False Lamkin
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


The ballad appears in the Percy Papers (1775) as Long Longkin.

The full ballad explains that a mason built a castle for a nobleman, but was not paid and, so he sought revenge. The nursemaid helped Lamkin into the castle where Lamkin killed the family. Lamkin was caught and hanged, burned or boiled in oil and the nursemaid was likewise burned, hanged or boiled in a caldron.

The mason is variously Lamkin, Lammikin, Lankin, Lonkin, Lantin, Long Lankyn or Longkin, Rankin, Ballkin, Lambert Linkin or Balcanqual. There is speculation that all of names are derived from Lambert Linkin. The nobleman is variously Lord Earie, Erley, Murray, Arran, Montgomery, Cassilis or the Lord of Prime Castle.

Motherwell notes there is a Lambirkyns Wood near Dupplin, in Perthshire and speculates the name may be related to the ballad. Sharp states that there is a tradition in Northumberland which says the original tower (which no longer exists) was near Ovinghadonotuse-on-Tyne.

This ballad is Child Ballad #93 (Lamkin). This is one of twenty-two versions Child collected.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

The Lord said to the Lady,
Before he went out:
Beware of false Lamkin,
He's a-walking about.

What care I for false Lamkin
Or any of his kin?
When the doors are all bolted
And the windows close pinn'd.

At the back of the kitchen window
False Lamkin crept in;
And he pricked one of the elder babes
With a bright silver pin.

O Nursemaid! O Nursemaid!
How sound you do sleep;
Can't you hear one of those elder babes
A trying to weep?

How durst I go down in
The dead of the night?
Where there's no fire a-kindled
No candle to light.

As she was a-going down,
And thinking no harm,
False Lamkin he caught her
Right tight in his arm.

O spare my life! O spare my life!
My life that's so sweet;
You shall have many bright guineas
As stones in the street.

O spare my life! O spare my life!
Till one of the clock;
You shall have my daughter Betsy,
She's the flow'r of the flock.

Fetch me your daughter Betsey,
She will do me some good;
She will hold the silver basin
To catch her own heart's blood.

Pretty Betsey, being up
At the window, so high,
Saw her own dearest father
Come a-riding close by.

Dear father! Dear father!
O blame not of me;
For it was false Lamkin
Murder'd baby and she.

Here's blood in the kitchen,
Here's blood in the hall,
Here's blood in the parlour,
Where the Lady did fall.

False Lamkin shall be hung
On the gallows so high;
While his bones shall be burned
In the fire close by.
Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.