Cockburn, William (d.1529) (DNB00)

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COCKBURN, WILLIAM or PIERS (d. 1529), a renowned border freebooter, resided at the old square tower of Henderland, of which there are still some vestiges, near the mouth of the river Megget, which falls into St. Mary's Loch in Selkirkshire. According to Bishop Lesley, Cockburn of Henderland and Adam Scott of Tushielaw, called the king of thieves, were brought before a great convention of the lords with the king at Edinburgh on 10 May 1529, and having been convicted of theft, reset, and maintenance of thieves, slaughter, and other crimes, were beheaded, and their heads fixed upon the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. Another account states that Cockburn was surprised by James V while sitting at dinner, and hanged over the gate of his own tower. The latter version harmonises better with the exquisitely pathetic ballad 'The Border Widow's Lament,' which is founded on the circumstances attending his death, and in which his widow narrates:

I took his body on my back,
And whiles I gaed and whiles I sat
I digged a grave and laid him in,
And happed him with the sod sae green.

According to Sir Walter Scott the ballad was long current in Ettrick. The wife of Cockburn on learning his capture is stated to have retreated into the recesses of the Dowglen, to a place still pointed out as the Lady^s Seat, where amid the roar of the foaming cataract she strove to drown the sounds attending his execution. At a spot called the Chapel Knowe, lately enclosed and planted, the grave of Cockburn is still pointed out, marked with a slab sculptured with armorial bearings, and having an inscription, now legible with difficulty: 'Here lyis Perys of Cokburne and hys wyfe Mariory.'

[Bishop Lesley's History of Scotland (Bannatyne Club), 1830, pp. 141-2; Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, under 'Henderland.']

T. F. H.