Introduction to
"The Death of Parcy Reed"
Border Ballad

The Reeds were an old Northumbrian family and in 1542 were mentioned as second in importance to the Halls. Parcy Reed was appointed as Keeper of Redesdale and in this official capacity he incurred the enmity of the Halls of nearby Girsonfield who, felt that one of their own should have received the appointment. The Crosiers of Liddesdale also had reason to harbor a grudge against Parcy Reed. The Crosiers were a riding clan that had carried their reiving activities across the border into Redesdale many times and one of their own had been captured by Parcy Reed. There are two versions of the ballad and version A of the ballad mentions the name of the unfortunate Crosier and what the Crosier clan's response was going to be:
The Liddesdale Crosiers hae ridden a race,
And they had far better staid at hame,
For they have lost a gallant gay,
Young Whinton Crosier it was his name.

For Parcy Reed he has hime ta'en,
And he's delivered him to law,
But auld Crosier has made answer
That he'll gar the house of Troughend fa'.

The three brother Halls of Girsonfield then plotted with the Crosiers to exact their revenge. The unsuspecting Parcy Reed invited the Halls to go hunting and at the end of the day, they rested and Parcy Reed fell asleep. While he was asleep, the Halls stole the harness from his horse, jammed his sword in the scabbard so that it could not be removed and poured water in his gun, thus dampening the powder. Five Crosiers then arrived and Parcy Reed was roused from his slumber. He felt he should confront the Crosiers and with the help of the Halls he felt he could take them. The Halls proceeded to back down and left Parcy Reed to face the Crosiers alone and defenseless. The Crosiers exacted their revenge by cruelly murdering Parcy Reed. Tradition has it that the body of Parcy Reed had to be collected in sheets and that the ghost of Parcy Reed still haunts the scene of his murder. Such was the local outrage against the treachery by the "fause hearted Ha's of Grisonfield", that they were driven from their residence.

As for the dating of the ballad, it is generally agreed on a date sometime in the 16th century. Various historical sources mention the existence of a Parcy Reed but there is no evidence of his death, so suspicions of forgery surround the ballad. But there is evidence that this tale has been a part of Redesdale folklore for a very long time and Francis James Child, a chronicler of English and Scottish ballads, was satisfied with it's origin and derivation.

There are two versions of this ballad. This version is version B and was from a recitation of an old woman of Northumberland by the name of Kitty Hall.

The Death of Parcy Reed

God send the land deliverance
Frae every reaving, riding Scot;
We'll sune hae neither cow nor ewe,
We'll sune hae neither staig nor stot.

The outlaws come frae Liddesdale,
They herry Redesdale far and near;
The rich man's gelding it maun gang,
They canna pass the puir man's mear.

Sure it were weel, had ilka thief
Around his nect a halter strang;
And curses heavy may they light
On traitors vile oursels amang!

Now Parcy Reed has Crosier ta'en,
He has deliverd him to the law;
But Crosier says he'll do waur than that,
He'll make the tower o' Troughend fa'.

And Crosier says he will do waur,
He will do waur if waur can be;
He'll make the bairns a' fatherless,
And then, the land it may lie lee.

'To the hunting, ho!' cried Parcy Reed,
'The morning sun is on the dew;
The cauler breeze frae off the fells
Will lead the dogs to the quarry true.

'To the hunting, ho!' cried Parcy Reed,
And to the hunting he has gane;
And the three fause Ha's o' Girsonfield
Alang wi' him he has them ta'en.

They hunted high, they hunted low,
By heathery hill and birken shaw;
They rasied a buck on Roken Edge,
And blew the mort at fair Ealylawe.

They hunted high, they hunted low,
They made the echoes ring amain;
With music sweet o' horn and hound,
They merry made fair Redesdale glen.

They hunted high, they hunted low,
The hunted up, they hunted down,
Until the day was past the prime,
And it grew late in the afternoon.

They hunted high in Batinghope,
When as the sun was sinking low;
Says Parcy then, 'Ca' off the dogs,
We'll bait our steeds and homeward go.'

They lighted high in Batinghope,
Atween the brown and benty ground;
They had but rested a little while
Till Parcy Reed was sleeping sound.

There's nane may lean on a rotten staff,
But him that risks to get a fa';
There's nane may in a traitor trust,
And traitors black were every Ha'.

They've stown the bridle off his steed,
And they've put water in his lang gun;
They've fixed his sword within the sheath
That out again it winna come.

'Awaken ye, waken ye, Parcy Reed,
Or by your enemies be ta'en;
For yonder are the five Crosiers
A-coming owre the Hingin-stane!'

'If they be five, and we be four,
Sae that ye stand alang wi' me,
Then every man ye will take one,
And only leave but two to me:
We will them meet as brave men ought,
And make them either fight or flee.'

'We mayna stand, we canna stand,
We daurna stand alang wi' thee;
The Crosiers haud thee at a feud,
And they wad kill baith thee and we.'

'O turn thee, turn thee, Johnie Ha',
O turn thee, man, and fight wi' me;
When ye come to Troughend again,
My gude black naig I will gie thee;
He cost full twenty pound o' gowd,
Atween my brother John and me.'

'I mayna turn, I canna turn,
I daurna turn and fight wi' thee;
The Crosiers haud thee at a feud,
And they wad kill baith thee and me.'

'O turn thee, turn thee, Willie Ha',
O turn thee, man, and fight wi' me;
When ye come to Troughend again,
A yoke o' owsen I'll gie thee.'

'I mayna turn, I canna turn,
I daurna turn and fight wi' thee;
The Crosiers haud thee at a feud,
And they wad kill baith thee and me.'

'O turn thee, turn thee, Tommy Ha',
O turn now, man, and fight wi' me;
If ever we come to Troughend again,
My daughter Jean I'll gie to thee.'

'I mayna turn, I canna turn,
I daurna turn and fight wi' thee;
The Crosiers haud thee at a feud,
And they wad kill baith thee and me.'

'O shame upon ye, traitors a'!
I wish your hames ye may never see;
Ye've stown the bridle off my naig,
And I can neither fight nor flee.

'Ye've stown the bridle off my naig,
And ye've put water i' my lang gun;
Ye've fixed my sword within the sheath
That out again it winna come.'

He had but time to cross himsel',
A prayer he hadna time to say,
Till round him came the Crosiers keen,
All riding graith'd and in array.

'Weel met, weel met, now Parcy Reed,
Thou art the very man we sought;
Owre lang hae we been in your debt,
Now will we pay you as we ought.

'We'll pay thee at the nearest tree,
Where we shall hang thee like a hound;'
Brave Parcy rais'd his fankit sword,
And fell'd the foremost to the ground.

Alake, and wae for Parcy Reed!
Alake, he was an unarmed man!
Four weapons pierced him all at once,
As they assail'd him there and than.

They fell upon him all at once,
They mangled him most cruellie,
The slightest wound might caused is deid,
And they hae gi'en him thirty-three;
They hackit off his hands and feet,
And left him lying on the lee.

'Now, Parcy Reed, we've paid our debt,
Ye canna weel dispute the tale,'
The Crosiers said, and off they rade
They rade the airt o' Liddesdale.

It was the hour o' gloaming gray,
When herds come in frae fauld and pen.
A herd he saw a huntsman lie,
Says he, 'Can this be Laird Troughen?'

'There's some will ca' me Parcy Reed,
And some will ca' me Laird Troughen;
It's little matter what they ca' me,
My faes hae made me ill to ken.

'There's some will ca' me Parcy Reed,
And speak my praise in tower and town;
It's little matter what they do now,
My life-blood rudds the heather brown.

'There's some will ca' me Parcy Reed,
And a' my virtues say and sing;
I would much rather have just now
A draught o' water frae the spring'

The herd flung off his clouted shoon
And to the nearest fountain ran;
He made his bonnet serve a cup,
And wan the blessing o' the dying man.

'Now, honest herd, ye maun do mair,
Ye maun do mair, as I you tell;
Ye maun bear tidings to Troughend,
And bear likewise my last farewell.

'A farewell to my wedded wife,
A farewell to my brother John,
Wha sits into the Troughend tower
Wi' heart as black as any stone.

'A farewell to my daughter Jean,
A farewell to my young sons five;
Had they been at their father's hand,
I had this night been man alive.

'A farewell to my followers a',
And a' my neighbors gude at need;
Bid them think how the treacherous Ha's
Betrayed the life o' Parcy Reed.

'The laird o' Clennel bears my bow,
The laird o' Brandon bears my brand;
When'er they ride i' the Border-side,
They'll mind the fate o' the laird Troughend.'

"The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", edited by Francis James Child
"The Illustrated Border Ballads: The Anglo-Scottish Frontier", by John Marsden
"The Border Reivers" by Godfrey Watson

Other Scottish Border Ballads

Information on these pages is courtesy of the Clan Hall Society. Special thanks to Dana Hall.


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