Wild and Wicked Youth, The [Laws L12]

DESCRIPTION: The singer recounts his (boyhood and) life, telling of his many daring robberies. Now, alas, he is condemned to die, and must leave his family. He concludes with directions for his funeral
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1830 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 25(2054))
KEYWORDS: outlaw farewell execution robbery trial funeral youth
FOUND IN: US(Ap,NE,Ro,SE,So,SW) Britain(England(Lond,South,West),Scotland) Ireland Canada(Ont)
REFERENCES (38 citations):
Laws L12, "The Rambling Boy (Wild and Wicked Youth)"
OShaughnessy-YellowbellyBalladsPart2 46, "The Sheffield Highwayman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig/Duncan2 260, "The Roving Blade" (3 texts)
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 136-137, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text)
Randolph 148, "The Rambling Boy" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Bronner/Eskin-FolksongAlivePart1 12, "Roving Rambling Boy"; "The Roving Blade" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, pp. 314-315, "The Reek and the Rambling Blade" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 101, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 83, "The Robber" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 78, "The Rambling Boy" (2 texts)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 65, "The Highwayman" (2 texts)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 352, "Down in Covent Garden" (1 text)
Purslow-TheConstantLovers, pp. 107-108, "The Wild and Wicked Youth" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gundry-CanowKernow-SongsDancesFromCornwall, p. 30, "The Highwayman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #146, "The Wild and Wicked Youth" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-FolkSongsCollectedBy-Ralph-VaughanWilliams, #79, "Wild and Wicked Youth" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuson-BalladsOfTheKentuckyHighlands, pp. 63-64, "The Rich Rambler" (1 text)
Cambiaire-EastTennesseeWestVirginiaMountainBallads, pp. 43-44, "The Wretched Rambling Boy" (1 text)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol5, pp. 56-57, "Rich and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ritchie-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernAppalachians, pp. 91-92, "The Reckless and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roberts-SangBranchSettlers, #13, "Rich and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Combs/Wilgus-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernUnitedStates 90, pp. 184-185, "The Rich and Rambling Boy" (1 text)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #140, "In Steven's Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 121, "The Rambing Boy" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 120, "The Rambling Boy" (4 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Sulzer-TwentyFiveKentuckyFolkBallads, p. 19, "Rich and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 96, "The Ramblin' Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-FolksongsFromMarthasVineyard, pp. 23-24, "Scarlet Town" (1 text, 1 tune, with a first line perhaps from a "Barbara Allen" version)
Fowke-TraditionalSingersAndSongsFromOntario 16, "A Bold and Undaunted Youth" (1 text, 1 tune)
Vikár/Panagapka-SongsNorthWoodsSungByOJAbbott 2, "The Bold and Undaunted Youth" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 326, "Newlyn Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-MoreIrishStreetBallads 35, "The Newry Highwayman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Zimmerman-SongsOfIrishRebellion p. 96, "The Bold and Undaunted Youth" (1 fragment)
Huntington-TheGam-MoreSongsWhalemenSang, pp. 225-226, "The Highwayman" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood-NewLostCityRamblersSongbook, pp. 130-131, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thorp/Fife-SongsOfTheCowboys XIII, pp. 148-190 (29-30), "Cow Boy's Lament" (22 texts, 7 tunes, the "L" text being in fact a version of this piece)
ADDITIONAL: Roger deV. Renwick, _Recentering Anglo/American Folksong: Sea Crabs and Wicked Youths_, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, chapter 2, "From Newry Town to Columbus City: A Robber's Journey," pp. 25-58 (3 full texts: "Wild and WIcked Youth, pp. 28-29; "Newlyn Town, pp. 29-30; "The Rambling Boy," pp. 31-32, plus extensive discussion)

Roud #490
O. J. Abbott, "The Bold and Undaunted Youth (The Rambling Boy)" (on Abbott1)
Clarence Ashley & Tex Isley, "Rude and Rambling Man" (on Ashley01)
Justus Begley, "The Roving Boy" (AFS, 1937; on KMM)
Jumbo Brightwell, "Newry Town" (on Voice03)
Carolina Tar Heels, "Rude and Rambling Man" (Victor V-40077, 1929; on Ashley04)
Carter Family, "The Rambling Boy" (Bluebird B-8990, 1941/Bluebird 33-0512, 1944)
Wade Mainer, "Ramblin' Boy" (Bluebird 33-0512, 1944)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Rambling Boy" (on NLCR05)
Riley Puckett, "Ramblin' Boy" (Columbia 15605-D, 1930)
Bob Scarce, "Newlyn Town" (on FSB7)

Bodleian, Harding B 25(2054), "The Wild and Wicked Youth," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Firth c.17(208), Harding B 11(576), Harding B 15(376a), Harding B 11(939), Firth c.17(6), Harding B 16(307a), Harding B 11(4205), Harding B 11(4211), Harding B 11(4212), Firth b.34(314), Harding B 11(3519A), Firth c.17(7), 2806 c.16(325), Harding B 17(338a), Harding B 20(117), Harding B 17(337b), "The Wild and Wicked Youth"; Harding B 28(235), "The Highway Man's Fate"; Harding B 26(67), "The Bold and Undaunted Youth" ("In Stephen's-green I was bred and born"), J. Moore (Belfast), 1852-1868
cf. "Salisbury Plain" (theme)
cf. "It's Down in Old Ireland" (theme)
The Rake and Rambling Boy
Adieu Adieu
The Flash Lad
NOTES [816 words]: The Bodleian "The Wild and Wicked Youth" broadsides, and OLochlainn-MoreIrishStreetBallads 35, include a version of the lines
"I robbed Lord Mansfield I do declare, ...
Lord Fielding's gang they did me pursue And taken I was, by that cursed crew."
The Bodleian notes to 2806 c.16(325) include references to the cast of characters: "Fielding, John, Sir, d. 1780; Mansfield, W.R., Baron Sandhurst, 1819-1876"
Broadside Bodleian Harding B 26(67) is another example of the "I robbed Lord Mansfield I do declare" group. Zimmerman-SongsOfIrishRebellion's fragment seems to be from this version. In this case he falls in with "Fieldskin gang." - BS
Given the date of the song, I would think the Mansfield involved more likely to be William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield (1706-1793), who was Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench from 1756. This has at least sometimes been corrupted to Lord Melbourne, presumably William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848), the Prime Minister (on and off) from 1834 to 1841. But Mansfield is closer to the Era of the Highwaymen -- and, as Chief Justice, someone they would doubtless enjoy taking.
Fielding in fact might refer to John Fielding or his brother Henry, the well-known author (died 1755). Henry Fielding was driven by poverty to take a post as Commissioner of the Peace for Middlesex in 1748. John Fielding, despite being blind, succeeded him in 1754 -- and dramatically improved law enforcement, though he didn't have the funding to carry out all his reforms. Still, he did enough that life became much harder for the highwaymen.
"Fielding's Gang" is presumably the Bow Street Patrol, founded by the Fieldings as the first almost-national police force in England.
Renwick, pp. 27-28, notes that he has seen 24 broadsides from twelve different printers, from throughout the British Isles and even New England, and all nineteenth century, but suggests that they must be much like the eighteenth century versions of the song because they are all so alike. The obvious problem with this hypothesis is that it ignores the possibility of the printers all borrowing from each other.
Renwick, p. 31, suggests further that someone, probably in the late nineteenth century under the influence of "blues ballads," reworked the song to become the type known as "The Rambling Boy," although the result is still close enough to the original to be considered one song. Renwick, p. 54, also suggests a gender difference in how singers felt about the two recensions; 24 of 28 "Wild and Wicked Youth" versions came from men, compared to "just" 10 of 19 "Rambing Boy" versions. In both cases, however, the majority of versions came from men; in the absence of data about the general population of sources used by collectors, I doubt this is a statistically significant difference.
Renwick, p. 56, also notes the curious fact that in the versions found in America, the so-called land of liberty, the word "liberty" is rarely used; that is characteristic of the original British version. - RBW
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople ends "Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall Give them white gloves and white ribbons all That they may say when they speak the truth There's gone a wild and wicked youth," which Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople compares to "The Streets of Laredo" and a Sharp ms version of "Tarpaulin Jacket": "...Let six jolly fellows all carry me And let them be terrible drunk." The Bodleian broadside Harding B 25(2054) funeral instructions include "Six highwaymen to carry me, Give them broad swords and liberty. Six blooming girls to bear my pall ...." As for "Wrap Me Up in My Tarpaulin Jacket," the Bodleian broadside Harding B 25(1594) has "Let six bold sailors to carry me And let them be all very drunk ...." The parallel with the "Streets of Laredo" -- "Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song" -- and others in that family ("x Cut Down in His/Her Prime"), sets the outline for floating funeral instructions. Are they found in other songs?
In answer to a Ballad-L query Norm Cohen pointed me to an article that discusses the "x Cut Down ..." family and its funeral instructions in particular. The article cites a number of songs already in the index, including Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs "The Robber" in REFERENCES here, and a number of songs not yet in the index: "My Jewel, My Joy" from P.W. Joyce's Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, "I Once Was a Carman in the Big Mountain Con" from a Wayland D Hand Western Folklore article, and "The Wild Lumberjack" from George Korson's Pennsylvania Songs and Legends (source: Kenneth Lodewick, "'The Unfortunate Rake' and His Descendants" in Western Folklore, Vol. XIV, No. 2 (Apr 1955 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 98-109). - BS
The "Ramblin' Boy" versions of this song shouldn't be confused with the Tom Paxton song, "My Ramblin' Boy." - PJS
Last updated in version 6.0
File: LL12

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.