Popular Ballads of the Olden Time

The following is from Popular Ballads of the Olden Time: Third Series - Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance Selected and Edited by Frank Sidgwick:

The Fire of Frendraught

The Text is from Motherwell's Minstrelsy. He received the ballad from Charles Kirkpatrick Sharp. In Maidment's North Countrie Garland there is a similar version with a number of small verbal differences.

The Story--Frendraught in Aberdeenshire, and Rothiemay in Banffshire, lie on opposite sides of the Deveron, which separates the counties. A feud began (as the result of a dispute over fishing rights) between Crichton of Frendraught and Gordon of Rothiemay, and in a fight on the first day of the year 1630, Rothiemay and others were killed. Kinsmen of both parties were involved; and though the broil was temporarily settled, another soon sprang up. The Lord John of the ballad was Viscount Melgum, the second son of the Marquis of Huntly, who was appealed to as a peacemaker between the factions of Leslie and Crichton. Lord John and Rothiemay were sent by the Marquis to escort Frendraught to his home, a precaution rendered necessary by the knowledge that the Leslies were in ambuscade. Arrived at Frendraught, the laird and lady entreated the two young men to remain the night, and eventually prevailed on them to do so.

However (though it was long disputed whether the fire was an accident or not), it seems that the ancient grudge against Rothiemay moved Frendraught to sacrifice 'a great quantity of silver, both coined and uncoined,' in the firing of his house for the sake of burning Rothiemay.

Sophia Hay (25.1) was the daughter of the Earl of Erroll, and Viscount Melgum's wife. The last two lines of the ballad are not easily explained, as the lady is recorded to have been deeply attached to her husband; but it is possible that they have been inserted from a similar stanza in some other ballad.

The eighteenth of October,
  A dismal tale to hear
How good Lord John and Rothiemay
  Was both burnt in the fire.

When steeds was saddled and well bridled,
  And ready for to ride,
Then out it came her false Frendraught,
  Inviting them to bide.

Said, 'Stay this night untill we sup,
  The morn untill we dine;
'Twill be a token of good 'greement
  'Twixt your good Lord and mine.'

'We'll turn again,' said good Lord John;
  'But no,' said Rothiemay,
'My steed's trapan'd, my bridle's broken,
  I fear the day I'm fey.'

When mass was sung, and bells was rung,
  And all men bound for bed,
Then good Lord John and Rothiemay
  In one chamber was laid.

They had not long cast off their cloaths,
  And were but now asleep,
When the weary smoke began to rise,
  Likewise the scorching heat.

'O waken, waken, Rothiemay!
  O waken, brother dear!
And turn you to our Saviour;
  There is strong treason here.'

When they were dressed in their cloaths,
  And ready for to boun,
The doors and windows was all secured,
  The roof-tree burning down.

He did him to the wire-window
  As fast as he could gang;
Says 'Wae to the hands put in the stancheons!
  For out we'll never win.'

When he stood at the wire-window,
  Most doleful to be seen,
He did espy her Lady Frendraught,
  Who stood upon the green.

Cried 'Mercy, mercy, Lady Frendraught,
  Will ye not sink with sin?
For first your husband killed my father,
  And now you burn his son.'

O then out spoke her Lady Frendraught,
  And loudly did she cry;
'It were great pity for good Lord John,
  But none for Rothiemay;
But the keys are casten in the deep draw well,
  Ye cannot get away.'

While he stood in this dreadful plight,
  Most piteous to be seen,
There called out his servant Gordon,
  As he had frantic been.

'O loup, O loup, my dear master!
  O loup and come to me!
I'll catch you in my arms two,
  One foot I will not flee.

'O loup, O loup, my dear master!
  O loup and come away!
I'll catch you in my arms two,
  But Rothiemay may lie.'

'The fish shall never swim in the flood,
  Nor corn grow through the clay,
Nor the fiercest fire that was ever kindled
  Twin me and Rothiemay.                  ['twin,' part]

'But I cannot loup, I cannot come,
  I cannot win to thee;
My head's fast in the wire-window,
  My feet burning from me.

'My eyes are seething in my head,
  My flesh roasting also,
My bowels are boiling with my blood;
  Is not that a woeful woe?

'Take here the rings from my white fingers,
  That are so long and small,
And give them to my lady fair,
  Where she sits in her hall.

'So I cannot loup, I cannot come,
  I cannot loup to thee;
My earthly part is all consumed,
  My spirit but speaks to thee.'

Wringing her hands, tearing her hair,
  His lady she was seen,
And thus addressed his servant Gordon,
  Where he stood on the green.

'O wae be to you, George Gordon!
  An ill death may you die!
So safe and sound as you stand there
  And my lord bereaved from me.'

'I bad him loup, I bad him come,
  I bad him loup to me;
I'd catch him in my arms two,
  A foot I should not flee.

'He threw me the rings from his white fingers,
  Which were so long and small,
To give to you, his lady fair,
  Where you sat in your hall.'

Sophia Hay, Sophia Hay,
  O bonny Sophia was her name,
Her waiting-maid put on her cloaths,
  But I wot she tore them off again.

And aft she cried, 'Ohon! alas! alas!
  A sair heart's ill to win;
I wan a sair heart when I married him,
  And the day it's well return'd again.'


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