Read THE LADS OF WAMPHRAY. of Minstrelsy of the Scottish border (3rd ed) (1 of 3), free online book, by Sir Walter Scott, on

The reader will find, prefixed to the foregoing ballad, an account of the noted feud betwixt the families of Maxwell and Johnstone.  The following song celebrates the skirmish, in 1593, betwixt the Johnstones and Crichtons, which led to the revival of the ancient quarrel betwixt Johnstone and Maxwell, and finally to the battle of Dryffe Sands, in which the latter lost his life.  Wamphray is the name of a parish in Annandale.  Lethenhall was the abode of Johnstone of Wamphray, and continued to be so till of late years.  William Johnstone of Wamphray, called the Galliard, was a noted freebooter.  A place, near the head of Tiviotdale, retains the name of the Galliard’s Faulds, (folds) being a valley where he used to secrete and divide his spoil, with his Liddesdale and Eskdale associates.  His nom de guerre seems to have been derived from the dance called The Galliard.  The word is still used in Scotland, to express an active, gay, dissipated character. Willie of the Kirkhill, nephew to the Galliard, and his avenger, was also a noted border robber.  Previous to the battle of Dryffe Sands, so often mentioned, tradition reports, that Maxwell had offered a ten-pound-land to any of his party, who should bring him the head or hand of the laird of Johnstone.  This being reported to his antagonist, he answered, he had not a ten-pound-land to offer, but would give a five-merk-land to the man who should that day cut off the head or hand of Lord Maxwell.  Willie of the Kirkhill, mounted upon a young gray horse, rushed upon the enemy, and earned the reward, by striking down their unfortunate chieftain, and cutting off his right hand.

Leverhay, Stefenbiggin, Girth-head, &c. are all situated in the parish of Wamphray.  The Biddes-burn, where the skirmish took place betwixt the Johnstones and their pursuers, is a rivulet which takes its course among the mountains on the confines of Nithesdale and Annandale.  The Wellpath is a pass by which the Johnstones were retreating to their fastnesses in Annandale.  Ricklaw-holm is a place upon the Evan water, which falls into the Annan, below Moffat.  Wamphray-gate was in these days an ale-house.  With these local explanations, it is hoped the following ballad will be easily understood.

From a pedigree in the appeal case of Sir James Johnstone of Westeraw, claiming the honours and titles of Annandale, it appears that the Johnstones of Wamphray were descended from James, sixth son of the sixth baron of Johnstone.  The male line became extinct in 1657.

  And Selden is a Galliard by himself. 
  And wel might be; there’s more divines in him. 
  Than in all this their Jewish Sanhedrim.

Skelton, in his railing poem against James IV., terms him Sir Skyr Galyard.]


  ’Twixt Girth-head and the Langwood end,
  Lived the Galliard, and the Galliard’s men;
  But and the lads of Leverhay,
  That drove the Crichtons’ gear away.

  It is the lads of Lethenha’,
  The greatest rogues amang them a’: 
  But and the lads of Stefenbiggin,
  They broke the house in at the rigging.

  The lads of Fingland, and Hellbeck-hill,
  They were never for good, but aye for ill;
  ’Twixt the Staywood-bush and Langside-hill,
  They stealed the broked cow and the branded bull.

  It is the lads of the Girth-head,
  The deil’s in them for pride and greed;
  For the Galliard, and the gay Galliard’s men,
  They ne’er saw a horse but they made it their ain.

  The Galliard to Nithside is gane,
  To steal Sim Crichton’s winsome dun;
  The Galliard is unto the stable gane,
  But instead of the dun, the blind he has ta’en.

  “Now Simmy, Simmy of the Side,
  Come out and see a Johnstone ride! 
  Here’s the bonniest horse in a’ Nithside,
  And a gentle Johnstone aboon his hide.”

  Simmy Crichton’s mounted then,
  And Crichtons has raised mony a ane;
  The Galliard trowed his horse had been wight,
  But the Crichtons beat him out o’ sight.

  As soon as the Galliard the Crichton saw,
  Behind the saugh-bush he did draw;
  And there the Crichtons the Galliard hae ta’en,
  And nane wi’ him but Willie alane.

  “O Simmy, Simmy, now let me gang,
  And I’ll nevir mair do a Crichton wrang
  O Simmy, Simmy, now let me be,
  And a peck o’ gowd I’ll give to thee!

  O Simmy, Simmy, now let me gang,
  And my wife shall heap it with her hand.” 
  But the Crichtons wad na let the Galliard be,
  But they hanged him hie upon a tree.

  O think then Willie he was right wae,
  When he saw his uncle guided sae;
  “But if ever I live Wamphray to see,
  My uncle’s death avenged shall be!”

  Back to Wamphray he is gane,
  And riders has raised mony a ane;
  Saying ­“My lads, if ye’ll be true,
  Ye shall a’ be clad in the noble blue.”

  Back to Nithisdale they have gane,
  And awa’ the Crichtons’ nowt hae ta’en;
  But when they cam to the Wellpath-head,
  The Crichtons bade them ’light and lead.

  And when they cam to the Biddes burn,
  The Crichtons bade them stand and turn;
  And when they cam to the Biddess strand,
  The Crichtons they were hard at hand.

  But when they cam to the Biddes law,
  The Johnstones bade them stand and draw;
  “We’ve done nae ill, we’ll thole nae wrang,
  “But back to Wamphray we will gang,”

  And out spoke Willy o’ the Kirkhill,
  “Of fighting, lads, ye’se hae your fill.” 
  And from his horse Willie he lap,
  And a burnished brand in his hand he gat.

  Out through the Crichtons Willie he ran,
  And dang them down baith horse and man;
  O but the Johnstones were wondrous rude,
  When the Biddes burn ran three days blood.

  “Now, Sirs, we have done a noble deed;
  “We have revenged the Galliard’s bleid: 
  “For every finger of the Galliard’s hand,
  “I vow this day I’ve killed a man.”

  As they cam in at Evan-head,
  At Ricklaw-holm they spread abread;
  “Drive on, my lads! it will be late;
  We’ll hae a pint at Wamphray gate.

  “For where’er I gang, or e’er I ride,
  The lads of Wamphray are on my side;
  And of a’ the lads that I do ken,
  A Wamphray lad’s the king of men.”