“Hush You (The Black Douglas)”


"Hush you, hush you, Little pet you, Hush you, hush you, Dinna fret you, The Black Douglas Shall not get you."


Whether this is a traditional song I do not know -- but it's old enough to have folklore about it. Unfortunately, I don't remember the source, but the tale went as follows:

A singer, high in a castle, was singing "The Black Douglas shall not get you" to her bairn, when Douglas, who was raiding the castle and had come up behind her, announced, "I'm not so sure of that."

Probably too good to be true, to be sure.

The Douglas family arose to prominence in the reign of Robert I Bruce (King of Scotland 1306-1329); Sir James Douglas (died 1330) was Bruce's right-hand man, and I seem to recall one version of the above story in which he was the Douglas involved.

But James Douglas was not a "Black Douglas"; at the time, there was but the one Douglas family. His descendants became Earls of Douglas. It was the second Earl, another James, who died young at Otterburn (for which see "The Hunting of the Cheviot [Child 162]"). He had no direct heir, so the Douglas family split into Red and Black branches.

The Black Douglases were the stronger -- indeed, they were the strongest family in Scotland, probably stronger than the King. For half a century, they were a constant menace, until James II killed William Douglas (the eighth earl) in 1452. His brother James succeeded as ninth earl, but was driven into exile a few years later, and the Douglases were finally broken.

Thus this piece, if real, would have to date from between 1388 and 1455. Probably it comes from the earlier end of that period, in the period of the most intense border wars -- which were not really battles between England and Scotland; like Otterburn, they were between the Percies of Northumbria and the Douglases of Lothian. - RBW


  1. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 137, "(Hush you, hush you)" (1 text)
  2. BI, MSNR137


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1964 (Montgomerie)
Keywords: lullaby