Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk
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The History of the Royal Burgh of Selkirk

The Battle of Flodden

The Departure and Return


Frae every cleuch and clan
The best o' the braid Border
Rose like a single man
To meet the royal order.
Our Burgh toun itsel'
Sent its seventy doon the glen;
Ask Fletcher how they fell,
Bravely fechting, ane to ten!
O Flodden Field!

Round about their gallant King,
For countrie and for croon,
Stude the dauntless Border ring
Till the last was hackit doon,
I blame na what has been -
They maun fa' that canna flee -
But oh! To see what I hae seen,
To see what now I see!
O Flodden Field!

J B Selkirk

Common Riding.
An early common riding. (Enlarge)

Selkirk's connection with Flodden (1513), her ready response to the call of the King, the brave bearing of her representatives on the fatal field, and the tragic return of the sole survivor, provide the Royal Burgh with its proudest memories. "The Flowers of the Forest" is, in spite of its sadness, the song dearest to the hearts of her citizens, and few of her sons and daughters can pass the statue of Fletcher without a throb of pride as sharers in the old tradition of her loyalty and courage.

Here follows a text of the Flodden Episode acted out by townspeople during the Selkirk Pageant in June, 1935.

'A fair is being held in the Market Place. A gay crowd wanders in and out among the booths, buying here and there, and disputing good humouredly over prices. Children romp and play. Some gypsies from a neighbouring encampment join the scene, but are evidently unacceptable to the townspeople and are attacked and driven away.

A messenger arrives and reads the proclamation from the King, summoning an armed troop to join him at Flodden. The crowd receives the summons with excitement, and the children cease playing and cling to their mothers. The messenger departs. The crowd discusses the proclamation and then disperses homewards.

A bell tolls. The crowd returns and presses forward to greet the entry of the troop of Burghers and the men of the district, fully armed and equipped. The band is made up of horsemen, pikemen on foot, and bowmen. They halt in the Market Place, and men, women and children press forward to say farewell. There is some cheering, but wives and mothers are distressed, and the old men group sadly about the warriors.

The little troop moves of briskly, followed for a short distance by the crowd, which then disperses.

The crowd gathers, standing in anxious groups and asking one another for news of the battle. A watchman is constantly consulted, but has nothing to tell.

At last there is a swift movement in the crowd, and all look southward to see a worn and weary horseman approaching on jaded steed. Slowly he rides down the green slope. He passes a woman lying as if in a faint under a tree: she is clasping her baby to her breast. Fletcher dismounts and bends over her. He then rises and leading his horse walks slowly and dejected towards the town.

Battle of Flodden.
Fletcher, after the Battle of Flodden (Enlarge)

As he approaches the people he beckons and two women come forward. He informs them of the distress of the woman lying under the tree. They hurry away to aid her.

The townspeople crowd forward to greet him, reading his downcast mien the tragedy of Flodden. He displays his banner, waving it once or twice round his head, and then throwing it on to the ground. His horse is led away, and the men and women press round him to hear his tale.

A wail is heard from the women, and the "Flowers of the Forest" is sung.

Slowly and sadly the crowd disperses to the strains of the Deathless Lament.

The Flowers o' the Forest

"I've heard them lilting at the ewe-milking,
Lasses a' lilting before the dawn of day:
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning:
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away.

"At bughts in the morning nae blythe lads are scorning;
Lasses are lonely and dowie and wae;
Nae daffing, nae gabbing, but sighing and sabbing;
Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.

"In har'st at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
Bandsters are runkled and lyart are grey;
At fair or at preaching nae wooing, nae fleeching,
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away.

"At e'en in the gloaming nae younkers are roaming
'Bout stacks, wi' the lasses at bogle to play;
But ilk maid sits eerie, lamenting her deary, -
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away.

"Dool and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border!
The English for ance by guile wan the day;
The Flowers o' the Forest, that fought aye the foremost, -
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away.

"We'll hear nae mair lilting at the ewe-milking,
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning,
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away."

Next: The Royal Burgh Charter


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