The Kist Bride (Abbotsford) – An uncanny new Border ballad

‘The Kist Bride’ is a song commissioned for Borders Heritage Festival/Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Composer: Suzanne Parry John. Lyricist: Jules Horne.

 At Sir Walter Scott’s house in the Borders, Abbotsford, there’s an oak chest (kist) in the hall. The story is that a young bride was shut in there on her wedding night, and tragically found several years later.

We wanted to give this unfortunate girl a voice. The lyrics tell of her clambering inside the kist, the excitement and hopes of the wedding, and her growing despair as realisation of her plight dawns.

I couldn’t bear to leave the bride like this, and wrote a coda in which she rails at Scott for putting her inside such a disempowering story. However, Suzanne, with her operatic instincts, felt it best to end when the breath runs out. In performance, it was a heart-stopping moment, beautifully and harrowingly poised by Hannah Rarity and the SCO musicians. I imagine the bride still there, poised forever between life and death.

I have also performed this with cello at Stowed Out Festival, as a spoken word piece with music and atmospheric wood-knocking.

/Jules Horne

You can listen to this beautiful piece here, Below are the complete lyrics with coda:




Ninety-seven… Ninety-eight… Ninety-nine… One hundred!

Coming, ready or not!


Quick! Hide!

I’ll clamber inside

This old oak kist

I’m lost.

A corridor

I’ve never seen before.

But they’ll come and find me.


Can hardly lift the lid

That thud

Will give the game away.

Will I be missed

Inside the kist?


The wedding’s much too loud

Pipers and canapes and crowds

Of relatives.

I’ll get a row

For this.

I’ll crush my dress.

‘What a mess’, she’ll say

(my mother)

‘At your age,

Clambering in kists.’

I don’t care.

It’s my day.

My wedding day.

Come and find me.



Fifty-three… fifty-four… fifty-five…

I’ve never felt so alive

My heart magnified

My love magnified

Everything magnified

Inside the kist.


Tonight we’ll coorie

Like this in the dark

Say: hello, you.



Come and find me.



Thirty-one… thirty-two…

Where are you?

There’s not much air

In here.

The oak’s thick

The lid’s stuck

I’ll get a row.

Should I shout now?

Come and find me.




Is this the end?

It can’t be.

Not me.

I’m a bride.

Everything ahead.

Loving, living

Making children.

Stopping them from clambering.


It can’t end like this

Without a fight

Come and find me!

Come and find me!

Find me!

Find me!


[However many repetitions needed to take the music [interlude?] from loud/desperate knocking to silence. It should end with ‘Find… (unfinished line’). Then a still mood:]



Never felt so alone

Heart magnified

Dread magnified

Here and now and heat and dust is all there is

Me and the kist and my fingers.











[Dramatic stillness. Death implied. Then pickup:]



Sir Walter, I’ve a bone to pick with you.

Leaving me for dead in an airless kist.

A skeleton bride with moths in her mou

And eyeballs eaten by rats.

Well, I’ve news for you

I escaped

Kicked the lid

Clambered out

With a shout

I’m a bride

I’m alive

Story maker

Story faker

Wait till I find you.

I’ve a bone to pick

A punch to land

An arse to kick


My own mou

To set right

The story of my wedding night.


Jules Horne



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