I've just recorded a version of Geordie. Love the song, and the mystery about its origins. Here's what I say in the liner notes:
GEORDIE is an English song about a disproportionate punishment for a crime which evolved from a Scottish song about a frame-up. The historical basis of the ballad is much disputed. Some suggest it is based on the life of George Gordon (1512-1562), fourth Earl of Huntly and son of Margaret Stewart, an "illegitimate" daughter of James IV. George Gordon was imprisoned in 1554 for failing to execute a commission against a Highland robber. He was threatened with death but was fined and freed. However, according to James Kinsley's second edition of *The Oxford Book of Ballads*, Geordie may have been the sixth Earl of Huntly who rose against James VI in 1589, was imprisoned as a traitor, and later freed. But a blackletter broadside (a 17th or early 18th century ballad sheet in Old English/Gothic type) names Geordie as George Stoole of Northumberland who was executed in 1610. Whatever the origin may be, the song has gone through the inevitable 'Chinese whispers' oral process to reach its current forms. Geordie is now found guilty of stealing either sixteen of the king's white steeds or sixteen of his wild, white, fat or royal deer or indeed the lord judge's deer or five pearls, he sold them either in Bohenny or in the army or in a hurry, and his true love has an alarming variation in the number of pretty babies that she has got, though she always has a bun in the oven.