Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border With the publication of Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border in 1802, which went on to be published and translated around the world, the Borders became revered as a heartland for historical and romantic ballads.

Some of our most famous ballads first appeared in the Minstrelsy, including The Wife of Usher's Well, Clerk Saunders and The Dowie Dens of Yarrow, although not all of them originated from the Borders, particularly those appearing in Scott's later editions, which he continued to revise and expand until his death. 

However, ballads such as Jock o the SideJohnie Armstrang and Kinmont Willie are awash with border settings and characters, setting the backdrop for romantic scenes of reivers, battles and warring families in the borderlands.

Here Kathy Hobkirk sings a version of The Lament for the Border Widow, as Scott wrote, "said to relate to the execution of Cockburne of Henderland, a Border freebooter, hanged over the gate of his own tower, by James V, in the course of that memorable expedition in 1529, which was fatal to Johnie Armstrang, Adam Scott of Tushielaw, and many other marauders": 


The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg (1770-1835), made his own contribution to the Borders' canon, with, amongst others, Lock the Door, Lariston, and the Hawick song Teribus, although he became better known for his Jacobite material. Lori Watson sings Hogg's When Maggy Gangs Away, published in  his 1831 Songs by the Ettrick Shepherd: 


Willie Scott (1897-1989) of Canonbie was one of the major tradition bearers recorded for the School of Scottish Studies. A shepherd in Liddesdale, his repertoire is featured in the book Herd Laddie o the Glen, complied by Alison McMorland. Here Willie sings The Shepherd's Song, from the album of the same name, CDTRAX9054, courtesy of Greentrax Recordings:


More Hawick song resources are available from the Hawick Callants Club website.

The Auld Woman o Kelso is a Borders version of the widespread song Marrowbones, in which a woman tries to get rid of her husband in dubious circumstances, but through her own scheming ends up drowning herself in a river. The version here is sung by Lucy Pringle and Chris Wright, from their CD The Speaking Heart, used by kind permission of Mondegreen Music.