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Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide

16 Jan 02 - 11:28 PM (#629447)
Subject: Otterburn
From: GUEST,guest

does anyone know where I might find a recording of the song 'the battle of otterburn'? I heard the late Tony Cuffe sing it, and would like to learn it, but I can't get the tune from the 'click to play' button (never can).

thank you!

17 Jan 02 - 04:13 AM (#629548)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: Stewie

I do not have it, but there is a recording of it on the following Fellside CD:

FYRE & SWORDE: SONGS OF THE BORDER REIVERS with Linda Adams, Ross Kennedy, Graham Pirt, Maddy Prior, Janet Russell and John Wright CD...FELL-CD131.

The track listing is:

Border Spirit/Lock the Door Lariston; Kinmont Willie; The Dowie Dens Of Yarrow; The Death Of Parcy Reed; Dacre's Gone To The War; The Twa Corbies; The Foray; Sleep My Babe; Hughie The Graeme; Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight; The Battle Of Otterburn; Lament Of The Border Widow; The Raiders; Peace On The Border.


17 Jan 02 - 01:29 PM (#629732)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: GUEST,Phil A

I got it from KaZaA - Kate Tickell. Please respect the copyright, OK? You can find ther poem here:

17 Jan 02 - 01:29 PM (#629733)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: Mrrzy

Now, I've heard of rugburn, but this sounds awful!

17 Jan 02 - 01:39 PM (#629739)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: MMario

Phil? Are we talking about the traditional (out of copyright) Battle of Otterburn? One of the Child Ballads?

17 Jan 02 - 01:47 PM (#629742)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: MMario


notation for both tunes can be found at The Digital Tradition Mirror

17 Jan 02 - 01:49 PM (#629745)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: GUEST,PhilA

MMario: I'm just saying Kate Tickell's rendition is copyright. (I think) it's OK to download it for personal use (e.g. learning the tune) Once you know how to play it, please do so with gusto!

I have a web site that contains lots of Northumbrian folk tales, tunes, lore etc. but I don't think the tune is anything to do with the poem about the famous battle once fought there. I may be wrong, I often am ... ;o)

17 Jan 02 - 04:48 PM (#629920)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: rea

i meant the trad. tune (sorry posted as guest, just got back to school, expired cookies). Thanks, folks! and any more taps/cds/site with the trad tune would be great - esp b/c cds/tapes means extra songs!


17 Jan 02 - 07:23 PM (#630044)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: Susanne (skw)

The song can be found on Tony Cuffe's CD 'When First I Went to Caledonia' as well as on Alex Campbell's 'Traditional Ballads of Scotland' (my favourite version, occasionally available from second-hand shops). A short version was recorded by The Corries on 'The Dawning of the Day' under the title 'The Lammas Tide'.

18 Jan 02 - 05:00 AM (#630303)
Subject: RE: Tune Req: Otterburn
From: Wolfgang

Two older recordings (LPs):

Ballads from the Scottish wars (Folkways)
McKenna Borthers life at O'Donoghues


24 May 13 - 06:01 PM (#3518960)
Subject: RE: Chords/Tune Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: Joe Offer

Somebody asked me for chords to the Corries version of this, which they call "Lammas Tide." Can anybody help?

Here's a YouTube video of the Corries recording: YouTube Video

I take it the Corries version must be a condensation of the lyrics that are in the Digital Tradition:


It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
Into England, to drive a prey.

He chose the Gordons and the Graemes,
With them the Lindesays, light and gay;
But the Jardines wald not with him ride,
And they rue it to this day.

And he has burned the dales of Tyne,
And part of Bambrough shire,
And three good towers on Reidswire fells,
He left them all on fire.

And he marched up to Newcastle,
And rode it round about:
"O wha's the lord of this castle?
Or wha's the lady o't?"

But up spake proud Lord Percy then,
And O but he spake hie!
I am the lord of this castle,
My wife's the lady gay.

"If thou'rt the lord of this castle,
Sae weel it pleases me,
For, ere I cross the Border fells,
The tane of us shall die."

He took a lang spear in his hand,
Shod with the metal free,
And for to meet the Douglas there
He rode right furiouslie.

But O how pale his lady looked,
Frae aff the castle-wa,
When down before the Scottish spear
She saw proud Percy fa.

"Had we twa been upon the green,
And never an eye to see,
I wad hae had you, flesh and fell;
But your sword sall gae wi me."

The Otterbourne's a bonnie burn;
'Tis pleasant there to be;
But there is nought at Otterbourne
To feed my men and me.

"The deer rins wild on hill and dale,
The birds fly wild frae tree to tree;
But there is neither bread nor kale
To fend my men and me."

"Yet I will stay at Otterbourne,
Where you shall welcome be;
And, if ye come not at three dayis end,
A fause lord I'll ca thee."

"Thither will I come," proud Percy said,
"By the might of Our Ladye;"
"There will I bide thee." said the Douglas,
"My troth I plight to thee."

They lighted high on Otterbourne,
Upon the bent sae brown;
They lighted high on Otterboune,
And threw their pallions down.

And he that had a bonnie boy
Sent out his horse to grass;
And he that had not a bonnie boy
His ain servant he was.

But up then spake a little page,
Before the peep of dawn:
"O waken ye, waken ye, my good lord,
For Percy's hard at hand."

"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liar loud!
Sae loud I hear ye lie:
For Percy had not men yestreen
To dight my men and me."

"But I have dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."

He belted on his guid braid sword,
And to the field he ran,
But he forgot the helmet good,
That should have kept his brain.

When Percy with the Douglas met,
I wat he was fu fain;
They swakked their swords, till sair they swat
And the blood ran down like rain.

But Percy with his good broad sword,
That could so sharply wound,
Has wounded Douglas on the brow,
Till he fell to the ground.

Then he call'd on his little foot-page,
And said, "Run speedilie,
And fetch my ain dear sister's son,
Sir Hugh Montgomery."

"My nephew good," the Douglas said,
"What recks the death of ane!
Last night I dreamed a dreary dream,
And I ken the day's thy ain."

"My wound is deep; I fain would sleep;
Take thou the vanguard of the three,
And hide me by the braken-bush,
That grows on yonder lilye lee."

"O bury me by the braken-bush,
Beneath the blooming brier;
Let never a living mortal ken
That ere a kindly Scot lies here."

He lifted up that noble lord,
Wi the saut tear in his ee;
He hid him in the braken-bush,
That his merrie men might not see.

The moon was clear, the day drew near,
The spears in flinders flew,
But mony a gallant Englishman
Ere day the Scotsmen slew.

The Gordons good, in English blood
They steepd their hose and shoon;
The Lindsays flew like fire about,
Till all the fray was done.

The Percy and Montgomery met,
That either of other were fain ;
They swapped* swords, and they twa swat,
And aye the blood ran down between.

"Now yield thee, yield thee, Percy," he said,
"Or else I vow I'll lay thee low!"
"To whom must I yield," quoth Earl Percy,
"Now that I see it must be so?"

"Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loun,"
Nor shalt thou yield to me;
But yield to the braken-bush,
That grows upon yon lilye lee. "

"I will not yield to a braken-bush,
Nor yet will I yield to a brier;
But I would yield to Earl Douglas,
Or Sir Hugh Montgomery, if he were here."

As soon as he knew it was Montgomery,
He struck his sword's point in the gronde;
The Montgomery was a courteous knight,
And quickly took him by the honde.

This deed was done at the Otterbourne,
About the breaking of the day;
Earl Douglas was buried at the braken-bush,
And the Percy led captive away.

Child #161
@Scottish @battle @border
filename[ OTTRBURN

Here is the Traditional Ballad Index entry for this song:

    Battle of Otterburn, The [Child 161]

    DESCRIPTION: As armies under Earls Douglas of Scotland and Percy (aka Hotspur) of Northumberland battle, the dying Douglas asks Montgomery to conceal his corpse under a bush. Percy refuses to surrender to the bush but does yield to Montgomery
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: c. 1550
    KEYWORDS: battle borderballad death nobility
    1388 - Battle of Otterburn. Scots under Douglas attack England. Although Douglas is killed in the battle, the Scots defeat the English and capture their commander Harry "Hotspur" Percy
    FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
    REFERENCES (11 citations):
    Child 161, "The Battle of Otterburn" (5 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
    Bronson 161, "The Battle of Otterburn" (2 versions)
    Percy/Wheatley I, pp. 35-51+notes on pp. 53-54, "The Battle of Otterbourne" (1 text)
    Bell-Combined, pp. 92-103, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text)
    Leach, pp. 436-446, "The Battle of Otterburn" (2 texts)
    Leach-Heritage, pp. 63-72, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text)
    OBB 127, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text)
    Gummere, pp. 94-104+323-325, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text)
    HarvClass-EP1, pp. 88-93, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text)
    DT 161, OTTRBURN*
    ADDITIONAL: Michael Brander, _Scottish and Border Battles and Ballads_, 1975 (page references to the 1993 Barnes & Noble edition), pp. 43-47, "The Battle of Otterburn" (1 text, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #1, #2}

    Roud #3293
    cf. "The Hunting of the Cheviot" (subject)
    NOTES: Needless to say, despite texts such as Child's "A" and "C," it was not Harry "Hotspur" Percy who killed Douglas at Otterburn. It is likely that Douglas's raid would not have been so successful had not the English been divided; as often happened, the Percies of Northumberland were feuding with the other great border family, the Nevilles (of Raby and Westmoreland).
    Scottish sources are not really clear what was happening here. Stephen Boardman, in The Early Stewart Kings, notes that the Scots and French were creating a semi-coordinated attack on the English, with the inept government of Richard II not really able to do much about it (John of Gaunt had recently conducted a very damaging raid on Scotland, but the war in France was going badly).
    It appears that the Scots sent down two armies, one into Cumbria toward Carlisle and one toward Northumberland.
    It has been theorized that the two Scottish armies were supposed to meet for an attack on Carlisle. But Douglas decided to go his own way. Without Douglas's troops, the western army ended up turning back. Possible, but hard to prove. For that matter, it might have been the other way: The western army might have been intended to turn east; Boardman argues that all our Scottish sources are biased by a political quarrel in Scotland between pro- and anti-Douglas factions.
    Indeed, the death of Douglas almost certainly caused Scotland more harm than his victory gained them; apart from pushing Richard II of England to try harder to defeat them, the Earl had no son, and the quarrels over the Douglas succession led to many political difficulties.
    Sir Philip Sidney, in his Apologie for Poetrie of 1595, write, "I neuer heard the olde song of Percy and Duglas (sic.), that I found mot my heart mooued more then with a Trumpet." It is not possible, however, to tell whether this is a reference to "The Battle of Otterburn" [Child 161] or "The Hunting of the Cheviot" [Child 162]. - RBW
    Last updated in version 3.0
    File: C161

    Go to the Ballad Search form
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    Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2013 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


24 May 13 - 09:56 PM (#3519021)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: Jim I

It's been a while since I sang this accompanied but something like the chord version below would work.

This version is, I believe, an 8 line verse rather than 4, as below.

(D)It fell about the (G)Lammas (D)tide,
When the muir-men (A7)win their (D)hay,
The doughty Douglas (G)bound him to (D)ride
Into England, to (G)drive a (A7)prey.
He (D)chose the Gordons (G)and the (D)Graemes,
The Lindesays, (G)light and (A7)gay;
But the (D)Jardines wadnae (G)wi' him (D)ride,
And they rue it (A7)to this (D)day.

25 May 13 - 05:42 AM (#3519082)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: Jim Carroll

"I'm just saying Kate Tickell's rendition is copyright."
Isn't it lucky that copyright laws weren't around when the ballad first entered the tradition - probably wouldn't have made it past the first month.
Jim Carroll

25 May 13 - 07:34 AM (#3519111)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes

The chords as given in the Corries songbook are more or less as per Jim's, but down a fifth in G. I don't remember it being that low, so I suspect they capoed it back up.

Their version is just the first eight verses which hangs together pretty well.

(G)It fell about the (C)Lammas (G)tide,
When the muir-men (D7)whin their (G)hay,
The doughty (Em)Douglas (C)bound him to (G)ride
Into England, to drive a (D7)prey.
He (G)chose the (Em)Gordons (C)and the (G)Graemes,
The Lindesays, light and (D7)gay;
But the (G)Jardines wadnae (C)wi' him (G)ride,
And they rue it (D7)to this (G)day.

31 May 13 - 05:50 AM (#3521013)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: Doodlepip

Thanks to Joe for posting my request for chords and thank you Rev Bayes and JimI for supplying them.

20 Aug 13 - 04:01 AM (#3550942)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn

The Corries usually palyed it in C#...

20 Aug 13 - 05:18 AM (#3550954)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

They certainly aren't playing it in G but the Corries songbook gives the chords used are as Rev Bayes says so he's right it was probably just capoed to suit the voice. Thought it'd be easier just to go up a half tone and play it in the easy D key. Key of G suits me best anyway :-)

05 Nov 13 - 09:11 PM (#3573186)
Subject: RE: Chords Req: The Battle of Otterburn
From: Joe Offer

My friend Martha and I are exploring versions of this intriguing song. Martha likes a recording by young Calum Sinclair. I like it, and I think it sounds very much like the Corries recording. I think the Corries recording has influenced most subsequent recordings. While I like it, I'm not convinced that the Corries recording is authentic - it sounds too damn much like every other Clancy Brothers and Corries song. I really like this recording by Tony Cuffe. While it seems modern, I think it's much closer to what must have been the original. Then Martha found this recording from a woman who calls herself "Katrina of Coventry." The name and style make me think Katrina is a filker or RenFair freak, but I have to admit I like her interpretation (with reservations) - but I still like Tony Cuffe's better. I think Katrina has a fabulous voice, and could do a lot better with training.
I found a recording on Spotify by Graham Pirt. Although I think Graham is a wonderful person, it pains me to have to admit that I don't like his rendition of this song.

Any comments, suggestions?


Hint: to find this song on Spotify, look for Otterburn, Battle of Otterburn, and Lammas Tide. Good stuff to be found there - plus some surprises.

Here's an index of recordings of this song, from

Child Ballad 161: The Battle of Otterburn
Child Artist Title Album Year Length Have
161 Alex Campbell The Battle of Otterbourne Traditional Ballads of Scotland 1977 7:15 Yes
161 Archie Fisher Otterburn (The Battle of Otterburn) The English and Scottish Popular Ballads - Digital Child Companion CD 2003 7:48 Yes
161 Colleen Raney Otterburn Lark 2011 4:11 Yes
161 Gaberlunzie Otterburn Brave Words 'N' Fightin' Talk 1969
161 Graham Pirt The Battle of Otterburn Fyre and Sworde - Songs of the Border Reivers 2000 5:56 Yes
161 June Tabor The Battle of Otterburn An Echo of Hooves 2003 5:54 Yes
161 Katrina of Coventry The Battle of Otterburn <website> 2007 3:38 Yes
161 Linzi Murphy Otterburn Medusa 2013
161 Mad Jocks & Englishmen Lammas Tide One Too Many Mornings 1976
161 Max Dunbar The Battle of Otterbourne Songs and Ballads of the Scottish Wars, 1290-1745 1956 4:40 Yes
161 Scocha The Lammas Tide Bordering on .. 2001 3:08 Yes
161 The Corries Lammas Tide Those Wild Corries + Kishmul's Galley 1996 2:53 Yes
161 The Corries The Lammas Tide The Dawning of the Day 1982 3:10 Yes
161 The Corries The Lammas Tide The Compact Collection 1987 3:10 Yes
161 The Corries & Ronnie Browne The Lammas Tide Scots Wha Hae - The Battle Songs of Scotland 1993 3:45 Yes
161 The Wolfhound The Battle of Otterburn Ireland Boys Hurrah! 1976 3:17 Yes
161 Tony Cuffe Otterburn When First I Went to Caledonia 1988 5:29 Yes

31 May 19 - 02:36 PM (#3994702)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Steve Gardham

Hi Joe
I know this thread is an old one.
That's a great listing.
I'm interested in which tunes have been added during the revival and which of these uses one of the 2 traditional tunes. Tony Cuffe I have listened to and I think his is one of the traditional tunes which is that I have for 'Derwentwater's Farewell'. Not much surprise there as the tunes were mixed and matched in the tradition. However, the common tune nowadays used on the folk scene is that the Corries recorded 'The Dawning of the Day' somewhat curiously the title of their album in 1982. (Did they sing 2 songs to the same tune on that album?). The earliest recording in the list above is that by Max Dunbar in 1956 (also the longest track). Can anyone please tell me which of the 3 tunes, if any Dunbar, uses? Also I would dearly like to know who first set 'Dawning of the Day' to the ballad as sung by the Corries.

31 May 19 - 02:41 PM (#3994703)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Steve Gardham

Okay got Gaberlunzie (1969) on YouTube same as Corries.

31 May 19 - 02:47 PM (#3994705)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Steve Gardham

Wow! Even found Max Dunbar singing it on YouTube (1956 recording). Sounds like this could be the other traditional tune given in Bronson. If so we have examples of all 3 tunes if I've got this right. That still doesn't tell us who put the newer tune to it though. Must be prior to 1969. Did MacColl or Lloyd record it?

31 May 19 - 04:35 PM (#3994712)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Reinhard

Halewijn's list of Child Ballads recordings is quite comprehensive (and it has grown by three more entries for The Battle of Otterburn since 2013). If he doesn't list MacColl or Lloyd then I trust they haven't recorded it.

31 May 19 - 04:49 PM (#3994717)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Steve Gardham

It would be useful to list all of the performances and which tune they were using. If we know it was unlikely that MacColl/Lloyd hadn't been involved that is also useful as they are often quite influential when it comes to setting ballads to tunes.

31 May 19 - 04:50 PM (#3994718)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: Steve Gardham

Sorry, that should be 'had been involved'.

31 May 19 - 05:01 PM (#3994720)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: GUEST,ottery

Sorry if I've missed this being mentioned earlier in the thread, but I can remember reading either on the sleeve notes of an LP, or in one of the song books, that the Corries's Lammas Tide had a modern tune - when they decided to do the song they thought that the tune was too gloomy, so someone (possibly Roy Williamson himself?) wrote a more upbeat one.

31 May 19 - 05:02 PM (#3994721)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: GUEST,ottery

I love June Tabor's version of The Battle of Otterburn as it appears on the album An Echo of Hooves. I tend to assume the tune she uses is a traditional one, but have never looked further into it.

01 Jun 19 - 08:10 AM (#3994774)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Battle of Otterburn / Lammas Tide
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

Yes the Corries song book has for Lammas Tide that fhe words are Traditional and tune is attributed to Roy.