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Bold Nevison

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

Sung by Joseph Taylor on 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 May 4, 1685. For full versions of the ballad see IBSY, HCSL and KY.

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

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.

Compare to this John Roberts & Tony Barrand's Turpin Hero on their album Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger.

Lyrics

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.

Acknowledgements

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