Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

A History of the Border Counties
Chapter VIII


INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AT HADDEN — PROVISION AGAINST SCOTS-ENGLISHMEN AND ENGLISH-SCOTSMEN — RUPTURE BETWEEN MARCH AND DOUGLAS —SECOND BATTLE OK NISBET MOOR — “TINEMAN,” KARL OK DOUGLAS—ROUT OK HOMILDON HILL—WAVERING ALLEGIANCE OK THE PERCYS — SIEGE OK COKLAW — HOTSPUR’S REBELLION AND DEATH AT SHREWSBURY—TINEMAN AGAIN AN ENGLISH PRISONER — FORMIDABLE RISING IN THE NORTH CHECKED BY THE EARL OP WESTMORLAND — KIRST USE OK CANNON IN BORDER WARKARE — RENEWED REBELLION AND DEATH OK NORTHUMBERLAND — BORDER PIRATES —CAPTURE AND DEMOLITION OK JEDBURGH CASTLE — THE EXPENSES HOW DEFRAYED — BORDERERS KEEP IN VIEW THE REGAINING OP THEIR OLD LIMITS—THE PERCY HONOURS AND ESTATES RESTORED—THE “ FOOL RAID" AND ITS SEQUEL—CAPTURE AND RECAPTURE OF WARK — DEATHS OF MARCH AND TINEMAN — PROVISIONS AFFECTING THE BORDERS IN TRUCE WITH ENGLAND BY JAMES I. ON HIS RETURN FROM CAPTIVITY — THE KING’S SPEECH AS HE CROSSES THE BORDER — STATE OF THE BORDER AT THE TIME—"IMPRESSIONS DE VOYAGE" OF A FUTURE POPE — THE BORDERS PEACEFUL UNDER JAMES I.— BATTLE OF PIPERDEN—GREAT SIEGE OF ROXBURGH—THE POEMS OF “PEEBLES TO THE PLAY” AND THE "THREE TALES OF THE THREE PRIESTS OF PEEBLES ”— LIGHT THROWN BY THEM ON SOCIAL LIFE OF THE BORDERS IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.

The Treaty of Leu-linghame, concluded between France and England in 1389, and extending by renewals for ten years, included Scotland as ally of the former country, and made special provision for preserving peace between her and her neighbour. It provided for the election of certain persons of high condition and character, who should be credited with full powers, and should bind themselves by oath to redress wrongs on either side. The task of such persons would be no sinecure, for, between the weak government of Robert III. and the turbulence of nobles, whose occupation of war was for the time suspended, the state of the country was one of miserable disturbance. In 1397, therefore, a great march-meeting was held at Hadden Stank to redress all violations of the above treaty. The principal representatives of the two countries were the Earl of Garrick, afterwards Duke of Rothesay, for Scotland, and John of Gaunt for England. Among the enactments made at this meeting, and at others held at the same place next year, is one which specially illustrates the growing favour of the Border country as a haunt of lawless characters. After alluding to the disturbance of the peace of both nations as being specially attributable to natives of either country who had had themselves admitted to the fealty of the other, and who dwelt on the Borders, it provides against the continuance of the practice, and enjoins the removal of those who have been already so admitted—in the case of Scotsmen to the south bank of the Tyne, in that of English as far north at least as to Edinburgh. The meeting also provided for the holding of monthly ‘‘march days” by the wardens, or their deputies, to redress trespasses, and try offenders by march law, and for the erection of what appear to have been supreme courts, sitting in Edinburgh and Newcastle, under the presidency of a royal prince. The old right to pursue stolen goods, unmolested, with hound and horn, from one country to the other, was confirmed, and it was decreed that points in dispute between captains of castles which were still in the hands of the English, and occupants of land in their neighbourhood, were to be submitted to arbitration. As an example of such points in dispute may be mentioned the case of Sir Philip Stanley, captain of Roxburgh, who preferred a charge against the son of the Earl of Douglas of breaking the bridge of Roxburgh, burning and plundering the town, breaching the walls, and destroying hay and fuel to the value of 2000—for part of which offence the justification of Scottish ownership was pleaded.

On the expiration of the truce, hostilities were resumed by a capture and demolition of Wark Castle, avenged in a skirmish at Fulhope Law (identified by Craig-Brown with Philiphaugh), in which John Turnbull, a famous Border leader, nicknamed “Out wyth Swerd,” with others, was made prisoner. The old and habitual state of matters on the Borders was, in fact, spon in full swing; but it received complication from the quarrel of the two great Border chieftains, George of Dunbar and Archibald the Grim. The cause of this rupture was the jilting of March’s daughter by the handsome and popular Duke of Rothesay, heir to the crown, and his marriage with a daughter of Douglas. The affront was aggravated by Douglas’s seizure of March’s lands when the latter proceeded to give in his allegiance to the son of the recently deceased John of Gaunt, who, under the title of Henry IV., had now seated himself upon the throne of England.

Invasions by March and -by Henry followed—the latter notable for the good discipline maintained in the invading army, and also for the fact that it was the last invasion of Scotland ever led by an English sovereign. It may be added that proclamations embodying Henry’s somewhat belated pretensions to feudal superiority over Scotland were appointed, under certain conditions, to be read at Kelso, Melrose, and Jedburgh. The war then smouldered on, the Scots under Sir Patrick Hepburn sustaining a severe reverse at the hands of March in a second battle at Nisbet Moor, in which the “flower of Lothian” perished.' But a more serious defeat was in store for them. Archibald Douglas, surnamed the Grim, having died in 1400, had been succeeded in the earldom by his son, also an Archibald, who from his consistent ill-fortune in battle came to be nicknamed Tine (or Lose) man. An instance of that ill-fortune was not long in occurring.

In revenge for the disaster of Nisbet, in September of that year, Douglas, with an army of about 10,000 men, raided Northumberland as far as Newcastle, and had reached Wooler on his way home when he was met by March and Hotspur, with a force equal to his own. The Scottish leader drew up his men in close formation on the neighbouring hill of Homildon. But the English, seizing a hill which commanded it, and by March’s advice relying on the arm in which they had always the advantage, poured a galling fire of arrows on the enemy. The Scottish archers could not meet them. Many of the men-at-arms fell in their places, and the remainder wavered in their ranks and were beginning to flee, when Douglas, seizing a lance, led a charge into the valley, where some at least of the English archers seem to have been posted. These then began to retire, but in orderly fashion and without discontinuing their deadly fire. Armour was useless against it, and Douglas, who wore a suit w'hich had cost three years’ labour in the making, was wounded in five places. A panic seized the Scots, and they turned and fled in utter rout, no fewer than 500 being drowned in attempting to cross the Tweed. The defeat was, indeed, reckoned one of the most disastrous ever sustained by the more northern people on the Borders, and there can be little doubt that it was largely due to the intimate knowledge of Scots methods of fighting possessed by the veteran March. Douglas was made prisoner, and his earldom, with almost his entire estates, was granted by Henry IV. to the Percys. A great part of the Scottish Border country may therefore be said to have again changed hands about this time, the estates of March continuing in possession of Douglas, and those of Douglas now passing, at least in name, to the Percys.

But the friendship between the Percys and their king was specious rather than real. Nobody could know better than the English wardens of the marches the true value of lands granted as the Douglas lands had been granted. Then, as we remember from Shakespeare, Henry was fond of interfering with the disposal of prisoners taken in battle, and in the present case it seems he had incensed the Percys by forbidding that those taken at Homildon should be ransomed or released without his orders. They seem now to have resolved to throw off their allegiance to him. It is true that Hotspur, entering Scotland with an army, laid siege to the tower of Coklaw, or Ormiston, in the parish of Cavers, near Hawick, to relieve which the Duke of Albany led an army to the Borders. But it is generally held that the siege was a mere pretence to throw dust in the eyes of Bolingbroke, whose unsteady throne it was now the desire of the younger Percy to shake. At any rate, by July 23, 1403, we find Hotspur joining with the Welsh rebel Glendower, and fighting his last fight, at Shrewsbury, side by side with Douglas, his prisoner of the year before. On the suppression of the rebellion by this battle, the valiant but luckless Tineman found himself again a prisoner of the English. He seems to have obtained his release on parole some two years later, but his captivity lasted nominally until 1413, and when he was permitted to visit Scotland during that interval, it was always on condition of his leaving as many as from ten to thirteen substitutes of high social position in his place. This speaks to the value set by the English on their prize, whilst the author of ‘The Douglas Book’ suggests that, from his vast influence at home, it was scarcely possible to carry on the government of the country in his absence. He seems, at least once, to have given the English considerable cause to doubt his intention to return to them. The Rotuli of about this date also exhibit many safe-conducts for the return over the Border of Scottish prisoners of war of lesser importance, to seek money to ransom themselves.

The English wardenships had now passed from the Percy family, to be vested in the hands of the king’s son John, afterwards Duke of Bedford, acting for the East Marches, and of Neville, Earl of Westmorland, for the West.* Yet, for some years to come, the more or less private affairs of the three great chieftains, Northumberland, March, and Douglas, continue to constitute the staple of Border history. It is now that we hear, perhaps for the first time, of what was afterwards to become a matter of such frequent occurrence—to wit, a “rising in the North” against the central authority. Scrope, Archbishop of York, and the Earl Marshal of England had joined forces with the aggrieved Northumberland, who, besides a contingent from Scotland, looked for assistance not only from Wales as represented by the redoubtable Glendower, but from France as well. It was calculated that 20,000 men would assemble at York, prepared to take the field, and the rights of the supposed Richard resident at the Scottish court were made the pretext of the rebellion. Though threatening to be formidable, it was checked in the bud by the bad faith of Lord Westmorland; and Northumberland, with his little grandson, the orphan of Hotspur, fled for refuge to Scotland. His lands were confiscated, and his associates, Mowbray, Earl Marshal, and the Archbishop, met on the scaffold the fate which had already befallen his brother, Worcester, after Shrewsbury. Some of his followers sought to hold out in Berwick, but Henry hastening to proceed against them, they became panic - stricken by the formidable execution wrought by his cannon, and, surrendering, were imprisoned or beheaded. It has been stated that this was the first use of cannon on the Borders, or indeed in England. A recent writer, however, suggests that they may have been used at the siege of Coklaw, where stone cannon-balls have been picked up. Some two or three years later, Northumberland again raised the head of rebellion. Relying on the support of his native county, he entered England, as some say, from the Borders, at the head of a force of Scots, but being disappointed in his expectations, was defeated and slain at Bramham Moor.5 Douglas, as we have seen, was still a prisoner on parole, whilst March had been reconciled to him about the year 1409, and had returned to Scotland, his possessions, excepting Lochmaben and An-nandale, being restored to him." Meantime the Borders had been enjoying a period of comparative rest. The new Earl of Carrick, afterwards James I., was a captive in England. His father had died in 1406—his end hastened by gr'ef— and the ambitious and unscrupulous Regent Albany had excellent reasons of Jiis own for maintaining the peace with England. Such disturbances as we now hear of between the two countries were therefore mainly confined to the sea, where Stewart, Earl of Mar, a natural son of the ferocious Wolf of Badenoch, the younger brother of Albany and the late king, infested the coast between Berwick and Newcastle, and preyed upon English shipping. In 1409, however, the current truce happening to expire, the people of the middle class of Teviotdale took and plundered the castle of Jedburgh, which had been in the hands of the English since Neville’s Cross. Feeling that it was a source rather of danger than of security, they then proceeded to demolish it—a task which, owing to the hardness and tenacity of the mortar, was not accomplished without great difficulty. There was even a proposal to levy a special local tax to pay for the labour, but the Regent Albany, ever desirous to ingratiate himself, appointed that the expenses should be paid out of the royal custom - dues of the marches. Two years later William Douglas of Drum-lanrig joined with a son of the Earl of March in burning Roxburgh town and breaking the bridge. They did not succeed in winning back the castle, but it is evident that Tytler, vol. iii. p. 145, credits this feat to Archibald Douglas of Drum-lanrig, but for Archibald we should probably read with Ridpath, “William.” William Douglas, son of the second earl, received a grant of the lands of Drumlanrig before 1388 (The Douglas Book, vol. i. p. 273)-the Borderers had not lost sight of the old lines of demarcation, and would omit no opportunity of pushing their way back to them. Indeed, the realisation of this object seems to have been the dominant idea of Scottish Borderers of the period—a fact which affords a good example of that dogged tenacity of purpose which was one of their main characteristics. Meantime Hadden Stank continued to be the scene of international meetings, held for the purpose of renewing the short truces wrhich were all that either country cared to commit itself to—truces, it may be added, which continued to be better- observed than had been usual for a long time before. Perhaps the latter fact may be partly accounted for by the consideration that Henry V. was busy preparing for that great French campaign which was to be made illustrious by the victory of Agincourt, whilst the Scots on their side may have been waiting to see his hands full otherwhere. In 1416 young Percy, the son of Hotspur, who had been detained in Scotland since he fled there as a boy with his grandfather, was released in exchange for Murdoch, son of the regent, one of the prisoners of Homildon,1 and having the family estates restored to him, was appointed warden of the East Marches, as his fathers had been before him. About the same time Douglas celebrated his own liberation by burning Penrith, to which the English replied by subjecting Dumfries to similar treatment.

In the change of circumstances, the very motive which had formerly inclined Albany to preserve the peace with England—to wit, the desire to keep the power in his own family—now led him to wish for war. Having, therefore, collected a large army, and sent his friend Tineman to assault Roxburgh Castle, he himself marched to lay siege to Berwick. He had reckoned on England being left defenceless during the king’s absence abroad. But on hearing of the approach of the Duke of Bedford—to whose care Henry had left his realm —at the head of an army of 40,000, both he and Douglas cut short their operations and retreated. The report was unfounded, Fordun suggesting that there was treachery at work. At any rate, the incursion became popularly known as the “Fool Raid,” by which name it was remembered.

The English were not long in repaying the Fool Raid with interest. Sir Robert Umfraville, governor of Berwick, had already won a reputation by his inroads into Scotland. His success, on one occasion, in supplying a deficit of com from the neighbouring country had gained him the nickname of Robin Mend-market; on another occasion his soldiers, raiding Peebles on a market-day, had supplied themselves with cloth to their hearts’ content, measuring it off with their bows and spears. In short, Sir Robert’s plan seems to have been to apply Scottish methods of warfare to the Scots. Wishing now to emulate on a small scale the glorious deeds of his master on the Continent, he got together an army from Northumberland and Durham, and invading Scotland by the East Marches, burnt not only the rich towns of Hawick, Selkirk, and Jedburgh, but the villages and hamlets of Teviotdale and Jed Forest as well. It is difficult to comprehend the apparent impassivity of the Scots at this time, which can only be explained by the consistent ill-luck of Tineman, and the growing unfitness for war of the aged Albany, never much of a soldier at the best. At any rate, but a single flash of luck seems to have relieved their fortunes during two years. In 1419 the castle of Wark was captured by Sir William Halliburton of Fast, with twenty-three brave Scots. But even whilst the captors were treating with the evicted English, the latter, under Sir Robert Ogle, took advantage of the scaling-ladders which had been left hanging from the walls, and, recapturing the castle, beheaded the intruders, and flung their bodies from the battlements. Fordun, however, mentions a raid in 1420, in which the Earl of Douglas succeeded in burning the town of Alnwick.

In the latter year a pestilence, apparently of malarial character, visited Scotland, claiming as a victim, among many others, George of Dunbar, Earl of March. To a courage resembling that of Douglas—his old enemy and comrade in arms — the veteran warrior had united a widely different fortune in battle,—perhaps one should say, a greatly superior military skill. Thus it is recorded of him that, whether he fought in command or as a subordinate, with the Scots or with the English, his side was invariably victorious—as was exemplified at Otterburn, Nisbet, Homildon, Shrewsbury, and Benrig. Douglas did not long survive him. After the death of Albany, he transferred his support from the weak Murdoch Stewart to the Dauphin, afterwards Charles VII., who had solicited help from Scotland against the English. Passing to France with an army of 10,000 of all ranks, he was warmly received there, and raised to the dukedom of Touraine. After the death of Henry V., his brother, the Duke of Bedford, had succeeded to the command of the English forces in France. Douglas is said to have dubbed him “John with the leaden sword,” and on receiving an ironical message that Bedford desired to drink with him, to have replied that he had come from Scotland for the purpose. He fell August 17, 1424, in the bloody battle of Verneuil, called also the Battle of the Herrings. Before leaving Scotland, as if conscious that he should not return, he had specially commended the welfare of the monks of Melrose to Archibald, Earl of Wigtown, his son by Margaret, eldest daughter of Robert III., who now succeeded him. The duchy of Touraine did not continue in possession of his family, though they still bore the empty title of duke.

This was the year in which King James I., released from his long captivity, entered upon the enjoyment of his own— an occasion which was marked by the conclusion of a seven years’ truce w'ith England. Several of the provisions of this truce concern the Borders, which, ever since the abandonment of the English claim of superiority, may be regarded as the great source of international differences. First among these was an article intended to check a lawless practice, which we have seen to be very prevalent—namely, that of the seizing from the enemy, whenever a fitting opportunity presented itself, of such conveniently situated fortresses as, for example, those of Wark, Norham, Roxburgh, and Berwick. The new enactment provided for the co-operation of the authorities on the gaining side in the restitution of such fortresses so seized. There was next a reciprocal agreement for the punishment of criminals of alien nationality, according to the usage of the country whose laws they broke, and in which they were apprehended. Thus a Scotsman convicted in England would be punished according to the English law, without right of appeal. Then there were provisions against the harbouring of criminal refugees fleeing from one country to the other, who, on requisition made, were to be conducted to the marches, and there delivered to the offended authorities. In case they could not be found, they were to be declared banished from the country where they had sought refuge, until the proper reparation for their wrong-doing should have been made. The property of such refugees was made available for “damages” by the authorities of the country from which they fled; whilst in the case of their effects being nil, their persons, upon apprehension, were to be subjected to castigation. All who, by counsel, concealment, or other means, abetted the flight of any such criminal, rendered themselves liable to share in his punishment. The above provisions rendered necessary others, which should provide for the safety of persons passing from one kingdom to the other— with or without the safe-conduct of the wardens—in the “hot-trodd,” or pursuit of a criminal. There were also enactments directed against private retaliation for injuries received — a fertile source of disturbance on the Border, both now and in times to come—and against the evasion of the law of the one country by becoming “ denizened ” as a subject of the other. The reiterated enactments of elaborate character on these and kindred subjects serve to throw light on the difficulties with which the administration of the Border laws was beset, and thence may be inferred the readiness with which any loophole or means of circumvention was turned to account by the wily and not too law-abiding Borderer. The wardens of the marches on either side, with certain influential assistants, were invested with full powers for enforcing the new regulations. This new treaty, which had been drawn up at Durham, was ratified by King James at Melrose, after his state entry, with his young bride, into their kingdom. Like his great ancestor David I., whose lavish generosity he is said to have condemned, James had profited much by his residence at the English court, and it is recorded that as he crossed the frontier he gave utterance to his high aspirations as a ruler in the memorable words, that “with time and God’s help, though he should himself lead a dog’s life to attain his end, he would yet make the key to keep the castle and the rash-bush keep the cow.”

Some idea of the country in which the king now set foot may be gathered from the account of a contemporary traveller, who in this reign passed through the Border-land. This was a young Italian, of poor but noble birth, sharp wits, and pliant character, yEneas Sylvius Piccolomini by name, who with the turn of fortune’s wheel eventually rose to fill the Papacy under the name of Pius II. In considering his remarks, one may do well to bear in mind that he was by no means free from the traveller’s characteristic failings of credulity, prejudice, and inaccuracy, proceeding from insufficient information. Landing, after a perilous voyage, apparently upon the coast of East Lothian, he transacted his business, and proceeding southward, reached the Tweed, which he crossed by boat near a large town, which may have been either Kelso or Berwick. He put up for the night at a neighbouring farmhouse, and supped in company of the farmer and the parish priest. The fare provided included poultry in abundance, but neither bread nor wine. yEneas had, however, taken the precaution to bring supplies of these things with him, which, he tells us, excited much curiosity and desire among the inhabitants, who flocked to gaze upon the stranger. The feast was prolonged to the small hours, when the householder and priest beat a hurried retreat, directing their course towards a distant keep (perhaps Norham, perhaps Roxburgh), where they would be safe in the event of an incursion of the Scots. yEneas would gladly have accompanied them, but was left behind with his guide, two servants, and about a hundred women. The night was passing merrily enough— for, instead of retiring to rest, the women sat up round the fire, pursuing their labour of dressing flax, and conversing with the Italian through an interpreter — when a sudden barking of dogs and cackling of geese sent them fleeing in consternation in all directions. They believed that the Scots were upon them; but, helpless and ignorant of his bearings, zEneas had no choice but to stand his ground. It was soon discovered, however, that the arrivals which had disturbed the brute creation, and so given rise to the alarm, were friends, not enemies, and the women returned to reassure their visitor. It was midwinter, and to the Italian the northern nights seemed interminable; but when at last the day broke, he pursued his journey southward, and at Newcastle congratulated himself on being once more among civilised and habitable surroundings,—“for the Border country, which is rugged, uncultured, and in winter inaccessible to the sun's rays, has no feature in common with my home.” The similarity of this sentiment and those expressed by the French knights of Jean de Vienne will scarcely escape the reader’s observation.

One of the things which most impressed Piccolomini in Scotland was the frankness of the women, whom he describes as fair in complexion and well-favoured, and as giving their kisses more readily than Italian women give their hands. The men struck him as small in stature, but bold and forward in temper. The lower orders he pronounces poor, and destitute of refinement. He comments on the scarcity of timber, asserting that in Scotland there are two distinct countries— the one cultivated, and the other forest—and thus bears out the inference from the Rhymer’s words, “ when Lothian is a forest,” &c. The towns he describes as lacking walls, the houses as for the most part built without lime. In the country the roofs are formed of turf, and, in the case of meaner dwellings, an ox-hide takes the place of a door. The horses are amblers (“hobblers”), small, guiltless of grooming, and managed without bits. He makes the mistaken assertion that there are no wolves in the country, and is also wrong in a statement regarding rooks—against which, on account of damage to the crops, a statute of this reign was directed. He adds that nothing pleases the Scots more than to listen to abuse of the English.

James’s figuratively - expressed programme for a reign of peace and plenty demanded time for its execution, and this first essential was denied him. But, at the expense of drastic measures, his twelve years’ administration was strictly in keeping with his intentions at the outset, and to its fertility in enactments for the preservation of order in the country at large may be probably ascribed the uneventfulness of its character on the Border. March meetings at Redden or Hadden provided that that district should share in the general pacification at home; whilst a threatened outbreak with England — the result of one of those rapprochcmetits with France which were always dangerous—was averted by the good offices of Cardinal Beaufort, the queen’s uncle. At this period a very lax sense of order still prevailed at sea, and it is now that we begin to hear of cases in which property had been seized on shipboard between Humber and Forth being dealt with at march meetings. The details of enactments against offences of this class fall, however, without our province. In the end of the year'1429 a new truce was concluded on the basis of the existing one, with the addition of a clause directed against fugitives between the two countries who Piud from the penalties of treason or rebellion.

The new truce was to last for five years, and—what is much more remarkable—did so. During that time the Scottish Borderers seem to have come within measurable distance of realising their darling wish to recover their ancient boundaries. Under the weak rule of Henry VI., England, feeling that she was fast losing her foothold in France, became additionally anxious to insure herself against hostilities from Scotland, and with this object even offered to sacrifice Roxburgh, Berwick, and the whole of the annexed territory. But James was not a Borderer, and the high view which he took of his obligations to France—now allied to him by the contract between his little daughter and the prince who was afterwards Louis XI.—forbade him to entertain the proposal. John of Fogo, Abbot of Melrose, is represented as taking a leading part in the debate on the subject, urging strongly the acceptance of the English offer. Peace could now hardly he expected to last much longer on the Borders, and accordingly in September 1435 we hear of an English force under Sir Robert Ogle and Henry Percy being defeated by Douglas, Earl of Angus, at Piperden, on the Breamish, not far from Cheviot. The circumstances which provoked the outbreak are not apparent, but it seems that the English were the aggressors.

The Scottish success at Piperden was followed up by a siege of Roxburgh, conducted by the king in person, with every means that might ensure success. For this purpose there was a general levy of the entire male population between the ages of sixteen and sixty, excepting only shepherds and cattle - keepers, the servants of ecclesiastics, and such others as might be excused on the score of merit or necessity.4 In this manner an enormous force was. assembled. The chronicler of Pluscarden and the continuator of Fordun agree in estimating the number of the men-at-arms at 200,000, and the latter adds that of other orders there were as many more. As these are not mentioned by the authority first named, it is conceivable that neither estimate may be distinguished by accuracy. Borderers must now have looked on the desired fortress as at last within their grasp; but once more were they doomed to disappointment. The investment went on for a fortnight without result, the defence being ably conducted by Sir Ralph Grey. At the end of that time, after losing many cannon and mortars, with gun-powder and the general apparatus of a siege, the urm) was abruptly disbanded. This surprising fiasco has been variously explained. The Pluscarden book attributes it to faction among the nobles; Ridpath, following Harding, to the queen’s discovery of a plot against her husband’s life. Both stories may be founded on the truth. The king’s severities had rendered him unpopular among his nobility, and if there were mischief brewing, his position in their midst at Roxburgh would be one of great danger. His present retreat could not, however, save him, and when the blow came it was through a channel little suspected. At Roxburgh he had appointed his kinsman Robert Stewart, a grandson of the Earl of Athole, to the post of Constable of the army, and to Robert Stewart is imputed the treachery of leaving the doors of the king’s lodging defenceless on the night of the murder at the Black Friars’ of Perth.

James I. was a poet, and one of the poems sometimes ascribed to him treats of a Border theme. Into the question of the authenticity of ‘Peebles to the Play’ it is not our business here to enter at length; suffice it to say that Professor Veitch makes out a fairly strong case for James’s authorship, whilst Professor Skeat holds that the poem now known to us can be at the best but an imitation of one by the king, and when its language, style, and metre are considered, must be assigned to a date at least half a century after 1437. Veitch seeks to strengthen his own arguments by reference to the intimate knowledge of Peebles and its environs which must have been acquired by the king, who was an ardent sportsman, on hunting expeditions in Tweeddale—in which locality, to quote the Professor’s words, his face w'ould be as familiar as is now that of our gracious queen in Braemar and on Deeside. In this manner he could not but become conversant with the Tweedside vernacular, in which the poem in question is written, and—though his earlier work had been couched in a southern or Chaucerian dialect— would naturally adopt it as the vehicle of a local and popular theme. Linguistic anachronisms the Professor accounts for by the inaccuracy of copyists. The poem itself is a spirited and deftly rhymed description of a public holiday on Tweedside, the occasion being the spring festival of Beltane, celebrated on the 3rd May. All the incidents of a rustic outing are poetically put before us much as we may see them at the hiring-fairs and other holidays of to-day. There is the rising with the peep of dawn, the bustle and excitement of preparation, congratulations on the fineness of the weather, catastrophes and contretemps of the feminine toilet. Then the procession of the younkers and maidens in full fig to the scene of action, and the impression produced by their finery on the sophisticated taste of the townspeople :—

“Than thai come to the townis end
WithoutUn more delai,
He befoir, and scho befoir,
To see quha was maist gay.
All that lukit thame upon
Leuche fast at thair array:
Sum said that thai were merkat folk;
Sum said the Quene of May
Was cumit Of Peblis to the Play.”

Then we have a tavern scene worthy the brush of that serious humorist Jan Steen, with details minute, many of which remain strangely unaltered to this day. The ordered of everyday are to-day the orderers :—

“Braid up the burde, he byddis tyt ;
We ar all in ane trance—
Se that our napre be quhyt,
For we will dyn and daunce.”

Old-fashioned prudence has a word to say, suggesting that they should pay for everything as it is set before them, lest anything be overlooked. But the goodwife of the howff knows her business, and reassures them on that score. Then comes the reckoning:—

"He gat ane trincheour in his hand,
And he began to compt;
Ilk man twa and ane happenie
To pay thus we war wount.”

A quarrel about nothing follows, with madder scenes as the feast turns to orgy, and at last drunkenness, the stocks, and shame for the uproarious :—

“Sevin-sum that the tulye5 maid,
Lay gruffling in the stokks.
John Jaksoun of the Nether-warde
Had lever have giffen an ox,
Or he had cuming in that cumpanie,
He sware be Goddis lockkis,
And mannis bayth,
Of Peblis to the Play.”

Day is now at end, and it only remains for the fatuous young lovers to part from one another with exaggerated demonstrations of tenderness. The poem is as laughable as can well be, but is of value also for the light which it throws on the manners of the age and of the district. A delightful geniality united with keen observation of the broad humours of rustic life pervades it, and, if internal evidence can settle the matter, proclaim it the work of the same hand, royal or not, which wrote ‘ Christ’s Kirk on the Green.’

The second of the Peebles classics—‘The Three Tales of the Three Priests of Peebles ’—is of unidentified authorship. A chance allusion in the proem would seem to date it as having been written before the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1491, and Professor Veitch inclines to attribute it to the reign of James III. The Introduction puts before us a picture of three well-to-do priests met in Peebles on St Bride’s Day (February 1), to enjoy an excellent dinner beside a roaring hearth in a secluded chamber. Over the good cheer and the liquor they fall to story-telling, and thus furnish the matter of the poem. The stories told are entertaining enough, and being essentially didactic in purpose, though cast in verse, may be classed with the monkish tales of the ‘ Gesta Roman-orum ’ and similar collections. But for us—as was the case with the poem considered above—their value lies in the striking pictures of local and contemporary life which they incidentally present. Take, for instance, the account of the various steps in the rise of a wealthy burgess. We are shown how’, from trudging through all weathers betw'een town and town, with but a “ hap, a halfpenny, and a lamb’s skin,” by dint of economy and attention to business he first arrives at acquiring “ ane meikil stalwart hors ” to bear his pack. A home on wheels follows, with “ Flanders coffers, counteris, and kist.” But soon it is no longer necessary for him to travel at all. He buys a shop, deals in wool, and does so to such good purpose that ere long we find him trading beyond seas. A wealthy marriage is followed by the purchase of a ship of his own, and ere we take leave of him his “copburde ” alone contains ^3000—or, as we should say in modern parlance, there is a balance of that amount to his private banker’s account. A silver basin now holds the water in which he washes his hands, and he disports himself on Sundays in rich gowns of silk. His week-day wear is “ grene and gray,” whilst his wife goes “ cumly cled in scarlet reid.”

The above description is introduced to illustrate the answer to a question asked by the long in one of the stories, Why burgess, families thrive not to the third generation? The answer is, that the heirs begin not at the point where their sires began — “thairfor that lichtlie cums wil lichtlie ga”; and we have pictures of the insolent extravagance, united with incapacity, of a parvenu youth—overdressed, pampered out of manhood by his mother, blushing at the lightest allusion to his father’s small beginnings, with servants ever at his beck to save him all labour, dissipated, and wholly unable to put his hand to any useful task.

After this we are shown results of the abuse of ecclesiastical patronage—

“For, now-on-dayes, is nouther riche nor pure
Sal get ane kirk al throw his literature,”

and of what must be likened to the too-familiar “agricultural depression" of late years. The husbandman’s present-day lot is contrasted with that of the good old times:—

“Sumtyme quhen husbandmen went to the weir,
They had ane jack, ane bow, or els ane speir :
And now befoir quhair thay had ane bow,
Ful faine he is on bak to get ane fow.s
And, for ane jak, ane raggit cloke has tane;
Ane sword, sweir out, and roustie for the rain.”

We are beginning, even, to hear of the “depopulation of the rural districts ” :—

“Thus ar the husbandis dytit * al but dout;
And heryit5 quyte away al round about.”

The peasantry are the chief sufferers, but of course the nobles come in for their share of the agrarian distress, and we have the moral and material decadence thence arising in old families described. All this is obviously drawn from the life, and serves to show us that many social symptoms which we are accustomed to connect exclusively with modern times were already well developed in the fifteenth century. In every age there is probably a tendency unduly to disparage the present by contrasting the worst in it with the best in a past epoch. It is to this tendency, doubtless, that we owe the fiction of a Golden Age. On the other hand, it is perhaps equally undeniable that every phase of society as it passes away carries with it something that we have good reason to regret.


Return to Book Index Page