Costumed figures - The Twa Corbies
This scene is from the ballad 'The Twa Corbies'.
It shows two ‘corbies’ (the Scots word for ravens) feasting on the body of a knight. The birds discuss the dead knight they have found. Nobody knows that he is here except for his hound, hawk, and lady. They have all deserted him, suggesting that his corpse will make an ideal dinner for the two birds.
Part of a series of costume figures created by local artist Anne Carrick to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott's birth in 1971. They depict scenes from Scott's 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border', first published in 1802. The Minstrelsy is a collection of historical and romantic ballads that tell the stories of Border heroes and fairy tales. The figures are on display at Smailholm Tower in the Scottish Borders.
This scene is fae the ballant 'The Twa Corbies'.
It shaws twa corbies feastin on the body o a knicht. The birds blether anent the deid knicht they have fund. Naebodie kens that he is here forby his dug, hawk and lady. They have aw gied up on him, myntin that his corpse will mak a guid denner fur the twa birds.
Pairt o a series o costume feegurs makkit by local airtist Anne Carrick fur tae celebrate the 200th anniversary o Sir Walter Scott's birth in 1971. They shaw scenes fae Scott's 'Minstrelsy o the Scottish Border' ('Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border'), first furthset in 1802. The Minstrelsy is a hantle o historical and romantic ballants that tell the stories o faur-kent Border heroes and ferlie fairy tales. The feegurs are oot on shaw at Smailholm Tour in the Scottish Borders.
Smailholm’s 20m-tall tower house, its walls 2.5m deep, dominates a rocky craig. The Pringles, who built this border stronghold in the first half of the 1400s, were a prominent local family.
As the laird’s residence, the tower housed:
- cellars on the ground floor
- a great hall on the first floor
- a bedchamber on the second floor
- further chambers at the top
Views from the battlements are impressive: on a good day, you can see mighty Bamburgh Castle, 33 miles away in Northumberland.
The ruined foundations of an outer hall and kitchen block lie in the shadow of the tower. A stout defensive wall encloses the barmkin (courtyard).
Border families and reivers
As squires of the powerful earls of Douglas, the Pringles had the role of warden of the Ettrick Forest – a profitable position. But like everyone else either side of the border, they suffered at the hands of the reivers (cattle raiders).
During two raids in 1544, Northumberland reivers got away with more than 700 cattle and 100 horses. This may have prompted the family to relocate in the later 1500s to Galashiels (their burial vault was in Melrose Abbey).
In 1645, the Scotts of Harden, near Hawick, bought the tower and estate. They already had a fine house, so they leased Smailholm to a kinsman, Walter ‘Beardie’ Scott – better known as Sir Walter Scott’s great-grandfather.
Smailholm and Sir Walter Scott
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771, but was sent by his parents to Smailholm as a sickly infant for the good of his health.
Scott was 18 months old when he came to Sandyknowe Farmhouse, the dwelling that replaced Smailholm as the Scott family home. There his grandmother and aunt told him tales of the border countryside.
In his old age, Scott described the powerful effect on his imagination of these border ballads and the sight of his ancestors’ ancient tower, “standing stark and upright like a warden”.
In 1802, Scott published his much acclaimed Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. He paid an emotional visit to Smailholm shortly before his death in 1832.
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- Smailholm Tower
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