Hughie Graham
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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This ballad is given in Ritson's Ancient Songs (1790) and appears in the Roxburghe Ballads (Volume II). The air is Drumion Dubh which was added to and altered by Robert Burns, who probably added some of the verses.

In 1592 the Grahams were one of the greatest of the clans on the English-Scottish border. Child states that the legend behind the tune is that Robert Aldridge, Bishop of Carlisle, seduced Hugh Graham's wife. In revenge Graham staged a raid and stole the bishop's horse. He was pursued by the Warden of Carlisle, John Scroope and was caught near Solway Moss. He was taken to Carlisle and convicted. Despite many pleas for clemency the sentence was carried out, and the last obstacle to the Bishop's pleasure was removed.

Child has seven versions of the ballad. One version has the additional verse (added before the last):

    Remember me to Maggy my wife,
    The niest time ye gan o'er the moor;
    Tell her, she staw the bishop's mare,
    Tell her, she was the bishop's whore.

The incident may have occurred shortly after Mary Stuart went to France (1548). Although Hugh does not appear among the first names of the Grahams of that time, Robert Aldridge was the bishop of Carlisle from 1537 to 1555 and Lord Scroope held the office of English warden of the West Marches in 1542. Another Lord Scroope (of Bolton) held the office from 1563 to 1593.

This ballad is Child Ballad #191.

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

Our lords are to the mountains gane,
A hunting o' the fallow deer;
And they hae gripet Hughie Graham
For stealing o' the bishop's mare.

And they hae tied him hand and foot,
And led him up thro' Stirling town;
The lads and lasses met him there,
Cried, Hughie Graham thou art a loun.

O lowse my right hand free, he says,
And put my braid sword in the same;
He's no in Stirling town this day,
Daur tell the tale to Hughie Graham.

Up then bespake the brave Whitefoord,
As he sat by the bishop's knee;
Five hundred white stots I'll gie you,
If ye'll let Hughie Graham gae free.

O haud your tongue, the bishop says,
And wi' your pleading let me be;
For tho' ten Grahams were in his coat,
Hughie Graham this day shall die.

Up then bespake the fair Whitefoord,
As she sat by the bishop's knee;
Five hundred white pence I'll gie you,
If ye'll gie Hughie Graham to me.

O haud your tongue now lady fair,
And wi' your pleading let me be;
Although ten Grahams were in his coat,
It's for my honor he maun die.

They've taen him to the gallows knowe,
He looked to the gallows tree,
Yet never color left his cheek,
Nor ever did he blink his e'e.

At length he looked round about,
To see whatever he could spy;
And there he saw his auld father,
And he was weeping bitterly.

O haud your tongue, my father dear,
And wi' your weeping let it be;
Thy weeping's sairer on my heart,
Than a' that they can do to me.

And ye may gie my brother John
My sword that's bent in the middle clear,
And let him come at twelve o'clock
And see me pay the bishop's mare.

And ye may gie my brother James
My sword that's bent in the middle brown;
And bid him come at four o'clock,
And see his brother Hugh cut down.

And ye may tell my kith and kin,
I never did disgrace their blood;
And when they meet the bishop's cloak,
To mak' it shorter by the hood.
Related Links
From Songs of Scotland
The Royal Edition, Volume II and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.