Bold Dickie
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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This ballad is an American variant of Child Ballad #188 (Archie o Cawfield).

This ballad was communicated to Bishop Percy in 1780 and appeared in Scot's Minstrelsy in 1791.

According to one tradition Archie was Archibald Armstrong. Child relates the tune to Jock o the Side. In some of the variants the brothers are refered to as Halls, sometimes Jock, Archie and Dick. The Halls of Scotland were often complained of for stealing oxen and appear in the records of 1579. They occupied the area of Cafield, just west of Langholm in Wauchopedale.

The History of Dumfries tells of the feud between the Halls or Armstrongs and the Maxwells. There is a Dumfries ballad which relates a battle between the Maxwells and Johnstones. It began when the Maxwells took Johnstone's chief and confined him in jail. At night a band of Johnstones marched into Dumfries, surprised the jailers and rescued their manacled leader. Maxwells, hearing the alarm overtook them near the banks of the Locher. The river was flooded but they managed to cross in pursuit. However, the Johnstones doubled back and surprised them by appearing on the bank of the river the Maxwells had just left! So the "bloodthirsty warriors raged and shook their weapons at each other across the stream; but the flood rolled on as if in mockery of their threatenings, and the one part at length galloped off in triumph while the other was compelled to return in disgrace."*

Variants and alternate titles include: Archie of Cafield, The Three Brothers and Billie Archie. The ballad is related to The Escape of Old John Webb.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

As I walked out one morning in May,
Just before the break of day,
I heard three brothers making their moan,
I listen'd a while to what they did say.

'We have a brother in prison,' said they,
'Oh, in prison lieth he,
If we had ten men just like ourselves
The prisoner we should soon set free.'

'Oh, no, oh, no, Bold Dickie,' said he.
'No, no, no, that never could be;
For forty men is full little enough
And I for to ride in their companie.'

'Ten to hold the horses in,
Ten to guard the city about,
And ten for to stand at the prison door,
And ten to fetch poor Archer out.'

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so merrilie?
They rode till they came to a broad riverside
And there they alighted so manfullie.

They mounted their horses and so swam they,
Who but they so manfullie!
They swam till they came the the other side
And there they alighted so drippinglie.

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so gallantlie!
They rode till they came to that prison door
And there they alighted so manfullie.

'Poor Archer, poor Archer,' Bold Dickie says he,
'Oh, look you not so mournfullie
For I 've forty men in my companie
And I have come to set you free.'

'Oh, no, no, no,' poor Archer says he,
'Oh, no, oh, no, that never can be,
For I have forty weight of good Spanish iron
Betwixt my ankle and my knee.'

Bold Dickie broke lock,
Bold Dickie broke everything he could see.
He took poor Archer under one arm
And he carried him out so manfullie.

They mounted their horses and so rode they,
Who but they so merrilie!
They rode till they came to that broad river,
And there they alighted so manfullie.

"Bold Dickie, Bold Dickie," poor Archer says he,
"Take my love home to my wife and children three,
For my horse grows lame, he cannot swim,
And here I see that I must dee."

They shifted horses and so swam they,
Who but they so daringlie!
They swam till they came to the other side,
And there they alighted so shiveringlie.

'Bold Dickie, Bold Dickie,' poor Archer says he,
'Look you yonder there and see,
For the High Sheriff he is a-coming
With a hundred men in his companie.'

'Bold Dickie, Bold Dickie,' High Sheriff says he,
'You are the worst rascal that ever I see;
Go bring me back the iron you stole
And I will set the prisoner free.'

'Oh, no, no, no,' Bold Dickie says he,
'Oh, no, no, that never can be;
For the iron will do to shoe the horses
The blacksmith rides in our companie.'

'Bold Dickie, Bold Dickie,' High Sheriff says he,
'You are the worst scoundrel that I ever see.'
'I thank you for nothing,' Bold Dickie says he,
'And you are a big fool for following me.'

Additional Versions
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From Folk Songs of Old New England and
*The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.