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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
Jock O The Side


The subject of this ballad being a common event in those troublesome and disorderly times, became a favorite theme of the ballad-makers. There are, in this collection, no fewer than three poems on the rescue of prisoners, the incidents in which nearly resemble each other; though the poetical description is so different, that the Editor did not think himself at liberty to reject any one of them, as borrowed from the others. As, however, there are several verses, which in recitation, are common to all these three songs, the Editor, to prevent unnecessary and disagreeable repetition, has used the freedom of appropriating them to that in which they seem to have the best poetic effect.

The reality of this story rests solely upon the foundation of tradition. Jock o' the Side seems to have been nephew to the Laird of Mangertoun, and probably brother to Christie of the Syde, mentioned in the list of Border clans, 1597. Like the Laird's Jock, he also is commemorated by Sir Richard Maitland.

"He is weil kend, John of the Syde,
A greater thief did never ryde;
He never tyris,
For to brak byres,
Our muir and myris,
Ouir gude ane guide,' &c."

Jock O' the Side appears in have assisted the Earl of Westmoreland in his escape after his unfortunate insurrection with the Earl of Northumberland in the twelfth year of Elizabeth. "The two rebellious rebels went into Liddesdale in Scotland, yesternight, where Martin Ellwood (Elliot) and others, that have given pledges to the regent of Scotland, did raise their forces against them; being conducted by black Ormeston, an outlaw of Scotland, that was a principal murtherer of the King of Scots, (Darnley) where the fight was offered, and both parties alighted from their horses; and, in the end, Ellwood said to Ormeston he would be sorry to enter deadly feud with men by bloodshed; but he would charge him and the rest before the regent for keeping the rebels and if he did not put them out of the country, the next day, he would doe his worst again them; whereupon the two Earls were driven to leave Liddesdale, and to fly to one of the Armstrongs, a Scot upon the batable (debateable) land on the Borders between Liddesdale and England. The same day the Liddesdale men stole the horses of the Countess of Northumberland, and of her two women, and ten others of their company, so as, the earls being gone, the lady of Northumberland was left there on foot, at John of the Side's house, a cottage not to be compared to many a dog kennel in England. At their departing from her, they went not above fifty horse, and the Earl of Westmoreland, to be the more unknown, changed his coat of plate and swore with John of the Side and departed like a Scottish Borderer." - Advertisements from Hexham, 22nd December, 1569, in the Cabala, p. 160.

JOCK O' THE SIDE

Now Liddesdale has ridden a raid,
But I wat they had beter hae staid at hame;
For Michael o' Winfield he is dead,
And Jock o' the Side is prisoner ta'en.

For Mangerton house Lady Downie has gane,
Her coats she has kilted up to her knees;
And down the water wi' speed she rins,
While tears in spaits fa' fast frae her ee.

Then up and spoke her gude auld lord, 
"What news, what news, sister Downie, to me?" -
"Bad news, bad news, my Lord Mangerton;
Michael is killed, and they hae ta'en my son Johnie."

- "Ne'er fear, sister Downie," quo' Mangerton;
"I have yokes of ousen, eighty and three;
My barns, my byres, and my faulds, a' weil fill'd,
I'll part wi' them a' ere Johnie shall die.

Three men I'll send to set him free,
A' harneist wi' the best o' steil;
The English louns may hear, and drie
The weight o' their braid-swords to feel.

"The Laird's Jock ane, the Laird's Wat twa,
O Hobbie Noble, thou ane maun be!
The coat is blue, thou hast been true,
Since England banished thee, to me." -

Now Hobbie was an English man,
In Newcastle-dale was bred and born;
But his misdeeds they were sae great,
They banished him ne'er to return.

Lord Mangerton them orders gave,
"Your horse the wrang way maun be shod;
Like gentlemen ye mauna seem,
But look like corn-caugers* ga'en the road.

"Your armour gude ye mauna shaw,
Nor yet appear like men o' weir;
As country lads be a' array'd,
Wi' branks and brecham** on each mare." - 

Sae now their horses are the wrang way shod,
And Hobbie has mounted his grey sae fine;
Jack his lively bay, Wat's on his white horse be hind,
And on they rode for the water of Tyne.

At the Cholerford they a' light down,
And there, wi' the help of the light o' the moon,
A tree they cut, fifteen nogs on each side,
To climb up the wa' of Newcastle toun.

But when they cam to Newcastle toun,
And were alighted at the wa',
They fand thair tree three ells ower laigh,
They fand their stick baith short and sma'.

Then up spake the Laird's ain Jock;
"There's naething for't; the gates we maun force." -
But when they cam the gate until,
A proud porter withstood baith men and horse.

His neck in twa the Armstrangs wrang;
Wi' fute or hand he ne'er play'd pa!
His life and his keys at anes they hae ta'en,
And cast the body ahint the wa".

Now sune they reach Newcastle jail,
And to the prisoner thus they call;
"Sleeps thou, wakes thou, Jock o' the Side,
Or art thou weary of they thrall?"

Jock answers thus, wi' dolefu' tone; 
"Aft, aft I wake - I seldom sleep;
But whae's this kens my name sae weel.
And thus to mese*** my waes does seek?"

Then out and spak the gude Laird's Jock,
"Now fear ye na, my billie," quo he;
"For here are the Laird's Jock, the Laird's Wat,
And Hobbie Noble, come to set thee free." -

"Now hand thy tongue, my gude Laird's Jock,
For ever, alas! this canna be;
For if a' Liddesdale were here the night,
The morn's the day that I maun die.

Full fifteen stane o' Spanish iron,
They hae laid a' right sair on me:
Wi' locks and keys I am fast bound
Into this dungeon dark and dreirie." -

"Fear ye na' that," quo' the Laird's Jock;
"A faint heart ne'er wan a fair ladie;
Work thou within, we'll work without,
And I'll be sworn we'll set thee free." -

The first strong door that they cam at,
They loosed it without a key;
The next chain'd door that they cam at,
They garr'd it a' to flinders flee.

The prisoner now upon his back
The Laird's Jock has gotten up fu' hie;
And down the stairs him, airns and a',
Wi' nae sma' speed and joy brings he.

"Now, Jock, my man," quo' Hobbie Noble,
"Some o' his weight ye may lay on me." -
"I wat weel no!" quo' the Laird's ain Jock,
"I count him lighter than a flee." -

Sae out at the gates they a' are gane,
The prisoner's set on horseback hie;
And now wi' speed they've ta'en the gate,
While ilk ane jokes fu' wantonlie:

"O Jock! sae winsomely ye ride,
Wi' baith your feet upon ae side;
Sae weel ye're harneist, and sae trig
In troth ye sit like ony bride!" -

The night, tho' wat, they did na mind,
But hied them on fu' merrilie,
Until they cam to Cholerford brae,
Where the water ran like mountains hie.

But when they cam to Cholerford,
There they met with an auld man;
Says - "Honest man, will the water ride?
Tell us in haste, if that ye can." - 

I wat weel no," quo' the gude auld man;
"I hae lived here thretty years and three,
And I ne'er yet saw the Tyne sae big,
Nor running anes sae like a sea." - 

Then out and spoke the Laird's saft Wat,
The greatest coward in the cumpanie,
"Now halt, now halt! we need na try't;
The day is come we a' maun die!" - 

"Puir faint-hearted thief!" cried the Laird's ain Jock,
"There'll nae man die, but him that's fie:+
I'll guide ye a' right safely thro';
Lift ye the pris'ner on ahint me." - 

Wi' that the water they hae ta'en,
By ane's and twa's they a' swam thro'
"Here are we a' safe," quo' the Laird's Jock,
"And, puir faint Wat, what think ye now?" -

They scarce the other brae had won,
When twenty men they saw pursue;
Frae Newcastle toun they had been sent,
A' English lads baith stout and true.

But when the land-sergeant the water saw,
"It winna ride, my lads," says he;
Then cried aloud - "The prisoner take,
But leave the fetters, I pray, to me." - 

"I wat weel no," quo' the Laird's ain Jock,
"I'll keep them a'; shoon to my mare they'll be
My gude bay mare - for I am sure,
She has bought them a' right dear frae thee." - 

Sae now they are on to Liddesdale,
E'en as fast as they could them hie;
The prisoner is brought to's ain fire-side,
And there o's airns they mak him free.

"Now, Jock, my billie," quo' a' the three,
"The day is comed thou was to die;
But thou's as weel at thy ain ingle-side,
Now sitting, I think, 'twixt thee and me."

*carriers
** halter and cart-collar
*** soothe
+ predestined


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