“It’s of a young lady both valiant and gay / Who went out a robbing upon the highway…”
I found this in the Bodleian Library archives, under the title ‘The Female Robber’. This seemed a little unspecific, and so I retitled it ‘Robbing On The Highway’. It has a preface which says “Written on Miss Hughes, a Gentlewoman of Bath, who robbed Mr Witcomb of the Boar’s head in Bristol, of Two hundred Guinea Bills, Notes, and a Twenty-pound Bank of England.” It’s almost certainly a contemporary account of a true story. I cut the verse at the end in which she married the judge in her court case, which is a shame, but dammit it’s already 10 verses long.
Kind gentlemen all pray listen awhile,
(With a down a down, hey down hey down,)
I’ll sing you a song shall make you smile,
(With a down)
It’s of a young lady both valiant and gay,
Who went out a robbing upon the highway.
(With a down, derry derry derry down down.)
Dressed in man’s apparel Miss Hughes she set out,
Well mounted on horseback without fear or doubt,
With two loaded pistols she then rode away,
As bold as a lion to seek for her prey.
She had not rode long ere she met with a prize,
Which caused her courage and valour to rise,
She loved to have money, although a bad plan
And presently met with a rich gentleman.
She rode up to Mr Witcomb and bid him to stand;
With a pistol presented in her right hand:
“Do get your money and without strife,
Or in but a moment I’ll take your sweet life.”
He pulled out his pocket-book seeing her so bold,
With two hundred and twenty in bills, notes and gold
“Here take this all, my good fellow” says he,
“Only spare my life,” “I will sir,” said she.
She put into her pocket, a glorious sight
Then rode up with speed and bid him good night
Overjoyed with her prize and with a light heart,
It proved for her but an unlucky start.
She was quickly pursued and taken at last
When once more this lady in prison was cast
She was tried in Lent Assizes and pardoned from death
On account of her parents and her noble high birth.
Though her father’s a gentleman each they do say
But his daughter like others has wandered astray,
Being cursed in love caused her to roam
And drove her to distress and dare not go home.
This last robbery committed just made up a score
She took from the rich and gave it to the poor
Left like to Nevison [famous highwayman] – she thought it a good deed,
By giving to those whom she found were in need.
We’ll give her applause though she should not act so
It was a wrong attempt for a lady to show,
Upon the highway to seek her bread,
By frightening a gentleman almost to dead.
Credits & Copyright
Traditional, adapted and recorded by James Bell in 2012/3. Released in November 2013. Remastered in January 2017. (P) House of Lyra.