Dick Turpin and the Lawyer [Laws L10]
DESCRIPTION: Dick Turpin, upon meeting a lawyer, claims to be so afraid of meeting Turpin that he has hidden his money in his boot. The equally nervous lawyer admits to having hidden his money in his coat. Turpin gaily relieves him of the cash
EARLIEST DATE: before 1856 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 17(323a))
KEYWORDS: robbery lawyer humorous
1735 - Dick Turpin comes to the attention of the authorities as a robber
April 1739 - Hanging of Dick Turpin (by then retired from highway robbery; he was captured after getting drunk and shooting the landlord's cockerel)
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar) Britain(England(Lond,North,South)) US(MA)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Laws L10, "Dick Turpin and the Lawyer"
Logan, pp. 115-121, "Turpin's Valour" (1 text, although Laws considers this as two pieces, "Turpin's Valour" and "The Dunghill-Cock")
Williams-Thames, p. 99, "Dick Turpin" (also Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 368); Williams-Thames, p. 100, "Turpin and the Lawyer" (also Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 94) (2 texts)
OShaughnessy-Yellowbelly2 54, "Turpin Hero" (1 text, 1 tune)
RoudBishop #133, "Dick Turpin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 125, "Dick Turpin and the Lawyer" (1 text)
Kennedy 336, "Turpin Hero" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-ECS, #45, "Bold Turpin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 368, "Dick Turpin and the Lawyer" (1 text)
LPound-ABS, 70, pp. 157-158, "Turpin and the Lawyer" (1 text)
DT 570, TURPNLAW
Bodleian, Harding B 17(323a), "Turpin Hero" ("Turpin Hero is my name") , J. Cadman (Manchester), 1850-1855; also Harding B 22(304), "Turpin's Rant" ("On Hounslow heath as I rid o'er"); Firth c.26(260), "O, Rare Turpin!" ("As I was riding over Hounslow moor")
cf. "My Bonnie Black Bess I" [Laws L8] (subject)
cf. "My Bonnie Black Bess II" [Laws L9] (subject)
O Rare Turpin, Hero
NOTES: Versions of this generally place the incident on Hounslow Heath. This is probably a bit folkloric. According to Pringle, p. 64, each of the four great roads out of London had its hot spots for highway robbers, with Hounslow Heath on the Great Western Road being the most notorious spot of all. Turpin, however, is associated mostly with Finchley Common on the Great North Road (Pringle, p. 66).
What's more, this approximate story is told of other highwaymen, rather than Turpin; Pringle, pp. 86-87, tells how Francis "Dixie" Jackson met a lawyer in a tavern and was shown how he hid his treasure in his saddle. Several of Jackson's confederates then met the lawyer on the road and took his gold.
On the other hand, Brandon, p. 84, tells the story -- in a form even more like the ballad -- of William Davis, "The Golden Farmer" (died c. 1689). Evidently it's a "zipper" highwayman legend.
This may be the oldest of all the Turpin ballads -- very possibly the only one to predate the Great Turpin Rewrite which associated him with the fictional Black Bess. According to Sharpe, pp. 197-198, "Roughly at the time of Turpin's execution, a broadside ballad was published entitled 'Turpin's Rant.' This told how Turpin, while riding over Hounslow Heath, met with a lawyer travelling alone...." Clearly it is this ballad.
Sharpe, p. 198, adds that the "Turpin Hero" chorus suggested the "Stephen Hero" of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
At least part of this story exists independently of the song. Porter, pp. 109-110, tells a story from Cambridgeshire of a tanner who was out traveling and met another rider. The other rider talked obsessively about Turpin's exploits, and the tanner became convinced that the other was Turpin himself. Armed with that knowledge, he was able to break away from Turpin at a place where he knew the path and Turpin didn't, and hence escape un-robbed.
For the rest of Turpin's history, see the notes to "My Bonny Black Bess (II) (Poor Black Bess; Dick Turpin's Ride)" [Laws L9]. - RBW
Broadside: Street Ballads of Victorian England [circa 1850-1870] site, Folder 150, "Turpin Hero," J. Cadman (Manchester), 19C - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
- Brandon: David Brandon, Stand and Deliver: A History of Highway Robbery, Sutton, 2001
- Porter: Enid Porter, The Folklore of East Anglia, Batsford, 1974
- Pringle: Patrick Pringle, Stand and Deliver: Highwaymen from Robin Hood to Dick Turpin, (no copyright date listed but after 1935; I use the 1991 Dorset edition)
- Sharpe: James Sharpe, Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman, Profile Books, 2004 (I use the 2005 paperback edition)
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.