> Folk Music > Songs > Bold Lovell

Bold Lovell

[ Roud 534 ; Laws L13B ; Ballad Index LL13 ; trad.]

Roy Harris sang Bold Lovell in 1976 on his Topic album Champions of Folly. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The theme of this song reminds us of the capture of Macheath in the Beggar’s Opera. Was it suggested by it? Or is the ballad old enough to have put the idea into the head of John Gay who wrote the play in 1728? Sometimes the hero is named Peter or Patrick Fleming, not Lovell. Sir Walter Scott was interested in the song, but he had only a few scraps of it. In 1821 he wrote to his son Cornet Scott at Portobello Barracks, Dublin: “I wish you would pick me up the Irish lilt of a tune to Patrick Fleming.” From the bits that Sir Walter quotes, it’s clear he had our song in mind. A close cousin is the celebrated Irish highwayman ballad Whiskey in the Jar. Roy Harris learnt it some ten years ago from Mike Herring of Peterborough, who had it from A.L. Lloyd who got it from print (The New Green Mountain Songster), and adapted it a bit.

Brian Peters sang Bold Lovell in 2003 on his CD Different Tongues. He noted:

Bold Lovell—which shares with Whiskey in the Jar the plot device of a treacherous girlfriend spiking the hero’s guns with water (has anyone ever assessed the effectiveness of this in practice?)—is yet another song I hoovered up from Roy Harris’s classic 70’s LP Champions of Folly. All these years I’d assumed it to be as English as the rest of the things on that record, but extensive research (i.e. actually reading the sleeve notes) revealed it to be from the Green Mountain Songster, indicating that some Anglo-Celtic original wound up in Vermont.

The New Scorpion Band sang Bold Lovell in 2004 on their CD The Downfall of Pears. They noted:

A Southern English variant of the Whiskey in the Jar theme, this song was learnt by Tim [Laycock] from the singing of A. L. Lloyd. We never discover the motive behind Polly’s betrayal, and she seems a thoroughly bad lot, but perhaps there is another ballad to be written from her point of view.

Roy Clinging and Neil Brookes sang Bold Lovell in 2005 on their WildGoose CD Another Round. Roy Clinging noted:

I first heard Bold Lovell sung by my good friend Tom Miller who always felt the song needed to be sung to the accompaniment of a solo, driving fiddle. We tried it out and wholeheartedly agree with him.

Jim Moray sang Bold Lovell on his 2019 CD The Outlander. He noted:

Learned from Roy Harris’ album Champions of Folly. This variant of Whiskey in the Jar is American and was originally collected in Vermont and included in the book The New Green Mountain Songster.


Roy Harris sings Bold Lovell

As Lovell was out riding out across the misty mountains,
Two merchants, two merchants, their money they was counting;
He reached for his pistol, and he never gave them warning,
He robbed them of their money and he bade them both good morning:

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, the devil’s in the women so they say,
But how the devil can a fellow let them be?

He went to a public house and counted out his money;
He called on the landlady to bring forth pretty Polly.
But while they was talking, and thinking of no matter,
She stole away his pistol and she filled it up with water:

As Lovell and Polly were taking their sweet pleasure,
In walked the troopers, saying, “Lovell, you must leave her!
For a long time you’ve been riding on the road to the gallows,
So some along with us young man and be a decent fellow.”

He reached for his pistols but they wouldn’t fire for water;
They lathered him well and gave to him no quarter.
Polly, she cried, “If I’d known that they was coming,
I’d have fought them like a tiger, love, although I am a woman.”

“I have two brothers and they’re both in the Marines;
One of them’s at Chatham and the other one’s at sea.
Bold, brisk and lively lads, and champions of folly;
I’d rather they was here today than you deceitful Polly.”

As Lovell was climbing up that old gallows ladder,
He called out so gaily for his highway cap and feather:
“Well, I’ve always been a lively lad, but never murdered any;
I think it bloody hard to swing for liftin’ a bit of money!”