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Jolly Bold Robber / The Saucy Bold Robber

[ Roud 1464 ; VWML RVW2/3/103 ; DT JOLLBOLD ; Mudcat 16672 ; trad.]

This early 19th century Norfolk robber ballad was first collected by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams from Mr Anderson of King’s Lynn. It was published in Cecil Sharp’s English Country Folk Songs.

Rob Lennox sang The Bold Robber live at Folk Union One in 1969. A recording made by Steve Gardham was included in the same year on the folk club’s privately issued album Blue Bell Folk Sing.

Nic Jones sang Jolly Bold Robber in a live performance in the late 1970s that was included in 2006 on his Topic CD Game Set Match.

Nick Dow sang The Jolly Bold Robber, “a parody of a serious ballad that has unfortunately been lost”, in 1978 on his Dingle’s album Burd Margaret.

John Kirkpatrick sang Jolly Bold Robber on Brass Monkey’s eponymous 1983 LP Brass Monkey, which was re-released in 1993 as the first half of their CD The Complete Brass Monkey. This video shows Brass Monkey at the Oxford Folk Festival in 2008:

John Kirkpatrick also sang Jolly Bold Robber live in July 2000 at the harbour festival in Douarnenez (Bretagne); this was published on the CD Douarnenez port de fête.

Roy Harris sang a very similar version called The Saucy Bold Robber in 1975 on his album Champions of Folly. He learned the song from A.L. Lloyd, and he was accompanied by Martin Carthy on guitar and Bobby Campbell on fiddle. This track was also included on the Topic CD Bold Sportsmen All and on the 2 CD anthology The Folk Collection.

Gavin Davenport sang Jolly Bold Robber in 2010 on his Hallamshire Traditions CD Brief Lives.

Jon Boden sang Jolly Bold Robber—which he recently learnt for a new Bellowhead album—as the impromptu 2012 leap year’s day entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Pilgrims’ Way sang The Saucy Bold Robber on their 2017 album Stand & Deliver.

Nick Hart and Tom Moore sang The Jolly Bold Robber on their 2023 album The Colour of Amber. Nick Hart noted:

I’ve known the Brass Monkey recording of this song since childhood and for some reason it popped into my head while we were thinking of material for this album. The song was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from a Mr. Anderson of King’s Lynn in 1905 [VWML RVW2/3/103] , and there are a couple of other versions from the same period. John Kirkpatrick’s version seemed fairly unimprovable so I have wholeheartedly and unashamedly nicked it.

Tarren sang Jolly Bold Robber on their 2024 album Outside Time.


John Kirkpatrick sings Jolly Bold Robber

Come all you good people that go out a-tippling,
I pray you give attention and listen to me song.
I’ll sing you a ditty of a jolly bold robber,
Stood seven feet high, in proportion quite strong.

Well he robbed Lawyer Morgan and old Lady Dawkings,
Five hundred bright guineas from each one of them;
And as he was a-strolling he spied a young sailor
And bold as a lion he slewed up to him.

“Hand over your money, you saucy young sailor,
There’s plenty of bulk in your pockets I see.”
“Aye aye,” said the sailor, “I’ve plenty of money,
But while I have life I’ve got none for thee.

“Well I just left my ship, gave the press gang the slip,
And I’m off up to London my sweetheart to see.
With forty bright sovereigns to pay our sweet lodgings,
So I pray you, bold robber, don’t take them from me.”

But the robber caught hold of this gallant young sailor,
With a blow like a pole-axe felled him to the ground.
“Aye aye,” said the sailor, “You struck me quite heavy,
But now I’ll endeavour to repay you in kind.”

So then both they stripped and like tigers they skipped,
And they fought life for life like soldiers in the field.
But the ninety-seventh meeting it was their completing,
But this gallant young sailor the robber he killed.

And down then he looked on this blood-stained old robber,
“I hope you’ll forgive me, old fellow,” says he.
“But if I had just lifted one thousand bright guineas,
Well I’m damned if I’d have stopped a poor sailor like me.”


Transcribed by Garry Gillard with some help from Wolfgang Hell: thanks.