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Origins: Where is Braidislee/Brady's Lea/etc.?

Levana Taylor 11 Oct 21 - 11:21 AM
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Subject: Origins: Where is Braidislee/Brady's Lea/etc.?
From: Levana Taylor
Date: 11 Oct 21 - 11:21 AM

"Johnie Cock"/"Johnny o Braidislee" is a splendidly dramatic ballad that seems to be set in a location all its own. The only discussion of the song's geography I have found is that by F. J. Child, as follows:

The hero's name is Johnny Cock, B 2, C 1; Johny Cox, Rev. Mr. Boyd; John o Cockis (Johny Cockis?), H 17; Johny o Cockley's Well, A 14; o Cockerslee, D 14; of Cockielaw, in one of the versions used by Scott for F; o Cocklesmuir, E 13, H 15. Again, Johnie Brad, G 1, L; Johnie o Breadislee, F 14; Braidislee, J 2.

The hunting-ground, or the place where Johnie is discovered, is up in Braidhouplee, down in Bradyslee, A 6, high up in Bradyslee, low down in Bradyslee, A 12; Braidscaur Hill, D 6, Braidisbanks, D 12, I 1; Bride's Braidmuir, H 2, 5; Broadspear Hill, B 2, 5; Durrisdeer only in F 4. The seven foresters are of Pickeram Side, A 3, 19; of Hislinton, F 9. B 11 reads, Fifteen foresters in the braid alow; which seems to require emendation, perhaps simply to Braid alow, perhaps to Braidislee.

With regard to the localities in A, Percy notes that Pickeram Side is in Northumbria, and that there is a Cockley Tower in Erringside, near Brady's Cragg, and a Brady's Cragg near Chollerford Bridge. There is a Cockley, alias Cocklaw, in Erringside, near Chollerton, in the south division of Tynedale Ward, parish of St. John Lee. The Erring is a small stream which enters the Tyne between Chollerton and Chollerford. Again, Cocklaw Walls appears in the map of the Ordnance Survey, a little to the north and east of Cockley in Erringside, and Cocklaw Walls may represent the Cockley's Well of the ballad. (Percy notes that Cockley's Well is said to be near Bewcastle, Cumberland.) I have not found Brady's Cragg or Pickeram Side in the Ordnance Survey maps, nor indeed any of the compounds of Braidy or Braid anywhere.

There is a Braid a little to the south of Edinburgh, Braid Hills and Braid Burn; and Motherwell, Minstrelsy, p. 17, says that there is tradition for this region having been the hunting-ground.

Scott's copy, F, lays the scene in Dumfriesshire. "It is sometimes said that this outlaw possessed the old Castle of Morton in Dumfriesshire, now ruinous... The mention of Durisdeer, a neighboring parish, adds weight to the tradition." Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 1833, III, 114 f. Mr. W. Benuet, writing in 1826 in The Dumfries Monthly Magazine, III, 250, of which he was editor, speaks of a field a little to the southwest of Lochmaben as still showing the trace of a circular tower, which was "called Cockiesfield, from one John Cock, or O'Cock, who had there his residence, and who during his lifetime was one of the most renowned freebooters in Annandale." Mr. Macmath, who pointed out the passage to me, observes that in Thomson's map of Dumfriesshire, 1828, the name is given "Cocketfield," and that there is also a Cocket Hill.

In sum, all the geographic links suggested at that time were more or less uncertain and weak. Has there been any more research since? It'd be interesting to create some sort of visual representation of the hypothetical location of the different versions on a map.

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