A Borders Murder

This is again from Highways & Byways in Northumbria, showing how hard life was in the border country. This is The Death of Parcy Reed

[Reed] belonged to the family of Troughend a strong tower of which the massive foundations can yet be traced at a short distance from Troughened Hall. In Redesdale the Reeds ranked with the Hedleys, Fletchers and Spoors as next to the Halls, the most powerful family … He appears to have been a typical Borderer of his day a great hunter and fighter rude of speech ad contemptuous of religion and restraint, He was appointed Keeper of Redesdale an discharged that office with a fearless vigour that brought him into collision with some of his most powerful neighbours. He dared even to administer justice to one of a band of moss-troopers named crosier and he ballad is the story other revenge with the Halls as accomplices:

Now Parcy Reed has Crosier taken

He has delivered him to the law’

But Crosier says he’ll do war than that,

He’ll make the tower o’ Toughened fa’.

Party, unwitting that he has made them enemies, goes hunting with the “Three cause Ha’s o’ Girsonfield”:

They hunted high they hunted low,

By heathery hill and birken shaw;

They raised a buck on rookie Edge,

And blew the mort at fair Ealylawe.

At Batinghope, a high ad lonely glen under the shadow of Carter, when the sun was sinking low

Says Parcy then “Ca’ off the dogs,

We’ll bait our steeds ad homeward go.”

They alighted “atween the brow and bent ground” to do so and he mighty hunter was no soon er stretched on the sward than “Parcy Reed was sleeping sound”. Now the traitors had their chance:

They’ve shown the bridle off his steed

And they’ve put water inches lang gun;

They’ve fixed his sword within the sheath

That out again it wanna come.

This being accomplished they give the alarm and awaken h by the cry that “The five crosiers are coming owre the Hinginstane.” The stout Parcy laughs a the odds; if hey will engage three he will deal with two and make them either fight or flee. But they refuse:

“We many stands we canna stand

We dairrna stand along wi’ thee;

The Crosiers had thee at a feud,

And they wad kill faith thee and wee.”

In vain he beseeches the individually and he had scarcely time to cross himself “a prayer he hadna’ time to say”, tis the Crosiers keen were upon him

All riding graithed and in array,

HE felled the foremost to the ground with “his fankit sword.” but the others swarmed in and overcame him After many wounds

They hacked off his hands and feet

And left him lying on the lee.

Then after a few words o savage exultation they rode off in the direction of Liddesdale and

It was the hour o’ gloaming great,

When herds come in frae; fault and pen;

A herd he saw a huntsman lie

Says he “Can this be Laird Troughen?”

The ballad-mare had no thought of happy endings, and he balled ends with the last words of the dying man.

It is a horrible story only redeemed by the restrained strength and beauty of the ballad. The incident narrated des not stand out as exceptional. It could be paralleled by similar occurrences in various countries at an early stage of their civilisation.

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