Hughie Graham (1792) by Robert Burns
Hughie Graham is a ballad and dark tale written by Robert Burns set in Stirling (Scotland).
It's about a man (Hughie) who steals the bishops horse and is hung for it (typical folk song with a bad ending!). But reading through the lyrics, you will see that this is not a simple case of theft, but a tangled web. Hughie stole the horse for a very good reason - his wife had been seduced by the bishop. The song takes us through Hughie being caught, then being paraded through the town as he is taken to the gallows. Some people try to buy Hughie's freedom from the bishop. But the bishop is having none of it and wants Hughie to hang for his own honour.
Hughie then betroths his swords to his brothers, and tells his family (his kith and kin) that he has not disgraced them. That his wife is the bishops whore, and to murder the bishop next time they see him (when next they meet the bishops cloak, leave it shorter by the hood).
Below is a musical version of the poem, sung by folk legend June Tabor and underneath that is the song read by Gary Lewis.
I first came across this song about ten years ago and had no idea it was written by Robert Burns, but it's become a firm favourite in my Folk Music collection. I hope you like it.
Our lords are to the mountains gane,
A hunting o' the fallow deer;
And they hae gripet Hughie Graham
For stealin 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,
An wi' your pleading let me be;
Altho' ten Grahams were in his coat,
Its 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 blin' 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.
Remember me to Maggy my wife,
The niest time ye gang o'er the moor;
Tell her, she staw the bishop's mare,
Tell here, she was the bishop's whore.
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.