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  


                               THE END


Harraby is Carlisle's hanging place.  

Woodhouselee Lee passed by Willie on his way home.

Can be found map ref: 73 37 74


For more about the Debatable Land, see Border Features.


Buccleuch was Keeper of Liddesdale. Pronounced Buck-loo with the

emphasis on the loo.


Lord Scrope was the English Warden of the West March, based at Carlisle Castle.


Salkeld was his deputy.


Dickie of Dryhope was another notorious reiver.

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