The Combe is well-known farm in the North Tyne valley beside the Tarset burn. It's history is steeped in the violence of the border wars which lasted for well over 300 years. Reiving or thieving was a major industry of those days and Barty o' the Combe was a recognised and feared expert as Don's poem describes.Click here for a more detailed history.
The winter was dark. The wind whistled loud and so shrill As Barty the Combe made his way to the hill, With brave Corby Jack to the reiving they're gaen and they'll spend the lang night in the heather.
When morning light broke and showed Leathem's pastures, so braw. They spied a good flock near the Water of Shaw, "When the sun's rays are deid and the light is no more, we'll awa' to yon flock, through the heather.
When yince it was dark and clouds hid the moon overhead, Corby Jack followed Barty as stealthy he led, Past Leathem asleep to the yowes they did steal and hurried them into the heather.
But Leathem's awake! And swiftly they rose and made chase. On Chattlehope's bleak moor they met face to face, Corby Jack met his match and was quickly run through and he lay in his blood in the heather.
Now two Leathem men turned on Barty the Combe on his lain, and they thrust with their swords 'til they thought he was slain, But, though wounded, he rose and returned blow for blow, and the blood's running free on the heather.
Now Barty laid on and killed one of Leathem's braw men! The other fought bravely and rallied agen, But Barty, brave chiel, took a swipe at his head and garred it spang ower the heather.
Though wounded he be he's taen Corby onto his back and down the Redewater he's driven his pack, When he wins safely hame he'll be welcomed wi' tears for brave Corby that's killed in the heather.
The winter was dark. The wind whistled loud and so shrill as Barty the Combe made his way to the hill, With brave Corby Jack to the reiving they've gaen and they'll spend the lang night in the heather.