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This ballad appears to have been composed about the reign of James V. It commemorates a transaction, supposed to have taken place betwixt a Scottish monarch, and an ancestor of the ancient family of Murray of Philiphaugh, in Selkirkshire. The Editor is unable to ascertain the historical foundation of the tale; nor is it probable that any light can be thrown upon the subject, without an accurate examination of the family charter-chest. It is certain, that, during the civil wars betwixt Bruce and Baliol, the family of Philiphaugh existed, and was powerful; for their ancestor, Archibald de Moravia, subscribes the oath of fealty to Edward I., A.D. 1296. It is, therefore, not unlikely, that, residing in a wild and frontier country, they may have, at one period or other, during these commotions, refused allegiance to the feeble monarch of the day, and thus extorted from him some grant of territory or juris

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diction. It is also certain, that, by a charter from James IV., dated November 30, 1509, John Murray of Philiphaugh is vested with the dignity of heritable Sheriff of Ettrick Forest, an office held by his descendants till the final abolition of such jurisdictions by 28th Geo. II., cap. 23. But it seems difficult to believe, that the circumstances mentioned in the ballad could occur under the reign of so vigorous a monarch as James IV. It is true, that the Dramatis Personæ introduced seem to refer to the end of the fifteenth, or beginning of the sixteenth century; but from this it can only be argued, that the author himself lived soon after that period. It may, therefore, be supposed, (unless further evidence can be produced, tending to invalidate the conclusion,) that the bard, willing to pay his court to the family, has connected his grant of the sheriffship by James IV., with some former dispute betwixt the Murrays of Philiphaugh and their sovereign, occurring either while they were engaged upon the side of Baliol, or in the subsequent reigns of David II. and Robert II. and III., when the English possessed great part of the Scottish frontier, and the rest was in so lawless a state as hardly to acknowledge any superior.

At the same time, this reasoning is not absolutely conclusive. James IV. had particular reasons for desiring that Ettrick Forest, which actually formed part of the jointure lands of Margaret, his Queen, should be kept in a state of tranquillity.-RYMER,

vol. xiii. p. 66. In order to accomplish this object, it was natural for him, according to the policy of his predecessors, to invest one great family with the power of keeping order among the rest. It is even probable, that the Philiphaugh family may have had claims upon part of the lordship of Ettrick Forest, which lay intermingled with their own extensive possessions; and, in the course of arranging, not, indeed, the feudal superiority, but the property of these lands, a dispute may have arisen, of sufficient importance to be the groundwork of a ballad.

It is farther probable, that the Murrays, like other Border clans, were in a very lawless state, and held their lands merely by occupancy, without any feudal right. Indeed the lands of the various proprietors in Ettrick Forest, (being a royal demesne,) were held by the possessors, not in property, but as the kindly tenants, or rentallers, of the crown; and it is only about 150 years since they obtained charters, striking the feu-duty of each proprietor at the rate of the quit rent which he formerly paid. This state of possession naturally led to a confusion of rights and claims. The Kings of Scotland were often reduced to the humiliating necessity of compromising such matters with their rebellious subjects, and James himself even entered into a sort of league with Johnnie Faa, the king of the gipsies. Perhaps, therefore, the tradition, handed down in this song, may have had more foundation than it would at present he proper positively to assert.

The merit of this beautiful old tale, it is thought, will be fully acknowledged. It has been, for ages, a popular song in Selkirkshire. The scene is, by the common people, supposed to have been the Castle of Newark upon Yarrow. This is highly improbable, because Newark was always a royal fortress. Indeed, the late excellent antiquarian, Mr Plummer, Sheriffdepute of Selkirkshire, has assured the Editor, that he remembered the insignia of the unicorns, &c., so often mentioned in the ballad, in existence upon the old Tower of Hangingshaw, the seat of the Philiphaugh family; although, upon first perusing a copy of the ballad, he was inclined to subscribe to the popular opinion. The Tower of Hangingshaw has been demolished for many years. It stood in a romantic and solitary situation, on the classical banks of the Yarrow. When the mountains around Hangingshaw were covered with the wild copse which constituted à Scottish forest, a more secure stronghold for an outlawed baron can scarcely be imagined.

The tradition of Ettrick Forest bears, that the outlaw was a man of prodigious strength, possessing a baton or club, with which he laid lee (i. e. waste) the country for many miles round; and that he was at length slain by Buccleuch, or some of his clan, at a little mount, covered with fir-trees, adjoining to Newark Castle, and said to have been a part of the garden.1 A varying

[The hollow under this mount is called by the country people,

tradition bears the place of his death to have been near to the house of the Duke of Buccleuch's gamekeeper, beneath the castle; and that the fatal arrow was shot by Scott of Haining, from the ruins of a cottage on the opposite side of Yarrow. There were extant, within these twenty years, some verses of a song on his death. The feud, betwixt the Outlaw and the Scots, may serve to explain the asperity with which the chieftain of that clan is handled in the ballad.


In publishing the following ballad, the copy principally resorted to is one, apparently of considerable antiquity, which was found among the papers of the late Mrs Cockburn of Edinburgh, a lady whose memory will be long honoured by all who knew her. Another copy, much more imperfect, is to be found in Glenriddel's MSS. The names are in this last miserably mangled, as is always the case when ballads are taken down from the recitation of persons living at a distance from the scenes in which they are laid. Mr Plummer also gave the Editor a few additional verses, not contained in either copy, which are thrown into what seemed their proper place. There is yet another copy in Mr Herd's MSS., which has been occasionally made use of. Two verses are restored in the present edition, from the recitation of Mr Mungo Park, whose toils

"slain man's lee;" and a number of human bones were found there a few years ago in making a drain. 1830.—ED.]

1 [Mrs Cockburn of Ormistoun, the authoress of the "Flowers of the Forest."—ED.|

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