'Nouther right spelled nor right setten down': Scott, Child and the Hogg Family Ballads.

Valentina Bold.

Reprinted from The Ballad in Scottish History (Tuckwell Press Ltd. 2000) pp116-41.


The quotation in my title is very well known but, to put it in context, I would like to quote the whole passage from James Hogg's Familiar Anecdotes of Sir Walter Scott (1834). Hogg is recalling an event which had happened thirty years earlier:

One fine summer day of 1801 [actually July 1800], as I was busily engaged working in the field at Ettrick House, Wat Shiel came over to me and said, that 'I boud gang away down to the Ramseycleuch as fast as my feet could carry me, for there war some gentlemen there wha wantit to speak to me.' 'Wha can he at Ramseycleuch that want me, Wat?' 'I couldna say, for it wasna me that they spak to i' the byganging. But I'm thinking it's the Shirra an' some of his gang.' I was rejoiced to hear this, for I had seen the first volumes of the 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,' and had copied a number of them from my mother's recital, and sent them to the editor preparatory for a third volume. I accordingly went towards home to put on my Sunday clothes, but before reaching it I met with THE SHIRRA and Mr William Laidlaw coming to visit me. They alighted and remained in our cottage for a space better than an hour, and my mother chanted the ballad of Old Maitlan' to them, with which Mr Scott was highly delighted. I had sent him a copy, (not a very perfect one, as I found afterwards, from the singing of another Laidlaw), but I thought Mr Scott had some dread of a part being forged that had been the cause of his journey into the wilds of Ettrick. When he heard my mother sing it he was quite satisfied, and I remember he asked her if she thought it had ever been printed; and her answer was, 'Oo, na, na, sir, it was never printed i' the world. For my brothers an' me learned it frae auld Andrew Moor, an' he learned it frae auld Baby Mettlin, that was the housekeeper to the first laird o' Tushilaw.'

'Then that must be a very auld story, indeed, Margaret,' 'Ay it is that! It is an auld story! But mair nor that, except George Warton and James Steward, there was never ane o' my songs prentit till ye prentit them yourself, an, ye hae spoilt them a'thegither. They war made for singing, an no for reading; and they're nouther right spelled nor right setten down.'

This should not be read on a literal level but considered, instead, as a vigorous anecdote from a great storyteller, reflecting the Hogg-Scott relationship as Hogg wished it remembered. By 1834, Hogg was an acknowledged authority on traditional culture, and he could not resist including information about performance practices (the 'chanting' mother) while implying the existence of a body of family texts. There is a retrospective dig at Scott's air-free collection in the observation that songs decay in print (Margaret Laidlaw continues, 'ye hae broken the charm noo, an' they'll never be sung mair'). This reflects Hogg's feelings about Scott's treatment of his family texts, given the hindsight of three decades of collecting, reworking and writing songs.1 By examining a selection of Hogg's ballads, as they appear in manuscript, as well as in Scott's Minstrelsy and Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-98), I aim to establish whether the Ettrick Shepherd's offended family pride was justified.

Community, and family experiences, had a direct bearing on Hogg's remarks. Hogg often emphasised the importance of song in the Ettrick Forest of his youth where 'we had singing matches every night'. The people of Selkirkshire, during Hogg's lifetime, enjoyed an enviable musical heritage although, by the nineteenth century, it was in transition. Manuscript collections made in 1815 and 1816, respectively, by Robert Pitcairn and Alexander Campbell (editor of Albyn's Anthology), testify to a rich tradition of piping, fiddling, lyrics and psalm-singing. Ettrick was familiar with Highland as well as Lowland melodies (related to droving contacts); Campbell was amazed, en route to Hogg's, to hear the 'Outlaw Murray' sung by an eighty-year-old tailor to the air, 'Mairi Bhan'.2

The second of four sons, in a family of multi-talented tradition bearers Hogg enjoyed early and sustained exposure to orally transmitted song and music. Will o' Phaup, Hogg's grandfather, was a ballad expert, passing his repertoire on to his children, Margaret and William Laidlaw. Hogg was surprised, collecting for Scott, by the extent of his family repertoire. Margaret Laidlaw proved to be a 'living miscellany of old songs'. Her brother, William Laidlaw, provided several texts although he refused to sing ballads which he considered irreligious Robert Hogg, the writer's father, is usually overlooked, but his family included fine singers. Campbell collected 'a few good melodies very old and entirely new to me' from Thomas and Frank Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd's cousins. Hogg himself, of course, from the age of fourteen, enjoyed 'sawing over my favourite Scottish tunes' on the fiddle.3

In addition, by the time he met Scott in 1802, Hogg was au fait with literary traditions. Serving with the Laidlaws, first at Willenslee and from 1790 at Blackhouse, Hogg had access, for instance, to major Scottish works, such as Hamilton of Gilbertfield's version of Blind Hary's The Wallace (1722), and Ramsay's The Gentle Shepherd (1725). He already relished Burns, had formed a literary society and published lyrics like 'The Mistakes of a Night' (1794), and 'Donald MacDonald' (1801), as well as a book of Scottish Pastorals (1801). Such literary expertise meant Hogg was alert to the implications of Scott's canonised texts. Were his accusations, then, sour grapes?4

The Hogg family were actively sought by 'the Shirra' in his post-Ossianic quest for 'Tales which in elder times have celebrated the prowess and cheered the halls' of the 'gallant ancestors' of the duke of Buccleuch; a Borders' equivalent to Highland pretensions. William Laidlaw, who heard of the Minstrelsy through Scott's correspondent Mercer, made enquiries among his servants and discovered Hogg's family was known for their songs. Hogg subsequently transcribed many texts, mainly his mother's and uncle's, which were forwarded to Scott. They ranged from songs of love and chivalry from the Yarrow valley ('The Gay Goss Hawk', 'The Douglas Tragedy') to Ettrick's fairy traditions and cattle raids ('Tam Lin', 'Jamie Telfer').5

Some Hogg ballads were included in the third volume of the Minstrelsy, such as 'Old Maitland', 'The Battle of Otterburn' [Child 161], 'Clerk Saunders' [69], 'The Dowie Houms o' Yarrow' [214], 'The Duel of Wharton and Stuart', 'Erlinton' [8], 'The Gay Goshawk' [96], 'A Fragment on Cockburn's Death' [106], 'Lord William' [234] and the 'Lament of The Queens Marie' [173]. Hogg may, too, have provided 'Young Benjie' [86] and 'The Battle of Philiphaugh' [202]. The Hoggs provided Scott with several other ballads, such as 'Laminton' or 'Lochinvar' (which Scott retitled 'Katherine Janfarie'), 'Lamkin' [93), 'Lord Barnaby' [81], an untitled 'Johnny Scott' [99], 'Tushilaw's Lines', 'Jamie Telfer' [190], 'Johnny Armstrong's Last Goodnight' [169] and 'The Tale of Tomlin' [39]. Child included most of these, excluding only a few like 'Lord Barnaby', 'Johnny Scott' and 'Tushilaw's Lines'. Child also included references to Hogg fragments like the verse from 'The Queen's Maries' in volume four.6

Scott has often been accused of tampering with ballads. In line with current tastes, he certainly indulged in what has been called, 'that fine old Scottish practice of refurbishing traditional ballads'. Evelyn Kendrick Wells called Scott, 'neither philosophical nor scholarly'. However, the tendency to scoff at Scott as a collector should be tempered. Literary reworking, contrary to modern standards, was a respectable activity in the nineteenth century; it is within this context that Scott's (and Child's to a lesser extent) texts should be considered. Regarding the Minstrelsy, Scott paid lip service to responsible editorial policy, writing in 1801:

I have made it an insatiable rule to attempt no improvements on the genuine Ballads which I have been able to recover. It will be necessary for me to be more particular in this respect because I shall give to the public many songs which have never before been published & some of which perhaps it 'nay be now difficult to produce the reciters.7

Most of Hogg's texts are extant in manuscript, and I have chosen to look at three, listed in the appendix along with Scott's and Child's printed changes. Taken as a group, it is possible to see why Hogg remarked that these had been 'nouther right spelled nor right setten down'. Unfortunately, there are no tunes in the manuscript. Some of Hogg's sources, like his uncle William Laidlaw, sang all their songs to one melody, prompting Hogg to an observation about the importance ballad singers attach to texts: 'I find it was only the subject matter which the old people concerned themselves about, and any kind of tunes that they had, they always made one serve a great many songs.' This fascinating insight must be tempered with regret that William Laidlaw's tune was not recorded.8

The first item is one which Child, and Scott, accepted wholeheartedly: 'The Dowie Houms of Yarrow' [214], better known as 'The Dowie Dens of Yarrow'. This describes an unequal combat between a woman's lover (or husband) and her brothers. The outcome is predictably tragic, making another 'Border widow'. Scott borrows heavily from Hogg's notes to introduce the incident as referring to a duel, between John Scott of Tushielaw and Walter Scott of Thirlestane, noted in the Selkirk Presbytery Records for 1609. Hogg's text was one of three in Scott's composite ballad. One copy came from 'Nelly Laidlaw', another from Carterhaugh - probably both through William Laidlaw. Hogg provided an additional version (Child's M text).

It is not surprising that Hogg was annoyed by Scott's amendments. They are mostly single word, or word ending, changes but, cumulatively, alter the sound and tenor of the ballad. Hogg's version opens formulaically, recalling 'Sir Patrick Spens' [58]:

Late at e'en drinkin' the wine
Or early in a mornin
The set a combat them between
To fight it in the dawnin'.

Scott's additional 'gs' to words like 'drinkin' and 'mornin' makes this harsher and less melodic, with direct effects on the 'chanting'. The tense change in verse 5, from 'he's gane up yon high, high hill' to 'As he gaed up' removes directness. A new reference to Tinnis compliments the duke of Buccleuch (this was one of his estates) without enhancing the story. Incremental repetition is lost in the sixth and twelfth verses - 'As oft she's done', 'As ye hae doon', 'As aft she did' - which not only alters the ballad's structure but detracts from the lovers' familiarity and poignantly brutal separation. The change of 'noble' to 'leafu' lord, in verse 9, alters audience perceptions and the gory line in verse 12, where Sarah drinks her lover's blood, is replaced with a sanitised reference to kisses. The last two verses become sentimental, as Scott reflects 'A fairer rose did never bloom / Than now lies cropped on Yarrow' and removes the final reductive equation of the couple's sorrow with a love of gear: 'your ousen' (oxen). A venomous Ettrick ending is thereby exchanged for romantic anguish. Child's use of this Hogg version as his E text 'Braes of Yarrow' is more 'right setten down' than Scott's. There is some tidying, with punctuation added to denote speech, for instance, but Hogg would have expected such printed changes. The reading in Child differs, in one or two cases, from my transcription, 'ir' for my 'in' in verse 6, for instance, gives a more archaic flavour. Child's M text, also from a Hogg manuscript but not apparently used by Scott, is more romantic, featuring picturesque wound washing - she 'dried him wi the hollan' - and the woman dying, broken hearted, in her father's arms. Child's J, K and L versions have the lover as a servant lad from Gala, making the murder motive social rather than economic. Child offers his E and M texts, as Hogg's, without overt comment. Elsewhere, he adds snide remarks, for example about Hogg's 'Gay Goss Hawk': 'The Ettrick Shepherd sent Scott the following stanzas to be inserted in the first edition at places indicated. Most of them are either absolutely base metal or very much worn by circulation'. Perhaps Child respected the 'Dowy Houms' as local, direct, and conforming to nineteenth-century ideas, after Scott, of a 'classic' Border ballad. It has certainly weathered well, recorded by many modern artists including Jean Redpath.9

It is tempting to speculate that Hogg might have preferred Scott's treatment of his thirty-verse 'Otterburn' to that of the 'Dowie Houms'. 'Otterburn' describes the battle of 5 August 1388 between the forces of James Earl of Douglas and Henry Percy ('Hotspur'), and is closely related to 'The Hunting of the Cheviot' [262]. It had particular resonance for the people of Ettrick Forest, long subject to Douglas control. Scott was determined to obtain a full copy, presumably comparable to Bishop Percy's seventy verses, and wrote to Laidlaw in 1803: 'I am so anxious to have a compleat Scottish Otterburne that I will omit the ballad entirely in the first volume hoping to recover it in time for insertion in the third'. Scott believed the Minstrelsy 'Otterburn', as he informed Bishop Percy in 1801, to be 'the Scottish account of the battle of Otterbourne; a ballad evidently much more modern than that published in the Reliques on the same subject'. Hogg himself tampered with the text, admitting minor changes to remedy transmission errors:

As for the Scraps of Otterburn which I have got They seem to have been some confused jumble made by some person who had learned both the songs which you have and in time had been straitened to make one out of them both. But you shall have it as I had it saving that as usual I have sometimes helped the measure without altering one original word.'0

The Minstrelsy follows Hogg's version fairly closely. Scott adopts Hogg's suggestion that 'Almon Shire' (verse 3) is a corruption of Bamboroughshire (verse 2), as corroborated by Bishop Percy's ballad. Small spelling alterations are made: 'wha's' for 'whaes', 'hundred' for 'hunder' and Scott punctuates Hogg's text heavily. The present tense is sometimes favoured over the past, adding immediacy: 'rue it' rather than 'rued it' (verse 1) for instance. Elsewhere Scott subtly remakes phrases, perhaps, to better suit the period: 'right furiouslie' for 'most furiouslie' (verse 7); the gentle 'Lammas tide' for Hogg's term-day 'Lammas time' (verse 1). More substantial changes include the deletion of verse 9, which effectively reiterates verse 8, presumably based on the notion that a repeated verse can be boring in print, even if powerful in performance.

Scott alters the ballad's plot-line to make it more romantic. The last two lines of verse 21 are altered, where Douglas makes for the battlefield to meet Percy. Scott exchanges 'Where he met wi' the proud Piercy / And a' his goodley train' for 'But he forgot the helmet good, / That should have kept his brain' - a change which makes Douglas's defeat by Percy excusable. Furthermore, to maintain the illusion of chivalry, and patriotism, Scott alters Douglas's backward flight to 'he fell on the ground' (verse 23). Scott, then, treats a text like this with a mixture of respect (by mainly minor alterations) and contempt (by deleting verses).

Child chooses to follow the Minstrelsy, not the manuscript. Perhaps Scott's 'correct' language, like 'Percy' for Hogg's 'Piercy' (although the 'ee' sound is characteristic of oral ballads), and knightly protagonists appealed. Some Scott 'corrections' do enhance the aesthetic appeal of the text; the rhythm becomes regular; there is new earthiness in the 'helmet' that would have preserved Percy's 'brain'. Scott heightens the drama, too, in the final confrontation.

My third example examines Hogg's own 'setten down' of texts. 'Old Maitland' was not accepted by Child. In the Minstrelsy, though, Scott remarked that, despite its 'present appearance', 'Old Maitland' was 'the most authentic instance of a long and very old poem' he had encountered in oral tradition:

It is only known to a very few old people upon the sequestered banks of the Ettrick, and is published as written down from the recitation of the mother of James Hogg, who sings, or rather chants it, with great animation. She learned the ballad from a blind man, who died at the advanced age of ninety ... the language of this poem is much modernised, yet many words, which the reciters have retained without understanding them, still preserve the traces of its antiquity. Such are the words springals (corruptedly pronounced springwalls), sowies, portcullize, and many other appropriate terms of war and chivalry, which could never have been introduced by the modern ballad-maker. The incidents are striking and well-managed, and they are in strict conformity with the manners of the age.

Hogg's employer, Laidlaw, heard the opening verses in Blackhouse from a servant girl; she revealed Hogg's grandfather knew the whole. Excited by 'a ballad not even hinted at by Mercer in the ... list of desiderata which he had sent from Scott', Laidlaw requested a full 'Auld Maitland' from Hogg:

In a week or two I received his reply with the ballad as he had copied it from the recitation of his uncle Will of Phawhope, corroborated by his mother, and that both said they had learned it from their father (a still elder Will of Phawhope), and an old man named Andrew Muir, who had been servant to the famous Mr Boston of Ettrick [Minister of Ettrick and author of Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1720)].

Exactly in this state it was published by Scott, and when he himself and Leyden called, I rejoiced that I had 'Auld Maitland' ready for them ... as Hogg had sent it written in his own hand from his uncle's and his mother's recitation. Instantly, both he and Leyden, from their knowledge of the subject, saw and felt that the ballad was undoubtedly ancient, and their eyes sparkled as they exchanged looks. Mr Scott read with great fluency con amore, and with much proper emphasis and enthusiasm, all which entirely gained my heart. Leyden was like a roused lion. He paced the room from side to side, clapped his hands, and repeated after Mr Scott such old expressions as echoed the spirit of hatred to the Southerns as struck his fancy.

Despite their initial, patriotic, excitement the collectors grew suspicious. As the men rode out, Laidlaw assured Leyden that Hogg would not offer Scott 'old ballads' of his own composition: 'he would never think of any such thing, and neither he would at that period of his life'.11

Scott was convinced the ballad was genuine, alerting George Ellis in 1802 to, 'the preservation of... Auld Maitland by oral tradition probably from the reign of Edward 2d or 3d'. Hogg wrote to Laidlaw in 1801: 'I believe I could get as much from these traditions as to make good songs

myself. But without Mr. Scott's permission this would be an imposition, neither would I undertake it without an order from him.' As seen in his notes to 'Otterburn', Hogg makes no attempt to supply stanzas when verses are forgotten but usually offers a summary of the missing information. Unkindly, it could be added that 'Old Maitland' is one of the less exciting ballads in the Hogg set; the Ettrick Shepherd could have produced a more entertaining, plausible, piece. To forge 'Old Maitland' would have required elaborate scheming, and collaboration with an uncle, mother and Laidlaw's servant informant.12

Andrew Lang thought Hogg was innocent. On 9 November 1902 Lang wrote to the Selkirkshire antiquarian Thomas Craig-Brown: 'I don't think it was a hoax of Hogg's for he would have bragged of it sooner or later, moreover his mother probably neither could nor would get up a long poem by heart to cheat Sir Walter.' The argument that Hogg would have boasted of forgery rings true, as his later pride in 'Donald MacGillavry' indicates. On 14 November, Lang wrote to Craig-Brown: "'Auld Maitland" is a copy by an educated man, of 1560-1600, based on a ballad or legend, as, I think, is "The Outlaw Murray". 'On 20 December Lang added 'Baby Mattlin was about 2 generations before old Mrs. Hogg. She was a distant source of the ballad. Would that she had got into trouble ... it is impossible to track her - if she did not'. As Lang points out in Sir Walter Scott and the BorderMinstrelsy (1910), the story of Old Maitland was only available in manuscripts which Hogg could not obtain. Furthermore, 'the style is not that of Hogg when he attempts the ballad'. To pursue this point, Hogg's later ballad-style poems, such as 'Sir David Graeme', are heavily romanticised.'3

The lack of corroborative texts, though, is a persuasive argument against the ballad being genuine or, at best, not well known. In a letter of 30 June 1802 to Scott, Hogg denied the text was a 'modern forgery', stressing 'most of the old people' locally were familiar with 'Old Maitland' and demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of oral transmission processes as 'the feats of … ancestors recorded in songs' passed down, between generations, through repeated performances:

had a copy been taken down at the end of every fifty years, there must have been some difference, occasioned by the gradual change of language. I believe it is thus that many very ancient songs have been gradually modernized to the common ear, while, to the connoisseur, they present marks of their genuine antiquity.14

I think it unlikely Hogg forged 'Auld Maitland' but probable that he touched up the text. Given contemporary practices, for Leyden and Scott to doubt Hogg is like the pot calling the kettle black. Child had a more valid reason, if only the lack of corroboration, for rejecting the ballad. Overall, the balance favours Hogg's integrity in 'setting down' texts.

This becomes apparent if Hogg's 'right spelled' and 'right setten' version is consulted over the Minstrelsy. By indulging in the sort of changes already indicated, Scott made it difficult to take the uncorroborated ballad seriously. Scott's changes to Hogg's manuscript range from altered tenses - 'lived a King' for 'lives a king' (l.1), - to spelling - 'hight' for 'hicht', 'fatherlesse' for 'fatherless' - and replacing words - 'Gin' for 'if' (l.73), 'trayne' for 'main' (1.160) - and phrases - 'up and down' for 'towr and town' (l.31) to avoid repeating 'town' in the rhyme. Extra lines are added such as 'Who marching forth with false Dunbar, / A ready welcome found' after line 27. Hogg included these in the manuscript, with the proviso they could be inserted at any point; he implies the reciters forgot where the lines occurred. Scott makes the ballad scan better, adding words: 'And they are on to [King] Edwards host' (1.84), for instance. Hogg provided an extra verse, the first two lines of which were his own, as Scott acknowledged: 'Remember Piercy, aft the Scot / Has cower'd beneath thy hand / For every drap of Maitland blood, / I'll gie a rig of land' after line 175. Hogg's claim to have found an additional stanza to the original transcript may be evidence, of course, of innocence, or of his skill in the ruse. Scott excluded several Hogg texts from the Minstrelsy. 'Lamkin', for instance, was not used but is in Child's 'Additions and Corrections'. Presumably Child, like Scott, thought this a second-rate text. Neither Scott nor Child use Hogg's 'Lord Barnaby' [81], a ballad of betrayal, although Scott's marginal notes show he was intrigued to find a Scottish version. In a similar vein there is an untitled 'Johnie Scott' [99], thematically like 'Willie o' Winabury' [100]. Hogg was unimpressed by 'Johnie Scott' commenting, 'you might find any trace of its being founded on fact because if it is not it hath little else to reccomend [sic] it'.15 Scott, presumably, agreed, perhaps objecting to the piece's ambiguous morality. Scott, then, edited Hogg's texts in several ways. Overall, he showed respect. The majority of changes are of single words, often well matched to the ballad idiom. These constitute the sort of alterations a singer might make. Scott also made more substantial cuts, pruning away what he perceived as superfluous verses, to please literary tastes. In general the tone is made more romantic and chivalric. Hogg's earthier texts are not published in the Minstrelsy. Damningly, bloodthirsty sections in pieces like 'The Dowie Houms' are removed, changing a vigorous ballad into an insipid whole. Scott had no more regard for Hogg's ballads than for his other sources, fusing pans into composite renditions.

Even if his family ballads were 'nouther right spelled nor right setten down', The Minstrelsy indirectly inspired Hogg. Being 'dissatisfied with the imitations of the ancient ballads', Hogg 'selected a number of traditionary stories, and put them in metre by chanting them to certain old tunes'. These early works, Hogg stated, were 'more successful than in any thing I had hitherto tried, although they were still but rude pieces of composition'.16 Perhaps 'Old Maitland' was one of these flawed attempts. Ultimately, Scott's techniques provided a dubious model for Hogg's collecting enterprises, like The Jacobite Relics of Scotland (1819-21). Hogg emulated Scott's manner of obtaining songs, composite texts, historical notes and appendices. However Hogg notably differed from Scott in realising the need for musical transcripts (helped by William Stenhouse) to permit a full appreciation of his texts.

Hogg was substantially correct in having his mother state family texts were 'nouther right spelled nor right setten down' by Scott, and right to anticipate further reconditioning. However, though Scott could sometimes be heavy handed, his literary adeptness, and inspirational qualities, ensured the survival of texts like those of the Hogg family. Child's less intrusive tidying served a similar purpose. Scott, like Child, is only culpable of period-centred practices. More importantly, the literary editing of Scott and Child placed the oral Hogg family ballads into a transmission chain. The 'setten down' ballads allow the modern reader to appreciate a tradition in transition. Such a lasting contribution, ultimately, outweighs the problems relating to family ballads being 'nouther right spelled nor right setten down'.



The Hogg Family Ballads

The following selection of ballads is transcribed from Hogg's manuscript texts in 'Scotch Ballad Materials1, National Library of Scotland [NLS] MS. 877, folios 250, 243-4 and 144-5 respectively. Scott's changes, in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, are in square brackets, as is matter deleted in, or omitted from, the manuscript Scott's heavy punctuation is not indicated as including this would make the text virtually unreadable.


'The dowy houms o' Yarrow' [214]

Tradition placeth the event on which this song is founded very early that the song hath been written near the time of the transaction appears quite evident altho like others by frequent singing the language is become adapted to an age not so far distant The bard does not at all relate particulars but only mentions some striking features of a tragical event which every body knew this is observable in many of the productions of early times at least the secondary hands seem to have regarded their songs as purely temporary.

The Hero of the ballad is said to have been of the name of Scott and is called a knight of great ?mery. He lived in Ettrick some say Oakwood others Kirkhope but was murderously slain by his brother in law as related in the ballad who had him at ill will because his father had parted with the half of all his goods and gear to his sister on her marriage with such a respectable man the name of the murderer is said to be Annand a name I believe merely conjectural from the name of the place where they are said both to be buried which at this day is called Annan's Treat a low-muir lying to the west of Yarrow church where two huge tall stones erected below which the least child that can walk the road will tell you the two lords are buried that were slain in a duel.


The dowy houms o' Yarrow [214]

Late at e'en drinkin' [drinking] the wine
    Or early in a mornin
[And ere they paid the lawing]
The [They] set a combat them between
    To fight it in the dawnin' [dawning]

O stay at hame my noble lord
    O stay at hame my marrow
My cruel brother will you betray
    On the dowy [dowie, passim] houms o' Yarrow

O fare-ye-weel my lady gaye
    O fare-ye-weel my Sarah
For I maun gee Tho' [though] I ne'er return
    Frae the dowy banks o' Yarrow

She kiss'd [kissed, passim] his cheek she kaim'd his hair
    As [oft] she had done before O
She belted on [him with] his noble brand
    An' he's awe to Yarrow

O he's gane up yon high high hill
    I wat he gae'd wi' sorrow
An' in a den spie'd nine arm'd men
    I' [In] the dowy howms o' Yarrow
[As he gaed up the Tennies bank, / I wot he gaed Wi' sorrow, / Till, down in a den, he spied nine arm'd men, / On the dowie houms of Yarrow.]

O in ye come to drink the wine
    As ye hae coon before O
Or in ye come to wield the brand
    On the bonny banks o' Yarrow
["O come ye here to part your land, / The bonnie Forest thorough? / Or come ye here to weird your brand, / On the dowie houms of Yarrow?"]

I im [I'm, passim] no come to drink the wine
    As I hae coon before O
[I come not here to part my land, / And neither to beg or borrow]
But I im come to wield the brand
    On the dowy houms O'Yarrow

[The Minstrelsy version has another stanza here: the challenger comments on the unequal odds of nine to one]

Four [has] he hurt an' [and] five lie [has] slew
    On the dowy houms o' Yarrow
    [On the bloody braes of Yarrow]
Till that stubborn knight came him behind
    An' ran his body thorrow [bodie thorough]

Gae hame gae hame Good-brother John
    An' [And] tell your sister Sarah
To come an' [and] lift her noble [leafu'] lord
    Who's [He's] sleepin' sound on Yarrow

Yestreen I dream'd a dolefu' dream,
    I kend there wad be sorrow
    [I fear there will be sorrow!]
I dream'd I pu'd the heather green
    On the dowy banks o' Yarrow,
    [Wi' my true love, on Yarrow.]

[Scott's composite version has two extra stanzas: Sarah sends a kiss to her lover in the first; in the second she realises her knight is slain]

She gae'd up [As she sped down] yon high high hill
    I wat she gae'd wi' sorrow
    [She ga'ed wi' dole and sorrow,]
An' in a den spy'd nine dead men [ten slain men]
    On the dowy houms [banks] o' Yarrow

She kiss'd his cheek she kaim'd his hair
    As aft she did before O
    [She search'd his wounds all thorough,]
She drank the red blood free him ran
[She kiss'd them, till her lips grew red,]
    On the dowy houms o' Yarrow

O [Now] haud your tongue my douchter [daughter] dear
    For what maeds a' this sorrow
    [For a' this breeds but sorrow;]
I'll wed you on [ye to] a better lord
    Than him you [ye] lost on Yarrow

O haud your tongue my father dear
    An' dinna grieve your Sarah
    [Ye mind me but of sorrow]
A better Lord was never born
    Than him I lost on Yarrow
[A fairer rose did never bloom / Than now lies cropped on Yarrow".]

Tak hame your ousen tak hame your kye
    For they have bred our sorrow
I wiss that they had a' gene mad
    Whan they cam first to Yarrow
[Scott omits this final stanza]


'The Battle of Otterburn '[161]

It fell about the Lammas time [tide]
    When the muir-men won [win] their hay
That [omitted] the doughty earl [omitted] Douglas went
    Into England to catch [drive] a prey

He chose the Gordons and the Graemes
    With the [them] Lindsays [Lindesays] light and gay
But the Jardines wadna wi' him [wald not with them] ride
    And they rued [rue] it to this day

And he has burnt [burn'd] the dales o' [of] Tine
    And part of Almon Shire [Bamboroughshire]
And three good towers on Roxburgh fells
    He left them all on fire

Then [And] he march 'd up to Newcastle
    And rode it round about
O whaes [wha's] the lord of this castle
    Or whae's [wha's] the lady o't

But up spake proud lord Piercy [Percy, passim] then
    And O but he spak hie
I am the lord of this castle
    And [omitted] my wife's the lady gaye

If you are [thour't the] lord of this castle
    Sae sweet [weel] it pleases me
For ere I cross the border again [fells]
    The ane [tane] of us shall die

He took a lang spear in his hand
    Was made [Shod] of the metal free
And for to meet the Douglas then [there]
    He rade most [rode right] furiouisly [furiouslie]

But O how pale his lady look'd
    Frae off [aff] the castle wa'
When down before the Scottish spear
    She saw brave [proud] Piercy fa'

How pale and wan his lady look'd
    Frae off [aff] the castle hieght
When she beheld her Piercy yield
    To doughty Douglas might
[Scott omits this stanza]

Had we twa been upon the green
    And never an eye to see
I should have [wad hae] had ye [you] flesh and fell
    But your sword shall gae wi' me

But gae you [ye] up to Otterburn [Otterbourne, passim]
    And there wait dayes [dayis, passim] three
And if I come not ['at' deleted in MS.] ere three dayes end
    A fause lord [knight] ca' ye me.

The Otterburn's a bonny [bonnie, passim] burn
    'Tis pleasant there to be
But there is naught [nought] at Otterburn
    To fend my men and me

The deer rins wild owr [on] hill and dale
    The birds fly wild frae [from] tree to tree
And [But] there is neither bread nor kale
    To feed my men and me

But [Yet] I will stay at Otterburn
    Where you shall welcome be
And if ye come not ere [at] three days end
    A coward [fause lord] I'll ca' thee

Then gae your ways to Otterburn
    And there wait dayes three
And if I come not ere three days end
    A coward ye's ca me
[Scott exchanges this for a less repetitive stanza.' "'Thither will I come," proud Percy said, / "By the might of Our Ladye!" - / "There will I bide thee," said the Douglas, / "My trowth I plight to thee."']

They lighted high on Otterburn
    Upon the bent so [sae] brown
They lighted high on Otterburn
    And threw their pallions down

And he that had a bonny boy
    Sent his horses [out his horse] to grass
And he that had not a bonny boy
    His ain servant he was

But up then spak [spake] a little page
    Before the peep of the [omitted] dawn
O waken ye waken ye my good lord
    For Piercy's hard at hand

Ye lie ye lie ye loud liar [liar loud]
    Sae loud i hear ye lie
The Piercy hadna [had not] men yestreen
    To dight my men and me

But I have seen [hae dream'd] a dreary dream
    Beyond the isle o' Sky
I saw a dead man won the [win a] fight
    And I think that man was I

He belted on his good broad [braid] sword
    And to the field he ran
Where he met wi' the proud Piercy
    And a' his goodley train
[Scott substitutes, for the two last lines, 'But he forgot the helmet good, / That should have kept his brain'.]

When Piercy wi' the Douglas met
    I wat he was right keen [fu' fain]
Thy swakked their swords till sair they swat
    And the blood ran them between [ran down like rain]

But Piercy wi' [wish] his good broad sword
    Was made o' the metal free
    [That could so sharply wound]
Has wounded Douglas on the brow
    Till backward he did flee
    [Till he fell on the ground]

Then he call'd on his little page [foot-page]
    And said run speedily
And bring my ain dear sisters son
    Sir Hugh Montgomery

This ballad which I have collected from two different people a crazy old man and a woman deranged in her mind seems hither to considerably entire but now when it becomes more interesting they have both failed me and I have been obliged to take much of it in plain prose however as none of them seemed to know any thing of the history save what they have learned from the song I took it the more kindly any few verses which follow are to me unintelligible.

He told Sir Hugh that he was dying and ordered him to conceal his body and neither let his own men nor Piercy's know which he did and the battle went on headed by Sir Hugh Montgomery and at length.

[The Minstrelsy, at this point, adds six stanzas: in the first Douglas tells the dream to his nephew, in the second, third and fourth his corpse is hidden beside the bush. In the fifth, by moonlight, the Scots slay many of the English; in the sixth the 'Gordons good' steep their shoes in English blood, while the Lindsays 'fly like fire' for the rest of the fray.]

When stout Sir Hugh Wi' Piercy met
    I wet he was right fain
They swakked their swords till sair they swat
    And the blood ran down like rain
[The Percy and Montgomery met, / That either of other were fain; / They swapped swords, and they twa swat, / And the blude ran down between.]

O yield thee Piercy said Sir Hugh
    O yield or ye shall die
Fain wad I yield proud Piercy said
    But ne'er to loun like thee
["Yield thee, O yield thee, Percy!" he said, / "Or else I vow I'll lay thee low!" / "To whom shall I yield," said Earl Percy, / Now that I see it must be so?"]

Thou shalt not yield to knowe nor lown [lord nor loun]
    Nor shalt thy [yet shalt thou] yield to me
But yield ye [thee] to the breaken [bracken] bush
    That grows on yonder [upon yon lilye] lee

I will not yield to bush nor brier [to a braken bush]
    Nor [yet] will I yield to thee [to a brier]
But I will [would] yield to Lord [Earl] Douglas
    Or Sir Hugh Montgomery
    [Or Sir Hugh the Montgomery, if he were here.]

Piercy seems to have been fighting devilishly in the dark indeed! my reciters added no more but told me that Sir Hugh died on the field but that He left not an Englishman on the field.

* * *

That he hadna either killtd or ta'en
    Ere his hearts blood was cauld
[Scott has two final stanzas to Hogg's one; Piercy surrenders to Montgomery, who raises him by the hand, then the deed is placed at Otterbourne and Douglas buried]

Almon Shire may probably be a corruption of Banburghshire but as both my relations called it so I thought proper to preserve it. The towers on Roxburgh fells may not bee [sic] so improper as we were thinking there may have been some strengths on the very borders.


'Old Maitland a very ancient Song'

There lives [lived] a king in southern land
    King Edward hicht [hight, passim] his name
Unwordily he wore the crown
    Till fifty years was [were] gane
[Scott splits the ballad into four-line stanzas]
He had a sisters son o's ain
    was large o' [of] blood and bane
And afterwards [afterward] when he came up
    Young Edward hicht his name
One day he came before the king
    And kneeld low on his knee
A boon a boon my good uncle
    I crave to ask of thee.
To [At] our lang wars i, [in] fair Scotland
    I lang hae lang'd to be
    [I fain hea wished to be]
If fifteen hunder [ hundred, passim] wale [waled] wight men
    You'll grant to ride wi' me
Thou sal [sall, passim] hae thee thou sal hae mae
    I say it sickerly [sickerlie]
And I mysel [mysell] an auld grey [gray] man
    Array'd your host sal see
King Edward rade King Edward ran
    I wish him dool and pain [pyne]
Till he had fifteen hunder men
    Assembled on the Tyne
And twice as many at North Berwick
    Was [were] a' for battle bound
[Scott includes Hogg's extra lines here: 'Who, marching forth with false Dunbar, / A ready welcome found']
They lighted on the banks of Tweed
    And blew their coals see het,
And fir'd [fired] the Merce [Merse] and Tevidale [Teviotdale]
    All in an evning [evening] late
As they far'd up o'er Lammermor [Lammermore]
    They burnt baith towr and town
    [They burned baith up and down]
Till [Untill] they came till [to] a dirksome [darksome] house
    Some call it Leaders town Leader-Town]
Whae [Wha, passim] huds [hauds] this house young Edward cry'd
    Or whae gae's't [giesit] owr to me,
A grey [gray] heir'd knight set up his head
    And cracked [crackit] right crousely
Of Scotlands king I haud my house
    He pays me meat and fee
And I will keep my gaud [gude] auld house
    While my house will keep me
They laid their sowies to the wall
    Wi' mony [a] heavy peal
But he threw owr [ower, passim] to them again
    Baith pick [pitch] and tar barille [barrel]
With springs:wall [springwalds] stanes and gaod of ern [gads of airn]
    Amang [Among] them fast he threw
Till many [mony, passim] of the English men
    About the wall he slew
Full fifteen days that braid host lay
    Sieging old Maitland [auld Maitland, passim] keen
then [Syne] they hae left him safe and hale [hail and fair]
    Within his strength o [of] stane:
Englands our ain by heritage,
    And whae [what] can us gainstand [withstand]
When [Now] we hae conquer'd fair Scotland
    Wi bow buckler and brande:
[Scott reverses the order: the preceding four lines are interchanged with the following four lines. The last line becomes 'With buckler, bow, and brand']
Then fifteen barks all gaily good
    Mett [met] them upon a day,
Which they did lade with as much spoil
    As they could bear away
Then they are on to the land o' France
    Where auld king Edward lay
burning each town and castle strong
[Burning baith castle, tower, and town]
    that ance [he] came [met] in his way
untill he came unto that town
    Which some call Billop-Grace
There were Old Maitland's sons, a' three
    Learning at school alas
The eldest to the others [youngest] said
    Oh see you [ye] what I see
if [Gin] all [a; passim] be true [trew] yon standard says
    Were fatherless a' [all] three
For Scotland's conquer'd up and down
    Landsmen we'l [we'll, passim] never be
Now will ye go my brethren two
    And try some jeopardy
Then they hae saddled two [twa, passim] black horse
    Two black horse and a grey
And they are on to [King] Edward's host
    Before the dawn [break] of day
When they arriv'd before the host
    They hover'd on the ley [lay]
Will you [thou] lend me our kings standard
    To carry [bear] a little way
Where was [wast] thou bred Where was [wast] thou born
    Wherein [Where or] in what country
In the north of England I was born
    What [It] needed him to lie
A knight me got [gat] a lady bore
    I'm a squire of high renowne
I well may beer't to any king
    That ever [yet, included by Scott, crossed out in MS.] wore a crown
He ne'er came of an English man
    Had sic an ee or bree
But thou art [the] likest auld Maitlin
    That ever I did see
But sic a gloom on ae brow head
    Grant I ne'er see again
For many of our men he slew
    And many put to pain
When Maitlan heard his father's name
    An angry man was he
Then lifting up a gilt dager
    Hung low down by [upon] his knee
He stab'd [stabb'd, passim] the knight the standard bore
    He stabb'd him cruelly [cruellie, passim]
Then caught the standard by the neuk
    And fast away rade [rode] he
Now is 'tna time brothers he cried
    Now is 'tna time to flee
Aye [Ay] by my sooth they baith reply'd
    We'l bear you company
The youngest turn'd him in a path
    And drew a burnish'd [burnished] brand
And fifteen o' the formost [foremost] slew
    Till back the leve did stand
He spurr'd the grey unto [into] the path
    Till baith her [his] sides they bled
Grey thou maun carry me away.
    Or my life lies in wed [wad]
The captain lookit ower the wall [Wa']
    Before [About] the break o day
There he beheld the three Scots lads
    Pursued alongst [along] the way
Pull up portculzies [portcutlize] down draw briggs [draw-brigg]
    My nephews are at hand
And they shall [sall] lodge with [Wi'] me to night
    In spite of all England
When e'er they came within the gate
    They thrust their horse them free
And took three lang spears in their hands
    Saying here Sal [sall] come nae mae
Then [and] they shott [shot, passim] out
    Till it was fairly day
When many of the Englishmen
    About [Along] the drawbrigg lay
Then they had yoked carts and wains
    To a' their dead away
And shot auld dykes aboon the leve
    In gutters where they lay
The king in [at] his pavilion door
    Was heard aloud to say
Last night three o' the lads o' France
    My Standard stole away
Wi' a fause tale disguis'd they came
    And Wi' a fauser train [trayne]
And to regain my gaye standard,
    These men were a' down slaine
It ill befits the youngest said
    A crowned king to lie
But or that I taste meat or [and] drink
    Reproved shall [sall] he be
He went before King Edward straight [strait]
    And kneel'd tow on his knee
I wad hae leave my liege [lord] he said
    To speak a word wi' thee
The king he turn'd him round about
    And wistna what to say
Quo' he man thou's hae leave to speak
    Though thon shaud [should] speak a' day
You said that three young lads o France
    Your standard stole away
Wi' a fause tale and fauser main [trayne]
    And many men did slay
But we are nane the lads o' France
    Nor e'er pretends [pretend] to be
We be [are] three lads o' fair Scotland
    And Maitlin's sons a' three [sons are we]
Nor is there men in a' your host
    dare [Daur] fight us three to three
Now by my sooth young Edward cry'd [said
    Well [Weel] fitted sall ye be [ye sall be]
Piercy shall [sall] wi' the eldest fight
    And Ethert Lunn wi' thee
William of Lancaster the third
    And bring your fourth to me
[Scott adds Hogg's 'modern' lines: 'Remember Piercy, aft the Scot / Has cower'd beneath thy hand' and, to complete the stanza, adds, 'For every drap of Maitland blood, / I'll gie a rig of land'.]
He clanked Piercy owr the head
    A sharp stroke [deep wound] and a sair
Till a' the blood [Till the best blood] O' his body
    Came rinnin owr [rinning down] his hair
Now I've slain [Now I have slayne ane;] one slaye ye the twa
    And that's good [gude] company
And tho' [if] the two [twa, passim] should [suld, passim] slay ye both
    Ye's [Ye'se passim] get nae [na] help o' me
But Ethert Lunn a baited bear
    Had many [unaltered] battles seen
He set the youngest wonder sair
    Till th' [the] eldest he grew keen
I am nae king nor nae Sic thing
    My word it sanna [shanna] stand
For Ethert shall [sall] a buffet bide
    Come he aneath [beneath] my brand
He clanked [clankit] Ether owr the head
    A sharp stroke and a sair [A deep wound and a sair]
Till a the blood o' his body [Till the best blood of his bodie]
    Came rinnin [rinning] owr his hair
Now I've slain two slay ye the ane
    Isna that good company [companye]
And though [tho'] the ane should slay ye both [ye baith]
    Ye's get nae help o' me
The twa-some they hae slayne the ane
    They maul'd them cruelly
Then hung them owr [over] the draw bridge
    That a' [all] the host might see
They rade their horse they ran their horse
    Then hover'd [hovered) on the ley
We be three lads o' fair Scotland
    We [That] fain wad fighting see
This boasting when Young Edward heard
    To's uncle thus said he
    [An angry man was he]
I'll take [tak] yon lad I'll bind yon lad
    And bring him bound to thee
But [Now] God forbid King Edward said
    that ever thou should try
Three worthy leaders we hae lost
    And you the fourth shall be
    [And thou the fourth wad lie]
If thou weit hung owr [shouldst hang on] yon draw bridge
    Blythe wad I never be
But wi the pole axe in his hand
    Out owr the bridge [Upon the brigg] sprang he
The first stroke that young Edward gae
    He struck wi' might and main [mayn]
He clove the Maitlins [Maitlan's] helmet stout
    And near had pierc'd his brain
    [And bit right nigh the brayn]
When Matlin saw his ain blood fa'
    An angry man was he
He let his weapon frae him fa
    And at his neck [throat] did flee
And thrice about he did him swing
    Till on the ground he light
Where he has hadden [halden] Young Edward
    Though [Tho'] he was great in might
Now let him up Young Edward [King Edward] cry'd
    And let him come to me
And for the deed that ye hae [thou hast] done
    Ye shall [Thou shalt] hae earldoms three
Its ne'er be said in France nor Ire [e'er]
    Nor [In] Scotland when I'm hame
That Edward ance was [once lay] under me
    And yet wan up again
    [And e'er get up again]
He stabb'd him thro' and thro' the heart
[He pierced him through and through the heart]
    He maul'd him cruelly
Then hang [hung] him owr the drawbridge
    Beside the other three

Now take from [frae] me that featherbed
    Make me a bed o' strae
I wish I nee'r had seen [hadna lived] this day
    To make my heart see wee
If I were ance at London town [tower]
    Where I was wont to be
I never mair should gang free hame
    Till borne on a bier tree.

You may insert the two following lines any where you think it needs them or else substitute two better

And marching south with curst Dunbar
    A ready welcome found



  1. Reprinted in James Hogg, Memoir of the Author's Life and Familiar Anedotes of Sir Walter Scott, ed. D. S. Mack (Edinburgh 1972), 61-2.
  2. James Hogg, 'On the changes in the habits, amusements, and condition of the Scottish peasantry', The Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, iii (1831-2), 256-7. See A. Campbell, 'Fragments of two journals, 1802 and 1816', Edinburgh University Library [EUL} MSS. La. 11.378. R. Pitcairn, 'Collection of Ballads' (3 vols.), National Library of Scotland [NLS] MSS. 2913-15.
  3. James Hogg. 'Odd characters', The Shepherd's Calenclar (Edinburgh and London 1829); Campbell, 'Fragments of two journals', 4. See E. Petrie, 'Odd characters: traditional informants in James Hogg's family', Scottish Literary Journal, cx (1983), 30-41.
  4. See James Hogg, 'Memoir of the Author's Life', in Hogg, The Mountain Bard Edinburgh and London, 1807; rev. and expanded edn, Edinburgh and London, 1821) - further revised and expanded in Altrive Tales London 1832).
  5. See Scott's introduction to Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (3 vols., Edinburgh 1802-3); W. Laidlaw, 'Recollections of Sir Walter Scott', Trans. Hawick Archaeological Soc (1905), 67. Hogg's texts appear in 'Scotch ballad material of the Borders', NLS MS. 877. See, in particular, fos. 133, 144-5, 243-6, 250, 256-7. I would like to thank the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland for permission to quote from this material.
  6. See The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. F. J. Child (5 vol s., Boston and London, 1882-98), iv, 513.
  7. See C. Zug, 'Scott's "Jock of Hazeldean": the re-creation of a traditional ballad', Joural of American Folklore, lxxxvi (1973), 152; E. K. Wells, The Ballad Tree (New York 1950); Walter Scott, The Letters of Sir Walter Scott; 1787-1807 (12 vols., New York 1971), i, 120
  8. James Hogg, quoted in E. Batho, The Ettrick Shepherd (Cambridge 1927), 26.
  9. J. Redpath, The Song of the Seals (1970) (Brig O' Turk, Callander, 1977), SRCM 160.
  10. Scott, Letters, i, 173; NLS MS. 877, fo. 243.
  11. Laidlaw, 'Recollections', 67-8.
  12. Scott, Letters, xxi, 31; James Hogg, quoted in Batho, Ettrick Shepherd, 20.
  13. A. Lang, 'Letters', Selkirk Archives SC/S/16/2/15-16; A. Lang, Sir Walter Scott and the Border Minstrelsy (1910, epr. New York 1968), 40.
  14. 'Letters to Scott', NLS MS. 3874, fo. 114.
  15. NLS MS. 877, fo. 257.
  16. Hogg, Memoir of the Author's Life, 16.