Flash Lad
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This was one of the most popular of the highwayman ballads and has been found throughout England. Variants are also found in Ireland and America. Two versions which Rev. Baring-Gould collected in Devon are in his manuscripts, and the song appears in Barrett's English-Folk Songs (1891). Variants and alternate titles include; The Highwayman, Wild and Wicked Youth, The Rambling Boy, The Robber and Newlyn Town.

In Newlyn Town reference is made to "Fieldmen's gang." This is a reference to Henry Fielding who was a novelist and playwright (the author of Tom Jones), and who was also a justice of the peace in Westminster in 1740 and operated from the Bow Street Magistrates Court. The Bow Street Runners were founded in 1751, the first London policemen. They wore red waistcoats and therefore were also called Robin Redbreasts.*

Adieu, adieu, I must meet my fate,
I was brought up in a tender state,
Until bad counsel did me entice,
To leave off work and to follow vice.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


At cups and cans I took great delight,
Singing in alehouses day and night;
A pretty girl was my chiefest joy,
I took delight as a roving boy,
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


At seventeen I took a wife,
I lov'd her dearly as my life,
And to maintain her fine and gay,
I went to rob on the highway.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


My father and my mother too
Told me such ways would never do,
But I never minded what they did say,
But took my horse and rode away.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


There's you and I and Jack Douglas both,
We were all sworn in solemn oath,
To go and rob on the highway,
The first we met was to be our prey.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


When mounted on a milk-white steed,
I thought myself a flash lad indeed,
With my cock'd pistol and broad sword,
'Stand and deliver' was my word.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


The first we met was a gentleman:
We rode up to him and bid him stand;
In spite of all that he could do,
We robb'd him and kill'd him too.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


In bonds and chains I was quickly tied,
Before the Judge for my life was tried,
I ne'er went robbing for any clothes,
I hate such trifling things as those.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


I robbed for gold and silver bright,
For to maintain my heart's delight,
When you hear my death-bell toll,
Pray God for mercy on my soul.
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


Let six young women bear up my pall,
Give them white gowns and ribbons all,
That they may say and speak the truth,
'There goes a wild and abandoned youth.'
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


Let six highwaymen follow my pall,
Give them cock'd pistols, powder, ball,
That they may fire over my grave,
And say 'Take warning you young men all,'
Which makes me now lament and say,
As in the dismal cell I lay,
Pity the fall of young fellows all.
0 well-a-day! 0 well-a-day!


Related Links
From English Folk-Songs and
*Folksongs of Britain and Ireland
See Bibliography for full information.