DESCRIPTION: Eleven-year old Fanny Blair falsely accuses a young man of molesting her. He is tried and sentenced to death, although the community doubts his guilt. He begs to be buried at home rather than in the prison yard, and hopes God will pardon the child.
EARLIEST DATE: 1830 (Lover)
KEYWORDS: accusation lie abuse rape punishment trial execution
1785 - Execution of Dennis Hagan for rape (see NOTES)
FOUND IN: Britain(England) US(Ap) Ireland
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Wyman/Brockway-LonesomeSongs-KentuckyMountains-Vol2, p. 103, "Fanny Blair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney-PloughboysGlory, p. 43, "Thomas Hegan and Sally Blair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 46, "Fanny Blair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Huntington-SongsTheWhalemenSang, pp. 229-231, "Fanny Blair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Forget-Me-Not-Songster, pp. 102-103, "Fanny Blair" (1 text)
DT, FANBLAIR* FANBLAI2*
ADDITIONAL: John Moulden, "Ballads and Ballad Singers: Samuel Lover's Tour of Dublin in 1830," -- essay found in David Atkinson and Steve Roud, Editors, _Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America: The Interface between Print and Oral Tradition_, Ashgate, 2014, pp. 141-145, "(Fanny Blair)" (sundry excerpts plus discussion of the song's history)
NOTES [183 words]: In Sharp's version the crime is robbery, and Fanny Blair is not the victim but an accomplice who is turning king's evidence. - PJS
As Paul's note shows, details of the crime and punishment in this ballad vary, and the girl's age varies from eleven to eighteen. I suspect, however, that Sharp's version is cleaned up, by him or his informant. As John Moulden notes, it is a very touchy subject! Moulden believes the song actually originated in Ireland, and Lover's does appear to be the earliest version, with the next-earliest possibly also having been learned in Ireland.
Moulden's belief is that the accused in the song was Dennis Hagan, and that one of the people to whom he appealed was was John, First Viscoutnt O'Neill (1740-1798). Hagan, who was nineteen years old, was charged with raping a nine-year-old, with the charges formally brought by one Frances Blair. Hagan was sentenced to hang in October 1785.
The collective evidence is very strong; I think Hagan was the person executed for the crime. I have no idea if he was actually guilty; Moulden has little evidence on that point. - RBW
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