This poem is published from a copy in the Bannatyne MS in the handwriting of the Hon. Mr. Carmichael, advocate. It first appeared in Allan Ramsay's Evergreen, but some liberties have been taken by him in transcribing it; and, what is altogether unpardonable, the MS, which is itself rather inaccurate, has been interpolated to favour his readings; of which there remain obvious marks.
The skirmish of the Reidswire happened upon the 7th of June, 1575, at one of the meetings held by the Wardens of the Marches, for arrangements necessary upon the Border. Sir John Carmichael, ancestor of the present Earl of Hyndford,* was the Scottish Warden, and Sir John Forster held that office on the English Middle March. In the course of the day, which was emplyed as usual in redressing wrongs, a bill, or indictment, at the instane of a Scottish complainer, was fouled (i.e. found a true bill) against one Farnstein, a notorious English freebooter. Forster alleged that he had fled from justice; Carmichael, considering this as a pretect to avoid making compensation for the felony, bade him "play fair!" to which the haughty English warden retorted, by some injurious expressions respecting Carmichael's family, and gave other open signs of resentment. His retinue, chiefly men of Redesdale and Tynedale, the most ferocious of the English Borderers, glad of any pretext for a quarrel, discharged a flight of arrows among the Scots. A warm conflict ensued, in which, Carmichael being beat down and made prisoner, success seemed at first to incline to the English side, till the Tynedale men, throwing themselves too greedily upon the plunder, fell into disorder; and a body of Jedburgh citizens arriving at that instant, the skirmish terminated in a complete victory on the part of the Scots, who took prisoners, the English warden, James Ogle, Cuthbert Collingwood, Francis Russell, son to the Earl of Bedford, and son-in-law to Forster, some of the Fenwicks, and several other Border chiefs. They were sent to the Earl of Morton, then Regent, who detained them at Dalkieth for some days, till the heat of their resentment was abated; which prudent precaution prevented a war betwixt the two kingdoms. He then dismissed them with great expressions of regard; and, to satisfy Queen Elizabeth, sent Carmichael to York, whence he was soon after honourably dismissed. The field of battle, called the Reidswire, is a part of the Carter Mountain, abut ten miles from Jedburgh.
*Sir John Carmichael was a favourite of the regent Morton by whom he was appointed Warden of the Middle Marches, in preference to the Border Chieftains. With the like policy, the regent married Archibald Carmichael, the warden's brother, to the heiress of Edrom in the Merse, much contrary to the inclination of the lady and her friends. In like manner he compelled another heiress, Jane Sleigh of Cumlege, to marry Archibald, brother of Auchinleck of Auchinleck, one of his dependents. By such arbitrary practices, Morton meant to strengthen his authority on the Borders; instead of which, he hastened his fall, by giving disgust to the kinsmen of the Earl of Angus, and his other friends, who had been established in the country for ages. - GODSCROFT, vol ii, p. 238, 246. Sir John Carmichael, the warden, was murdered, 16th June, 1600, by a party of Borderers, at a place called Raesknows, near Lochmaben, whither he was going to hold a court of justice. Two of the ringleaders in the slaughter, Thomas Armstrong, called Ringam's Tam, and Adam Scott, called Pecket, were tried at Edinburgh at the instance of Carmichael of Edrom. They were condemned to have their right hands struck off, then after to be hanged, and their bodies gibbeted on the Borough Moor; which sentence was executed 14th November, 1601.
THE RAID OF THE REIDSWIRE
The seventh of July, the suith to say,
At the Reidswire the tryst was set;
Our wardens they affixed the day,
And, as they promised, so they met,
Alas! That day I'll ne'er forget!
Was sure sae feard, and then sae faine -
They came theare justice for to gett,
Will never green* to come again.
Carmichael was our warden then,
He caused the country to convene;
And the Laird's Wat, that worthie man,*
Brought in that sirname weil beseen;
The Armestranges, that aye hae been
A hardy house but not a hail,
The Eliots' honours to maintaine,
Brought down the lave o" Liddesdale.
Then Tividale came to wi' spied;
The Sheriffe brought the Douglas down.
Wi' Cranstane, Gladstain, good at need,
Baith Rewie water, and Hawick town.
Beanjeddart baudly made him boun,
Wi' a' the Trumbills stronge and stout;
The Rutherfoords, with grit renown,
Convoy's the town of Jedbrugh out.**
Of other clans I cannot tell,
Because our warning was not wide -
Be this our folks hae ta'en the fell,
And planted down palliones, there to bid,
We looke down the other side,
And saw come breasting ower the brae,
Wi' Sir John Forster for their guyde,
Full fifteen hundred men and mae.
It grieved him sair that day, I trow,
Wi' Sir George Hearoune of Schipsydehouse;
Because we were not men enow,
They counted us not worth a louse,
Sir George was gentle, meek, and douse,
But he was hail, and het as fire;
And yet, for all his cracking crouse,
He rewd the raid o' the Reidswire.
To deal with proud men is but pain;
For either must ye fight or flee,
Or else no answer make again,
But play the beast, and let them be.
It was na wonder he was h'e,
Had Tindaill, Reedsdaill, at his hand,
Wi' Cukdaill, Gladsdaill on the lee,
And Hebsrime, and Northumberland.
Yett was our meeting meek enough,
Begun wi' merriment and mowes,
And at the brae, aboon the heugh,
The clark sat down to call the rowes.
And some for kyne, and some for ewes,
Call'd in of Dandrie, Hob, and Jock -
Five hundred Fennicks in a flock. -
With jack and speir, and bows all bent,
And warlike weapons at their will:
Although we were na weel content,
Yet, by my troth, we fear'd no ill.
Some gaed to drink, and some stude still
And some to cards and dice them sped;
Till on ane Farnstein they fyled a bill,
And he was fugitive and fled.
Carmichael bade them speik out plainlie,
And cloke no cause for ill nor good;
The other, answering him as vainlie,
Began to reckon kin and blood:
He raise, and raxed him where he stood,
And bade him match him with his marrows;
Then Tindaill heard them reason rude,
And they loot off a flight of arrows.
Then was there nought but bow and speir,
And every man pulled out a brand;
"A Schafton and a Fenwick' thare;
Gude Symington was slain frae hand.
The Scotsmen cried on other to stand,
Frae time they saw John Robson slain -
What should they cry? the King's command
Could cause to cowards turn again.
Up rose the laird to red the cumber,***
Which would not be for all his boast; -
What cold we doe with sic a number -
Fyve thousand men into a host?
Then Henry Purdie proved his cost,
And very narrowlie had mi chief'd him,
And there we had our warden lost,
Wert not the grit God he relieved him.
Another throw the breaks him bair,
Whill flatlies to the ground he fell;
Than thought I weel we had lost him there,
Into my stomack it struck a knell!
Yet up he raise, the trueuth to tell ye,
And laid about him dints full dour;
His horsemen they raid sturdily,
And stude about him in the stoure.
Then raise the slogan with ane shout -
"Fy, Tindaill, to it! Jedburgh's here!"
But anis his stomach was asteir.
With gun and genzie, bow and speir,
Men might see mony a cracked crown!
But up amang the merchant geir,
They were as busy as we were down.
The swallow taill frae tackles flew,
Five hundredth flain into a flight,
But we had pestelets enew,
And shot among them as we might,
With help of God the game gaed right,
Fra time the foremost of them fell;
Then ower the know, without goodnight,
They ran with mony a shout and yell.
But after they had turned backs,
Yet Tindail men they turn'd again,
And had not been the merchant packs,
There had been mae or Scotland slain.
But, Jesu! If the folks were fain
To put the bussing on their thies;
And so they fled, wi' a' their main,
Down ower the brae, like clogged bees.
Sir Francis Russell ta'en was there,
And hurt, as we hear men rehearse;
Proud Wallinton was wounded sair,
Albeit he be a Fennick fierce.
But if ye wald a souldier search,
Among them a' were ta'en that night,
Was nane sae wordie to put in verse,
As Collingwood, that courteous knight.
Young Henry Schafton, he is hurt;
A souldier shot him wi' a bow;
Scotland has cause to mak great sturt,
For laiming of the Laird of Mow,
The Laird's Wat did weel indeed;
His friends stood stoutlie by himsell,
With little Gladstain, gude in need,
For Gretein + kend na gude be ill.
The Sheriffe wanted not gude will,
Howbeit he might not fight so fast;
Beanjeddart, Hundlie, and Hunthill; ++
Three, on they laid weel at the last.
Except the horsemen of the guard,
If I could put men to availe,
None stoutlier stood out for their laird,
Nor did the lads of Liddisdail.
But little harness had we there;
But auld Badreule +++ had on a jack,
And did right weel, I you declare,
With all his Trumbills at his back,
Gude Edderstane was not to lack,
Nor Kirktoun, Newton, noble men!
Thir's all the specials I of speake,
By others that I could not ken.
Who did invent that day of play,
We need not fear to find him soon;
For Sir John Forster, I dare well say,
Made us this noisome afternoon.
Not that I speak preceishe out,
That he supposed it would be peril;
But pride, and breaking out of feuid,
Garr's Tindaill lads begin the quarrel.
*The chief who led out the sirname of Scott upon this occasion was (saith Satchells) Walter Scott of Ancrum, a natural son of Walter of Buccleuch
**These were ancient and powerful clans, residing chiefly upon the River Jed. Hence, they naturally convoyed the town of Jedburgh out. Although notorious freebooters, they were specially patronized by Morton, who, by their means, endeavored to counterpoise the power of Buccleuch and Ferniherst during the civil wars attached to the Queen's faction.
***Red the cumber - quell the tumult
+ Graden, a family of Kers.
++ Douglas of Beanjeddart, an ancient branch of the house of Cavers possessing property near the junction of Jed and Teviot. Hundlie - Rutherford of Hundlie or Hundalee, situated on the Jed above Jedburgh. Hunthill - the old tower of Hunthill was situated about a mile above Jedburgh. It was the patrimony of an ancient family of Rutherfords.
+++Sir Andrew Turnbull of Bedule, upon Rule Water.