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Three Jolly Sneaksmen

[ Roud 1652 ; VWML GG/1/13/826 ; DT SNEAKMAN ; Mudcat 133965 ; trad.]

Martin Carthy sang Three Jolly Sneaksmen on his 1974 album Sweet Wivelsfield. He noted:

There seem to be quite a number of songs (like Sam Hall) which treat very dramatic or tragic subjects in a quite lighthearted way, and usually by doing so they manage to be doubly effective. Three Jolly Sneaksmen, about three unnamed highwaymen, comes from Frank Purslow’s excellent book The Wanton Seed. Rhino means money if you don’t already know.

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

Martin Carthy sang this darkly comic little song on his 1974 album Sweet Wivelsfield. I’ve known and loved that recording for years but have never heard anyone else sing it. The original version was collected from a Mr. Thomas Jones of Portsmouth in 1907 [VWML GG/1/13/826] . We follow it with a snippet of the Headington morris tune Getting Upstairs.


Martin Carthy sings Three Jolly Sneaksmen

Three jolly sneaksmen they all went out
To rob and to plunder without any doubt
Coach and six come riding by
Stop stop coachman they all did cry

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
(Sing) Whack fol the day
Diddle ol the day
Whack fol the doll o
Diddle ol the day

Three jolly sneaksmen they come to the coach
Three pretty fair maids there they did approach
Three pretty maids cries what shall we do
Give us all your money and we won’t hurt you

Five hundred pounds they have got in gold
Five hundred pounds such a sight to behold
Silver topped cane and a gold lace cap
Such a fine haul for the sneaksmen to snap

Three jolly sneaksmen in Hyde Park Street
Three blue-coated gentlemen they happened for to meet
Tap em on the shoulder one two three
Three jolly sneaksmen come along a me

Sizes and sessions are soon drawing near
Three jolly sneaksmen at the bar appear
Judge casts around with a rolling eye
Three jolly sneaksmen bound for to die

Three jolly sneaksmen mount the gallows tree
Jack Ketch he come along just as soon as they
Took all their togs and their rhino too
Three jolly sneaksmen bid the world adieu


Transcribed by Garry Gillard.