“Dick o’ the Cow” Narrative


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 “Dick o' the Cow”

Fair Johnie Armstrong and Willie Armstrong of Liddesdale decide to ride into England in search of booty after a peaceful time when there has been no raiding. They come first to Hutton Ha’, but the laird has everything secured except for six sheep, and the Armstrongs decide that they would be deeply ashamed to go home with no more booty than that.  They think of the three good cows of Lord Scroop’s fool, who is called Dick of the Cow, and they raid his place at night taking the cows and three bed covers. In the morning, Dick’s wife cries out at their loss but Dick assures her he will bring her back three times the value of the cows. He goes to Lord Scroop and obtains his permission to steal in Liddesdale but only from those who have stolen from him.  He then buys a bridle and spurs to take with him but goes on foot to Pudding-burn house where the thieves are living. He complains of the theft to the Laird’s Jock who presides over the gathering of Armstrongs there but the Laird’s Jock merely invites Dick to dine on the meat from one of his own cows.  That night, Dick goes into the stable and hamstrings all but three of the horses.  He gallops away on one horse, leading another. In the morning, they discover that Dick has gone off with the horses of Fair Johnie and Willie.  The third horse that he had left undamaged was a bay belonging to the Laird’s Jock and Fair Johnie begs the loan of it to pursue Dick. He overtakes Dick on Cannobie Lee and threatens to kill him but the spear he throws goes through Dick’s jerkin without hitting him. Dick knocks Fair Johnie unconscious and takes his sword and his steel jacket and cap away with him and also takes his horse.  When he comes home, Lord Scroop threatens to hang him when he sees him with the horse that he knows belongs to the Laird’s Jock, but Dick explains that he won the horse when he fought with Fair Johnie and he shows Johnie’s sword and steel jacket and cap as tokens. Lord Scroop now gives him a fine cow and offers Dick fifteen pounds for the bay, and Dick forces the price up to twenty pounds.   Dick then meets Lord Scroop’s brother Ralph who offers him ten pounds and a good cow for Fair Johnie’s horse and Dick again forces the price up to twenty pounds. He is accordingly able to go back to his wife with forty English pounds, two fine cows, and the third horse he had obtained, which was as good as the others. However, he tells her that the Armstrongs will hang him if he remains in Cumberland and so he takes farewell of Lord Scroop and moves south to Burgh under Stanmuir.