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Lesley Nelson-Burns

A version of the ballad God be wi' thee, Geordie appears in the Straloch Manuscripts (early 17th century). It also appears in Buchan's Ancient Ballads and Songs (1828) under the name of Gight's Lady.

This ballad is Child Ballad #209.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

There are many suggestions as to the identity of Geordie. According to Buchan "Geordie" was Sir George Gordon of Gight (1512-1562), Fourth Earl of Huntley, the son of the illegitimate daughter of James IV. Hutly was imprisoned for becoming "too familiar" with the Laird of Bignet's wife. His wife, Lady Ann, went to Edinburgh to plead for his life. She was successful, but upon being freed Gordon killed his wife. Buchan suggests the events took place in the reign of James VI. Another source places this same incident during the reign of Queen Mary.

The Earl of Huntly during James VI's reign was George Gordon, (1563-1636) the 6th Earl. Huntly was involved in plots for the Spanish Invasion of Scotland and engaged in open rebellion against James VI. He was imprisioned but released and reconciled to James. Huntly was involved in the death of the Bonny Earl o' Moray. Later Huntly again rebelled against James and was again reconciled. Under Charles I he was involved in a private war which resulted in his imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle.

In other versions Geordie is called George Luklie and George Stoole (who was executed in 1610).

Come, bridle me my milkwhite steed,
Come bridle me my pony,
That I may ride to fair London town
To plead for my Geordie.

And when she entered in the hall
There were lords and ladies plenty.
Down on her knees she then did fall
To plead for the life of Geordie.

It's six pretty babes that I have got,
The seventh lies in my body;
I'll freely part with them ev'ry one,
If you'll spare me the life of Geordie.

Then George looked round the court,
And saw his dearest Polly;
He said, "My dear, you've come too late,
For I'm condemn'd already!

Then the judge he looked down on him
And said, I'm sorry for thee,
'Tis thine own confession hath hanged thee,
May the Lord have mercy upon thee.

O Geordie stole nor cow nor calf
And he never murder'd any,
But he stole sixteen of the king's white steeds,
And sold them in Bohenny.

Let Geordie hang in golden chains,
(His crimes were never many),
Because he came of royal blood
And courted a virtuous lady.

I wish I were in yonder grave,
Where times I have been many,
With the broad sword and my pistol too
I'd fight for the life of Geordie.
Related Links
  • James VI
    (From Britannia: British Monarchs)
  • King James VI and James I
    (A more glowing assessment of James than generally accepted, but a great site which includes portraits and many primary documents, including some of James VI writings)

From One Hundred English Folksongs
See Bibliography for full information.
Additional Information from:
"Huntly, George Gordon, 1st Marquess and 6th Earl of" Britannica Online. [Accessed 13 October 1998].