Clan Scott by Keith Scott
The Ballad of Kinmont Willie One of the best known Border Ballads
Return to the Home Page Return to the Clan Page
William Armstrong of Kinmont or Kinmont Willie was a border reiver and outlaw active in the Anglo- Scottish Border country in the last decades of the 16th century. Armstrong was captured by the forces of the English Warden of the West March in violation of a truce day in 1596, and imprisoned in Carlisle Castle. Walter Scott of Buccleuch ("the Bold Buccleuch"), keeper of Liddlesdale on whose land the arrest had been made, protested to the English Warden, Sir Thomas Scrope, 10th Lord Scrope of Bolton. When Scrope refused to release Armstrong, Buccleuch led a party of men on a daring raid into England and broke Armstrong out of the castle. Kinmont Willie Armstrong was never recaptured. Legend supposes he died in his bed of old age. Of his rescuer, Queen Elizabeth I of England is reputed to have said that, with 10,000 such men, King James could have shaken any throne in Europe. O hae ye no heard o' the fause Sakelde? O hae ye no heard o' the keen Lord Scroope? How they hae ta'en bauld Kinmont Willie, On Haribee to hang him up? Had Willie had but twenty men, But twenty men as stout as he, Fause Sakelde would never the Kinmont ta'en, Wi' eight score in his company. They band his legs beneath the steed, They tied his hands behind his back. They guarded him, fivesome on either side, And they led him through the Liddel-rack. They led him through the Liddel-rack, And also through the Carlisle sands; They took him tae Carlisle Castle, To be at my Lord Scroope's commands. "My hands are tied, but my tongue is free, And whae will dare this deed avow? Or answer by the Border law? Or answer tae the bauld Buccleuch?" "Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver. There's never a Scot shall set thee free: Before ye cross my castle gate, I trow ye shall take farewell of me." Now word has gane tae the bauld keeper, In Branksome Ha', where that he lay, That Lord Scroope has ta'en the Kinmont Willie, Between the hours of night and day. And here detained him, Kinmont Willie, Against the truce of Border tide. And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch Is keeper on the Scottish side? "Had there been war between the lands, As well I wot that there is nane, I would slight Carlisle Castle high, Though it were built of marble stane." "I would set that castle in a lowe, And sloken it wi' English blood. There's never a man in Cumberland, What kent where Carlisle castle stood." "But since nae war's between the lands, And here is peace, and peace should be; I will neither harm English lad or lass, And yet the Kinmont shall be free." And as we crossed the Debatable land, And tae the English side we held, The first of men that we met wi', Whae should it be but fause Sakelde? "Where ye be gaun, ye broken men?" Quo' fause Sakelde; "Come tell to me?" Now Dickie o' Dryhope led that band, And there never a word of lear has he. And as we left the Staneshaw-bank, The wind began full loud tae blaw; But 'twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet, When we came beneath the castle wa'. They thought King James and a' his men Had won the house wi' bow and spear; It was but twenty Scots and ten, That put a thousand in sic a steir! And as we reached the lower prison, Where Kinmont Willie he did lie, "O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie, Upon the morn that thou's to die?" Then shoulder high, with shout and cry, We bore him doon the ladder lang; At every stride Red Rowan made, I wot the Kinmont's airns play'd clang! He turn'd him on the other side, And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he. "If ye na like my visit in merry England, In fair Scotland come and visit me!" All sair astonished stood Lord Scroope, He stood as still as rock of stane; He scarcely dared tae trew his eyes, When through the water they had gane. "He is either himsel' a devil frae hell, Or else his mother a witch maun be; I wadna hae ridden that wan water, For a' the gowd in Christendie." To Return to the Main Clan Page  To Return to my Home Page