The Border Widow's Lament
Fragment of a longer ballad The Famous Flower of Serving Men, in which she dresses as a man, becomes a servant to the king and eventually marries the king.
from Smith's Scottish Minstrelsy 1820
Tune from The Scottish Folksinger, Buchan and Hall
In the Scottish Borders this song is traditionally considered to be about a real couple called Pearce and Marjory Cockburn, who lived at Henderland Castle. According to the tradition Pearce Cockburn was hanged outside his own castle for stealing the King of Scots' deer, while his soon-to-be-widow sat by a nearby waterfall called the Dowie [=black] Linn, so that the rushing of the water would drown out the sound of her husband's death.
Pearce and Marjory Cockburn are real historical figures, and are buried in a box-tomb in the woods at Henderland, south of Traquair near St Mary's Loch: though their "castle" was only a peel-tower, and historical evidence suggests that in fact Pearce was taken away and executed elsewhere.
Henderland is now a sheep-farm: the Mitchells of Henderland have been tenants there for over a century. One of the Mitchells of Henderland, Dr Caroline Mitchell, happens to be both my second-oldest friend and the consultant in charge of the psychiatric ward at Hairmyres Hospital, to which Eric Cullen was admitted in autumn 1993 - though he wasn't actually her patient.
This copy of the text of this song, plus score, is from website Digital Tradition