- Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. I (Hobbie Noble.) by Sir Walter Scott
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Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. I
Hobbie Noble.

by Sir Walter Scott

We have seen the hero of this ballad act a distinguished part in the deliverance of Jock o' the Side, and are now to learn the ungrateful return which the Armstrongs made him for his faithful services. [181] Halbert, or Hobbie Noble, appears to have been one of those numerous English outlaws, who, being forced to fly their own country, had established themselves on the Scottish borders. As Hobbie continued his depredations upon the English, they bribed some of his hosts, the Armstrongs, to decoy him into England, under pretence of a predatory expedition. He was there delivered, by his treacherous companions, into the hands of the officers of justice, by whom he was conducted to Carlisle, and executed next morning. The laird of Mangerton, with whom Hobbie was in high favour, is said to have taken a severe revenge upon the traitors who betrayed him. The principal contriver of the scheme, called here Sim o' the Maynes, fled into England from the resentment of his chief; but experienced there the common fate of a traitor, being himself executed at Carlisle, about two months after Hobbie's death. Such is, at least, the tradition of Liddesdale. Sim o' the Maynes appears among the Armstrongs of Whitauch, in Liddesdale, in the list of clans so often alluded to.

Kershope-burn, where Hobbie met his treacherous companions, falls into the Liddel, from the English side, at a place called Turnersholm, where, according to tradition, turneys and games of chivalry were often solemnized. The Mains was anciently a border-keep, near Castletoun, on the north side of the Liddel, but is now totally demolished.

Askerton is an old castle, now ruinous, situated in the wilds of Cumberland, about seventeen miles north-east of Carlisle, amidst that mountainous and desolate tract of country, bordering upon Liddesdale, emphatically termed the Waste of Bewcastle. Conscouthart Green, and Rodric-haugh, and the Foulbogshiel, are the names of places in the same wilds, through which the Scottish plunderers generally made their raids upon England; as appears from the following passage in a letter from William, Lord Dacre, to Cardinal Wolsey, 18th July, 1528; Appendix to Pinkerton's Scotland, v. 12, No. XIX. "Like it also your grace, seeing the disordour within Scotlaund, and that all the mysguyded men, borderers of the same, inhabiting within Eskdale, Ewsdale, Walghopedale, Liddesdale, and a part of Tividale, foranempt Bewcastelldale, and a part of the middle marches of this the king's bordours, entres not this west and middle marches, to do any attemptate to the king our said soveraine's subjects: but thaye come throrow Bewcastelldale, and retornes, for the most part, the same waye agayne."

Willeva and Speir Edom are small districts in Bewcastledale, through which also the Hartlie-burn takes its course.

Of the castle of Mangertoun, so often mentioned in these ballads, there are very few vestiges. It was situated on the banks of the Liddel, below Castletoun. In the wall of a neighbouring mill, which has been entirely built from the ruins of the tower, there is a remarkable stone, bearing the arms of the lairds of Mangertoun, and a long broad-sword, with the figures 1583; probably the date of building, or repairing, the castle. On each side of the shield are the letters S.A. and E.E. standing probably for Simon Armstrong, and Elizabeth Elliot. Such is the only memorial of the laird of Mangertoun, except those rude ballads, which the editor now offers to the public.


Foul fa' the breast first treason bred in!
That Liddesdale may safely say:
For in it there was baith meat and drink,
And corn unto our geldings gay.

And we were a' stout-hearted men,
As England she might often say;
But now we may turn our backs and flee,
Since brave Noble is sold away.

Now Hobbie was an English man,
And born into Bewcastle dale;
But his misdeeds they were sae great,
They banish'd him to Liddesdale.

At Kershope foot the tryst was set,
Kershope of the lilye lee;
And there was traitor Sim o' the Mains,
And with him a private companie.

Then Hobbie has graithed his body fair,
Baith wi' the iron and wi' the steil;
And he has ta'en out his fringed grey,
And there, brave Hobbie, he rade him weel.

Then Hobbie is down the water gane,
E'en as fast as he could his;
Tho' a' should hae bursten and broken their hearts,
Frae that riding tryst he wad na be.

"Weel be ye met, my feres [182] five!
And now, what is your will wi' me?"
Then they cried a', wi ae consent,
"Thou'rt welcome here, brave Noble, to me.

"Wilt thou with us into England ride,
And thy safe warrand we will be?
If we get a horse, worth a hundred pound,
Upon his back thou sune shalt be."

"I dare not by day into England ride;
The land-serjeant has me at feid:
"And I know not what evil may betide,
For Peter of Whitfield, his brother, is dead.

"And Anton Shiel he loves not me,
For I gat twa drifts o' his sheep;
The great Earl of Whitfield [183] loves me not,
For nae geer frae me he e'er could keep.

"But will ye stay till the day gae down,
Untill the night come o'er the grund,
And I'll be a guide worth ony twa,
That may in Liddesdale be found.

"Tho' the night be black as pick and tar,
I'll guide ye o'er yon hill sae hie;
And bring ye a' in safety back,
If ye'll be true, and follow me."

He has guided them o'er moss and muir,
O'er hill and hope, and mony a down;
Until they came to the Foulbogshiel,
And there, brave Noble, he lighted down.

But word is gane to the land-serjeant,
In Askerton where that he lay—
"The deer, that ye hae hunted sae lang,
Is seen into the Waste this day."

"Then Hobbie Noble is that deer!
I wat he carries the style fu' hie;
Aft has he driven our bluidhounds back,
And set ourselves at little lee.

"Gar warn the bows of Hartlie-burn;
See they sharp their arrows on the wa':
Warn Willeva, and Speir Edom,
And see the morn they meet me a'.

"Gar meet me on the Rodric-haugh,
And see it be by break o' day;
And we will on to Conscouthart-green,
For there, I think, we'll get our prey."

Then Hobbie Noble has dreimt a dreim,
In the Foulbogshiel, where that he lay;
He dreimt his horse was aneath him shot,
And he himself got hard away.

The cocks could craw, the day could daw,
And I wot sae even fell down the rain;
Had Hobble na wakened at that time,
In the Foulbogshiel he had been ta'en or slain.

"Awake, awake, my feres five!
I trow here makes a fu' ill day;
Yet the worst cloak o' this company,
I hope, shall cross the Waste this day."

Now Hobbie thought the gates were clear;
But, ever alas! it was na sae:
They were beset by cruel men and keen,
That away brave Hobbie might na gae.

"Yet follow me, my feres five,
And see ye kelp of me guid ray;
And the worst cloak o' this company
Even yet may cross the Waste this day."

But the land-serjeant's men came Hobbie before,
The traitor Sim came Hobbie behin',
So had Noble been wight as Wallace was,
Away, alas! he might na win.

Then Hobbie had but a laddie's sword;
But he did mair than a laddie's deed;
For that sword had clear'd Conscouthart green,
Had it not broke o'er Jerswigham's head.

Then they hae ta'en brave Hobbie Noble,
Wi's ain bowstring they band him sae;
But his gentle heart was ne'er sae sair,
As when his ain five bound him on the brae.

They hae ta'en him on for west Carlisle;
They asked him, if he kend the way?
Tho' much he thought, yet little he said;
He knew the gate as weel as they.

They hae ta'en him up the Ricker-gate;
The wives they cast their windows wide:
And every wife to another can say,
"That's the man loosed Jock o' the Side!"

"Fy on ye, women! why ca' ye me man?
For it's nae man that I'm used like;
I am but like a forfoughen [184] hound,
Has been fighting in a dirty syke." [185]

They hae had him up thro' Carlisle toun,
And set him by the chimney fire;
They gave brave Noble a loaf to eat,
And that was little his desire.

They gave him a wheaten loaf to eat,
And after that a can of beer;
And they a' cried, with one consent,
"Eat, brave Noble, and make gude cheir!

"Confess my lord's horse, Hobbie," they said,
"And to-morrow in Carlisle thou's na die."
"How can I confess them," Hobbie says,
"When I never saw them with my e'e?"

Then Hobbie has sworn a fu' great aith,
Bi the day that he was gotten and born,
He never had ony thing o' my lord's,
That either eat him grass or corn.

"Now fare thee weel, sweet Mangerton!
For I think again I'll ne'er thee see:
I wad hae betrayed nae lad alive,
For a' the gowd o' Christentie.

"And fare thee weel, sweet Liddesdale!
Baith the hie land and the law;
Keep ye weel frae the traitor Mains!
For goud and gear he'll sell ye a'.

"Yet wad I rather be ca'd Hobbie Noble,
In Carlisle, where he suffers for his fau't,
Than I'd be ca'd the traitor Mains,
That eats and drinks o' the meal and maut."


Aft has he driven our bluidhounds back.—P. 234. v. 2.

"The russet blood-hound wont, near Annand's stream,
"To trace the sly thief with avenging foot,
"Close as an evil conscience still at hand."
Our ancient statutes inform us, that the blood-hound, or sluith-hound (so called from its quality of tracing the slot, or track, of men and animals), was early used in the pursuit and detection of marauders. Nullus perturbet, aut impediat canem trassantem, aut homines trassantes cum ipso, ad sequendum latrones.—Regiam Majestatem, Lib. 4tus, Cap. 32. And, so late as 1616, there was an order from the king's commissioners of the northern counties, that a certain number of slough-hounds should be maintained in every district of Cumberland, bordering upon Scotland. They were of great value, being sometimes sold for a hundred crowns. Exposition of Bleau's Atlas, voce Nithsdale. The breed of this sagacious animal, which could trace the human footstep with the most unerring accuracy, is now nearly extinct.


[181] The original editor of the Reliques of Ancient Poetry has noticed the perfidy of this clan in another instance; the delivery of the banished Earl of Northumberland into the hands of the Scottish regent, by Hector of Harelaw, an Armstrong, with whom he had taken refuge.—Reliques of Ancient Poetry, Vol. I. p. 283. This Hector of Harelaw seems to have been an Englishman, or under English assurance; for he is one of those, against whom bills were exhibited, by the Scottish commissioners, to the lord-bishop of Carlisle.—Introduction to the History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, p. 81. In the list of borderers, 1597, Hector of Harelaw, with the Griefs and Cuts of Harelaw, also figures as an inhabitant of the Debateable Land. It would appear, from a spirited invective in the Maitland MSS. against the regent, and those who delivered up the unfortunate earl to Elizabeth, that Hector had been guilty of this treachery, to redeem the pledge which had been exacted from him for his peaceable demeanour. The poet says, that the perfidy of Morton and Lochlevin was worse than even that of—
—the traitour Eckie of Harelaw,
That says he sould him to redeem his pledge;
Your deed is war, as all the world does know—
You nothing can but covatice alledge.
Pinkerton's Maitland Poems, Vol. II. p. 290.
Eckie is the contraction of Hector among the vulgar.

These little memoranda may serve still farther to illustrate the beautiful ballads, upon that subject, published in the Reliques.

[182] Feres—Companions.

[183] Earl of Whitfield—The editor does not know who is here meant.

[184] Forfoughen—Quite fatigued.

[185] Syke—Ditch.

Terms Defined

Referenced Works