Sir James the Rose (A Scottish Folk Tale)
by: Wheeler, Les
A lang time ago a verra brave knight bade in the parish o Crimmond an he wis caad Sir James the Rose. Fit a fine handsome chiel he wis; weel kent for his bravery in battle as he’d shown in mony a fecht wi the English. He wis a big broad-shoodert chiel fa aabody likit an lookit up till – aabody, that is, except the Thane o Buchan.
Noo, the Thane o Buchan hid a dother, Matilda, an Sir James thocht the verra warld o her. He thocht there wis naebody like her an he fair wintit tae mairry her. But the Thane o Buchan wid hae neen o’t an he wintit his dother tae mairry Sir John the Graham an, fit a faither wintit in yon days a faither usually got.
Ilka nicht Sir James an Matilda wid meet by an aul sauchen tree (ye micht ca it a willow) on the shores o the Loch o Strathbeg. A fine bonny placie far there’s aye puckles o birds tae keep ye company an there’s aye as mony birds the day. Weel, doon by the loch side Matilda an Sir James could meet an spik withoot being heard by nosie fowk for it’s a fine open bittie o country an kin get gey windy say fowk dinna affen veesit it.
Noo, Sir John the Graham hid a brither, Donald, fa wis a richt vraatch o a cratur an wis aye steerin up trouble for ither fowk. Een o his servants hid got wird o the trysts o the lovers at the Loch an wint an tellt Donald. Donald thocht he could cause mischief there sae he set aff tae spy on the pair an try tae discover fit they wir up till. Bit Donald wisna aa that clivver, for Sir James saa Donald in his hidey hole an challenged him tae a fecht. Sir James seen got the better o Donald, but woundit him sae badly that Donald nivver survived the fecht. Donald wis deid an Matilda kent there wid be trouble.
“James! James!” she cried, “Ye’ll need tae flee for yer life file ye’ve still time. Fan Sir John here’s aboot his brither bein killt he’ll be efter revenge an wi baith his men an my faither’s tae help him ye winna staun a chunce. Nae you nor yer men wid survive a fecht an they’ll kill ye aa.”
Sir James kent that fit the lassie said wis richt sae he said he wid meet her the next nicht at Mill o Haddo tae bid een anither fareweel. He tell her he wid mak for the Isle o Skye far his brither bade an he micht be able tae gaither eneuch men tae beat the combined forces o Sir John an the Thane o Buchan in a battle.
“That’s aa in the future. It’ll tak time tae raise an airmy,” said Matilda, “but ivnoo ye hiv tae get awa an bide in hidin for the hale country will hae bin raised an be waatchin oot for ye. Ye ken fit my faithers like an he’ll nae rest till yer deid!”
“Ye’re fairly richt there,” said Sir James, “but I’ll ca canny an nae tak ony chunces. I’ll need tae get wird tae my brither that I’m on my wye.”
The lassie wis quick wi an answer, “I’ll send a messenger tae yer brither tellin him fit’s happened an tellin him that ye’ll be seekin help. I’ll dae it richt noo.”
This wis agreed on an a messenger wis caad forth an tellt far tae gyang an fit tae tell Sir James’ brither. Sir James wid bide in the Mill o Haddo for twa three days tae let things calm doon a bittie syne he wid set aff. That wis the plan.
But the messenger hidna gotten verra far fan he wis catched by some o Sir John the Graham’s men. They threatened tae kill him if he didna tell them far he came fae an far he wis gyan. It wisna lang afore they got the story oot o the peer messenger an Sir John an his men surrounded the Mill o Haddo. Fower o Sir John’s men discovert Sir James’ hidin place an a muckle fecht wis the result. But Sir James wis a gran haun at the sword an feenisht aff the four o Sir John’s sodjers, but, as the last o the fower men wis faain deid, Sir John the Graham crept up ahin Sir James an stabbit him in the side. It wis a coordly action an as Sir John wis pullin his sword fae his side, Sir James swung roon an, wi the last o his strength, shoved his sword richt throwe Sir John’s body an they baith fell doon deid thegither.
Matilda wis broken hertit an couldna be consoled. Fan they wir layin Sir James the Rose tae rest she grabbit his sword an threw hersel upon the blade sae she could lie in death wi the man she loved.
At a placie caad Battle Fauld , near haun the Mill o Haddo, ye can still see the grave o Sir John the Rose anither victim o Scotland’s troubled times.