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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Fray of Suport


An Ancient Border Gathering Song
From Tradition

Of all the Border ditties which have fallen into the Editor's hands, this is by far the most uncouth and savage. It is usually chaunted in a sort of wild recitative, except the burden, which swells into a long and varied howl, not unlike to a view hallo'. The words and the very great irregularity of the stanza (if it deserves the name) sufficiently point out its intention and origin. An English woman residing in Suport, near the foot of the Kers-hope, having been plundered in the night by a band of the Scottish moss-troopers, is supposed to convoke her servants and friends for the pursuit, or Hot Trod; upbraiding them, at the same time, in homely phrase, for their negligence and security. The Hot Trod was followed by the persons who had lost goods, with blood-hounds and horns, to raise the country to help. They also used to carry a burning wisp of straw at a spear head, and to raise a cry, similar to the Indian war-whoop. It appears, from articles made by the Wardens of the English Marches, September 12th, in 6th of Edward VI, that all, on this cry being raised, were obliged to follow the fray or chase, under pain of death. With these explanations, the general purport of the ballad may be easily discovered, though particular passages have been inexplicable, probably through corruptions introduced by reciters. The present text is collect from four copies which differed widely from each other.

THE FRAY OF SUPORT

Sleep'ry Sim of the Lamb-hill,
And Snoring Jock of Suport-hill,
Ye are baith right het and fou'; --
But my wae wakens na you,
Last night I saw a sorry sight -
Nought left me o' four-and-twenty good ousen and ky,
My weel-ridden gelding, and a white quey,
But a toom byre* and a wide,
And the twelve nogs on ilka side. 
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a'
     My gear's a' gane.

Weel may ye ken,
Last night I was right scarce o' men;
But toppet Hob o' the Mains had guesten'd in my house by chance;
I set him to wear the fore-door wi' the speir, while I kept the back door wi' the lance;
But they hae run him thro' the thick o' the thie, and broke his knee-pan,
And the mergh (marrow) o' his shin-bane has run down on his spur-leather whang:
He's lame while he lives, and where'er he may gang.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

But Peenye, my gude son, is out at the Hagbuthead,
His een glittering for anger like a fiery gleed;
Crying - "Mak sur the nooks
Of Maky's-muir crooks;
For the wily Scot takes by nooks, hooks, and crooks,
Gin we meet a' together in a head the morn,
We'll be merry men."
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

There's doughty Cuddy in the Heugh-head,
Thou was aye gude at a need;
With thy brock-skin bag** at thy belt, 
Aye ready to mak a puir man help.
Thou maun awa' out to the Canf-craigs,
(Where anes ye lost your ain twa naigs,)
And there toom thy brock-skin bag.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Doughty Dan o' the Hou'et Hirst,
Thou was aye gude at a birst;
Gude wi' a bow, and better wi' a speir,
The bauldest March-man that e'er follw'd gear;
Come thou here.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Rise, ye earle coopers, frae making o' kirns and tubs,
In the Nicol forest woods.*** 
Your craft hasna left the value of an oak rod,
But if you had ony fear o' God,
Last night ye hadna slept sae sound,
And let my gear be a' ta'en.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Ah! lads, we'll fang them a' in a net,
For I hae a' the ford o' Liddel set:
The Dunkin and the Door-loup,
The Willie-ford, and the Water-slack,
The Black-rack and the Trout-dud of Liddel;
Therestands John Forster, wi' five men at his back.
Wi' bufft coat and cap of sted;
Boo! ca' at them e'en Jock;
That ford's sicker,+ I wat weil.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Hoo! hoo! gar raise the Reid Souter, and Ringan Wat,
Wi' a broad elshin ++ and a wicker; 
I wat weil they'll mak a ford sicker.
Sae, whether they be Elliots or Armstrangs,
Or rough-riding Scots, or rude Johnstones,
Or whether they be frae the Tarras or Ewsdale,
They maun turn, and fight, or try the deeps o' Liddel.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

"Ah! but they will play ye anither jigg,
For they will out at the big rig,
And thro' at Fancy Grame's gap,"+++
But I hae another wile for that:
For I hae little Will, and Stalwart Wat,
And Lang Aicky, in the Souter Moor,
Wi' his sleuth-dog sits in his watch right sure;
Shou'd the dog gie a bark,
He'll be out in his sark,
And die or won.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Ha! boys! - I see a party appearing - wha's yon?
Methinks it's the Captain of Bewcastle, *+ and Jephtha's John,
Coming down by the foul steps of Catlowdie's loan;
They'll make a' sicker, come which way they will.
Ha! lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
My gear's a' gane.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

Captain Musgrave**+ and his band,
Are coming down by the Siller-strand,
And the muckle toun-bell o' Carlisle is rung;
My gear was a' weel won,
And before it's carried o'er the Border, mony a man's gae down.
     Fy, lads! shout a', a', a', a', a',
     My gear's a' gane.

*Toom byre - empty cow house
** The badger-skin pouch was used for carrying ammunition.
*** A wood in Cumberland, in which Suport is situated.
+ Sicker - secure 
++Elshin - a shoemaker's awl.
+++ Fergus Frame of Sowport, as one of the chief men of that clan, became security to Lord Scroope for the good behavior of his friends and dependents, 8th January, 1662. - Introduction to History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, p. 111.
*+ According to the Glenriddel's notes on this ballad, the office of Captain of Bewcastle was held by the chief of the Nixons.
**+ This was probably the famous Captain Jack Musgrave, who had charge of the watch along the Cryssop, or Kershope, as appears from the order of the watches appointed by Lord Wharton , when Deputy-Warden-General in the 6th Edward VI.

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