> Martin Carthy > Songs > James Hatley

James Hatley

[ Roud 4022 ; Child 244 ; Ballad Index C244 ; DT JHATLEY ; trad.]

Martin Carthy sang James Hatley in 2004 on his CD Waiting for Angels. This track was also included on the Leigh Folk Festival 2012 anthology Wrecks Rucks Riots & Resurrection. Carthy noted on his albim:

I saw James Hatley in print some while ago and knew that one day I wanted to have a crack at it. This here is a composite of the two versions to be found in F.J. Child with a couple of extra bits thrown in for balance. I get the feeling with some of the songs to be found in that awesome collection that they have never—or at least rarely—been sung and the balance here was all wrong when I first tried it. When a song has been through a few people’s hands it will generally acquire balance—a certain poise—and I thought that that was missing. It’s a story of treachery and trial by ordeal with justice finally being seen clearly to be done.

The tune here is from the version of Robin Hood and the Pedlar to be found in The Penguin Book of English Folksongs.

Jack Rutter sang James Atley & Sir Fenix on his 2023 album This Is Something Constant. He noted:

Another cinematic story song from Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, this one’s got a proper old school baddie and a big fight feel to it.


Martin Carthy sings James Hatley

False Fenwick plied in the carriage high
All he was walking in for me
For he robbed the queen of her finest jewel
And laid the blame on James Hatley.

James Hatley’s bound down in iron strong,
James Hatley he is condemned to die;
And there is no one who can be found,
Who will say one word that will set him free.

Except it be for the king’s daughter
And oh but she loved him tenderly
She stole the keys from her father’s pillow
And she run down to him, James Hatley.

“Ah, tell it now, young man,” she cries,
“Tell it true and tell it to me,
And I’ll make a vow, and I’ll keep it true,
That you never will be the worse for me.”

“I never robbed, lady,” he cries,
“Not by the night nor by the day,
It was Fenwick came thief in the night
And now he has laid the blame on me.”

“One asking, asking, oh father dear,
Oh, just one asking, oh, grant to me,
I never asked once in all my life;
And I’m sure that now you’ll grant this to me.”

“For I want none of your gold, father,
And I want none of your land and fee;
All that I ask and I ask it now,
James Hatley never shall be hanged high.”

“Another asking, oh father dear,
Another asking, oh, grant to me:
And let these two men go to the sword,
And let them try their verity.”

“Oh, bravely asked, oh my daughter dear,
But now your asking it saddens me.
For James Hatley’s fifteen years old,
and Fenwick he is thirty-three.

False Fenwick strolled on the field of battle
All for to show his verity.
And all the people stood roundabout,
Cried, “A dead man are you, James Hatley.”

And the very first blow that false Fenwick struck,
He made the blood run speedily.
And all the people stood roundabout,
They cried, “Oh, at last for you, James Hatley.”

But he stood back, him fifteen years old,
He’s waiting for opportunity.
And with his sword both long and sharp
He has run it through false Fenwick’s body.

He struck him swift and he struck him sure,
He struck him down all to his knee.
And all the people stood roundabout
Heard Fenwick cry loud in misery.

“Oh, hold your hand now, young man,” he cries,
And let the breath still remain in me,
It was I who came thief in the night
Your disgrace and shame it is now on me.”

“Oh, shed no more of my noble blood,
This great disgrace to my loyalty,
It was I who came thief in the night
And I laid the blame on James Hatley.”

And up and spoke him an English lord,
And oh, but he spoke haughtily:
“I would have give all of my estate
Just to see James Hatley be hanged high.”

But up she rose then, the queen herself,
I heard her voice ring so loud and high:
“There’s men would have fought blood up to their knee,
Before you’d hanged him, James Hatley.”

And up and rose him the king’s own son,
“Come home, James Hatley, and dine with me;
I’ve made a vow and I’ll keep it true,
You’ll be my captain by land and sea.”

And up and spoke up the king’s daughter,
“Come home, James Hatley, and dine with me;
For I’ve made a vow and I’ll keep it true,
You will wed and bed with no one but me.”


Thanks to Wolfgang Hell for help with the transcription.