<b>Katherine Campbell: <i>Scots Songs and Ballads from Perthshire Tradition</i></b>
<b>Kath Campbell</b> (vocal) with <b>Tony McManus</b> (guitar)
<b>Katherine Campbell</b> sings ballads and songs from the unique family repertoire of sisters Amelia and Jane Harris who inherited a wealth of ballads and songs from a Perthshire family tradition dating back to the mid 1700s.
The collection includes well known ballads such as Mary Hamilton (Child 173), Captain Wedderburn (Child 46) and The Cruel Brother (Child 11) but many of the Harris ballads are rare and, in the case of several, this may well be their first recording.
The Armstrongs were a notable family in Liddesdale in the Scottish borders from the 14th century onwards. By the early 1500s they had become a powerful independent force. In the summer of 1530 King James the Fifth mounted an expedition to pacify his border country. It is probable that John Armstrong and his men were tricked into meeting the king with a promise of pardon, but instead, John and his band (who included other famous border names such as Scott and Elliot as well as Armstrong) were taken and hung, probably at Carlenrig north of Canonbie.
The ballad (Child 169) tells how the king writes a letter to John inviting him to pay him a visit in Edinburgh. Johnnie and his eight score of men dress in their finest and ride north to Edinburgh.
He dressed his merry men all in green,
And he himself in the scarlet red;
And every man had a milkwhite steed,
And hats and feathers all alike.
When John comes before the king he asks for pardon but is told that <i>‘tomorrow before I taste meat or drink, high hanged shall your eight score o men and you be.’</i> They fight courageously <i>till they left not a man in the king’s lifeguard, never a man but barely three.</i> Then <i>a cowardly man cam John behind, and run him through his fair body,</i> whereupon Johnnie calls on his men to <i>‘fight on, fight on my merry men, I am a little hurt but I am not slain, so here I’ll lie and bleed a while, and rise and fight with you again.’</i>
However, Johnnie and his men are defeated, a gallows is set up on the plain <i>‘and there they hanged Johnnie Armstrong and fifty of his warlike men.’</i> Back home, Johnnie’s lady is looking over her castle wall and sees <i>a bonnie little boy, coming riding speedily</i> and the boy gives the news that <i>‘Johnnie Armstrong you’ll never see.’</i> The last verse seems muddled, as it should not be the pretty little boy and his son who would <i>‘be the heir to a’ my lands’</i> but Johnnie’s own son, who lived to be known as Johnnie’s Christy. Child B finishes with:
O then bespoke his little son,
As he was set on his nurses knee:
‘If ever I live to be a man,
My fathers blood revenged shall be.’
This rather excellent Harris version of the ballad is now published for the first time in Emily Lyle’s Harris Repertoire. Although Child had access to the Harris text he seems to have mislaid the source of his copy and assumes (wrongly) that <i>‘it is probably a transcript from recent print’</i> (Child III, p 363). He adds that <i>‘both forms of the ballad</i> (his A, B as opposed to C) <i>had been too long printed to allow validity to any known recited copy.’</i> He then prints two verses from this copy and notes that <i>‘it diverges from the ordinary text more than any I have seen.’</i> Bronson includes the Harris tune (169.7) with just a single stanza.
This is a track from the album <b>atherine Campbell:</b> <a href="http://www.springthyme.co.uk/1041/" target="_self"><b>Scots Songs and Ballads from Perthshire Tradition</b></a>.
- Traditional Ballad