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    Kinmont Willie

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Kinmont Willie 

Traditional, arr. Calhoun, recorded on Telfer's Cows. 
Child#186   Tune: Bold Archer 

From an actual jailbreak of April 13, 1596. Sir Walter Scott collected and rewrote this (or may have written the entire thing; Buccleuch was his direct ancestor). I've reworked his version, condensing 46 verses to 33. It's a prototype of the Hollywood Western, complete with the bad guy getting his, to our expected delight, and some prime male bonding. 

"Haribee" was Carlisle's place of execution; Willie Armstrong, of Kinmont, a notorious thief. The term "outlaw" used to indicate a criminal who was no longer under the protection of the state. You could murder such a person without legal consequences. The same did not apply to in-laws. 

O haven't ye heard of the keen Lord Scroope? 
And of his man, the false Sakelde? 
How they have taken bold Kinmont Willie 
Just as a day of truce was held? 

Behind his back, his hands were bound 
Beneath his steed, his legs they tied 
They guarded him, ten mounted men, 
To bring him to the English side. 

They led him through the Liddell ford 
They led him through the Carlisle sands; 
They led him in to Carlisle castle 
To be at the keen Lord Scroope's commands. 

"My hands are tied, but my tongue is free 
and who will dare this deed avow? 
or answer by the border law? 
Or answer to the bold Buccleuch?" 

"Now hold thy tongue, thou rank robber, 
There's never a Scot shall set ye free 
When next ye cross my castle gate 
Ye'll go to hang on Haribee" 

Now word is gone to the bold Buccleuch 
The keeper on the Scottish side 
How they have taken bold Kinmont Willie 
Against the truce of border tide 

He slammed the table with his hand 
He made the red wine spring on high 
"I'll be avenged on Lord Scroope 
Kinmont Willie shall go free" 

He gathered forty marchmen bold 
All kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch 
With spur at heel, with plate on shoulder, 
Gloves of green, and feathers blue 

There were five and five before them all 
With hunting horns and bugles bright 
And five and five came with Buccleuch 
Like Warden's men, arrayed for fight 

And five and five like a mason's gang 
That carried ladders long and high 
And five and five were outlawed men 
And so they reached the Woodhouselee. 

And as we crossed the bateable land 
When to the English side we held 
The first of men that we should meet 
Who should it be but the false Sakelde? 

"Where are ye bound, ye hunters keen? 
Cried out Sakelde, "come tell to me" 
"We go to hunt an English stag 
That's trespassed on the Scots country" 

"Where are ye bound, ye marshal-men?" 
Then cried Sakelde, "come tell me true!" 
"We go to catch a rank robber 
That's broken faith with the bold Buccleuch." 

"Where are ye bound, ye mason lads 
With all your ladders, long and high?" 
"We go to rob a raven's nest 
That sits not far from Woodhouselee. 

"Where are ye bound, ye rough outlaws" 
Cried out Sakelde, "come tell me true" 
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band 
Though he'd had never a day at school. 

"Why trespass ye on the English side? 
Ye rank and rough-shod outlaw, stand!" 
The never a word had Dickie to say 
But through Sakelde he thrust his lance 

Then on we held for Carlisle town 
at Stony Bank the Eden we crossed 
The river racing in full flood, 
But not one horse or man was lost 

And when we reached the other side 
The wind was rising loud and high 
Buccleuch said to leave our steeds 
For fear that they should stamp and neigh. 

And when we left the Stony Bank 
The wind was rising to a squall 
In frost and wet, and fire and sleet 
we came beneath the castle wall 

We crept along, we held our breath 
We set the ladders against the wall 
And ready was Buccleuch himself 
To mount the first before us all 

He took the watchman by the throat 
Upon the roof he tied him down 
"were there not peace between our lands 
I would have flung ye to the ground." 

Then speedily we went to work 
And raised the slogan one and all 
And cut a hole though a sheet of lead 
And climbed down in the castle hall 

Then locks and bolts and chains we broke 
We made the bars bang merrily 
Until we came to the inner prison 
Where they had fettered Kinmont Willie. 

And when we came to the prison cell 
Where Will of Kinmont he did lie 
"O sleep or wake ye, Kinmont Willie 
Upon the day that you're to die?" 

"O I sleep soft, and I wake oft 
It's long since sleep was fled from me 
Give my service back to my wife and sons 
And all good souls that ask for me" 

Then Red Rowan broke the door, 
The starkest man in Teviotdale 
He drew his chains out from the stone 
And carried Willie from the jail. 

"Now sound out bugles," cried Buccleuch 
"To signal the lads that Willie is free" 
And when Scroope heard their bugles blow, 
He cried, "Who sounds this reveille?" 

"Farewell, farewell, my good Lord Scroope 
"My thanks for the lodging," Willie he cried 
"I'll settle up the bill with you 
When next we meet on the border side" 

Then shoulder high, with shout and cry 
We bore him down the ladder long 
And very stride Red Rowan took 
Made Willle's heavy irons clang 

We scarce had reached our steeds again 
When Carlisle's bells rang out for troops 
A thousand men by horse and foot 
Came along with the keen Lord Scroope. 

Buccleuch turned to Eden Water, 
And he plunged in with all his band 
The river raced from bank to brim 
And still we swam to fair Scotland 

Lord Scroope cried, "he is a devil from hell 
Or his mother's a witch, as you can see, 
I wouldn't have ridden that white water 
For all the gold in Christendie"