Turpin Hero

From Mr. David Belton, blacksmith, at Ulceby, July, 1906. Dick Turpin was perhaps the most famous of England's highwaymen, thanks in good part to a 19th Century novel, Rookwood, which recounts the famous ride to York on his horse Black Bess. This reputedly provided him with an alibi good enough to satisfy a jury. There is a lesser-known but more accurate song which relates this same tale with its proper hero, Nevison, who was hanged in York in 1685, twenty years before Turpin was born: Grainger also phonographed a set of Bold Nevison from Joseph Taylor. Jack Ketch, mentioned in the last verse of the song, was public executioner during the reign of Charles II. He gained notoriety for his clumsy dispatching of Lord Russell in 1683 and of the Duke of Monmouth two years later, for whom Ketch needed five strokes with the axe and even then had to finish the beheading with a knife. His name became associated with executioners, including hangmen, for over two hundred years, and at times the condemned man would indeed pay the hangman, in hopes of a tidy job.

As Dickie rode out all across yon moor, he spied a lawyer riding out before
He rode up to him and he thus did say, "Have you seen Dickie Turpin
ride this way?"
     To my heigh-ho, Turpin hero,
     I am the valiant Turpin-O.

"No, I've not seen him for many a day, no more do I want to see him
ride this way,
For if I did, I'd have no doubt, he would turn my pockets inside out."

"Oh aye, lad," Dickie says, "Oh I've been cute, I've hid my money in
my old top boot,"
Then says the lawyer, "He shan't have mine, for I hid it in my
greatcoat cape behind."

So they rode along together till they came to a hill, where he bid
the old lawyer to stand quite still,
He says, "Your greatcoat cape it must come off, for my Black Bess
wants a new saddle-cloth.

"So now I've robbed you of all your store, you may go and work for more,
And the very next town that you ride in, you can tell 'em you was
robbed by Dick Turpin."

But wasn't Dickie caught so hard and fast, for killing of an old
gamecock at last,
He says, "Here's fifty pound, before I die, to give Jack Ketch for a
lad like I."

© Golden Hind Music