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Bold Nevison

[ Roud 1082 ; Ballad Index OSY1005 ; Bodleian Roud 1082 ; trad.]

Joseph Taylor sang Bold Nevison on the Leader album Unto Brigg Fair, from a cylinder recorded in 1908 by Percy Grainger. The album’s booklet notes commented:

Though the subject of frequently issued prose chapbooks and broadsides, there do not appear to be many versions of this song of William Nevison, one of the most colourful highwaymen of the seventeenth century. He became notorious during Charles II’s reign and tradition has it that Charles named him “Swift Nick”—a name he well deserved for it was Nevison, not Turpin, who made the famous ride to York, to supply himself satisfactorily with an alibi for a robbery that he had committed in London the same day that witnesses had seen him upon the Bowling-green of York. He was convicted and hung for another offence on 4 May 1685. For full versions of the ballad see IBSY, HCSL and KY.

The Halliard sang Bold Nelson in a 1968 recording session as a demo for their Saga label. It was finally released in 2006 on their CD The Last Goodnight!. Dave Moran noted:

Probably from the Birmingham Library Collection. Also in Ashton’s Modem Street Ballads with rather more verses than this, which suggests that Nic [Jones] selected the verses which most appealed to him. In later years he sang a much longer and barely related version, which was printed In Chesterfield by the broadside printer, Ford.

Bill Price sang Bold Nevison in 1978 on his Autogram album I Sing As I Please. He noted:

Three verses of this song came from a pre-electric recording made in a Lincolnshire workhouse. The full set of verses can be found in Holroyd’s Collection of Yorkshire Ballads (1892). William Nevison (nicknamed Swift Nick by Charles II) achieved the famous ride from Gad’s Hill in Kent to York many years before Dick Turpin was born.

Jack Rutter sang Bold Nevison the Highwayman on his 2023 album This Is Something Constant. He noted:

I found this true story in Holroyd’s Collection of Yorkshire Ballads. I borrowed one of my Dad’s harmonicas as a teenager and used to play a fair bit, but hadn’t up until this point been playing one in my solo stuff so thought I’d start this album off by giving it some.

Compare to this John Roberts & Tony Barrand’s Turpin Hero on their album of English folksongs collected by Percy Grainger, Heartoutbursts.


Joseph Taylor sings Bold Nevison

Did you ever hear told of that hero,
Bold Nevison it was his name,
And he rode about like a brave hero,
And by that he gained a great fame,

Now when I rode on the highway,
I always had money in store.
And whatever I took from the rich
Why I freely gave it to the poor.

I have never robbed no man of tuppence
And I’ve never done murder nor killed.
Though guilty I’ve been all my lifetime
So gentlemen do as you please.


Joseph Taylor’s lyrics were copied from the liner notes of Unto Brigg Fair.