The History of Leith

July 20, 2012

The Bonny Earl O’Moray

“The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray” is a popular Scottish ballad, probably written as far back as the 17th century, and has been catalogued under the name “Bonny Earl O’Murray” as Child Ballad No. 181. [1] [2]. Irish-American singer Robbie O’Connell has a version on his album Close to the Bone.

The ballad touches on a true story stemming from the rivalry of James Stewart, Earl of Moray (pronounced Murray), and the Earl of Huntly, in 1592. The exact circumstances that led to Moray’s murder by Huntly are not known for certain, but in his notes on the ballad Francis James Child relates how Huntly, eager to prove that Moray was plotting with the Earl of Bothwell against King James VI, received a commission to bring Moray to trial. In the attempt to apprehend Moray, a sheriff was killed and Moray’s castle was set on fire. He fled, but was hunted down and killed at Donibristle in Fife. Moray’s last words, according to the (probably apocryphal) story, deserve special mention. Huntly slashed him across the face with his sword, and as he lay dying Moray said “Ye hae spoilt a better face than yer ain” (You have spoiled a better face than your own). The killing was very widely condemned, a painting was made of Moray’s dead body, showing his multiple wounds, with the words “God avenge my cause”. for more click here

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