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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Death of Featherstonhaugh

This old Northumberland ballad was originally printed in the Notes to Marmion, but it is here inserted in its proper place. It was taken down from the recitation of a woman eighty years of age, mother of one of the miners in Alston-Moor, by the agent of the lead mines there, who communicated it to my friend and correspondent, R. Surtees, Esq. of Mainsforth. She had not, she said, heard it for many years; but, when she was a girl, it used to be sung at merry-makings, "till the roof rung again." To preserve this curious though rude rhyme, it is here inserted. The ludicrous turn given to the slaughter, marks that wild and disorderly state of society, in which a murder was not merely a casual circumstance, but, in some cases, an exceedingly good jest. The structure of the ballad resembles the "Fray of Suport," having the same irregular stanza and wild chorus. 1810.


Hoot awa', lads, hoot awa'
Ha' ye heard how the Ridleys, and Thirlwalls, and a',
Ha' set upon Albany Featherstonhaugh,
And taken his life at the Deadmanshaugh?
There was Williamoteswick,
And Hardriding Dick,
And Hughie of Hawdon, and Will of the Wa',*
I canno tell a', I canno tell a',
And mony a mair that the deil may knaw.

The auld man went down, but Nicol, his son,
Ran away afore the fight was begun;
And he run, and he run,
And afore they were done,
There was many a Featherston gat sic a stun,
As never was seen since the world was begun.

I canno tell a', I canno tell a';
Some gat a skelp,** and some gat a claw;
But they garr'd the Featherstons haud their jaw,***
Nichol, and Alick, and a'.
Some gat a hurt, and some gat nane;
Some had harness, and some gat sta'en.+

Ane gat a twist o' the craig;++
And gat a bunch o' the wame;+++
Symy Haw gat lamed of a leg,
And syne ran wallowing haine.

Hoot! hoot! the auld man's slain outright!
Lay him now wi' his face down; - he's a sorrowful sight.
Janet, thou donot.*+
I'll lay my best bonnet,
Thou gets a new gude-man afore it be night.

Hoo away, lads, hoo away,
We's a' be hangid if we stay.
Tak' up the dead man, and lay him anent the bigging.
Here's the Bailey o' Haltwhistle,
Wi' his great bull's pizzle,
That supp'e up the broo', and syne ----- in the piggin. **+

* In explanation of this ancient ditty, Mr. Surtees has furnished me with the following local memorandum; Williamoteswick, now more commonly called Ridley Hall, is situated at the confluence of the Alloo and Tyne, and was the chief seat of the ancient family of Ridley. Hardriding Dick is not an epithet referring to horsemanship, but means Richard Ridley of Hardriding, the seat of another family of that name, which, in the time of Charles I, was sold on account of expenses incurred by the loyalty of the proprietor, the immediate ancestor of Sir Matthew Ridley. Will of the Wa' seems to be William Ridley of Walltown, so called from its situation on the great Roman Wall. Thirlwall Castle, whence the clan of Thirlwalls derived their name, is situated on the small river of Tippell, near the western boundary of Northumberland. It is near the wall, and takes its name from the rampart having been thirled, i.e. pierced, or breached, in its vicinity. Featherston Castle lies south of the Tyne, towards Alston-Moor. Albany Featherstonhaugh, the chief of that ancient family, made a figure in the reign of Edward VI. A feud did certainly exist between the Ridleys and the Featherstons, productive of such consequences as the ballad narrates.
** Skelp - signifies slap, or rather is the same word which was originally spelled schiap.
*** Haud their jaw - hold their jaw; a vulgar expression still in use. 
+Gat sta'en - got stolen, or were plundered; a very likely termination of the fray.
++ Craig - neck
+++ Wame - belly
*+ Donot - silly slut. The Border bard calls her so, because she was weeping for her husband; a loss which he seems to think might be soon repaired.
**+ Piggin - an iron pot with two ears.

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