was hopitabley feasted in the castle of Caerlaverock, in Dumfreis-shire, belonging to Roger Kirkpatrick. They were the sons of the murderers of the Regent. In the dead of night, for some unknown cause, Lindsay arose, and poinarded in his bed his unsuspecting host. He then mountd his horse to fly; but guilt and fear had so bewildered his senses, that, after riding all night, he was taken, at break of day, not three miles from the castle, and was afterwards executed by order of King David II.

The story of the murder is thus told by the Prior of Lochlevin; -

"That ilk yhere in our kynryk
Hoge was slayne of Kilpatrick
Be schyr Jakkis the Lyndessay
In-til Karlaveroc; and away
For til have bene with all his mycht
This Lyndessay pressyt all a nycht
Forth on hors rycht fast rydand
Nevyrless yhit thai him fand
Nocht thre myle fra that ilk place;
There tane and broucht agane he was
Til Karlaveroc, be thai men
That frendis war til Kirkpatrick then;
Thare was he kepyd rycht strayly.
His wyf passyd oill the King Dawy,
And prayid him of his realte,
Of Lauche that scho mycht serwyd be.
The King Dawy than also fast
Till Dumfres with his curt he past,
At Lawche wald. Quhat was thare mare?
This Lyndessay to deth he gert do thare."
WINTOWNIS Cronykill, b. viii, cap. 44.


'Now, come to me, my little page,
Of wit sae wondrous sly!
Ne'er under flower, o' youthfu' age,
Did mair destruction lie.

"I'll dance and revel wi' the rest
Within this castle rare;
Yet he shall rue the drearie feast,
Bot and his lady fair.

'For ye maun drug Kirkpatrick's wine
Wi' juice o' poppy flowers;
Nae mair he'll see the morning shine
Frae proud Caerlaveroc's towers.

"For he has twined my love and me,
The maid of mickle scorn -
She'll welcome, wi' a tearfu' ee,
Her widowhood the morn.

"And saddle weel my milk-white steed,
Prepare my harness bright!
Giff I can make my rival bleed,
I'll ride awa this night." -

"Now, haste ye, master, to the ha'!
The guests are drinking there;
Kirkpatrick's pride sall be but sma',
For a' his lady fair." -

* * * * * * *

In came the merry minstrelsy;
Shrill harps wi' tinkling string,
And bagpipes, lilting melody,
Made proud Carlaveroc ring.

There gallant knights, and ladies bright,
Did move to measures fine,
Like frolie fairies, jimp and light,
Wha dance in pale moonshine.

The ladies glided through the ha',
Wi' footing swift and sure -
Kirkpatrick's dame outdid them a',
When she stood on the floor.

And some had tyres of gold sae rare,
And pendants * eight or nine;
And she, wi' but her gowden hair,
Did a' the rest outshine.

And some wi' costly diamonds sheen,
Did warriors' hearts assail -
But she wi' her twa sparkling een,
Pierced through the thickest mail.

Kirkpatrick led her by the hand,
With gay and courteous air;
No stately castle in the land
Could show sae bright a pair.

One was young - and clear the day
Of life to youth appears!
Alas! how soon his setting ray
Was dimm'd wi' show'ring tears!

Fell Lindsay sicken'd at the sight,
And sallow grew his cheek;
He tried wi' smiles to hide his spite,
But word he cou'dna speak.

The gorgeous banquet was brought up,
On silver and on gold;
The page chose out a crystal cup,
The sleepy juice to hold.

And whan Kirkpatrick call'd for wine,
This page the drink would bear;
Nor did the knight or dame divin,
Sic black deceit was near.

Then every lady sang a sang;
Some gay - some sad and sweet -
Like tunefu' birds the woods amang,
Till a' began to greet.

E'en cruel Lindsay shed a tear,
Forletting malice deep -
As mermaids, wi' their warbles clear,
Can sing the waves to sleep.

And now to bed they all are dight,
Now steek they ilka door;
There's nought but stillness o' the night,
Whare was sic din before.

Fell Lindsay puts his harness on,
His steed doth ready stand;
And up the staircase is he gone,
Wi' poinard in his hand.

The sweat did on his forehead break,
He shook wi' guilty fear;
In air he heard a joyfu' shriek -
Red Cumin's ghaist was near.

Now to the chamber doth he creep -
A lamp, of glimmering ray,
Show's young Kirkpatrick fast asleep,
In arms of lady gay.

He lay wi' bare ungarded breast,
By sleepy juice beguiled;
And sometimes sigh'd, by dreams oppressed,
And sometimes sweetly smiled.

Unclosed her mouth o' rosy hue,
Whence issued fragrant air,
That gently, in soft motion, blew
Stray ringlets o'er her hair.

"Sleep on, sleep on, ye lavers dear!
The dame may wake to weep -
But that day's sun maun shine fu' clear
That spills this warrior's sleep."

He louted down - her lips he press'd -
O! kiss, forboding wo! 
Then struck on young Kirkpatrick's breast
A deep and deadly blow.

Sair, sair, and meikle did he bleed;
His lady slept till day,
But dreamt the Firth ** flow'd o'er her head,
In bride-bed as she lay. 

The murderer hasted down the stair,
And back'd his courser fleet;
Then did the thunder 'gin to rair,
Then shower'd the rain and sleet.

Ae fire-flaught darted through the rain,
Whare a' was mirk before,
And glinted o'er the raging main,
That shook the sandy shore.

But mirk and mirker grew the night,
And heavier beat the rain;
And quicker Lindsay urged his flight,
Some ha' or beild to gain.

Lang did he ride o'er hill and dale,
Nor mire nor flood he fear'd;
I trow his courage 'gan to fail
When morning light appear'd.

For having hied, the live-land night,
Through hail and heavy showers,
He fand himself, at peep o' light,
Hard by Caerlaveroc's Towers.

The castle bell was ringing out,
The ha' was all asteer;
And mony a seriech and waefu' shout
Appall'd the murderer's ear.

Now they hae bound this traitor strang,
Wi' curses and wi' blows,
And high in air they did him hang,
To feed the carrion crows.

* * * * * * *

"To sweet Lincluden's *** haly cells
Fou dowie I'll repair;
There Peace wi' gentle Patience dwells,
Nae deadly feuds are there.

"In tears I'll wither ilka charm,
Like draps o' balefu' yew;
And wail the beauty that cou'd harm
A knight sae brave and true."

*Pendants - jewels on the forehead
** Caerlaveroc stands near Solway Firth
*** Lincluden Abbey is situated near Dumfries, on the banks of the river Cluden. It was founded and filled with Benedictine nuns, in the time of Malcolm IV, by Uthred, father to Roland, Lord of Galloway - these were expelled by Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas. - Fide PENNANT.

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