Constant Companion: Dick Turpin


You may, or may not, know that I recorded an album of British traditional songs last year. I recorded the songs live, just myself, guitar & a bunch of microphones.

I’m a musician who comes from an amusical family: I sometimes feel like my connection to music was visited upon me by some remote entity.

I find music helps me to understand the world & find my place in it. Traditional music is fun because of the cultural history aspect of it. If you are a revivalist like myself you can get stuck into research & find music that may like to come off the page after a bit of time away from living ears. The songs often wander around the country too, which I love. An idea taking flight & striking out on it’s own.

Which brings me to this song, Dick Turpin, collected by George Gardiner in 1906 from Fareham in Hampshire about an 18th century highwayman. The real Dick Turpin was not the romantic figure of this song. He was more villain than hero. However the 1834 book Rookwood by W.H.Ainsworth transformed the 18th century criminal into a romantic hero for the 19th century. He gained his horse, Black Bess, & the famous ride to York on which this song is based.

This folk song most likely started as a music hall song in the mid 19th century before migrating into the tradition. This song was collected in 1907 from a 70 year old man by the name of Mr Snugg who was older than the song he sang.

I found the song in the pages of Marrow Bones, the EFDSS collection of Hammond & Gardiner manuscripts described by Martin Carthy as “great raw material” & arranged it for guitar & voice as you hear. It’s quite a tricky song to play but I find it good fun!

If you are interested you can hear more by following this link



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